The 2K Sports Classic didn't begin as planned as the Syracuse Orange were thoroughly beaten by the California Golden Bears. The Orange have a chance to save some face and leave New York City with at least one win when they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes today at 5:00 p.m.
Will the Orange get back on track or have they been too exposed to recover in less than 24 hours? Let's see what everyone thinks...
Iowa 66 - Syracuse 60
Iowa doesn't seem particularly adept at shooting the basketball (just under 30 percent from the floor vs. Texas last night), but then again, neither is Syracuse. The key for the Orange will be shutting down the Hawkeyes' Aaron White, while also keeping Rakeem Christmas out of foul trouble... which will not be easy. The teams will probably be deadlocked in futility for 25-30 minutes before Iowa pulls away because they've had a few more hours of rest compared to SU and their late night vs. Cal. I wish things could look more positive, and they may later in the season. But the offensive problems the Orange displayed last night are not quick fixes, and can't be fixed in 18 hours.
Syracuse 64 - Iowa 62
Last night's Cal game was rough, but I think people are freaking out a bit too much based on one, very early game. This team is not going to shoot 35% every night, and hopefully now our young guys, especially Kaleb Joseph who had some really rough moments, will be more comfortable playing on a big stage. Iowa is a solid team, but I think SU will be very focused, and will go out and grab a close win. Even if they don't, I'm not ready to hit the emergency button on this season. This is easily the youngest, most inexperienced team we've had since probably 07-08. Only three guys on this team—Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas, and Mike Gbinije—had played even solid minutes at the college level before this season. We'll figure things out by March and be a decent team, but getting there may be more of a process than we're used to as Syracuse fans.
Iowa 67 - Syracuse 61
The issues on offense will eventually take care of themselves through repetition and experience. The issues on defense SHOULD take care of themselves just the same. But I don't have the same confidence that the zone will come around like the offense. Cal isn't a very good team and still should have beaten Syracuse by probably twenty or more points -- imagine if all those bunny lay ups had fallen, too? Iowa can score and while it is probably a better overall matchup for the Orange, I just don't see SU putting enough stops together to beat a good team right now.
Iowa 65 - Syracuse 60
Iowa isn’t amazing, but Syracuse just isn’t playing well. SU looks like a mess on offense and defense at times and Iowa is a good enough team to crush opponents on mistakes. Syracuse is doing little things right so I think it’ll be fine by the end of the year with the amount of talent it has. Right now it’s just too early in the season to expect a very raw team to beat a decent Power 5 team. I don’t think SU wins this one, but I don’t think we really remember this one either by March.
Iowa 70 - Syracuse 65
In a battle of two teams that couldn't hit water from a boat, the Orange get a chance to salvage a third place finish in the prestigious 2K Classic. Iowa lost to Texas by 'only' 14 despite shooting a putrid 29% from the floor, which makes SU's 36% vs. California look like a heatwave by comparison. Rakeem Christmas should find a bit easier go vs. Iowa's bigs then he did vs. Texas, where foul trouble limited him to only 23 minutes. But if he doesn't, and Kaleb Joseph is unable to penetrate into the paint, then I fear the Orange will again struggle to find open looks. Unfortunately there simply isn't enough consistent shooting right now to provide proper floor spacing, which closes off lanes and angles for SU's primary options - Joseph, McCullough, and Christmas.
I think these 2K Classic games will ultimately be a good learning experience for SU. But I also think they will lose both.
Syracuse 61 - Iowa 58
I could easily see Iowa winning this game and the Orange returning home to lick their wounds under the realization that they have a long way to go. And the Orange certainly gave me little reason to put faith in them last night. However, today's a new day. SU knows very early on that they're far from invincible, a big change from previous years. I think Rakeem Christmas realizes he has a lot to prove as the leader of this team while Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough are starting to put together what works and doesn't work as well. I expect it to be ugly and I expect it to be low-scoring but I think SU is capable of gutting out a win here and they should take a lot of pride in it if they do.
How about you? What do you think will happen?