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Syracuse vs. Colgate preview: What to watch for

The Raiders come in on a four-game winning streak, while the Orange have won 52 straight against ‘Gate.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team will take on the Colgate Raiders on Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse fell out of the top-25 following last week’s two losses in the 2k Empire Classic. At 2-2, the Orange are looking to get back on track before next week’s trip to Columbus for a matchup against the 23rd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Colgate, who is off to a hot start, may prove to be more than a tune-up game, however.

Opponent Preview: Colgate

Colgate finished 2017 with a run to the Patriot League tournament championship game and the team picked up where they left off on their way to a 4-1 start this season. The Raiders return two key contributors from last season in Will Rayman and Jordan Burns and added a 6’10” transfer, Rapolas Ivanauskas.

Ivanauskas is averaging a double-double with 18.8 points and 11.6 rebounds over the Raiders’ first five games. He has shown that he can shoot the ball and figures to man the high post against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.

Head coach Matt Langel rolled with four guards for most of the game when Colgate last came to the Carrier Dome. Colgate attempted 35 three pointers in the contest. Due to personnel, Langel will likely take a more traditional approach this year. Ivanauskas and Rayman, two of Colgate’s three best players, are forwards who will spend most of the game on the floor together.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch For

Syracuse has much to improve after two straight losses. Though Colgate has looked better this year, this is a “get-right” game for the Orange. Here is what we are hoping to see the Orange smooth out ahead of their matchup with Ohio State:

Frank Howard’s Fit

The Post Standard reported that Frank Howard was a full participant in practice on Tuesday. If Frank Howard plays against Colgate, it will be interesting to see how the Orange rotation shakes out around him. Tyus Battle’s role doesn’t figure to change much and guard Jalen Carey stepped up with two straight solid performances this past week. Howard can be penciled in as the primary ball handler for the Orange and will immediately have a positive impact for Syracuse. What is more intruiging than Howard’s play as he returns to the floor is how Jim Boeheim aligns the others around him.

Whenever Elijah Hughes has left the floor, the Orange have been down a scoring option. With Howard on the floor, Boeheim could play Jalen Carey at the two and Tyus Battle at the three and wing of the 2-3 zone. This alignment allows the Orange to not forfeit an offensive threat whenever Hughes leaves the floor.

If Howard plays, his minutes will likely be limited but there will be much to analyze in that time.

NCAA Basketball: Morehead State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Oshae Brissett Going

The Orange have struggled offensively as a whole, but Oshae Brissett’s poor play on the offensive end stood out. Brissett went 5-27 (18.5 percent) from the field over his last two games including a 15 percent clip from three.

Brissett is primed to get back on track on Wednesday against undersized, less athletic defenders. The Canadian forward got to the basket at will and scored 20 points against Colgate last season. The Orange would benefit from feeding Oshae Brissett to get him back on track.

Press Defense

Syracuse’s 1-2-2 press defense is designed to speed teams up and force turnovers. In its matchup with Oregon on Friday, the Orange attempted to pressure the Ducks for most of the second half. Syracuse turned Oregon over just once in 20 attempts.

The Orange may roll out the press against Colgate to allow newcomers Jalen Carey and Elijah Hughes to continue to become comfortable with their positioning and timing. Fine-tuning the press will become increasingly important as conference play approaches. Syracuse has a chance on Wednesday to further allow the group to gel as they pick on the over-matched Colgate guards.