Syracuse vs. N.C. State: Action Rick Jackson

Rick Jackson is the epitome of the new Syracuse business model.

Whereas Syracuse has long been represented by high-scoring wingmen and scrappy point guards, the university has suddenly become a haven for athletic big men.

Syracuse centers have usually fallen into one of two categories:

1. The goofy "just stand there and try not to do anything stupid" white guy.

2. The stand-in-the-paint, shot-blocking, foul-gathering specialist.

Arinze Onuaku kicked things off last year by becoming Syracuse's first truly dominant center in years, not just as a shot-blocker but also with scoring ability. Rick Jackson slimmed down this off-season but also become quicker, more agile and a better overall player. Waiting in the wings are Baye Mousa Keita and Fab Melo. Next year they'll both be joined by Rakeem Christmas. All three should follow in Rick's footsteps, sooner rather than later.

It's not just that these big men are playing well. It's that they're becoming vital parts of the offense and defense. Rick Jackson is making his case so far as Syracuse's MVP. He's about the only guy on the team who's played at a consistent level the entire season so far, pulling in six double-doubles in seven games.

And then there's this...on more than one occasion he's played every single minute of the game. Considering he averaged 26 minutes a game last year as a starter, with no viable back-up behind him, that's crazy.

"Me losing that weight was key," Jackson said after Syracuse's 78-58 win over Cornell Tuesday.

Forty minutes in 2010, though — if needed, it's expected. Through No. 8 SU's first seven games of the season, Jackson has played a full 40 minutes twice. Thanks to shedding 25 pounds, Jackson has pulled a 180-degree turn with regards to how many minutes he can provide. He never played a full 40 minutes prior to this season. Talk of him playing a whole game has gone from profane to predicted.

He is averaging 34.6 minutes per game, and as a result, his production has improved. He is the undeniable MVP of the Orange through a rocky start to the season. Jackson has been the sole bright spot in Boeheim's eyes. Jackson will have to continue to play close to 40 minutes Saturday, as North Carolina State (4-2) comes to the Dome (5:15 p.m., ESPN2).

The Wolfpack come into Saturday's contest at 4-2. Consider NC State's 82-67 loss to Georgetown a few weeks back our measuring stick. We don't have to just beat them, we have to beat them by at least 16. They're also coming off their worst loss in11 years, so we really have no excuses here.  Here's a look at the guys we need to shut down to make a win happen.

Freshman Lorenzo Brown and sophomore Scott Wood are the top two scorers for North Carolina State. Both are averaging 11.7 points per game. Brown leads the team in assists with 3.7 per game.

Freshman Ryan Harrow (10.2 ppg.) is also in double figures in scoring, while Richard Howell leads the Wolfpack on the boards with 6.7 per contest.

SU fans with a good memory also have a bit of a vengeance-factor in play. The last time these two teams played, the Wolfpack defeated Syracuse 82-68 in the Carrier Dome during the 2001-02 season.

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