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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for in the WNIT vs. Kent State

After a brief hiatus, Orange postseason basketball is officially back.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (18-12, 9-9) returns to postseason play for the first time in two seasons in Felisha Legette-Jack’s first year at the helm of the program.

Despite barely missing out on the 2023 NCAAW Tournament, Legette-Jack became the first coach in program history to clinch a postseason berth of some kind in year one as a coach. Syracuse will have a chance to make a deep run in this season’s Women’s National Invitation Tournament, and that starts Wednesday night when the Orange take on the Kent State Golden Flashes (21-10, 12-6) in the first round of the 2023 WNIT.

Syracuse enters the contest coming off a 25-point defeat to NC State in the 2023 ACC Tournament, while Kent State finished 1-1 in this year’s Mid-Atlantic Conference Tournament and fourth in the MAC standings. Last season, the Golden Flashes advanced to the second round of the 2022 WNIT and are 2-6 all-time in the WNIT, while the Orange are 11-4 all-time in WNIT play.

Tip-off between the Orange and Golden Flashes is at 7 p.m. EST in the JMA Wireless Dome and is available to stream online. Syracuse is 14-3 at home compared to Kent State’s 6-6 record on the road this season.

Can the Orange return to form and begin a deep WNIT run? Here’s what to watch for in the Orange’s first postseason game in the FLJ era.

Question #1: Who wins the battle on the perimeter?

Syracuse’s defense kryptonite typically falls in sacrificing open threes in favor of extra help defense in the paint and forcing turnovers. The challenge is that Kent State (35% from three this season) led the MAC in three-point percentage while finishing fourth in three-point attempts per game. The Orange’s tough shortcomings in ACC play this season (think Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Louisville) were all teams who ranked toward the top of the conference in three-point percentage. Defending the perimeter will be key for the Orange.

Question #2: Will we experience an Orange resurgence or a repeating nightmare?

Although in a less-competitive conference compared to Syracuse in the ACC, Kent State fits the bill of programs the Orange struggled to deal with: egalitarian-style offensive teams who rely on multiple creators, don’t turn the ball over, and get quality shots. Defensively, Kent State also ranks first in opponent points per game, which is reminiscent of the Orange’s earlier battles with Duke and Notre Dame. Syracuse will be the heavy favorite, but seeing how FLJ will attack a scheme she’s seen before will be notable.

Question #3: How motivated is this team?

Sounds simple, but given the context of the NC State loss and the chemistry built up within this season’s team, expect the Orange to go on a big-time run in this tournament. FLJ won’t bow out easily, and the better this program does, the better the image and identity the team will have heading into an off-season where some major holes will need to be filled. It may not be a standard NCAAW Tournament berth, but a deep run could have some long-term upside for the Orange heading into next season.


Now it’s your turn: what will you be watching for as the Orange return to the WNIT, and can Syracuse perform well enough to make a noticeable run in the tournament?