Syracuse Basketball: Why the Orange Can't Overlook St. John's
The Syracuse Orange visit Madison Square Garden Saturday to take on the St. John's Red Storm, and Jim Boeheim's boys are the unquestioned favorite even though they're on the road.
The 10-12 Johnnies, who start five freshmen, are in the throes of a rebuilding year.
Ranked 142nd in the country in the Sagarin Ratings Index, the Red Storm have lost to teams such as Northeastern, Detroit and South Florida. They've lost to every ranked team they've faced this season.
Head coach Steve Lavin's battle with cancer hasn't helped, nor has the transfer of Nurideen Lindsey.
However, the Johnnies aren't to be taken lightly, and the Orange shouldn't look past them to their blockbuster games next week.
All Boeheim needs to do is point to St. John's recent upswing, which includes a win over West Virginia, a close contest at Cameron Indoor against Duke and a road win over DePaul.
The ridiculously athletic forward Moe Harkless has crashed the boards hard and terrorized defenses lately.
His 30 points and 13 rebounds helped give the Blue Devils a scare Saturday, and a great effort a few nights earlier helped the Red Storm out-rebound and defeat West Virginia—one of the best rebounding teams in the country.
It will be interesting to see how Harkless reacts to Syracuse's 2-3 zone. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how the zone reacts to Harkless.
Harrison is the Johnnies' best three-point threat (actually, their only one) and he buried seven triples in the win against DePaul. Orange fans had better hope he doesn't get on a zone-busting hot streak Saturday.
To be fair, St. John's will have to play its best game of the year in order to win; Syracuse's defense will pose problems for St. John's freelancing, isolation-style offense.
But considering the way the Red Storm have been playing lately, their best game might be just around the corner. The Johnnies have the athleticism and rebounding capability to give the Orange a run for their money.
As long as Syracuse works the ball inside-out on offense and pinches the zone in on everyone but Harrison, they should be fine.
Prediction: Syracuse 73, St. John's 63
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