Syracuse vs Pitt Odds, Prediction, Picks: Bet Saturday’s ACC Underdog
Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Syracuse’s Joe Girard III.
Syracuse vs Pitt Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Syracuse could potentially miss out on postseason basketball for the second straight season, which hasn’t happened to the program since 1970.
The Orange travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday with the Panthers three wins away from winning the ACC regular-season title despite being picked to finish 14th out of 15 teams in the league.
Clemson and Duke have embarrassed Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense in the last two games with consecutive blowout victories, and a road trip to Pittsburgh could be the opportune time to buy low on Syracuse.
Pitt recovered from its weekend loss at Virginia Tech with a win over Georgia Tech at home on Tuesday. However, it was far from an inspiring performance. The Panthers trailed deep into the second half before a late run helped secure the eight-point home victory.
The Panthers won a coin-flip game in the Carrier Dome earlier this season and they’ve only improved since then, but they remain a bit overinflated in the market. Plus, their zone offense is still not particularly good despite excellent jump-shooting numbers this season.
If a 22-point home loss to Duke on Feb. 18 was rock bottom for the Orange’s season, they sunk even lower with an 18-point loss at Clemson on Wednesday.
It’s important to not forget that Syracuse had started to turn some things around and show legitimate improvement prior to that stretch. Syracuse beat NC State at home and covered as a home underdog against both Virginia and North Carolina. The Orange handled Florida State, Georgia Tech and Boston College with routine road victories as well.
The market had real respect for them heading into that Duke game when they closed as just 1.5-point underdogs against the improving Blue Devils.
Those two embarrassing losses are a sign that maybe the Orange haven’t quite turned the corner. But they’re still a better team now than they were in November and even December.
Syracuse doesn’t run a ton from an offensive set perspective, but most of what it runs are off-ball screens to free up Judah Mintz and Joe Girard. Guarding ball screens remains the major weakness of the Pittsburgh defense, per ShotQuality. The Panthers rank 233rd in off-ball screen defense nationally, and teams have used this weakness to attack them downhill.
Syracuse lost the first meeting between these two teams, but the offense had no issues getting to the rim and the free-throw line.
Pittsburgh’s offense has seen more zone than most teams in the country this season, and the Panthers haven’t fared particularly well against it. Pitt’s man-to-man offense is in the 90th percentile in points per possession, per Synergy, but its zone offense sits in just the 33rd percentile.
It’s seen zone on 11.8% of possessions too, so it’s not necessarily a matter of small sample sizes. This is a bit confounding when you consider that the Panthers offense takes a ton of 3-pointers and is pretty efficient at making them.
When they’re not shooting 3s, the offense is built primarily on pick-and-roll ball screens and isolation, both of which are difficult to do against the Syracuse zone.
Opponents can successfully beat the zone with cutting actions and offensive rebound looks, but neither of those are strengths for the Panthers, who rank middle-of-the-pack nationally in both metrics.
The Syracuse defense has gotten torched from deep in the last two games, which is one potential downside of the 2-3 zone. But Pittsburgh has also shot above its true shooting percentage this season and does have regression coming.
Based on ShotQuality numbers, the Panthers have shot 3s 2% better than their expected 3-point percentage. They’re also below average in percentage of catch-and-shoot 3s that are unguarded.
Syracuse vs Pitt Betting Pick
You could take the Orange’s last two games as a sign that Syracuse is resigned to its fate this season, but it’s much more likely a blip on the radar in its performances. Even if the Orange didn’t defend the perimeter well in those games, Duke and Clemson shot at ridiculous rates from deep and made the 2-3 zone look a lot worse than it actually is.
Recency bias is driving this line up a couple of points, and I’m willing to play against that. Pittsburgh has performed well in a down ACC, but it’s also won and played in a lot of close games. Its interior defense still has holes, and Syracuse should be able to attack downhill and in transition against this unit.
If Pitt shoots as well as Duke and Clemson did, the Panthers should win this game. But Pittsburgh is inflated in the market based on its recent shooting as well, and it hasn’t been nearly as good against zones this year.
I’d bet Syracuse at +5 or better on Saturday to keep this game competitive and maybe even pull off the upset in Pittsburgh.
Pick: Syracuse +6.5 (Play to +5)
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