Teams: Syracuse Orange (6-5, 1-1) vs. Niagara Purple Eagles (2-8, 0-0)
Date & Time: Saturday, December 28 at 7 p.m. ET
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Extended Forecast: High of 41, sunny in the afternoon
TV/Streaming: ACC Network
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has an 96.8% chance to win this one.
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 53-28, Syracuse
Current Streak: 8, Orange
First Meeting: Syracuse basketball first played Niagara in 1910, with the Purple Eagles coming away with a 30-20 victory. John Scott was the coach for the Orange, who ended the season with a 6-11 record.
Last Meeting: It’s been almost 20 years since Syracuse basketball faced Niagara. Back in 2000, Syracuse won 95-69 on the back of Damone Brown’s 26 points. That Syracuse basketball team also featured Preston Shumpert, Allen Griffin, Billy Celuck, and Deshaun Williams in the starting lineup, with a sophomore Kueth Duany and freshmen Jeremy McNeil off the bench.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,052-384 at SU) | Niagara - Greg Paulus (1st Year, 2-8 at Niagara)
Coach Bio: Greg Paulus has had quite the ride since his graduate season as the starting quarterback for Syracuse football back in 2009. In 2010, he was an assistant at Navy. In 2011, he was the video coordinator for Ohio State. He was promoted to assistant coach in 2013. Then in 2017, he was hired by Louisville, but wasn’t retained by Chris Mack after Rick Pitino was fired the end of that season. So he moved on to George Washington in 2018, before finally settling in at Niagara University this year.
But as we all know, the drama didn’t end there. Before the season even began, Paulus was promoted to interim head coach after Patrick Beilein resigned for “personal reasons.”
Last Year: Niagara finished 2018 with a 13-19 record and were 6-12 in the MAAC. They did have a couple of very solid wins on the season, including a season-opener over St. Bonaventure and a win over Pittsburgh in December.
Last Game: A 92-72 loss to Buffalo. Niagara was led by James Towns with 19 points, but the team was out-rebounded 42-23 and were simply outmatched in all aspects of the game.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: James Towns is the leader of this Niagara team. At 5-foot-10, don’t let Towns’ diminutive size fool you, he is a quick, tough athlete who’s averaging over 15 points per game while chipping in 3.7 rebounds and 2 assists.
What he lacks in size he makes up for in speed, as he is a terror on the break and in unsettled situations. He is also quite adept at finding cracks in a defense and penetrating against pressure, which could be tough for the top of the 2-3 zone.
If Syracuse Loses: Yikes. Syracuse basketball should not lose this game. A loss here would be pretty unsettling. This a team we should beat easily and I fully expect that to happen on Saturday evening.
If Syracuse Wins: One last opportunity to work the kinks out before ACC play. Although there probably isn’t a ton to take away from a single game against an inferior opponent, it’s one last chance for Jim Boeheim to tinker with his lineups, try out new plays, and hone his defense before the competition stiffens.
Fun Fact 1: In 1962, Syracuse basketball held the NCAA record for consecutive losses at 27 straight. And who handed them their 27th loss? Niagara.
Fun Fact 2: From 1933 to 1982, Syracuse basketball played Niagara every season (minus a two year stint during World War II). During that 49 year span, the two teams played 74 times!