Syracuse is coming off an 82-60 victory over Cornell on Friday, led by ACC Player of the Week Trevor Cooney’s career-high 27 points. Fordham also won its season-opener on Friday, defeating St. Francis at home 87-67.
I recently exchanged emails with Jaden Daly of "A Daly Dose of Hoops", a New York City-based blog which covers the Big East and area mid-majors. I asked him his thoughts on the game, and how the Rams match up with the Orange.
Jeremy Ryan: Fordham employs a rare four-guard lineup. What sort of problems could they present for Syracuse's 2-3 zone?
Jaden Daly: Fordham is playing four guards primarily due to injuries and inefficiency among their frontcourt. Travion Leonard has been playing with a herniated disc in his back, while Ryan Canty cannot play more than five minutes without racking up at least two fouls. The biggest problem that Syracuse will be faced with is how to defend Branden Frazier, Fordham's senior point guard who is equal parts scorer and passer. Frazier's biggest improvement going into this season is his on-court awareness, as he has done a much better job recognizing when to pass than in his first three years, where he was playing somewhat out of position.
JR: Fordham freshman guard John Severe scored 28 points in his first game Friday night. What sort of skills will we see from him in the Carrier Dome on Tuesday?
JD: As good as Jon Severe was Friday night, he remains a streaky shooter, very much like D'Angelo Harrison of St. John's. Just one week prior in Fordham's exhibition game, he was 4-of-16 from the field. Expect him to take a couple of three-pointers (he made seven against Saint Francis) right out of the gate, but against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, his skill set might be compromised a little offensively. On the contrary, his defensive game goes largely unnoticed because of all the hype he gets scoring the ball. With Chris Gaston having graduated, Severe has become one of Fordham's best defenders in just a few short weeks, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him draw C.J. Fair at various points on Tuesday.
JR: 6'2" junior guard Bryan Smith had 18 points and 8 rebounds in that same St. Francis game. Is that rebounding effort an anomaly, or something he does regularly?
JD: The eight rebounds are somewhat unusual for Bryan Smith, as he is a shooter by trade now playing the four out of necessity due to the inconsistent frontcourt. However, the 18 points are something he's done several times in the past. His biggest key will be finding a way into the paint against the much bigger and stronger Syracuse bodies to grab offensive rebounds, especially if Fordham is forced into an outside shooting game to try and break the zone.
JR: Aside from Severe and Smith, who is another Fordham player SU fans should keep an eye out for on Tuesday?
JD: Mandell Thomas is Fordham's best player that not many have heard of, and he could very well be an all-Atlantic 10 player this season. The sophomore guard from Rochester is probably Tom Pecora's best recruit since he arrived in the Bronx three years ago, and can literally do it all, be it drive into the lane, knock down the three, crash the boards, even block shots. Thomas should make a name for himself within the first few minutes if he brings anything close to his normal effort into the Carrier Dome.
JR: Syracuse has had some trouble with their press against smaller, quicker teams. What sort of pace does Fordham like to play? Is this something Orange fans should be concerned with?
JD: Through their exhibition game and season opener, Fordham has played somewhat fast thanks to their four-guard offense, but they are more of a team that wants to hold teams into the sixties and low seventies than one who is strictly uptempo. Against the zone, I would expect a somewhat slower and more patient pace just so their shots can be set up rather than trying to turn the game into a track meet. Fordham's transition game, although a work in progress, is a deceptively strong one, so if the Rams can force a few turnovers, they could keep the game close into the second half.
Many thanks to Jaden for his help previewing the Rams. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @DalyDoseOfHoops and visit his blog, which features a similar Syracuse-Fordham preview with his questions and my answers!