Pittsburgh Panthers Have A Chance to Earn First Statement Victory

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Pittsburgh Panthers have an opportunity to make a statement and potentially find their way back into the top 25 rankings if they can defeat the Syracuse Orange.

The Panthers will try to improve upon their 5-4 conference record as they host the team tied at the top of the Big East standings in the 6-1 Orange.

It’s been hard to judge the 17-5 Panthers based on their first month of conference play. They opened with back-to-back losses then won five of their next six games before falling 64-61 to the Louisville Cardinals. Given the highly competitive season ongoing within the Big East, losing by only three in Louisville is hardly anything to be discouraged about for coach Jamie Dixon’s school.

Meanwhile Syracuse enters the contest looking to rebound from their first loss in conference action against the Villanova Wildcats. After beating Villanova 72-61 two weeks prior to the rematch, the Wildcats managed to get revenge at home with a 75-71 overtime victory. It was only Syracuse’s second loss of the season with their record falling to 18-2.

It’s expected Jim Boeheim’s team will come out firing on all cylinders considering after their first loss of the season they rebounded with a 21 point victory in their next contest. However, those who might think the Orange are clear favorites in the game need to be reminded the Panthers took the Big East’s other 6-1 team, the Marquette Golden Eagles, to overtime before eventually falling 74-67.

When its factored in Pittsburgh’s past two losses came in close games against two of the top teams in the conference, perhaps the Panthers are due when they face Syracuse. The Orange have looked vulnerable on the road as of late and with a 12-2 home record, Pittsburgh could hand Syracuse its second straight upset defeat.

The Panthers run ten deep off the bench, with the player averaging the lowest scoring total and minutes played still putting up significant numbers. Durand Johnson is only playing 12 minutes as the tenth man off the bench for Dixon, yet is still recording 4.3 points and 1.5 rebounds.

Pittsburgh doesn’t have that big statement victory despite coming close against Louisville and only losing 67-62 on the road against the Michigan Wolverines.

Hosting Syracuse will give them another opportunity to significantly enhance their tournament resume.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the Toronto Raptors for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts

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