The Syracuse Orange, fresh off a an upset of then-ranked No. 1 Louisville on the road, will have little time to celebrate as the Cincinnati Bearcats pay a visit to the Carrier Dome on Monday afternoon.
After knocking off the Cardinals, combined with Marquette’s overtime loss at Cincinnati, the Orange sits alone atop the Big East standings with a record of 5-0.
If Syracuse wants to capitalize on their victory against Louisville and extend their seven-game win streak, here is what they must accomplish to tame the Bearcats.
Limit the threes from the Big Three
Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone is enticing to many a long-range bomber and some teams are determined to shoot the Orange out of their zone defense. That is playing right into Syracuse’s hands.
Cincinnati enters the game with three players who can all stroke it from beyond the arc in Sean Kilpatrick (34.1%), JaQuon Parker (39.7%) and Cashmere Wright (44.2%), although Parker has made and attempted about half as many shots as his two teammates.
Control the backboards
Both teams are tied for the league lead in rebounds with 42.8 per game. Syracuse averages one more offensive rebound per game while the Bearcats average one more defensive board per game. Though, Cinci has played one more game at this point than the Orange have.
If Syracuse can control the glass, especially on the defensive end, they’ll be able to convert those rebounds into transition points. Holding Cincinnati to one shot per possession will be critical given the amount of long rebounds that result from missed three-pointers.
The Blossoming Frosh
Syracuse will play their third game in a row since senior James Southerland was declared ineligible.
One of the players who has helped fill the void is freshman forward Jerami Grant.
In the previous two games, Grant has scored a total of 23 points and pulled down ten rebounds, six on the offensive end. He has also averages 32 minutes per game in the two contests. Grant’s long frame is tailor-made for the back line of the zone and he is another finisher who can fill the wings on the fast break.
While no one player can replicate what Southerland provides with his instant offense off the bench, his three-point shot, and his senior leadership, Grant has made the most of his opportunities. The Orange will need Grant to continue to produce in Southerland’s absence.
Avoid the Big Win Hangover
If the Orange are still relishing over their Louisville win, they could be in for a long afternoon. Cincinnati certainly hopes this will be the case as they no doubt will try to start the game off by throwing a haymaker right at Syracuse. How quickly Boeheim’s bunch puts Saturday’s victory in the rearview mirror and focuses on the task in front of them will play a crucial role in what type of start each team has.
Update: Due to a sprained knee, Cincinnati guard Cashmere Wright is doubtful to play.