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Syracuse vs. Northeastern preview: Five things to watch

The Orange look for win No. 5 on the year as they return home.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of a full week off after Saturday’s resounding win, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (4-1, 1-0) will host the Northeastern Huskies (1-1, 0-0) on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET. Syracuse has never lost to Northeastern in seven tries, making the Huskies members of the elite “0-5 or worse vs. the Orange club” — a group that also includes current DI programs Albany, Binghamton, BYU, Iona, Kent State, Lafayette, Siena and TCU. Another L for Northeastern would tie them with Siena and Albany at the top of the list at 0-8.

But on to more important matters... What’s worth paying attention to when Syracuse and these Huskies face off? TNIAAM shares some thoughts below.

Christian: Don’t get complacent

I talked about on Monday how Syracuse’s passing and off-ball movement led to an exciting and efficient offense. What Syracuse can’t afford is to let bad habits build by forcing up bad shots. In esports, we call this an “ego challenge,” where you take a fight you should not take but you do anyways because your ego says you’re better than your opponent. This applies to Syracuse here. The last thing Orange shooters should be doing is letting their shot selection suffer because they’re playing inferior competition. Playing too much isolation without ball movement and laziness that leads to contested shots late in the shot clock may not only build bad habits, it may give Northeastern a way into the game.

Ajayi: Buddy Boeheim Putting His Stamp On The Game

With Boeheim returning in his second game back after missing three games, I see him using Northeastern as an opportunity to continue getting back into the flow of things within the offense. Last game he shot over 50%, going 7-13 from the field. It was as if he hadn’t missed any games at all. At the start of the season I saw Buddy Boeheim being the primary option for the Orange and that still hasn’t changed. Last year he was the team’s second leading scorer behind Elijah Hughes with 15.3 PPG. This season the young prospect has nothing but improvement on his mind, which you expect. I see him pushing those numbers up. The only question is, how much will the lethal shooter average?

Kevin: Shot selection

I thought the best aspect of the BC game was that Syracuse was moving to turn decent looks into good looks. Buddy Boeheim put the ball on the floor to get looks at the basket. Alan Griffin and Joe Girard didn’t force isolation threes. The Orange have been setting off-ball screens and avoid last year’s problem of over-dribbling. It’s hard to defend five offensive threats when the players and ball are moving so I want to see if Syracuse will keep it up or fall back into bad habits.

Szuba: Helping hand

Syracuse has had 15 or more assists in every game this season. That’s a testament to both this team’s offensive capabilities and willingness to share the rock, the latter evidenced by Syracuse’s assisted field goal percentage of 67.8%. That’s currently good for seventh in the country. In three of its four wins, Syracuse has had 20 or more assists. Can the Orange break that threshold again versus Northeastern?

John: Keep Northeastern out of the lane

We’re looking at a pretty small sample size for the Huskies, but they’re not much of a three-point shooting team, hitting 12 of 34 shots from outside while largely existing inside the arc. Not only do they hit 55.1% of their two-point tries (58th in the country) but also 77.6% of three throws (35th). Leading scorer Tyson Walker is adept at getting to the line — 25-of-29 on free throw attempts this year — and could get Orange bigs in foul trouble. Ideally, the zone forces Northeastern (and especially Walker) to the perimeter and takes them completely out of their offense.