The Syracuse Orange will look to get its first win over a power five opponent as it hosts the (would be No. 28 ranked) Miami Hurricanes tonight at home. In light of tonight’s matchup, we caught up with Cameron Underwood over at State of the U. Without further ado.
TNIAAM: How has Miami handled the replacement of its fifth-year senior backcourt? Better than us, I presume?
CU: Miami has done well this year transitioning from Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan in the back court. Junior Ja'Quan Newton has continued to play at a high level, getting to the basket at will and improving as a shooter. We'll talk more about him soon. Senior Davon Reed has been the best shooter and a plus defender for Miami. Reed is shooting 40% from 3, and that helps to spread the floor and balance the offense.
The real key to the backcourt has been 5-star freshman Bruce Brown. He's powerfully built and has some Russell Westbrook to him with his combination of explosive athleticism and improving skill. Think UCLA Westbrook, not the force of nature that is dominating the league this year (which is still damn good, by the way). Brown has a triple double on the year, and has seen his role increase recently, starting the last 8 games for the Canes. Newton and Reed are the names you know, but the best player of this group is Bruce Brown.
TNIAAM: How has Ja'Quan Newton transitioned from role player to leading scorer?
CU: Newton is a score-first guard, and he's used his additional playing time to highlight that part of his skillset. With Bruce Brown and Davon Reed running the wings with him, Newton has done well to get the offense into good looks for the majority of the year. There have been times when Newton falls victim to over dribbling, but that's just part of the package he brings as a player.
Like I said in the first answer, Newton is a score-first guard, and that's clearly evident as he leads the Canes at 15.8 ppg. He started in place of an injured Angel Rodriguez in the past, and is in his 3rd year here. The transition from bench sparkplug to leading scorer has been fairly seamless, especially with the emergence of Bruce Brown to alleviate some of the ball handling pressure from Newton.
TNIAAM: Just how good of a shooter is Dejan Vasiljevic? How many threes will he hit against Syracuse?
CU: Dejan Vasiljevic is a sniper. He's not overly athletic, but has a high basketball IQ and woooo buddy can he shoot the ball. Like many shooters, and most freshmen, Vasiljevich can be streaky. But, if he sees that first shot go in, he could single-handedly shoot Cuse out of their 2-3 matchup zone.
(Note: we’d like to see this)
I'll say that DJ hits 3 3FGs against the Orange either in transition, or on some nice diagonal passing vs the zone.
TNIAAM: What can we expect Miami to do against the 2-3 zone?
CU: Newton and Brown, Miami's main ball handlers, like to drive the ball on offense, Newton especially. I think you will see Miami run a version of their ball screen and dribble drive offense vs the Syracuse zone. And, if guys like Reed, Vasiljevich, glue guy Anthony Lawrence Jr. and even Brown and Newton can stretch the defense by hitting 3's, then the screen and drive game will be even more effective.
TNIAAM: Miami wins if...
CU: They REBOUND THE BALL. That has been a struggle for Miami over the last few years. The Canes are scrappy on defense, and can manufacture enough points on offense, but closing out possessions with rebounds will be key. Syracuse has the advantage on length in the paint, and Miami has to fight that with good box outs and strong boards in traffic.
And on offense, Miami is going to need to hit 8+ 3FGs, and have less than 12 turnovers to be victorious.
TNIAAM: Syracuse wins if...
CU: They crash the glass hard. Miami can be very susceptible to offensive rebounds, and Syracuse has the length to make that an issue for Miami. Also, if they can get Miami's front court players into foul trouble, things could tilt in favor of the Orange.
On defense, Syracuse needs to use their length to clog driving and passing lanes for Miami's offense, and not allow them to get into a flow of ball and body movement. Make Miami stagnant and have to beat you 1-on-1 off the dribble (as long as it's not Newton) and that's a positive for Syracuse.
TNIAAM: Ultimate prediction time. Who do you see winning and why?
CU: Syracuse continues to stumble, and Miami's defense travels to upstate New York. Miami is able to hit enough 3's to affect the 2-3 matchup zone, and hit their FTs down the stretch to close out the game. The Canes win a tight game and move to 2-0 in the ACC.
Miami 76 - Syracuse 68
Thanks, Cam! Be sure to head over to stateoftheu.com for all Miami coverage. What do you think, Orange Nation? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.