The Orange (5-2) are coming off a tough 68-65 loss at the Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday. SU trailed by as much as 10 points with less than eight minutes to play, but battled back into the contest. The Orange did have a chance to win with under a minute to play, but two costly turnovers derailed the team's chances of pulling off the comeback victory.
Meanwhile, St. John's (5-1) will be trying to earn its second straight victory after defeating the Niagara Purple Eagles, 70-57, at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday. Senior guard D'Angelo Harrison netted a team-best 16 points and collected nine rebounds in the win.
|Syracuse Orange (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
|Rakeem Christmas - scored dbl figures in last 4 gms||Sr.||6'9"||250||17.1||9.0|
|Chris McCullough - dbl-dbl in 2 consecutive games||Fr.||6'10"||210||14.6||8.9|
Senior center Rakeem Christmas continues to be Syracuse's most consistent scoring threat, as he has scored in double figures in all of the team's last four games. Christmas has featured an array of low-post moves that have forced opponents to double- and sometimes triple-team him. If the Orange want to get better on offense, Christmas will need to quickly learn how to find the open shooter with skip passes.
Freshman forward Chris McCullough enters this contest coming off back-to-back double-double performance. McCullough's second-half play keyed the Orange's run against Michigan, but a late-game turnover by the first-year player helped end SU's comeback chances.
Syracuse is hoping Trevor Cooney can pick up where he left off on Tuesday, when he knocked down four 3-pointers in the second half which led to a team-best 16-point performance. The junior's four 3-pointers was just the second time he hit the mark since Feb. 3, 2014 when he made nine against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Cooney made four 3s against Western Michigan in the second round of the NCAA last season.
Off the bench, Michael Gbinije (6.7 ppg) will be Jim Boeheim's first option, however, the junior has struggled with his consistency. Sophomore forward B.J. Johnson and sophomore guard Ron Patterson have also seen limited playing time.
|St. John's Red Storm (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
|Chris Obekpa - Active NCAA block leader (3.52 bpg)||Jr.||6'9"||230||7.0||8.5|
|D'Angelo Harrison - scored 31 pts vs. Franklin Pierce||Sr.||6'4"||202||17.5||9.0|
|Phil Greene IV||Sr.||6'2"||187||10.7||3.7|
The Orange's old Big East Conference rival still has some familiar names on its roster, as senior guard D'Angelo Harrison is still scoring points seemingly at will; senior guard Phil Greene and Sir'Dominic Pointer are tied for third on the team in scoring; and center Chris Obekpa is the NCAA active career block leader.
Meanwhile, there are a few new names Syracuse fans need to get to know. The first is bench contributor, sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan, who is averaging 16.0 points per game and has reached double figures in five of St. John's last six games. Freshman guard Myles Stewart has been tossed into a starting role, but look for him to play around 10 minutes.
Overall, this squad has earned a victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 70-61, and gave the Gonzaga Bulldogs all they could handle in a 73-66 loss at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament.
Its 5-1 record is the best start under head coach Steve Lavin, who is in the midst of his fifth season. The Johnnies are winning because of timely offense from Harrison and its contributors, but also because they rebound the ball well–they're the top rebounding team in the Big East averaging 43.7 per game–and protecting the rim–St. John's is seventh in the nation in blocks per game.
|Team Comparison||Syracuse||St. John's|
|Points Per Game||69.4||73.8|
|Opponents Points Per Game||54||63.8|
|Turnovers Per Game||13.3||12.7|
As every knows, there's a lot of history between these two programs. Syracuse is 51-37 all-time against St. John's, which has lost the last nine meeting against the Orange. The last loss to the Red Storm came on Jan. 27, 1999, when St. John's earned a 75-70 victory.
Game Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2–Adam Amin (play-by-play) and Shane Battier (color).
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network
Betting Line: N/A
Meaningless Prediction: Syracuse 65, St. John's 60
The experience on the St. John's roster, which features the cold-blooded play of D'Angelo Harrison–will be the biggest reason why I think the Johnnies hang around in this one. This squad reminds me a lot of 2002 squad that featured Dwight Hardy, though, I like Hardy more than Harrison.
Either way, the Johnnies are going to rebound well and protect the rim, so Syracuse is going to need to make shots from the outside if they want to earn this victory. I think, Syracuse will make shots as the hope is Cooney has found his stroke and SU's big guys inside are a type of match up the Johnnies haven't seen it yet.
Look for this one to be close and Syracuse edging St. John's because of the home court advantage.
|Syracuse Orange (next five games)||Date||Time||TV|
|Vs. Louisiana Tech.||12/14/2014||4:00 PM||ESPNU|
|at Villanova||12/20/2014||1:00 PM||FOX|
|Vs. Colgate||12/22/2014||7:00 PM||ESPNU|
|Vs. Long Beach State||12/28/2014||2:00 PM||ESPNU|
|Vs. Cornell||12/31/2014||6:00 PM||ESPNU|