The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team will host the Miami Hurricanes Saturday at the Carrier Dome. This will be the first and only regular season ACC meeting between the two programs this year. During Syracuse's brief stint in the league, they own a 2-0 record against their former BIG EAST Conference foe.
Miami (13-5, 3-2 ACC) is coming off a 65-60 victory over the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Redshirt junior Sheldon McClellan led the team with a 16-point, 10-rebound performance, which marked the second time this season he tallied a double-double.
The victory was a nice rebound victory for the 'Canes, who dropped a 75-70 contest to the nationally-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish last Saturday.
On Tuesday, Syracuse (14-5, 5-1 ACC) rebounded nicely from a disappointing loss to the Clemson Tigers last Saturday with a 69-61 victory against the Boston College Eagles. Junior swingman Michael Gbinije led the team with 17 points, while reigning ACC Player of the Week, senior center Rakeem Chirstmas, netted 12 points and collected seven rebounds in limited action due to foul trouble.
The Orange are winners of eight of their last nine games.
Syracuse's most reliable players continue to be Christmas and junior sharp shooter Trevor Cooney, who could be one of the best inside-outside threats in the nation.
Christmas has been fantastic for the Orange all season, as he is second in the league in scoring average (18.0 ppg), rebounding (8.9) and blocked shots (2.1). During ACC play, Rak is averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Cooney, who is the player opposing teams are trying to lockdown, still scored 15 points against Boston College. Since the start of league play, Cooney hasn't left the court as he is averaging over 40 minutes per game.
While Christmas and Cooney have been doing their things, possibly the biggest key to Syracuse's 5-1 start in the ACC, is the uptick in production from Gbinije. The Duke transfer is averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in league games. He is also making 54.2% of his 3-point attempts.
All three players are averaging 35-plus playing minutes during league play.
The play of Rodriguez, a transfer from Kansas State, McClellan, a transfer from Texas, and Jekiri have been the reason why this Jim Larranaga-led squad has gone from an ACC walkover last season to NCAA Tournament contender this season. All three have started all 18 games for Miami.
Rodriguez is the team's second-best scorer and best passer, and has brought a calming presence to the point guard position–something the squad missed last year with the departure of Shane Larkin.
The junior has the tendency to be a bit of a streaky shooter, however, when he's on–like he was during Miami's big victory over the Duke Blue Devils a few weeks ago (25 points, five assists and five steals)–look out.
Meanwhile, McClellan and Jekiri have given the 'Canes and athletic presence. Currently, McClellan has scored 10-plus points in 15 straight games, while Jekiri is one of the nation's best rebounders. Jekiri, who netted 10 points and collected 10 rebounds against Duke, is the lone member of the 2013 ACC Championship squad and will be mainly responsible for stopping SU's Christmas.
If Jekiri can't or gets into foul trouble, look for Sherman or Ivan Cruz Uceda to try and slow down Rak.
When it comes to long-distance shooting, McClellan, Rodriguez, Sherman, Manu Lecomte, Deandre Burnett and James Palmer all will not hesitate to attempt a three. All have over 35 attempts and are making more than 34% of them.
|Record||14-5, 5-1||13-5, 3-2|
In comparing the two teams, Miami is better at scoring the the basketball. The 'Canes are averaging 73.0 ppg in league play, which is ranked fourth out of the 15-team league. Miami's offense is keyed by a strong parameter play and 3-point shooting, which features the squad taking the second-most attempts in the league and making 8.4 of them per game.
Inside, Miami isn't the greatest rebounding team, however, they do have one of the nation's best rebounders in Jekiri. Behind him, there isn't much rim protection for the Hurricanes.
Meanwhile, there's a few advantages SU may have in this contest. The first being they are a better defensive team, as the Orange are allowing just 63.0 ppg, which is the third-lowest average during league play. *Syracuse is also allowing opponents to make just 38.5% of shots and 31.8% of 3-point attempts. Both percentages are top three in the league.
(*Editor Note: 'Cuse fans will see if these numbers have anything to do with SU's ACC opponents or not.)
Game Time: 4 p.m.
Television: ESPN2–Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Kara Lawson Barling (color)
Radio: Syracuse IMG Radio Network
RPI Rankings: Syracuse–59; Miami–51.
What A Win Means For Syracuse: Sooner or later the Orange are going to need a quality win in the ACC, and a victory over Miami would provide just that.
(4) Miami @ Syracuse (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) Syracuse has the softest 5-1 record in ACC history and desperately needs good wins.— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 24, 2015
(Joe Lunardi's latest seed list.)
..29-MichSt, 30-Iowa, 31-Stan, 32-OkSt, 33-SHall, 34-Cincy, 35-Day, 36-OhioSt, 37-Miami, 38-Lsu, 39-Ga, 40-NCSt, 41-Odu, 42-TULSA, 43-Cuse..— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 24, 2015
Meaningless Prediction: Syracuse 62, Miami 58
This game should be close one, well, unless the 'Canes get very hot from the outside–which is something they can do. However, SU's 2-3 zone should slowdown Miami's hot shooting a bit and that could be enough for SU to either get back into the game and steal in close; or get a lead they can hold onto.
Syracuse needs to get this win and should with the home crowd.
|At North Carolina||Mon., 1/26||7pm||ESPN|
|Virginia Tech||Tues., 2/3||9pm||ESPNU|
|At Pittsburgh||Sat., 2/7||4pm||ACCN|
|At Boston College||Wed., 2/11||7pm||ESPN2|