The Syracuse Orange host long-time Big East rival, the St. John's Red Storm, in the Carrier Dome tomorrow at 5:10 p.m. It's the Johnnies first trip to the Dome since 2010 and the back-end of a home-and-home series that started with a Syracuse victory in Madison Square Garden last year.
Can the Orange repeat that feat or will the Storm get some revenge? Let's see what the TNIAAM folks think...
Syracuse 68 - St. John's 61
Syracuse starts slow, as D'Angelo Harrison actually provides some decent competition for Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough in the frontcourt, and foul troubles start to creep up. The Orange manage to ride a strong second-half surge of momentum, however, and pull away with the victory. Trevor Cooney isn't nearly as on-point as he was vs. Michigan, but still contributes 12. Christmas and McCullough fuel the second half scoring and finish with 28 points and 22 boards between them.
Syracuse 72 - St. John's 57
This one's never close. Cooney hits a couple threes early and the crowd carries SU to a big first-half run. The Red Storm have a lot of scrappy rebounders (Harrison is 6-4 and averages 9 per game, while Pointer nabs 8.7 at just 6-6), but the Orange's length limits the St. John's offense all game. In the best sign of things to come, Michael Gbinije breaks out with a big offensive night, leading the team in scoring, off the bench.
Syracuse 68 - St. John's 64
Really, the Johnnies can't shoot but they are a tougher match up for Syracuse than you may think at first glance. D'Angelo Harrison will be a must-defend (like he has been for St. John's since at least 1992) and Chris Obekpa will be an interesting counter for Rakeem Christmas inside. I think those two alone keep the Red Storm in the game, but the key may be how Kaleb Joseph and Trevor Cooney handle Rysheed Jordan. The sophomore point has experience and has hit for double-digits in four of five games this season and could slice and dice the front two on defense. Still, Syracuse should have just enough to get through another growing-pain-style game.
Syracuse 65 - St. John's 60
The Red Storm are beasts on the boards, checking in at 12th in the nation with three players averaging more than eight per game. Syracuse is 24th, so Saturday's battle in the paint is worth watching, especially since the Orange allowed a terrible Loyola squad to get 15 offensive rebounds last week. Christmas and McCullough are going to need help from the SU guards to keep the defensive glass on lock and trigger their transition offense. If Christmas can't stay out of foul trouble (yeah, I know), it could be a bloodbath in the paint.
One good thing for SU is that St. John's isn't a particularly generous passing team, averaging a middling 13 assists per game, and they only shoot 29% from three point range. Granted, that's white hot compared to the Orange's 22% from three, but if SU can keep tabs on D'Angelo Harrison from the outside and win the rebounding column they should be able to come away with a victory.
Syracuse 65 - St. John's 60
The experience on the St. John's roster, which features the cold-blooded play of D'Angelo Harrison–will be the biggest reason why I think the Johnnies hang around in this one. This squad reminds me a lot of 2002 squad that featured Dwight Hardy, though, I like Hardy more than Harrison.
Either way, the Johnnies are going to rebound well and protect the rim, so Syracuse is going to need to make shots from the outside if they want to earn this victory. I think, Syracuse will make shots as the hope is Cooney has found his stroke and SU's big guys inside are a type of match up the Johnnies haven't seen it yet.
Look for this one to be close and Syracuse edging St. John's because of the home court advantage.
Syracuse 67 - St. John’s 60
I expect Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough to get a lot of burn and dominate the paint. McCullough wasn't a big part of the offense against Michigan, so I think SU tries to get him established early with a couple of post-ups and possibly with some pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop actions. I don’t expect Trevor Cooney to shoot as well as he did against Michigan, but I think he gets similar looks and knocks down a few 3s. That should be enough playing in the Dome.
Syracuse 70 - St. John's 64
We're not used to the moral victory loss when it comes to Syracuse basketball, but the Michigan loss might have actually been one. We all realized this team has a lot of fight in it and is going to improve like we hoped it would. I don't expect St. John's to lay down, but I do think the Orange have the talent to win this one, tough contest or not. I'm looking to Chris McCullough and Rakeem Christmas to assert themselves and, who knows, maybe Trevor Cooney will put together back-to-back decent showings.
How about you?