Before you completely write off Pittsburgh losing at 19-0 Syracuse on Monday night remember that college basketball can see some wild and crazy things.
Pitt has won four-straight games in Syracuse and eight regular season games in a row. They have great success against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
But I know what you’re thinking: This isn’t the same Pitt team and Syracuse is No. 1 in the country for a reason. That is definitely true but that’s why you play the game.
You can go back to 2009-10 to the last time they traveled to the Carrier Dome to play an undefeated Orange team.
Pitt were heavy underdogs against arguably the league’s best team. Syracuse, ranked No.5 at the time, defeated North Carolina earlier in the season while blasting the rest of their non-conference schedule.
All the Panthers did was defeat Syracuse by double-digits.
There is no reason why Pittsburgh couldn’t do it again even with this team. The score line is 0-0 to start the game. You just never know.
How Pitt can defeat Syracuse on Monday night
1. Shoot well from the perimeter
The Panthers are shooting a respectable 46.2 percent from the floor. However, when you expand the statistics to the three-point line things change drastically. They shoot a collective 34.9 percent from beyond the arc which is exactly what the team shoots as a whole. You can point that to him being the point guard in the absence of Tray Woodall.
He has moved off the ball while Isaiah Epps runs the show at the point. Maybe he can have a game like he did against Marquette when he scored 29.
Pittsburgh will also need to have capable shooters (Lamar Patterson, J.J. Moore and John Johnson) have plus-shooting days. They will certainly get the opportunities against the zone. It’s time for them to show up to the party.
2. Play defense
Defensively Pitt has struggled all season long. Maybe they could play great team defense against the Orange. They have held their past two opponents to 62 points per game. This isn’t the same defense as past teams but maybe they could rise to the occasion.
3. Multiple players have career games
Maybe a Patterson, Moore or Johnson could go off. They will get their opportunities against the zone, maybe this could be their night.
4. Nasir Robinson can dominate in the lane against their zone
Robinson is an average player that is capable of putting up 15-20 points in any given game. Unfortunately those performances don’t come too often because of his erratic play.
However, against the 2-3 zone, he is a perfect fit for head coach Jamie Dixon. Expect Robinson to get a lot of touches in the key when Pitt gets the ball to the middle of the zone. There will be plenty of options to go inside-out, shoot 10-12 foot jumpers, attacking the rim, attacking and dishing and being a complete pest to bust the zone.
If Pitt does pull of the victory he will play great basketball.
Pitt vs. Syracuse — January 2, 2010
How did the Panthers pull of the victory in the 2009-10 season? They made 10 threes, held Syracuse to 1-13 (.077) from the perimeter and received a career-game from Jermaine Dixon who scored 21 points and made three three-pointers.
Brad Wanamaker was 1-7, Gary McGhee had two points and zero rebounds and Gilbert Brown scored six points.
Pittsburgh defeating Syracuse seems very unlikely but it can be done. Every team has a poor game once in a while. Could their poor game be tonight?
Maybe Pittsburgh could get their season going by defeating the No. 1 team in the country for their first Big East Conference victory. Sounds like a perfect confidence-building outcome that could spur a midseason push towards the NCAA Tournament.