After struggling to put two solid halves together in their first four games, the No. 4 Syracuse Orange are starting to hit their stride.
Fresh off of claiming the Maui Invitational title with a convincing 74-67 win over No. 18 Baylor on Thanksgiving Eve, Syracuse (7-0) will once again get an opportunity to represent the new-look ACC in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a home game against Indiana.
The emotions of winning an early-season tournament can sometimes drain a team. Playing in the Maui Invitational adds a little more to that exhaustion. Combined with the long travel during a holiday and playing three games in three nights is the adjustment to the five-hour time difference after adjusting in Maui for a week.
It would seem that the trap is set for a letdown against Indiana, but maybe not so much.
Indiana (6-1) is the best rebounding team in the nation and is burning up the nets with 86.4 points per game. The Hoosiers have eclipsed 100 points three times already this season and their only blemish is one-point loss to No. 12 UConn at Madison Square Garden in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic.
That UConn game was a defensive battle in which Indiana struggled to make shots. Looking back to last season when Syracuse took out Indiana in the Sweet 16 with a tremendous defensive effort, the Orange may be licking their chops to get a chance to show their own defensive intensity.
It doesn’t hurt that the Orange have had a six-day layoff since Maui.
So, if this isn’t a trap, what is?
Traps generally happen when a team is either coming off an emotional high from an intense game or when it is playing a perceived inferior opponent and looking ahead to a big matchup. In trap games, we see teams come out flat, uninspired and sometimes unprepared.
There aren’t many, if any, teams left on the Orange’s schedule they can overlook. The schedule makers didn’t do Syracuse any favors in the timing of certain games either.
Let’s take a look at the potential trap games on the Syracuse schedule.