Friday, January 28, 2005

 

Into the Pitt

Syracuse (20-1, 7-0) at Pittsburgh tonight at 7 on ESPN and it seems that everyone has an opinion. The Syracuse Post Standard, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Seth Davis of CNNSI , and Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline all have previews.

My Preview
SU comes in as the 4th ranked team in the country and any time a team goes on the road ranked in the top ten, the games become that much harder. The Pitt Crowd will be fired up more than usual. Not only is SU the highest ranked team to come in this year, but the Pitt fans want some revenge for SU ending their home winning streak last year. If the fans have forgotten, don't worry the media won't let them. All week the Panthers have talked about revenge for last year. Chris Taft even mentioned it in ESPN the magazine saying he had "extra hate" for Syracuse for ending the streak. Pitt has won 5 of the last 7 meetings against Syracuse. So all the talking comes to an end tonight.

Pitt Overview
Two things have to worry SU about this game. One is the size SU will face inside with Chevon Troutman and Taft. Troutman showed in the UConn game, he is a premier player in the Big East. Which Chris Taft will show up? The one who looks disinterested at times or the one that can dominate a game? The second thing that has to worry SU is that Pitt had a whole week to prepare for this game. Some may say they'll come out rusty, but I'm of the belief a team comes out more fired up. The first 5 minutes will be key for the Orange to keep up with the Pitt intensity. Carl Krauser and Antonio Graves will be in the back court. Krauser can flat out score the basketball, but he becomes turnover prone when he goes full speed. Graves is a slasher but doesnt score a lot. Look for him to be guarding Gerry McNamara. The Panthers have some size coming off the bench in Levon Kendall, he is Pitt's version of Terrence Roberts. He brings energy and intensity off the bench. Dont forget about Ronald Ramon. The Bronx native brings 3 point shooting off the bench and hit a game winning 3 at Rutgers early in the year. They lost Jaron Brown and Julius Page so their defense has taken a hit and its showed. They looked overconfident against Bucknell and Georgetown, but that wont be the case tonight.

SU Overview
SU has a major advantage in the backcourt in this game. Gerry McNamara, Billy Edelin and Louis McCroskey are better than Krauser, Graves, and Ramon. The focal point of this game is in the paint. Hakim Warrick has shown this season that when players play physical with him in the post he becomes very reliant on the fadeway turnaround jumpshot. Rutgers bodied Warrick a little on Monday and it threw him off in the 1st half. Warrick gets to show how tough he is tonight. Troutman is one of the best post defenders in the Big East and he wont be letting Warrick post him up. That being said Warrick is quicker than anyone Pitt has so thats his advantage. Should be an intriguing matchup. The one SU disadvantage tonight is Taft in the middle. He is big and talented around the basket. The zone will take away his touches down low, but if he is into the game he will crash the offensive glass. The best way to take Taft out of the game? Get a lead early and push the ball up the court. He tends to get lazy on defense. Not saying Craig Forth will take advantage of that but they could get some easy baskets in transition. Last year these two teams played one of the ugliest games I've ever seen 49-46 in OVERTIME! Thats 95 total points. By comparison SU had 86 last monday by themselves. Dont look for a high scoring game this year either. The zone will cause problems for Pitt with Krauser's propensity to try to do too many things and Pitt's inability to score at times.
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