Syracuse students agree: The new #1 wants to avoid a quick let down.
If you watched Duke take on Syracuse on Saturday you saw a fantastic college basketball game. Maybe the best of the season. If you were there, you had an even bigger treat. But now that the Duke game has ended, and the pollsters have crowned Syracuse the new #1 team in the nation, they have a quick turnaround and are playing on Big Monday against Notre Dame, coming into the Dome as one of the more unpredictable teams of the ACC.
Syracuse hosts the traveling Irish in a big contest, not for anything Syracuse could gain from beating up and down ND, but rather what they can lose. That is always the problem with being #1 during the year. But anyway, Syracuse is facing a team that isn't quite as offensively gifted as Duke, despite the fact that Notre Dame beat them as well. Notre Dame, when they lack the power of a truly great big man in the paint, only has one way to beat Syracuse. That is, of course, shooting a bunch of 3s over the zone. They will probably run a couple back door cuts, but other than that it will mostly be drives and kicks. I maintain that Mike Brey is still not a great X and O guy and the only times he's managed to beat Syracuse is when he had either equal or superior talent on his side of the court. That is not the case in this game. Notre Dame's best player is Garrick Sherman, a transfer from Michigan State who averages 14.5ppg. Oddly, Notre Dame is only averaging 6.6 made three point baskets in ACC play. So if they are looking to beat Syracuse by making a bunch of 3s, they better make more. Duke made 15 and still lost. I think Christmas and Grant will be the ones doing most of the damage in this game. I think they will get looks like they did in the Duke game after Parker fouled out and just continue to hammer inside the paint. I like Ennis to get a bunch of assists in this one, maybe even get a double-double because of it. Notre Dame is also coming off an overtime win, but they did that on the road and then traveled to Syracuse right after. Meanwhile, Syracuse got to sleep in their beds the last couple of nights. I think those stats are overvalued, but they are worth noting. What is more germane is the fact that Notre Dame is 0-5 on the road this year and 0-10 overall against #1 teams on the road. Syracuse has also beaten Notre Dame in nine of their last 11 trips to the Carrier Dome, and by an average of 15.6ppg. I like the Orange to actually get a comfortable lead in this game and give some of the starters a breather in the second half. I'll take the Orange to avoid the let down by 22.
The game tonight will be on ESPN / Watch ESPN at 7:00pm. John will be at the game and I'll be in the home office so stay tuned as you normally would. I'll be back later this week with a complete Duke wrap up, and John will tell you how this Notre Dame affair will go. Either way, we'll be on a more regular posting schedule in the near future.