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

Happy ACC/SEC Challenge Week

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Classic Fifth Place - LSU at Wake Forest David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (4-2) are back from Hawaii and will host the Louisiana State Tigers (4-2) tonight in the JMA Wireless Dome. What do we expect from this ACC/SEC Challenge game?

Kevin: Defending the post

The Tigers are led by transfer center Will Baker. He’s a 6’11” senior averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Baker is joined in the starting line-up by 6’10” Jalen Reed who averages over 5 rebounds per game. Syracuse did not defend the interior well in Hawaii, so it’s critical that they are helping on the defensive glass in this one. LSU doesn’t project as a Tournament team so a home loss would have the Orange back in the familiar situation of chasing wins the rest of the way.

Max: Expose LSU’s perimeter defense

The Tigers excel at defending the paint, but struggle to stop outside shooters, allowing 10 three-pointers per game (second-worst in DI). Syracuse hasn’t been great at shooting from deep so far, but Chris Bell, Justin Taylor and Benny Williams are due for positive regression after posting much better numbers from three last year. That trio, along with a red-hot Judah Mintz, should have plenty of open shots from distance. They just need to knock them down.

St. Rose v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Mike: “Free” Points at a Premium

Both of these teams are well outside the Top 100 in free throw percentage. SU is converting only 71% of their shots at the line; LSU is slightly higher at 72.5%. With stats like that, you can go two ways: do both sides amp up the physicality because they know the risk for easy points isn’t as high? Or play it super safe and refocus their efforts on drawing the contact and making those +1s? We’ll find out pretty early whether SU is trending towards the bonus or keeping it clean.

Dom: Aggressiveness on the perimeter

While Syracuse usually takes lots of risks defensively, it could prove to be a reward against LSU. The Tigers currently rank as one of the worst teams in the SEC when it comes to turnovers per game (third-most), assists per game (tied for third-most) and assist-to-turnover ratio (last). The backcourt of Judah Mintz and J.J. Starling should see plenty of chances to get some steals and push in transition, and the best-case scenario for either guard is having them drive downhill.

Szuba: Taking care of the rock

On the opposite side of the ball, I’m looking to see how Syracuse handles the LSU defense. It isn’t quite Tennessee, but where the Vols keep teams in front and make them miss, the Tigers have been turning teams over. The obvious strength of Syracuse is in backcourt with two guards capable of lead ball-handling duties; the Orange take care of the ball for the most part with just 15.1 turnovers per 100 possessions. Fifth year senior and Vanderbilt transfer Jordan Wright will guard one of the Orange sophomore guards. Will Syracuse value possessions?