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Syracuse men’s basketball: what to watch for vs Tennessee

Monday afternoon hoops

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 14 Colgate at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s some mid-afternoon action as the Syracuse Orange (2-0) face the #7 Tennessee Volunteers (3-0) in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. Here’s what we’re watching for today:

Kevin: Rebounding

The Orange need to limit Tennessee’s second chance opportunities to have a chance in this one. We knew rebounding would be a question heading into this season and so far Syracuse hasn’t done anything to quell those fears- giving up 35 offensive rebounds in the first three games. With a powerful Volunteers offense, it’s important to not only deny them second (and third) chances, but rebounding will help Syracuse get in transition and get opportunities before the Tennessee defense can get set.

Dom: Limiting the outside shot

Tennessee is far from being an efficient outside shooting team, but they do have a good amount of players who are willing to at least take them. Two players from the Volunteers (Dalton Knecht and Jordan Gainey) are at almost five three-point attempts a game while three other players have taken at least three a game so far. Syracuse has experienced some defensive inconsistency so far, particular with leaving perimeter scorers wide open. They’ll need to buck that trend against Tennessee.

Szuba: Knecht Four

It wouldn’t make too much sense for the Orange to play much of the 2-3 zone in this game. The Vols have three-point threats in the form of Knecht, Gainey, Josiah Jordan-James and Santiago Vescovi. But in man Knecht and Vescovi are most worrisome, so who Adrian Autry chooses to matchup on those guys will be interesting. Quadir Copeland and Kyle Cuffe would likely welcome that challenge off the bench, but can the Orange shooters in Chris Bell and Justin Taylor step up defensively? What kind of impact can Benny Williams have on the defensive end and can he provide a lift on the glass? Some really difficult matchup questions for the Orange in this game. (Also, Tennessee has struggled to defensive rebound. Perhaps a good second-chance points opportunity for Maliq Brown, Williams and Copeland.)

Mike: Bounceback Benny

Benny Williams played only 10 minutes in his return against Colgate, bricking all four shots while only grabbing one board and one assist. To have any shot against the Vols, SU needs their most-senior member to contribute a lot on the offensive side of the court. His best games last season were when he reeled in rebounds off the glass for second-chance points, and we know the likes of Bell, Taylor, and others won’t be perfect on the outside. Benny’s job should be to convert missed shots from the wings or dish the ball back if an open second look is available.

Max: Keep the Vols off the foul line

Tennessee is one of the nation’s best at the free-throw line, shooting over 82-percent in its first three games. While Syracuse hasn’t fouled much (13 per game - 10th best in the country), it hasn’t faced anyone nearly as talented as the Volunteers. Leading scorer Dalton Knecht shoots 83-percent from the stripe and gets there six times a game, so it’ll be important for the Orange defense to play straight-up without fouling.


What will you be watching for today?