Syaracuse Basketball: Previewing the Next 2 Weeks for the Orange

Barry LeonardAnalyst IIIDecember 27, 2012

Syaracuse Basketball: Previewing the Next 2 Weeks for the Orange

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    The last week of December and the first week of January mean two things for Syracuse: The non-conference schedule is winding down and Big East play is about to start.

    The Orange will play four games in the next two weeks. The two remaining in December are against non-conference foes, while the new year begins with matchups against Big East teams.

    Syracuse has had a great start to the season, winning its first 10 games. In that stretch, coach Jim Boeheim earned his 900th career victory. In the Orange's last outing, they were defeated for the first time in 2012, losing 83-79 to the Temple Owls.

    For the season, Syracuse ranks fifth in the nation in points, averaging 83 per game. The roster features a solid mix of young talent and experienced veterans. James Southerland, Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair and Baye Keita all played important roles on last year's team that advanced to the Elite 8.

    Southerland, a senior, currently leads the team with 15 points per game.

    Freshman guard Trevor Cooney has contributed over 14 minutes a game and looks like a perfect fit for the Orange.

    Looking at the next four games, the Orange should able to end 2012 and ring in 2013 with victories.

Alcorn State Braves

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    When: Saturday, December 29 at  7 p.m. ET

    Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY

    In their fist game since losing to Temple, the Orange get a game that should be an easy bounce-back for them.

    The Alcorn State Braves are off to a rough start so far this season. After winning the opener against Oakland, they have won just one more since and currently sit at 2-11 on the year. 

    They have had one other meeting with a ranked opponent, a 91-54 road loss to the No. 14 Missouri Tigers.

    The guy the Orange will want to keep an eye on is senior Marquiz Baker. He leads the Braves in scoring, averaging 23.5 points a game. Beyond Baker, their next leading scorer is LeAntwan Luckett, who is contributing 11.8 points.

    As a team, the Braves average just 57.8 points, ranking them 325th in the country.

    This game should be a chance for the Orange to work out problems that were exposed against the Owls and get back in the win column.  

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils

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    When: Monday, December 31 at 3 p.m. ET

    Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY

    2012 ends with the final non-conference opponent on the schedule for the Orange. The Central Connecticut State Blue Devils will make a trip to the Carrier Dome to try to pull off an upset.

    The Blue Devils will be taking on a ranked opponent for the second time in 2012. On December 8th they were defeated 100-69 by the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers.

    Central Connecticut is led on offense by two guards, sophomore Kyle Vinales and junior Matt Hunter. Both average over 20 points a game, and Hunter leads the team with 7.4 rebounds.

    Despite the production from the backcourt, the Orange should not have much trouble in this game. 'Cuse is a tough defensive team that is fifth in the nation in rebounding.

    While this game will be the second in three days for Syracuse, 2012 should end on a high note.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    When: Wednesday, January 2 at 7 p.m. ET

    Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY  

    After celebrating the new year, the Orange will begin their conference schedule. Big East play is always tough and unpredictable, and the first game is no different.

    Rutgers currently sits at 8-2, with a game against Rider before heading to the Carrier Dome. In their one meeting with the Orange last season, the Knights were defeated 74-64.

    To be victorious this season, the Orange are going to have to control sophomore guard Eli Carter. He is the Knights' leading scorer at 17.1 points a game. Rutgers has struggled to score at times in 2012, ranking just 63rd in that category, scoring 74.9 a game as a team.

    Rebounding could be the key to an Orange victory in the game. Rutgers ranks 128th in the country, while Syracuse grabs 44.2 per game and is one of the top in the country in that category.

    This one should be closer than the two that closed out 2012. However, with a solid game, the Orange will start 1-0 in the Big East.

South Florida Bulls

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    When: Sunday, January 6 at 12 p.m. ET

    Where: USF Sun Dome, Tampa, FL

    The South Florida Bulls are typically bottom-dwellers in the Big East, but that doesn't mean they can be taken lightly. The Bulls have started the season 7-3, with one of those losses coming on the road to No. 23 Oklahoma State.

    Rebounding and scoring have both been issues for the Bulls so far this season. They rank 190th in points per game and 122nd in rebounds per game. South Florida is a poor shooting team, making just 43 percent of its shots so far.

    Senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who comes in at 6'8", 243 pounds, has the body of a linebacker and is tough inside. He leads the bulls with 12.7 points a game and is second with 6.2 rebounds.

    This game will be the first conference road game for the Orange and their first true road game since the November 8th game at Arkansas.

    Syracuse guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams should be able to take this game over, and the tough Orange defense could cause the Bulls to struggle on offense. That should be enough to give 'Cuse its second straight conference victory.