Syracuse Orange Face Their Toughest Challenge This Year with Louisville

Andrew PreglerContributor IIIFebruary 12, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 11:  Scoop Jardine #11 and Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange celebrate a play against the Villanova Wildcats at the Wells Fargo Center on January 11, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange, at times, cannot be stopped this season. They have rolled along to a 25-1 record this season, and the end result has been a No. 1 or No. 2 ranking for most of the season.

The offense has been strong, as multiple players have taken control night to night, and the 2-3 zone has frustrated defense all year (as long as Fab Melo has been the main anchor).

However, this Monday night, the Orange will be tested more than they have all season by a single opponent. The Louisville Cardinals have been gaining steam this late part of the year and look to challenge Syracuse in every way possible.

First off, the Orange and Cardinals are coming into this game from two different extremes: The Cardinals are red hot and jumping up in the polls, while the Orange have not played their best basketball of late and are staying strong at No. 2.

Secondly, the Orange have not fared well against Louisville in recent memory. The Orange have not defeated the Cardinals in the regular season since 2006, and Jim Boeheim is well aware that his former assistant has gotten the better of him.

The third and final reason this game will be a challenge is the same reason Jim Boeheim has struggled against Pitino: Louisville plays a style of game that should give Syracuse trouble.

The Cardinals' game is predicated on transition offense and quick strikes, which is very similar to the way the Orange want to play the game this season. That means that defense will help determine the winner, and one would think that Syracuse has the advantage.

The 2-3 zone is effective and has worked well this season, but with Fab Melo's recent foul trouble and the likelihood of a fast paced game, Syracuse will have to use their depth to rotate players.

While C.J. Fair has been terrific, Baye Moussa-Kieta and Rakeem Christmas have not, and they will have to step up in order to slow down Lousiville's offense.

Furthermore, this game will also be determined by the rebounding skills of both teams and who can turn missed shots into transition opportunities. We all know that Syracuse has not done this well this season.

The Orange could be looking right at their second loss in Louisville, yet this could be their chance to prove all of the doubters wrong and secure a No. 1 overall seed.