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Syracuse - Connecticut Preview

Syracuse students agree: It would be nice to win the last one.
Syracuse travels to Hartford to take on the University of Connecticut for the last time as a member of the Big East Conference. While the XL Center is certainly not the best arena, it's as good a place as any (except for maybe Madison Square Garden where Syracuse has played UConn more than any other team in the league) to end this thing. Connecticut isn't eligible to be in NYC this year for the BET so this is guaranteed to be the final conference meeting between the two. And it should be a fun one. Syracuse has James Southerland heading on the road again, where Syracuse, on average, scores 14 more points with Southerland in the lineup. Syracuse desperately needed a more consistent outside shooting threat to not only pull defenders out, but keep Syracuse scoring when other teams gain momentum. What also bodes well for Syracuse is they are a better rebounding team. If Syracuse can get rebounds then they should win the game. UConn is 4-0 in Big East games when they outrebound their opponent. Attacking the glass is the key for Syracuse in this game. UConn is led by guards Shabazz Napier (17.2ppg) and Ryan Boatright (15.8ppg). While both players are good, and both are playing well lately, those caliber players should score a ton against Seton Hall, which they did. What is more telling is the fact that both players have struggled against Syracuse in the past, including all three games they lost to Syracuse last season. Moral of the story is that they will make shots, and rotate the ball to get open looks, making Syracuse defenders run all over the court to try and cover them. They will shoot a lot of 3s and if they make them it will be a tougher game for Syracuse than if they miss a whole bunch like they did last season. Syracuse allows 0.68 points per play, the lowest in Division 1. That will put the onus on Connecticut to score and keep scoring. What also bodes well for Syracuse is the Connecticut loss of Enosch Wolf who is suspended indefinitely with legal issues. That makes a thin bench for the Huskies. While I think UConn will be in this game in the first half, and maybe even take a lead into the locker room, I don't think they can sustain the continued outside shooting to be able to open the zone up and get easy inside looks. Syracuse should come ready to play and has the talent back on the court to put this game away in the second half. Initially I would have picked the home team in this one, but now that Southerland is back in the lineup and we have seen what Syracuse is done in the past two games in getting back to strong defense and, more importantly, good offensive shooting performances, I a picking the Orange. Syracuse wins this last conference match in Hartford by 13. This game is available nationally on ESPN at 7:00pm. While I don't think this game will go into overtime I kind of want to see it not only for old time sake, but to piss off the Carolina and Duke fans waiting for their game to start at 9. For one last time... UConn... U SUCK!

Also, check out my contribution to The UConn Blog's annual Syracuse Hate Week here. It's been a tradition so it's fitting that I'm there until the end.

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