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Syracuse vs. Detroit: The Rick Jackson Show

We spent all summer talking about Kris Joseph and how he was going to make the leap. We spent the last six months talking about Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche and the stability up top. Ever since they signed with the Orange we've prognosticated about Fab Melo and Dion Waiters.

All the while, Rick Jackson lurked in the background. Not the most exciting or the most notable player on the SU roster, Jackson is starting to show us that he might actually be the most important.

In Syracuse’s first two games — wins over Northern Iowa and Canisius — Jackson provided the Orange with consistent scoring and solid rebounding. He’s averaging 15.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. He had 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in Sunday’s win over Canisius.

"The difference for him from last year to this year is he’s been given a little more freedom," Syracuse point guard Scoop Jardine said. "He worked on his game, and you’re seeing the monster that he can be."

The noticeably slimmer Jackson gets his first real test of the season when he matches up with 6-foot-8 forward Nick Minnerath and 6-10 center Eli Holman of Detroit tonight.

Jackson shares the frontcourt with two freshmen, Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita. Based on the way people were talking all summer, you'd have thought Melo would be emerging star while Keita just struggled to stay on the floor. Much to the surprise of everyone...it's been the other way around so far.

...Perhaps the most discouraging part of his game has been that Melo hasn't been able to keep himself on the floor. Against Northern Iowa, Melo fouled out. Sunday, Melo reverted to his foul-prone ways at the end of the first half. After the Orange had only amassed two total fouls in the game's first 16 minutes, Melo quickly ended the trend. He picked up his first foul at the 3:23 mark with the game tied. Eighteen seconds later, he picked up his second foul. He picked up foul No. 3 just 27 seconds after that. Moussa Keita promptly subbed in.

From that point on, Moussa Keita would haul in 11 rebounds to go along with his 3-of-5 shooting from the field, totaling six points. And from there, Melo played just four more minutes.

As for tonight's opponent, the Titans, Syracuse is surely going to be keeping their eye on Ray McCallum. The coach's son isn't just a case of nepotism. He's a McDonald's All-American who turned down the chance to play at Arizona, Florida and UCLA in order to play for his Dad. He's a good shooter and a solid point guard. The offense flows through him.

As for the aforementioned center Holman, all he did last year was lead the Horizon League in field-goal shooting, rebounds and blocked shots. It will be a true test for Fab Melo to stay on the court long enough to contend with the former Indiana player. Holman led the Titans with 15 points and 13 rebounds in their 63-54 loss to the University of New Mexico on Saturday.

The Orange are 3-1 all-time against the Titans but the teams haven't met since 1984. This is the first game in the Legends Classic. The Orange will face William & Mary on Sunday and then advance to the Atlantic City semis regardless of the outcomes.