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Syracuse vs. Monmouth: Five things to watch

Game three should be more competitive, but look for the Orange to still win easily.

NCAA Basketball: Holy Cross at Syracuse
What does coach Jim Boeheim have in store Friday night?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Two games down and so far, the Syracuse Orange have nothing but positives to take away.

The Orange are off to a hot start, notching two convincing wins over competition they rightfully ought to be annihilating. Their average winning margin is 36 points, and with an easy schedule still to come, these kind of performances should become routine.

Friday night’s game against Monmouth is not going to be as easy as the first two “battles.” The Monmouth Hawks hail from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and have seen some success in the recent past. Last year they finished 29-8 and were a popular topic in the debate for a bid to the big dance. The Orange should take care of business come tip off, but you never know what slipper Cinderella will be wearing on any given night.

Will Tyler Lydon keep it going?

The star forward for the Orange snapped out of his funk Tuesday night, finishing with 17 points. Lydon looked confident and hungry from the tip, and with his game back in action, the Orange are ready to roll.

The Orange have proven to be able to score without efficient play from Lydon, but for this team to reach its peak, the big man needs to play to his highest capability. Friday night’s game will test if his last performance was just a fluke, or if it was actually the real Tyler Lydon on the floor of the Carrier Dome.

How much will size matter?

The Orange showcase a roster full of versatility and athleticism. Their lineups have proven to dominate with their size so far in the young season; the Orange starting lineup has an average height of a little under 6’8”, while the Monmouth Hawks come into town with a starting lineup with an average height of 6’3”. Good news for the Orange.

Coach Jim Boeheim has stressed the importance of offensive rebounding and with a matchup like Friday’s, Boeheim should be full of smiles come the sound of the buzzer. What am I saying? Boeheim rarely smiles, but with a size mismatch like this, the Orange should do themselves a favor and impress their veteran head coach the day after his birthday.

Will Tyler Roberson’s confidence remain a factor?

Tyler Roberson has begun the season with a whole new perspective on his game. Confidence has been the key to Roberson improving, and from the looks of it, the big man is as sure of himself as ever. There is no fear in Roberson’s eyes anymore when he catches the ball at the free throw line; Roberson now has the trust in himself to shoot that jump shot and live with the results.

The 6’8” forward has expanded his game from a defensive stopper with no offensive game, to a dominant defensive figure who uses his athleticism and experience to take advantage of mismatches on offense. If Roberson continues this offensive spree, the Orange will be breaking records on that side of the ball.

The point guard play

The Orange are as deep as it comes at the point guard position having two options to trust at any given moment. Frank Howard brings an athletic body to the position, and a skill set with room to both find his teammates and score for himself. John Gillon, even with his small stature, can dominate inside the lane or outside of it too; his ability to manipulate his defender gets the entire team involved in the game.

Boeheim has a tendency to show his emotions early and often, and on the first possession of the last game, he decided to pull Howard due to a defensive mishap. The two point guards set the tempo for the rest of the team, and Boeheim has no time for misguidance. It will be interesting Friday night to see how long a leash these two have.

How much can this team really score?

The Orange have more shooters than advertised. Syracuse has always been a team who shoots their fair share of threes, but even if the season is young, records are already looking like they could be broken.

Newcomers in Andrew White III, John Gillon, and Tyus Battle can stroke the ball wherever and whenever they are on the floor. While these three bring a dominant toolbox to the team, the most impressive shooting performance has been from Frank Howard. The point guard was criticized about his shooting ability last year, but so far he has proven critiques wrong with the ability to lead the team and torch defenses from beyond the arc.

This hot start is bound to slow down at times, but when all the wheels are turning, the Syracuse Orange are going to be nearly impossible to beat.