Syracuse students agree: The time for a win is now.
The time for talk, and rumors, are basically done. Now it's time to settle in and play a game. A game that has history on both sides. Syracuse has failed to win at a Connecticut home game since 1999. That's four games in Hartford and three in Storrs. That being said, Jim Boeheim has never lost five games in a row as head coach of Syracuse. Tonight's game will be played in Hartford in the XL Center, a good 30 plus minutes from Storrs. With the weather being poor and an expected two feet of snow arriving before tip time tonight it is unclear how many UConn faithful will brave the weather in favor of hot hoops action. That being said, this game is between #6/7 UConn and #17 Syracuse. One thing is clear in this rivalry game however. It does not matter what team is ranked what, this will be a close game. History proves that. This will be a game where the key match is between the contrasting styles of the teams. UConn will look to get Kemba Walker involved in not only shooting, but penetrating the zone and making nifty passes to set up his teammates. Syracuse will obviously look to get some threes, but the primary game plan should be to get the ball to Rick Jackson down low and let him do some dirty work. Syracuse's offense has actually been decent the past few games in terms of percentages and actual buckets. What has not been is the 2-3 Zone. While it could be confidence or lack of hustle or just not paying attention, the zone has ballooned from holding teams to around 38% from the floor, to around 50% the last few games. Additionally, Connecticut is just slightly better at rebounding right now in terms of numbers. Obviously solid defense is a must versus UConn. I do not think energy or lack of hustle will be an issue on defense in this game. And obviously Jackson and company will get enough rebounds. What is important for this game is a strong start to the game. If Syracuse gets in a 7-13 point hole early in this one, it will be extremely hard to come back and then get ahead. This team has shown they can close gaps and come back, but have yet to go ahead and then retake the lead. If Syracuse and UConn are close at the half, I believe the game will then strongly favor Syracuse. Traditionally, even going back to 2003, Syracuse has been a second half team in close games. This year is no different and Syracuse showed real signs of life in the second half of the Marquette contest. Kemba Walker can be limited, as Syracuse did last season. Alex Oriakhi is good but has been inconsistent. Other post players for Connecticut are not as talented and will have to use double or triple teams to contain Jackson. That will leave other players open for good looks from outside, or provide opportunity for a cutting player to get an easy bucket. If Syracuse limits turnovers and continues to be patient on offense, making passes, and get the ball inside, Syracuse has the advantage in this game. If this game was in the Carrier Dome I'd like Syracuse's chances to bounce back. However, because this game is at Connecticut I think they will end up just short in a close game. I could easily be wrong with this one, and I really hoping I am, but I think Connecticut pulls this one down by six.