Monday, January 19, 2009


January 19, 2009

Syracuse rebounded in fine fashion from their first conference loss by blitzing Notre Dame Saturday, 93-74, at the Carrier Dome. Now, we will see how Pittsburgh can rebound from their first loss of the season as Big Monday arrives and the Panthers host the Orange at the Peterson Events Center.

Pittsburgh lost a 10-point lead and their undefeated season in the last 8 minutes at Louisville on Saturday in a 69-63 loss to the Cards. The Panthers turned the ball over a season-high 20 times against Louisville's full-court pressure. However, it was the foul trouble of DeJuan Blair that changed the game for good over the last 8 minutes.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

Panthers Can Forget About Loss in Hurry (Post-Gazette)
Orange Braces for Pittsburgh Brutes (Syracuse Post-Standard)
Orange Scouting Report: SU vs. Pittsburgh (Post-Standard)
Pitt Looking for Quick Recovery (Tribune-Review)
Confident SU Ready to Take on Pitt (Rochester D&C)

Saturday's loss to Louisville drove home one major point about Pitt, DeJaun Blair is their Most Important Player. Arguements can be made for Sam Young (18.4 points, 5.5 rebounds a game) or Levance Fields (10.2 pts, 7.1 assists, 1.8 turnovers a game), but Blair's absence due to foul trouble in a game-turning 19-3 run by Louisville showed how important Blair is to the Panthers.

Blair scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but he played just 20 minutes because of fouls. While the 6-foot-7, 265 lb bear is incredibly nimble and quick with tremendous hands, which is evident in the fact he leads Pitt with 1.9 steals a game, Blair has a tendency to pick up two-three fouls a game reaching or riding a guard 25+ feet from the basket defending the high bal screen. Most of Blair's steals come inside as he uses his quickness against other big men in the conference, not stripping guards in the backcourt.

When Blair was on the bench, Louisville was able to get second chance scoring opportunities and convert them, allowing them to set-up their full court pressure. It also took away Pitt's second-chance opportunities which led to some transition points for the Cards who were able to leak out on the break with less of a fear of a Blair rebound and put-back...in a nutshell, the whole game was turned around.

Syracuse was at their high-flying best against Notre Dame on Saturday, torching the Irish with 39 fast-break points in a 93-74 win. SU has the big bodies to clog the lane against Blair in Arinze Onuaku, who has similar girth as Blair, and the long and athletic Rick Jackson who will attempt to alter Blair's shots inside. The SU zone will also force Pitt to rely more on their perimeter shooters, the most inconsistent part of their game.

Offensively, Syracuse can score with the best of them and it will make them dangerous against any opponent. The Orange have explosive point guard Jonny Flynn directing the attack and his play is rapidly improving this year with a deeper supporting cast. He will be tested tonight as the Pitt defense and rebounding prowess will likely prevent the free-flowing pace of a game that SU excelled against when facing the Irish.

Consistency on defense and on the boards is one of th ebiggest keys to winning on the road. Not sure if Syracuse is at the point yet in those two areas to get a win here tonight. Both teams are on a quick turnaround, but SU has it a little easier as they will travel from Syracuse to Pittsburgh following their noon home contest while Pitt is coming home from Louisville following a 6 PM game on Saturday. They will be looking for a lift from the home crowd, similar to the lift Louisville got to push them over the top on Saturday in handing Pitt their first loss. The Panthers are a pretty healthy 8 1/2-point favorite in tonight's contest, that number seems just a tad high to me in what should be a good game. If Blair can be on the floor for 30 minutes...I think Pitt wins. If he finds himself in foul trouble...this could go either way.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 72
Syracuse 66



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