When it was announced headed into the season that Michael Gbinije would be Syracuse's starting point guard, it came as a surprise to many. Kaleb Joseph was the clear favorite for the position after he started at the point all of last season.
Gbinije quickly became a star at the point, averaging 17.8 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game to go along with shooting 41 percent from 3-point range. Gbinije has scored an astounding 604 points this year, and as our own Ari Gilberg pointed out, is having one of the best season for the Orange ever. Bottom line is that Gbinije has had the most influence on this team's success this year.
"Silent G" has become the Orange's go-to-guy if they need a bucket or in late game situations. Gbinije's efforts were good enough for Second Team All-ACC and he is now projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Another player that could be taken in that draft is Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead.
That's notable because when Seton Hall took on Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Isaiah Whitehead was completely taken out of the game by Eric McClellan. Whitehead, who came into the game averaging 18.2 points per game, was limited to only 10 points on 4-24 shooting and 0-10 shooting from 3-point range. McClellan, the 6-foot 4 senior guard, transferred from Vanderbilt and has guarded the 'Zags' opponent's best wing player all year long.
McClellan will presumably be the guy that will try to stop Gbinije. The one difference this time is that Gbinije is a bit taller than the players McClellan is normally tasked with guarding. Gbinije has a height advantage and if he is struggling early on it will be interesting to see if he tries to take advantage of that.
If for some reason McClellan is not matched up against Gbinije, expect to see him guard freshman Malachi Richardson. However, I expect the match-ups of Gbinije vs. McClellan and the Syracuse big men vs. Domantas Sabonis to be the deciding factors in the outcome of the game.