While Jim Boeheim won't have the chance to face Rick Pitino until 2014-15, he does have a Pitino on the Syracuse schedule this season.
Boeheim's eighth-ranked Orange will face Richard Pitino's Minnesota team in a matchup of unbeaten clubs in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday.Syracuse's games against Pitino and Louisville were major showdowns in recent seasons in the Big East Conference. That won't happen in 2013-14 with the Orange in the ACC and the Cardinals in the American Athletic Conference, though Louisville is set to join the ACC for next season.Syracuse (4-0) lost two of three to Rick Pitino's eventual national champions last season, and Boeheim will now match wits with Pitino's son for the first time. Richard Pitino was hired after last season to replace Tubby Smith at Minnesota.The Golden Gophers haven't lost under the younger Pitino as they seek their third 6-0 start in four seasons. They haven't been tested much with an average victory margin of 18.4 points, and know that a win over the Orange would mark a major breakthrough."It would be huge," guard Austin Hollins said. "They are a top-ranked team. We have to play like any other game and play as hard as we can. We respect them as an opponent."These teams have been solid defensively, with Syracuse allowing 58.5 points per game and Minnesota 61.6.Defense was the key for the Orange in a 56-50 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn last Monday. Syracuse ended on a 10-0 run over the final four minutes."It was all defensive plays, there was no offense involved," Boeheim said. "Our offense was non-existent tonight, it was not good."Syracuse star C.J. Fair struggled to a season-low seven points. Sophomore reserve Jerami Grant picked up the slack with 13 points and eight rebounds."Well he's a good player," Boeheim said of Grant. "You know, we expect him to be able to do that. He did it last year as a freshman and he's better this year."Highly regarded freshman point guard Tyler Ennis shot 1 of 8 and finished with two points and three assists.The Golden Gophers are also using a new point guard in Deandre Mathieu, a transfer from Morehead State who has totaled 27 points and 11 assists in his last two games.Minnesota's final warm-up before heading to Hawaii was a 79-57 rout of Wofford on Thursday. Hollins scored 18 points to lead four players in double figures and the Gophers built a 26-point halftime lead."I really believe it's harder to play these games than it is to play at Richmond or against Syracuse in Maui because we don't have to get them excited for those games," Pitino said.Minnesota features the Big Ten's leading rebounder in Elliott Eliason, averaging 11.2. Syracuse owns a plus-13.8 rebound margin for one of the best marks in the nation.The Orange are making their third appearance in Maui, having won this event in 1990 and '98. The Gophers went 2-1 in their lone appearance in 1991.Minnesota won 82-75 in the 1990 NCAA tournament in its only meeting with Syracuse.The winner will face Arkansas or California in Tuesday's semifinals.