Syracuse will head in to Pittsburgh Saturday coming off of their first regular season conference loss in almost a calender year. Following a tough loss to Villanova, the Orange head in to Saturday in a game that is absolutely critical for them to maintain control of the Big East conference.
The first thing that makes this game important are the other match ups on tap for Saturday. With Marquette and Louisville playing each other at 2:00 Saturday, a Syracuse win would either put them in sole possession of first place, or give them a three game lead on Louisville, whom many consider to be the other top contender for the conference this season. While I think Syracuse fans should root for Louisville to knock off Marquette for their second loss of the conference season, either outcome would benefit the Orange in the conference standings.
Another thing that makes this game important is quite simple: Pittsburgh is a tough team to play at home, and they without a doubt have the talent to knock off Syracuse. The Panthers lone bad loss on the season was to Rutgers earlier this month, and they have had some very close losses to solid teams. Pitt has lost to Louisville and Marquette on the road, Cincinnati at home, and Michigan at a neutral site (Madison Square Garden). Their worst loss in all of these? 9 points to the Bearcats. With the exception of Rutgers, Pittsburgh has beaten the teams they were better than, and know how to take care of business. If Syracuse comes out sluggish, I’m not sure they will be able to recover as easily as they did in the poor start against Villanova.
Finally, this game is massively important to send a message. With all the hoopla about Syracuse being down to only seven scholarship players, a dominating performance would be great for a team that may have a public perception of lacking a little bit of confidence. Fans are very concerned about the current state of the team, especially with the previously deep big men not being so deep after all. This game is important for the Orange to show that they are still the class of the Big East.
Saturday at Pittsburgh and Monday against Notre Dame are the two most important games before the match up with Georgetown, and it is critical for the Orange to win them both. Syracuse is better than both these teams, and should be able to take care of business against them, despite being down to only seven scholarship players. This is going to be a big time for Brandon Triche to continue his phenomenal play, and is the unquestioned leader down the stretch for this team. I believe he will continue to put up big numbers, and Syracuse will take care of business in a big three day stretch against two very difficult teams to beat.
How important do you think this game will be for the Orange?