After back-to-back overtime games in the 2022 Empire Classic, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (3-2) returns back home to take on the Bryant Bulldogs (4-1). The last time both these teams squared off against each other was in 2020-2021 when the Orange sneaked by with an 85-84 victory at home.
Tip-off between Syracuse and Bryant is on Saturday at 4 pm in the JMA Wireless Dome. The game will also be streamed on ACCNX via ESPN+.
Here’s what to watch for between Syracuse and Bryant.
Dom: How will Jim Boeheim handle his rotation against the Bulldogs?
It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes coach Boeheim is willing to tack onto his starters. At the 2022 Empire Classic, every starter except Jesse Edwards (who dealt with early foul trouble in both contests) played north of 34 minutes on average. Benny Williams averaged 42.5 minutes in Syracuse’s back-to-back overtime games, followed by Joe Girard with 40 and Judah Mintz with 39. It isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but Boeheim did go on the record to say he would use an expanded rotation throughout this season.
After this, Syracuse will compete in two brutal games: a road matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Illinois and its first ACC game against Notre Dame. Does coach Boeheim play his starters more in hopes of securing a victory against the Bulldogs, or does he save them for potential resume-building matchups afterwards?
Kevin: Smart offensive sets
Bryant is a talented veteran team who is looking to push the pace and score. Syracuse can take advantage of their weaker defense if they are patient and keep the ball and themselves moving. Taking quick shots is going to let the Bulldogs get out and run before the zone sets up. If the Orange are patient, they can work to get good shots and then set up the defense and force Bryant to play a patient game.
Szuba: These rees ain’t free
How well does Syracuse rebound—by literal definition—against a team that ranks fourth in the country in rebounds per game? Although it’s a small sample size and Bryant’s stats are skewed thanks to a soft schedule to this point, the Bulldogs are averaging 46.0 rebounds per game. If Syracuse is going to play 2-3 zone, how well can the forwards rebound on the defensive end? Will the guards have to come in and help out more on the glass? The Orange can survive getting out-rebounded playing zone to be sure and the rebounding was better against St. John’s. But the gap still needs to close. Syracuse is 220th in the country in the rebounds per game (36.2) category.
Mike: Control the paint
To beat Bryant, SU needs to play a complete two-way game. That involves outperforming the Bulldogs inside the paint on both ends. On offense, Jesse needs to continue controlling the tempo and drawing pressure away from Judah and the other scorers, while not being afraid to take it himself when the lane is there. Joe will probably stay hot and cold, but he needs to be more concise with his shots up close to prevent the really off nights like against St. John’s. Then on the other side, the zone needs to assert itself and force long possessions that end with contested looks and defensive rebounds.
If you are an avid follower of our Twitter feed (and if you’re not, drop a follow @NunesMagician), you’ll know there’s a particular Kirby gif that we like to use. It started with Quincy Guerrier and it’s transitioned to Jesse Edwards. For reference, here it is:
Feed Jesse pic.twitter.com/L8jlArXEs4— Christian De Guzman (@CTDeGuz) November 23, 2022
This is another prototypical game that is tailor made for Jesse Edwards to take over. There isn’t a Bryant player over 6-foot-8. Jim Boeheim has said that at times this season that the Orange haven’t done a good job of finding a way to get Jesse Edwards the ball when he’s in open space or has an advantage. That needs to continue developing against Bryant.
What will you be watching for in today’s game?