To preview tonight's matchup between the Eagles and the Orange, we traded notes with Sean Keely of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. My questions and his answers below.
BC Interruption: The Orange shot a season-low 35 percent on Saturday and still beat North Carolina handily. Frankly, it is downright frightening to think that Syracuse has yet to put together a complete game this season and is still a perfect 16-0 on the year. What game would you point to as the one where SU put together the most complete performance so far this year?
TNIAAM: I assume I'm not allowed to count the 27-point win over Binghamton. If we're sticking with credible opponents, I'll go with the 69-52 win over Indiana. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis combined for 38 points and nine assists, held Indiana to 36% shooting and the Orange used one of thier patented second-half runs to put the game away relatively early. We went into the season not knowing if Cooney or Ennis, let alone both of them, would excel, and this game was proof that both were going to be able to exceed expectations.
BCI: Obviously I can't point to a loss on the schedule, but Syracuse did struggle to put away some weaker teams earlier in the year -- St. Francis (NY) and Miami, as examples. What happened in those games that allowed the Terriers and Canes to stay in those contests?
TNIAAM: Looking back at St. Francis, you'll notice C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis both had rough nights. While the Orange have a lot of weapons, there are certain guys they count on to produce each night in some capacity and it just wasn't happening for most of the game. Against Miami, it was Trevor Cooney who had a rough time and the Hurricanes took advantage of SU's inability to control a game in the paint. While SU didn't look great in either game, the fact that they eked out victories is a bit nutty, even to us.
BCI: If Syracuse has a weakness, it's arguably on the glass. The Orange aren't a great rebounding team (but BC is much, much worse in that department, for what it's worth). Why does Syracuse struggle to rebound despite boasting a highly efficient offense and a stout, zone defense?
TNIAAM: Unfortunately, Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman have yet to make "the leap." So many SU centers before them have made big impacts in later seasons but the expected bump from either guy just hasn't happened. Coleman's knee issues have kept his off the floor and while Baye Keita is a fantastic glue guy off the bench, he's not able to dominate in the paint either. If we play a team with two dominant big men, we might be in big trouble.
BCI: Syracuse has ventured beyond the Carrier Dome just twice this season (2-0) and just once outside of the Empire State so, limited data points. #ACCNarratives Over the past few seasons, how has the Orange fared on the road vs. at home?
TNIAAM: I can't tell if you're being snarky and counting our three Maui Invitational games as home games or not, you wouldn't be the first. SU's done reasonably well on the road in recent years. Last year they were the only team to beat Arkansas on their home court and went 5-5 overall. Two years ago, they went 9-1 on the road, including a win at NC State. SU's not above tanking it on the road but it's not something we assume every time they leave the comfy confines of the Empire State.
BCI: This is the first time through the ACC schedule for Orange fans. Which program you are less familiar with are fans most looking forward to seeing in Syracuse's inaugural ACC season?
TNIAAM: I'm personally excited for the Clemson game so a Clemson reporter can ask Jim Boeheim about his Denny's comments and all hell will break loose. As for on-the-court interest, we're obviously excited for the Duke home-and-home. Regardless of their record, both programs are going to measure themselves against one another from here on out. Also kinda excited for the game at Virginia. TNIAAM found out this week that Cavalier fans do not like it when you rank their team low in your power rankings. They seem excitable.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got (duh)? Does BC manage to keep it close or is this one going to get out of hand in a hurry?
TNIAAM: While I appreciate BC's gusto and I know that Conte Forum is a fun home environment, I expect the Orange to get it together and win. I'll go with 68-56 as my final score. BC will probably keep it close early but the patented 23-5 run will happen sooner or later and that'll be that. Godspeed, Eagles.
For more on Syracuse, check out Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.