The unranked Syracuse Orange look to make a case to change that adjective by this time next week when they take on the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines tonight in Ann Arbor. As part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the game also has implications and bragging rights on the line for the whole conference. You can get a preview of the matchup over here but now it's time to lay your bets. Who's gonna win?
Michigan 70 - Syracuse 55
Michigan's shooting is as good as Syracuse's is bad, which means the Wolverines are really good. We have seen good shooting teams light up the 2-3 zone in the past, and this year's zone isn't as good as in years' past. That doesn't even consider the Crisler Center atmosphere and an expected raucous crowd. So what am I saying? A good Michigan offense and a bad Syracuse offense could make for a tough go tonight.
Michigan 67 - Syracuse 62
Expect the same sort of battle that we saw the last time these two teams met. Both the Orange and Wolverines struggle to score, but eventually, SU's lack of jump-shooting does it in. That's not to say this one isn't a close matchup, however. But Syracuse needs to take some lumps here and learn a bit more about itself before meeting the rest of its schedule. The loss may sting now, but if some of the guards can grow in the process, it may pay dividends later on.
Michigan 71 - Syracuse 64
On paper, this looks like a match-up of strength vs. strength. The one-two post combo of Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough have done some wonderful things thus far, and should have a favorable match-up against a Michigan team that doesn't have a great presence near the hoop, and really struggles on the boards. On the other hand, Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert have been great so far, and are two long shooters who have the potential to bomb shots over the zone. Derrick Walton is a very solid guard when 100%, and we've all seen what Spike Albrecht can do on the right night. I expect Syracuse to do what it wants through the post, but the Orange guards will struggle from the perimeter, and at the end of the day Michigan will just hit a few more big shots and win this one in Ann Arbor.
Michigan 72 - Syracuse 66
Having your first true road game against a better team probably isn’t going to end with a positive outcome. SU can dominate the paint with Christmas and McCullough, but I doubt they prove to be enough when Michigan has such a big advantage in guard play. Caris LeVert will be the best player on the floor and can do whatever needs to be done. The only way I see SU pulling out a win is if it grabs 15 or more offensive rebounds. It’s not crazy, as Michigan doesn’t have anyone averaging more than seven rebounds per game (LeVert actually leads the team at 6.2). If SU can get a lot of second-chance points and dominates the offensive glass, I think it can win. I don’t think that happens, though.
Michigan 72 - Syracuse 64
For those critics that harp on Boeheim's non-conference schedule never featuring a "true road" game, well, here's the early-season test you're looking for. With this game and a Dec. 20 meeting at nationally-ranked Villanova, SU will be tested in the non-conference and will need to get one of these two to start building a decent NCAA Tournament resume. Michigan doesn't have the talent it had during the two program's Final Four meeting a few years ago, but neither does Syracuse and it will be interesting to see which two of these good friends–Boehiem and Bielein–are coaching them up faster. The key tonight will be Syracuse using Christmas and McCullough inside and out-rebounding Michigan on the offensive end. If the Orange can do that then they should be able to score enough points to keep up with the Wolverines shooting. All-in-all, the home court will be the difference as Michigan should pull away late with free throws.
Michigan 70 - Syracuse 61
The Orange big men keep them in the game for a while, dominating the offensive glass and making up for another poor shooting night from the guards. After a slow start Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin get hot from 3-point land and Michigan goes on a run to start the second half and Syracuse never recovers. I want to believe this is the night SU puts it all together, but I think a well-coached team with long, athletic shooters (LeVert is 6-7 and Irvin is 6-6) and an experienced point guard in Spike Albrecht is just the type of team that beats the Orange this year. While we know the shooting will be a problem, it's the defense that gets exposed in this one.
Michigan 79 - Syracuse 67
Michigan will extend the zone too far and the inexperienced Orange men will probably show a little fear playing in a rowdy environment on a big stage. Overall, though, assuming the wheels don't completely fall off here, this game should go a long way toward helping the long-term goal.
Michigan 73 - Syracuse 63
What a bunch of disloyal idiots around here... Look, just ask yourself if you think this is the kind of Syracuse squad that can go on the road to a hostile arena and beat a Top 20 team. Right now...it's just not. It might be in a couple months, but not right now. SU still has a lot of growing and gelling to do and a loss here isn't the worst thing in the world if the Orange fight and learn from it. No one wants to hear about moral victories and long-term plans around here these days but, it is what it is.
How about you, what do you think will happen?