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Syracuse vs. Eastern Washington preview: Five things to watch

Let the games begin!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Syracuse vs Duke Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is finally back on the hardwood, as the expectations have risen for this team to dance further than last year’s Sweet 16 appearance. After winning both of their exhibition games in convincing fashion, the Orange will begin the games that really count against the Eastern Washington Eagles this Tuesday night.

If the Orange are going to live up to the hype surrounding their talented team, they are going to need to perform well in their non-conference games — that starts with the Eagles. Syracuse is definitely the more talented team in the opener, but they’ll need to set the tone from the tip if they want to keep the Carrier Dome faithful pleased.

So, who’s playing point guard?

The Orange are as unhealthy as possible in terms of the point guard position, with all three ball handlers sitting out the exhibition games with injuries. We found out this weekend that freshman Jalen Carey will not be suiting up until hopefully mid-November; Frank Howard is still nursing a lower leg injury, and Howard Washington is still recovering from his ACL tear.

So, with the potential of having all three point guards out once again, SU will likely continue to use Tyus Battle as their floor general. Battle is an elite scorer and can create plays off the dribble, but as we saw in exhibition play, he is much more effective when playing off the ball. However, it is necessary to get experience playing all positions, so it’ll be interesting to see how Battle adjusts to his potentially new position for the meantime.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Syracuse vs Duke Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The rebound battle

Despite having the massive size advantage, the Orange got outrebounded by the Le Moyne Dolphins in their final exhibition game (36-33). Syracuse will once again have the size advantage Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean the loose balls will fall in their lap.

It’ll be important to have the guards crash the paint when a shot goes up from deep, or else a lot will be asked of from Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe inside.

Is Oshae Brissett ready for the next step?

The nation knows that Battle is “the guy” for the Orange on offense, but Oshae Brissett may have something to say about that this year. Brissett proved last year that he is an impressive talent with upside, but this could be the year Brissett’s name is spoken

We know Brissett can get to the rim at will, but his game will become near unstoppable if he’s able to consistently hit the deep-ball. With Howard potentially out, Brissett will be looked upon to help Battle carry the offensive load Tuesday night.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Syracuse vs Duke Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Chemistry versus chemistry

The Orange are returning all of their starters from last year, but the Eagles are also bringing back the bulk of their starting five. Four of the five starters from last year’s team are returning for EWU, but the one missing is their leading scorer from last year, Bogdan Bliznyuk. It’ll be interesting to see how comfortable both sides look knowing that they already have experience playing together.

Perimeter shooting

If you played the Orange last year, you knew they had little-to-no perimeter shooting, making them easier to defend. With Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim now in the picture, the Orange have seemed to solve that problem for the time being.

Both Hughes and Boeheim showed their ability to stroke it from deep in exhibition play, but it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt to the increased pressure as the regular season goes by. The Orange are sure to be more difficult to defend compared to last year if Hughes and Boeheim can both space the floor consistently.