(22) Pittsburgh (16-1) at (2) Syracuse (17-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 18, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carrier Dome (33,000) -- Syracuse, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Pittsburgh 11-0, Syracuse 11-0. Away Record: Pittsburgh 2-0, Syracuse 3-0. Neutral Record: Pittsburgh 3-1, Syracuse 3-0. Conference Record: Pittsburgh 4-0, Syracuse 4-0. Series Record: Syracuse leads, 63-39.
GAME NOTES: Former Big East heavyweights clash in a Top 25 ACC showdown, as the 22nd-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers take on the second-ranked Syracuse Orange in a crucial conference matchup at the Carrier Dome.
These two teams are very familiar with one another, as this marks the 103rd all-time meeting in a series that dates back to 1914. Syracuse holds a 63-39 advantage overall, although Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings at the Carrier Dome. These two teams are in a new conference, but they have already made a huge splash in the ACC, both sitting atop the standings at 4-0.
Jim Boeheim's Orange are not only perfect in conference play, but on the season overall, running their record to a flawless 17-0 following Monday's 69-59 road win at Boston College.
Jamie Dixon's Panthers have only lost one game this season at 16-1. That loss came against a strong Cincinnati team back on Dec. 17 as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Pittsburgh has run off six straight wins since, including an 81-74 road win at Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
The Panthers trailed on the road by three points at the half against Georgia Tech, but opened the second half on a 9-2 run and never trailed after that point in the seven-point victory. Center Talib Zanna continued his dominance in the middle and just missed a double-double, leading the way with 22 points and nine rebounds. Guards James Robinson and Cameron Wright followed with 16 and 14 points, respectively, while forward Lamar Patterson tacked on 12. Pittsburgh shot a solid .569 from the floor in the game.
A physical team at both ends of the floor, Pittsburgh currently enjoys a +17.2 scoring margin and a +9.4 rebounding edge. Offensively, the Panthers are converting at a high rate from the floor (.488), leading to 77.3 ppg. Patterson leads the way in scoring at a hefty 17.6 ppg. Zanna is a force in the middle, converting 60 percent from the floor and averaging 13.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Wright round out the top scorers on Pitt's roster with 10.8 ppg.
Boston College gave Syracuse all it could handle this week, using a 15-4 run to open the second half to take an eight-point lead in the game. However, the Orange came back with a 25-9 run over the final 12 minutes of the game to earn the win. Trevor Cooney led four Syracuse players in double figures with 21 points. Jerami Grant poured in 16, while C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis finished with 12 points apiece. The Orange shot a modest .414 from the floor in the first half, but upped that to .500 after the break to keep their win streak alive.
Known for its zone defense, Syracuse also has the ability to win games at the offensive end of the floor. The Scoring pool is four-deep, led by Fair. The ACC Preseason Player of the Year has not disappointed, as Fair is averaging a solid 17.1 ppg, while also posting 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Grant provides another frontcourt option at 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Cooney and Ennis give the team backcourt balance, netting 14.1 and 11.6 ppg, respectively.
Earning a win at the Carrier Dome doesn't come easy, but Pittsburgh has found a way to get the job done on a regular basis lately. The Panthers play the kind of physical game that could finally end Syracuse's magical run.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 73, Syracuse 70
01/18 10:20:27 ET