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College Basketball Pick
Pittsburgh has been trying to get that big win all season long, but it has yet to come to fruition. Now is the time as they already have four conference losses. Syracuse is coming off their first Big East loss and it was unexpected to say the least as they lost at Villanova in overtime.
The Panthers couldn't beat Michigan earlier in the season, they couldn't take down Cincinnati or Marquette at home and most recently played a tough game at Louisville, but came up short. A win here will give them that big mark over a ranked team. They destroyed Georgetown at the beginning of January, but the Hoyas are still unranked even after wins over Notre Dame and Louisville.
The situation is a little different for the Orange. Everyone knows they have a solid team and will be a top seed come March, but a win here keeps them at the top of the Big East. They're coming off a road loss to a surprising Villanova team and Jim Boeheim will have his troops ready.
Even before that Nova game, every road contest for Syracuse has been relatively close. They had a nice win at Louisville, but before that they had trouble with Providence and couldn't completely escape South Florida or Arkansas. It's inevitable that this will be a good game that comes down to the final few minutes.
The Orange are led by one of the most improved players in the country in Michael Carter-Williams. While he made his name by racking up assists early in the season, Carter-Williams has taken more of an attacking role lately and is taking more shots. He's still averaging 8.9 assists per game even though he hasn't had more than seven assists in the last six games. On the other end of that, his scoring has gone up, putting in at least 16 points in four of the last five games. He's complemented by fellow guard Brandon Triche who is seemingly over his cold streak. After going 3-for-18 in two straight games, he's averaging almost 20 points per game in his last three. C.J. Fair is the next and last player that the Cuse can count on, especially with James Southerland out. Jerami Grant has come in and played well, but he's not the same kind of scorer as Southerland. They lack a true big man in the middle which may come back to haunt them.
Pitt has a very balanced squad, albeit maybe a little too balanced. In almost every game, they'll have nine players getting at least 10 minutes of action. Not a lot of teams can do that. Their leading scorer for the season is Talib Zanna, but he has fallen off a lot in Big East play as he hasn't reached double-digits in six straight games. Lamar Patterson has been their most trusted scorer lately even though he's only averaging 10.2 points per game (he's averaging close to 15 PPG in his last four). Fifth-year senior Tray Woodall is what keeps this Panthers team running. While he's never been a huge scorer, there's a reason he leads the team in minutes. He helps in all areas of the game whether it is on defense (1.3 steals per game), dishing to his teammates (5.7 assists per game) or even when they need points (four three-pointers last game). Pittsburgh may be balanced, but they can't get anywhere if Woodall and Patterson can't get anything going.
Syracuse won't take this game lightly and will be ready to play. This should be a close game throughout as neither team has what it takes to separate entirely from the opponent.
Predicted Score - Pitt 63 Syracuse 59
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