The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (9-5, 2-1) begins the new year on a lighter note as it prepares to take on its easiest ACC opponent of the season in the Louisville Cardinals (2-12, 0-3).
Syracuse looks to secure back-to-back wins against the bottom of its conference, while Louisville is just hoping to gain a win in what’s been a miserable season to this point.
Here’s what to watch for between Syracuse and Louisville:
Dom: Put the game to bed early
Louisville enters the game with the worst-scoring offense in the ACC at 61.5 PPG, which is 2.9 PPG lower than the next-worst offense (Boston College) in the conference. For comparison, Syracuse is scoring 75.6 PPG while surrendering the third-lowest opponent field goal percentage in the ACC. Against the Eagles, Syracuse didn’t gain much steam until the midway point of the second half. This time, the Orange should look to make a statement on the road, getting out to a strong start, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Mike: Come prepared
Obviously you don’t want to look ahead to your next opponent... but when that next opponent is #13 Virginia and you’re playing a 2-12 outfit, it can be easy to do so. There was absolutely no reason to lose to Georgetown last season, and I’d very much like to avoid another debacle here. The best way to avoid that is to do what Dom said: don’t wait the usual 8-10 minutes to get the scoring going. Build up a sizeable lead, get the whole bench involved by the second half, and keep your starters fresh for the challenge that awaits them Saturday.
Kevin: Ball Movement
This one should be an easy win, so it’s a good time for Syracuse to focus on building good habits. To me, it’s about moving the ball on offense. The Orange don’t have the best half-court offense, but when the ball moves and players are getting to open spots, they will get good shots. As the schedule gets tougher after this one, it’s a great chance to pay attention to details and get in a better rhythm.
Christian: Broken Record
At this point, nothing I say is going to be original news about what we want to see from this Orange team. The obvious problems of ball movement (as Kevin pointed out) and a slow start (as Dom pointed out) are still there. The other big one is the lack of production from the forward position. Syracuse got something out of Benny Williams, and the hope is that he can continue to build confidence against a lackluster Cardinals team. This needs to again be a confidence-boosting game for Syracuse’s forwards unit in order for the Orange to visualize what success looks like in the rest of ACC play.
Szuba: Forward progress
Remember the days when Syracuse traveled to Louisville as two ranked teams squared off in a nationally relevant game? Good times.
Anyway, building off of Christian’s point above, I’m curious to see how Benny Williams plays in this game after his double-double against Boston College. Partly for that performance, but mostly because of Jim Boeheim’s comments after that game. In the preseason Boeheim said Maliq Brown could push Williams for playing time, but after the BC game Boeheim let it be known publicly that Williams is the guy at the four. How does Williams respond against a bad team after getting his head coach’s approval?
That’s what we’re watching for. Now, you tell us what you’ll be looking for in tomorrow’s matchup versus the Cardinals.