Teams: Syracuse Orange (1-0, 0-0) vs. Niagara Purple Eagles (0-0, 0-0)
Day & Time: Thursday, December 3, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: N/A just yet. KenPom predicts an 82-63 Syracuse win.
Niagara Blog: N/A
Rivalry: 54-28, Syracuse
Current Streak: 9, Syracuse
First Meeting: Syracuse first played Niagara 110 years ago with the Purple Eagles winning 30-20. Forward Matt Lee led the Orange with 14 points that day and was Syracuse’s leading scorer that season.
Last Meeting: It was a balanced scoring effort all around as Syracuse had four double-digit scorers in a 71-54 victory over Niagara last year. Elijah Hughes led the way with 19 points, nine boards and nine assists, while all of Buddy Boeheim’s 15 points came from range. Bourama Sidibe picked up a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards, with Marek Dolezaj close with nine points and 12 boards.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (45th year, 1,066-399) | Niagara - Greg Paulus (second year, 12-20)
Coach Bio: Paulus was a star at CBA in Syracuse in both football and basketball. He was the number one recruit in college basketball and played at Duke for four seasons before joining the Syracuse football team as a graduate transfer. He was the starting quarterback for the 2009 season and set a Big East record five interceptions in one game. Paulus returned to basketball in 2010 as an assistant at Navy. He spent the majority of the 2010s with Ohio State initially as a video coordinator and eventually an assistant coach. Paulus also made stops at Louisville and George Washington before joining Niagara as an assistant for the 2019 season. However, before the season started, new Purple Eagles head coach Pat Beilein abruptly resigned and Niagara promoted Paulus to head coach.
Last Year: It’s usually not a great sign when your initial head coach resigns a couple of weeks before the season starts. Nonetheless, Paulus and the Purple Eagles improved their conference win total by three from the previous season and earned the six season in the MAAC tournament. Niagara won its first game in the MAAC tournament against Marist (sorry James) before the competition was cancelled because of the coronavirus.
Last Game: Once again, sorry James. Niagara avenged two regular season losses to Marist in the MAAC tournament with a 56-54 win over the Red Foxes. A Raheem Solomon layup with three seconds left in the game gave the Purple Eagles the lead and the win.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Marcus Hammond is Niagara’s leading returner in scoring with 14.3 points per game last season. What should scare Syracuse fans the most is his 42.5 three-point percentage. The Orange held Hammond in check last year with the guard only scoring four points. But after Bryant’s three-point frenzy against the Orange in the opening game of the season, you can bet Hammond is licking his lips at the opportunity to shoot once again in the Carrier Dome.
If Syracuse Wins: If it’s by more than ten points, we thank the stars that the Bryant game was just due to the lack of practice. If it’s by less than ten points, we practice our breathing and meditation exercises every other hour.
If Syracuse Loses: Let’s just watch Coach Q, Tiana Mangakahia, and the ladies play ball instead.
Fun Fact: Despite a 12-20 record, Paulus earned the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year Award last season, which is given to the top first-year head coach for a Division I men’s basketball program.