Both Pittsburgh and Syracuse have began the 2013-14 season red-hot, with neither a loss between the two of them. Syracuse’s frontcourt depth and one-two punch of freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and forward C.J. Fair gifted the Orange a Maui Invitational title this week as Jim Boeheim’s team find itself ranked seventh in the national polls. With solid wins over Minnesota, Cal, and Baylor, Syracuse is heading into its first ACC/Big Ten Challenge (versus Indiana) with a heightened sense of confidence. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, hasn’t faced as many quality opponents as Syracuse, but has a decisive and resounding victory over Stanford on its resumé. The Panthers have also won over the advanced analytics crowd, coming in at #3 on KenPom’s early rankings. Pittsburgh lucks out with a cellar-dwelling in-state rival in Penn State in the Challenge, and only has to worry about its match-up versus old Big East foe Cincinnati for the remainder of the December schedule.
Credit Pittsburgh’s vaunted defensive prowess for its hot start. The Panthers have not missed a beat with the new defensive rules like many teams have to this date. While much of their success likely comes from an incredibly weak scheduling job by Jamie Dixon (currently 307th, according to KenPom), their undefeated record cannot be discredited on that basis alone. Pittsburgh has put together a roster built on experience and upperclassman leadership and is led by one of the more reliable point guards in all of the nation, James Robinson. While off to a scorching start and representing the ACC incredibly well, look for the Panthers to fall back to earth come January and February.