Syracuse and San Diego State will face off in a season-opening showdown on the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier stationed in San Diego.
Both teams face high expectations this season, but one will have to start their campaign with a loss. Jim Boeheim has the Orange ranked No. 9 in the preseason poll, while Steve Fisher’s Aztecs sit at No. 20.
There will be two excellent coaches and an abundance of talent on the court, and this event will certainly not disappoint.
Here are the keys to victory for each team.
The Orange’s main weapon in this matchup will be their depth.
SDSU has talented scorers in its starting lineup, and if they get in rhythm early, the Aztecs will not have a problem matching Syracuse basket for basket.
But the players that Steve Fisher will turn to on his bench are not nearly as talented as the reserves that Jim Boeheim has at his disposal. When the second units step on the floor, Syracuse must see this as an opportunity.
If the Orange can lead by a wide margin in bench points, they will win this contest.
The Orange will need a player to step up and be a leader this season after losing key contributors such as Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine.
Brandon Triche will need to be that player, as he was the third-leading scorer on the team last season and averaged 22.5 minutes per game.
While there will be other talented players who will make valuable contributions this season, they will need to look up to a senior with experience. Triche’s role as a leader in the locker room will be equally as important as his performance on the court.
The senior guard must establish himself as the alpha dog on his team from the moment he steps on the court in San Diego.
San Diego State
Last season, the Aztecs relied on Jamaal Franklin to put up points in bunches, and this year will be no different.
The 6’5” junior averaged 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last season, leading the team in both categories. He will need to continue that level of production going into this season.
While SDSU may be able to survive an off night from Franklin against some of its Mountain West Conference opponents, this will not be the case against Syracuse.
For the Aztecs to have a chance in this game, Franklin must have an extremely efficient game on the offensive end of the floor.
Get in the Paint
This game will present unique challenges due to an outdoor court in windy San Diego Bay.
These players are not used to having the elements affect their shots, and this may cause difficulty for both teams when trying to score from the perimeter.
But due to Syracuse’s infamous 2-3 zone defense, it will be significantly harder for San Diego State to adjust its offense in order to focus more on the low post. The Aztec guards will need to be aggressive and get in the lane in order to break down the Orange’s scheme.
If the wind starts to change shots, then San Diego State must be ready to do everything possible to get into the paint and score.