The top-ranked Louisville Cardinals (16-1) will fight to stay at the top of the college basketball rankings when they take on Big East rivals Syracuse (16-1) in the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday. Both teams come into the game unbeaten in conference play.
Syracuse will be without their third-leading scorer, senior forward James Southerland, who will miss his second straight game due to academic issues. Southerland averages 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He is also averaging two three-point shots a game, which would be a huge asset for the Orange against the Cardinals.
Louisville comes into the game after a phenomenal defensive effort and second-half comeback against Connecticut. The Cardinals beat the Huskies in the XL Center, 73-58. Russ Smith led the Cardinals and their fast-paced offense with 23 points.
Syracuse comes into the game after beating Villanova last Saturday without Southerland 72-61 at home. Junior C.J. Fair had a monster game, with 22 points, five rebounds and four blocks.
When: Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Where: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
Listen: WKRD Radio (790 AM) in Louisville, Ky.
WTKW Radio (99.5 FM) in Syracuse, N.Y.
Probable Starting Lineups
C Gorgui Dieng, 6'11”, 245 lbs.
PF Montrezl Harrell, 6'8”, 235 lbs.
F Wayne Blackshear, 6'5”, 230 lbs.
G Russ Smith, 6'0”, 165 lbs.
PG Peyton Siva, 6'0”, 185 lbs.
C DaJuan Coleman, 6'9", 288 lbs.
PF Rakeem Christmas, 6'9", 242 lbs.
F C.J. Fair, 6'8", 215 lbs.
G Michael Carter-Williams, 6'6", 185 lbs.
PG Brandon Triche, 6'4", 210 lbs.
Matchup to Watch: Peyton Siva vs. Brandon Triche
Both senior point guards have played each other five times in their college careers and know each other's game very well. Although Louisville has won more games, Triche usually steps up big against the Cardinals.
Peyton Siva is having a solid senior year, doing the little things Louisville needs to win. He is averaging 11.8 points, 5.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Siva has also improved his outside shot, adding a new dimension to his game.
Similarly, Triche is having an impressive senior year, averaging 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
I expect Triche to play big against the Cardinals, as the Orange rely heavily on his experience. Since Siva isn't as tall or long, Triche will try to drive in the hole for most of his points. Louisville will keep pressure on him by switching defenders between Siva and Russ Smith.
- Louisville is 13-6 all-time against Syracuse, winning seven of nine games at home.
- Louisville has scored 33 percent of their points off turnovers.
- Syracuse averages 79 points a game and allows 57.8.
- Louisville averages 76.9 points a game and allows 56.4.
- Louisville averages 38.6 rebounds per game.
- Syracuse averages 43.2 rebounds per game.
- Both teams shoot 46 percent from the field.
The KFC Yum! Center will be rocking for this battle from start to finish. The question will be, can Louisville keep the fans in the game or will Syracuse silence them?
More than likely the game will be a close one, at least in the first half, as both teams will struggle in the beginning to find a rhythm on offense. Both teams are not known for their outside shooting, especially since Syracuse will be without Southerland.
Who will win?
Expect Louisville to be easy on their pressure defense to stay out of foul trouble in the first half. Louisville will also try to get Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng active early underneath, which will allow Wayne Blackshear to be open on the wing.
Russ Smith, as usual, will be Louisville's leading scorer with 25 points. Smith likes the big stage, and this will be the biggest of Louisville's season so far.
This will be a fight to the finish, but in the end Louisville will take over with their speed and depth.
Louisville will win 79-72.
All stats used came from StatSheets.com unless otherwise noted.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.