Teams: Syracuse Orange (13-5, 4-1) vs. Miami Hurricanes (9-8, 1-4)
Day & Time: Thursday, January 24 at 8 p.m. EST
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY.
Line: Syracuse opened as a nine-point favorite over the Hurricanes, and ESPN’s BPI gives Syracuse an 82.7 percent chance of beating Miami.
TV/Streaming: ACCN (check your local affiliate)/WatchESPN
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: 956 (home), 971 (road)
Miami blog: State of the U
Rivalry: 18-8, Syracuse
Current Streak: 1, Orange
First Meeting: In December of 1963 Dave Bing and Syracuse traveled to the Sunshine State to take part in the Hurricane Classic. The Orangemen first beat Princeton before losing to host Miami, 86-85. In the defeat, Bing scored 29 points and Bob Murray added 16.
Fred Lewis’ Syracuse squad would go on make the National Invitational Tournament in March of ‘64. The appearance would be a short one, however, as SU lost its opener to NYU, 77-68,
Last Meeting: In what could have been considered something of a do-or-die game, Syracuse kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive by picking up a crucial, mid-February road win. The Orange beat Miami, 62-55, earning its second away-from-home conference victory in the process.
The win came in large part due to defense, as SU held the Hurricanes to 34 percent shooting (a season low), with Miami missing 24 of its 31 three-point attempts.
Similarly, sophomore Tyus Battle had himself something of a nightmare of a shooting game, too, but also proved to be the hero for Jim Boeheim’s team. Battle made only 4 of 14 field goal attempts, but he did manage to score six points in the last 90 seconds of the game to help the Orange improve to 18-9 overall and 7-7 in the ACC.
Battle finished with a total of 13 points, Frank Howard added 18, and Oshae Brissett 16. Freshman Marek Dolezaj also hit for double figures—11 points—on 4 of 5 shooting from the field.
On the opposite end of that points spectrum, Syracuse’s two centers combined to chip in two points total—both coming from Paschal Chukwu.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (43rd year, 1040-376); Miami: Jim Larrañaga (8th year, 170–87—640–421 overall)
Coach Bio: The Bronx native played at pre-Big East Providence, then took up as an assistant coach at Davidson before getting his first head job at (DII) American International. Reasonable success there led him to Virginia, then after seven years, his first head coaching job at Bowling Green. The Falcons were a serviceable MAC team, making a few NIT trips, which was enough for George Mason to want him to take over the Patriots. Larrañaga made the NCAAs in year two, and led the program’s miracle run to the Final Four in 2006. Five years later, he was off to Miami.
Since then, he’s pretty much UM’s most successful coach to-date, with four NCAA bids, two Sweet 16s and an ACC Tournament title. Although, Larrañaga’s Canes became the first victims of Sister Jean last March...
Last Year: Before we get to the tourney, let’s look back at Miami’s entire 2017-18, which turned out to be pretty successful. The Hurricanes went 22-8 overall in the regular season and 11-7 in the ACC, finishing tied for third with N.C. State and Clemson, good enough for a No. 22 ranking.
The season actually kind of turned directly after the home loss to the Orange. Two nights later, Miami quickly snapped its three-game losing streak by winning at Notre Dame. From there, Larrañaga’s team closed out the regular season by defeating Boston College, North Carolina (on the road) and Virginia Tech.
All of which was good enough to earn the Hurricanes a sixth seed in the NCAA tourney and a match up with 11-seed Loyola Chicago. That’s where the world met Sister Jean, the Ramblers most devout devoted fan. Loyola, with Sister Jean cheering on from the stands, did just enough to come back and beat Miami, 64-62. That victory set off a run to the Final Four.
Last Game: Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams each sank two crucial threes apiece late in the second half helping the North Carolina take down host Miami, 85-76. It completed a blistering second-half shooting performance for the Tar Heels (14-4, 4-1).
In fact, according to ESPN, during his post-game presser, Larrañaga asked the reporters in attendance if North Carolina missed a shot during the game’s final 20 minutes. The Tar Heels did miss, but not often in shooting 55 percent for the game, 9 of 20 from three.
For the Hurricanes (9-8, 1-4), a sad trend continued: Miami has led in the second half during 16 of its 17 games so far this season. Closing out potential victories has been a major problem from the Canes all season, something of a fatal flaw. Something that could be attributed to depth issues; Miami runs with just a seven-man rotation right now.
A potential cure could come in the form of Dewan Hernandez. The junior hasn’t played a game for the Hurricanes this season because of an issue regarding his eligibility. There are rumblings, though, that Hernandez could be soon let out of NCAA jail.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Sophomore Chris Lykes is leading the Hurricanes in scoring (18 ppg), assists (3.7) and he’s grabbing just over one steal per game while on defense. The five-foot-seven guard struggled against Syracuse’s zone last season, shooting just 4 of 16 from the field, but he did manage to score 14 points—one of just two Canes to reach double figures. The entire Miami team couldn’t hit the broadside of Scott Shafer’s barn (where’s the hay?!) against the zone of the Orange in 2018, but Lykes will at least have an idea of what he’s going to be going up against having seen it in person last season.
For a potential “random player who makes eleven-billion threes” candidate, I give you Dejan Vasiljevic. The junior guard is hitting at a 44-percent clip from deep and, despite making one of only two three-ball attempts against North Carolina, Vasiljevic was 4 of 8 against Florida State last week and earlier this month went 5 for 8 at Louisville.
If Syracuse Wins: Can I interest you in Syracuse being 5-1 in the ACC? A victory also would be the Orange’s seventh in its last eight games. In other words, even with the weird blow-out loss to Georgia Tech, it would appear as though Syracuse had found itself after a shaky non-conference run.
I’m not saying that Jim Boeheim’s team is on track to truly contend for the conference crown, but winning this game continues to up the odds of not having to sweat out Selection Sunday.
If Syracuse Loses: Miami is as depleted an ACC team as it can get. So losing here, at home no less, would just be a bad look all the way around. Furthermore, it would be the fourth home defeat and we’re not even out of January.
This isn’t one of those “must wins,” it’s just one of those “you really shouldn’t lose” type of games. Especially so if you’re looking to not sweat out a few pounds on Selection Sunday.
Fun Fact No. 1: In 13 years together in the Big East, Miami and Syracuse never once faced off against each in that conference’s tournament. In the ACC, meanwhile, SU has only participated in five conference tourney games (1-4), but has already taken on the Hurricanes, a 62-57 loss in 2017.
Fun Fact No. 2: Sylvester Stallone and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson both attended the University of Miami. While they obviously weren’t enrolled at the same time, I hear that the two maintained quality GPAs, were vibrant members of the campus community, and they both made sure to commit as many misdemeanors per semester as required in the school’s bylaws during their time at “The U.”