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Tale of the Tape: Pitt vs. Syracuse

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Breaking down tonight's big game against a familiar foe.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PG

Michael Gbinije 6'7" Senior    18.6 Point per Game   4.2 Assists PG    4.4 Rebounds PG

vs.

James Robinson 6'3" Senior   10.6 PPG      5.4 APG    3.0 RPG

Michael Gbinije has transitioned into this team's point guard after primarily playing on the wing the past two seasons.  It is essentially out of need that Gbinije is taking on this role,  but he's also good at it as well. At this point, he is on the short list of candidates for ACC Player of the Year. He is having an outstanding season thus far, and he is Syracuse's most valuable player easily.  He has increased his scoring average from 12 points to 18 this year, he is also up a full assist from last year and is averaging one more steal a game.  The big thing with him is he will play the entire game Syracuse is limited depth wise, and he logs big minutes.

James Robinson is having a fine senior season, and it will be interesting and important if he can continue that through conference play.  The senior has shot the ball with more confidence while continuing his steadying force of distributing the ball and limiting turnovers.  Robinson is instrumental to Pitt's success, and the more he stays involved -  the better this team is.  Pitt gets a bulk of their production from Artis and Young, but to have that true "Big Three" offensive attack, Robinson needs to continue his good production.

SG

Trevor Cooney 6'4" Senior  13.5 PPG    3.0  APG    2.3 RPG

vs.

Sterling Smith 6'4" Senior  6.6 PPG     4.1 RPG   1.8  APG

Trevor Cooney has seemingly been playing for Syracuse for 10 seasons at this point.  We all know what he brings to the table: he is an outside shooting specialist and can carry this team offensively at times. If he is on a roll, he is very difficult to slow down for any defense.  Cooney will take some wild shots and some deep ones too.  Pitt held him to 3-12 shooting in one meeting last year, and held him scoreless in another.  Pitt has found some success in defending him in the past, but that does not mean he won't go off tonight.

Sterling Smith is meshing well into this lineup as a graduate transfer.  After three successful years at Coppin State, he is making an impact here at Pitt.  Jamie Dixon isn't asking Smith to be the team's leading scorer, but he has proving his worth on defense and in the rebounding department, while also showing he is a solid option as a three-point shooter.  Smith is averaging 48% from behind the arc, a career high for him.  Smith is coming off a rough game against Western Carolina, but he was one of the stars in Pitt's best win over Davidson as he went 4-5 from three-point land.


SF

Malachi Richardson 6'6" Freshman    12.1 PPG   4.8 RPG    1.5 APG

vs.

Jamel Artis 6'7" Junior      15.5 PPG   4.3 RPG   2.8 APG

Malachi Richardson is one of the best freshmen in the league, and he is off to a strong start in his first college campaign.  The former four-star recruit is the team's third leading scorer, and helps make up one of the league's top backcourts.  He has been filling the stat sheet, but it should be noted he was very quiet in two of Syracuse's biggest games as he was 3-11 from the field against Wisconsin and 1-8 against Georgetown - both losses.  If Pitt can force him into bad shots, it really would really hamper their offensive attack.

While Richardson is one of the league's top newcomers, Jamel Artis has shown he is one of the league's best players overall. The junior from Baltimore is coming off a season high 29 point performance in the win over Western Carolina. The issue with Artis this season has been staying out of foul trouble, and part of that could stem from moving to the wing more this season, thus defending quicker players.  Artis is also posting an alarming rate of turnovers, including 8 the past two games. Staying out of foul trouble and limiting mistakes are avoidable things, but if he can score at a high volume like he has been the past season and a half - he'll be fine. He's going up against a freshman, and he should be able to take advantage of it.


PF

Tyler Roberson 6'8" Junior  8.9 PPG   8.8 RPG   1.3  APG

vs.

Michael Young 6'9" Junior 17.4  PPG   7.6 RPG   3.4 APG

Tyler Roberson is a solid Syracuse power forward.  He is not a huge scoring threat, as he has only scored in double figures in 4 of their 13 games this season.  He is a good rebounding presence though, as he leads the team in that category.  Roberson does most of his damage in the paint, as he has not even attempted a three-pointer this season.  He'll get most of his point off of put-backs, as he is one of the best in the ACC on the offensive glass.

Michael Young has a distinct advantage in this individual matchup, and potentially it is one where Pitt can win the game.  Young may not garner attention outside of Pittsburgh, but he is absolutely one of the best players in the ACC. Tonight on a national television stage against a team like Syracuse may be his coming out party to the rest of the league.  Young has the ability to stretch the floor, and an added array of post moves makes him one of the most versatile players in the league.

C

DaJuan Coleman 6'9" Senior   5.5 PPG   4.5 RPG

vs.

Rafael Maia 6'9" Senior  3.3 PPG   3.9 RPG

DaJuan Coleman is back after missing all of last season. He is a rugged forward cut in the old-school Big East mold.  He anchors the 2-3 defense and is a presence in the paint. Still, Coleman is a complimentary piece for this season.  There will be no mistaking Coleman from last year's center, Rakeem Christmas.  Syracuse is a perimeter dominated team, but Coleman is here to provide rebounds and toughness.

Rafael Maia is still getting up to speed after starting the year out of shape due to an offseason injury. Maia has a similar role of that of his counterpart Coleman.  Maia gives the team a presence in the middle, he hustles, and rebounds fairly well. Maia isn't going to score a ton of points in this game, but he helps add to a decisive depth advantage for the Panthers.

Bench

Tyler Lydon 6'8"   Freshman  10.3  PPG   7.2 RPG
Kaleb Joseph 6'3" Sophomore    1.2 PPG
Franklin Howard 6'4" Freshman   1.9 PPG
Chinonso Obokoh 6'9" Senior   2.0 PPG

vs.

Chris Jones 6'6" Junior    7.5 PPG  2.4 RPG   2.0 APG
Sheldon Jeter 6'8" Junior    7.5 PPG  5.5 RPG
Damon Wilson 6'5" Freshman 5.2 PPG   1.5 RPG  1.7 APG
Cameron Johnson 6'7"  Freshman   4.6 PPG   1.6 RPG
Ryan Luther 6'9" Sophomore   4.0 PPG   3.4 RPG
Alonzo Nelson-Ododa 6'9" Senior   2.2 PPG   2.7 RPG

Syracuse's top interior scorer comes off the bench. True freshman Tyler Lydon is posting a very impressive 10.3 and 7.2 average in his first college season.  Lydon is listed at a very light 205 pounds, and that could play a factor once the heat of conference play heats up starting tonight.  Kaleb Joseph was last year's starting point guard, but his role has definitely diminished this season to the point where he only averages 7 minutes a game.  Aside from that, Franklin Howard has only appeared in 10 of the team's 13 games, while Chinonso Obokoh has played in just six games.  it's pretty clear Syracuse isn't very comfortable playing many guys beyond their first six or seven guys.

Unlike Syracuse, Pitt is comfortable going 11 deep. At least they have been during non-conference play, but I would imagine the bench tightens up in bigger games like this.  Sheldon Jeter and Chris Jones are good enough to start for this team, and they split a starting spot all of last year.  Jeter is the team's top option when they go with a smaller lineup, while Jones provides an offensive spark.  Pitt will also use Damon Wilson to spell James Robinson.  Cameron Johnson has a role when he is making shots, and both Ryan Luther and Nelson-Ododa provide extra bodies up front in the post game.