Syracuse vs. Manhattan: Orange Continue Sherman-esque March Through New York State

The No. 5 Syracuse Orange continue their soul-crushing march through the State of New York when they take on the Manhattan Jaspers tonight in the Dome.

Manhattan is coming off a season-opening win over NJIT by a 62-48 final on Saturday, but the level of competition is about to spike considerably. The Jaspers are under the direction of first-year head coach Steve Masiello, who welcomes back 10 letterwinners and four starters from last season's club that finished a lowly 6-25 overall, including 3-15 versus MAAC opponents.

George Beamon netted 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the way in the win for the Jaspers in their opener. Roberto Colonette pitched in 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while Donovan Kates tallied 10 points. Beamon is coming off a highly impressive 2010-11 campaign that saw him earn All-MAAC Third Team and honors after averaging 16.3 points per contest, which was the third highest scoring average in the league.

The Orange have won their last 10 meetings with the Jaspers and own a 22-6 advantage in the all-time series. We also topped them in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, which turned out very well for us.

Get more background on the Jaspers here. And then go find out what the hell a Jasper is here.

By all accounts the Orange should have an easy time with this one. And if that's the case, expect to see the super-rotation again. Folks are already starting to wonder who's going to suffer as the rotation slowly gets trimmed. Mike Waters thinks Trevor Cooney and Mookie Jones are the obvious choices but also thinks James Southerland is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle. He'll need to make it mark now.

The good news is, the Orange are indeed deep. In the midst of a season-opening stretch that sees SU plays three games in four days, that depth is crucial to avoid a letdown.

"We’ve got to be physically and mentally prepared to go out there,’’ Syracuse sophomore Dion Waiters said. "Playing a lot of games in a row can test you.’’

Speaking of Dion, it looks like the sophomore is making a concerted effort to step up his defense this year. With the battle for minutes even tougher than last year, everything counts for SU's guards. We know Dion can create points and make things happen on offense...now he's out to prove he's an asset on defense as well.

He was credited with a single steal in the game, that one a clean pick of a Fordham guard. But his energy, his intensity and his attention to defensive detail registered as encouraging signs.

"I think his defense is a lot better," Boeheim said. "I think he’s 10 times better on defense at least."

Speaking of guys making more effort to contribute, Fab Melo continues to impress. You can thank his renewed conditioning and inspired efforts to remake himself for that.

"I’m light on my feet," Melo happily declared following the Orange’s 78-53 romp over the poor Fordham Rams, who stepped up in class and now have the collective migraine to prove it. "I’m moving better. My reaction is better. I feel great out there on the court."

"Before, I was focused on getting big," Melo confessed. "Because everybody said, ‘You need to get big.’ And then I realized I’m seven feet tall. I didn’t need to get bigger. I just had to be able to move on the court. I see the difference now. I am more confident and I know I can help the team."

Fab Melo is light on his feet. He said it, not me.

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