Big East supremacy will be on the line tonight when Syracuse travels to Pittsburgh at 7:30. The Panthers have had Syracuse’s number in recent years. They have won 7 of the last 8 games. Why is this?
For one, they handle the zone pretty well. Pittsburgh has been a guard oriented team for the past decade. They are best known for their point guards; LeVance Fields, Carl Krouser and Brandin Knight. Those guys weren’t the best shooters in the world, but they had the capability to make shots. These three were the table setters for the offense (as great point guards generally are). They knew exactly what to do to disrupt the vaunted zone of the Orange.
Brad Wanamaker is the definition of these guys previously mentioned. He may or may not be labeled the point guard, but his skill set fits perfectly with Pittsburgh’s past point guards. Because he is not a point guard, he looks to score first when driving, but will drop dimes if need be.
The whole team is capable of making the correct passes to beat the zone. The Panthers lead the country in assists with more than 20 a game.
Ashton Gibbs is the zone breaker for the Panthers. He is one of the best three point shooters in the country (44.6 percent). He shot 6-9 from three last season when the unranked Panthers shocked the Orange, who were unbeaten and ranked 5th in the nation.
Gary McGhee has had a solid season thus far. He is averaging 7.2 points and leads the second best rebounding team in the country with 7.4 a game. He is known for his tenacity on defense and on the glass. One thing to worry about with McGhee is his lack of performance against better competition. We know he will be solid defensively and on the glass, but Pittsburgh will need him to grab offensive rebounds and finish for easy buckets. He struggles to finish around the rim, and he should have plenty of opportunities against a defense that can have trouble boxing out because of the zone.
Syracuse is not going to have their leading scorer Kris Joseph after his head hit the floor last Saturday against Cincinnati. Joseph might be ready to play on Saturday against Villanova. He leads the team in points (14.6) and is second in rebounds (5.2) behind Rick Jackson’s 11.7.
They desperately need players to step up and play their best games of the year. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche are both double-digit scorers and are candidates to have big games. Look for Dion Waiters to fill the scoring void for the Orange as well.
The most important matchup will be Rick Jackson and Gary McGhee. McGhee did not have a great game last season in Syracuse, but he has matured since that time. Sophomore F/C Dante Taylor may have played his best game of the season at Syracuse last year when he put up 10 points and 8 rebounds. Depth on the bench will play an important role in this game.
Pittsburgh owns Syracuse in recent years and they don’t lose at home.
About the Author
Written by Justin Welton
Born in Franklin, PA. Life-long Pittsburgh sports fan + Boston Celtics. Attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Working for WCUC - 91.7 and WCUB-TV. Clarion Call writer for two years.