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Things to watch for when Syracuse basketball hosts Louisville

The Orange look to make it 3 in a row...

NCAA Basketball: Wade Houston Tipoff Classic-Prairie View A&M at Louisville Scott Utterback-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (11-11, 5-6) men’s basketball team has played some of their best offensive basketball over the last two games. Can they keep it up when the Louisville Cardinals (11-11, 5-7) on Saturday afternoon. The Orange have found their shooting range so can they keep it going against a Cardinal team on a four-game losing streak? Here’s what we’ll be looking for when these teams meet:

Kevin: Breaking Louisville early

Since the departure of Chris Mack the Cardinals played Duke and UNC tough at home before losing to both. This team didn’t collapse after their head coach left but they are have lost seven of their last eight games and with everything swirling around the program it would benefit Syracuse to get a jump on them early. If the Orange can be patient on offense again and work for good shots they could build an early lead and avoid a loss that would end the NCAA dreams (for Orange fans) and nightmares (of a 5 seed drawing the Cuse in March).

Zeke: Another strong shooting day for the Orange

Syracuse has been red hot over the past two games shooting the ball and this writer doesn’t expect Saturday’s matchup against Louisville to go any differently for the Orange. Over the past two games, Syracuse has shot 58.1% from the field and 55.3% from distance. On Wednesday night against NC State, all five of Syracuse’s starters scored 16+ points and came away with the 89-82 W at the PNC arena. Expect Louisville to come out playing with lots of energy inside the dome Saturday, but Syracuse’s offense just too much for the Cardinals to handle.

Szuba: Does Malik Williams play?

The culture of the Louisville basketball program been rather contentious this season (this decade?) leading to the departure of head coach Chris Mack and the current suspension of leading scorer and rebounder Malik Williams. Interim head coach Mike Pegues has been somewhat cryptic on the return of Williams, who missed the North Carolina game after a “one game suspension” after failing to live up the standards of the program. Asked whether he’d return against Syracuse, Pegues was somewhat terse.

“I don’t know that just yet,” Pegues told the Courier Journal. “I think that’s a question for Malik. I would like to think that he does. I would like to think that he wants to finish the season the right way.”

So simply, will Williams play? If he does, he has a chance to do damage against Syracuse inside and on the glass.

Christian: Defy the logic

One of the classic weaknesses that people note about the zone is rebounding. Louisville does have a positive rebound margin, but almost all of their boards come from Malik Williams, who averages 8.7 rebounds per game. As of now, it’s unknown if Williams will play against Syracuse. Even if he does play, the Cardinals don’t have another player who averages over 4.5 rebounds per game. It should be fairly simple - if Williams plays, pay attention to where he is when the shot goes up. If he’s not, then Syracuse needs to decisively control the glass.


What are you keeping an eye out for in tomorrow’s game?