At A Glance:
Syracuse: 8-0. AP: 7 ESPN: 6 BP: 9 RPI: 14 BPI: 7
Florida: 8-0. AP: 10 ESPN: 11 BP: 20 RPI: 64 BPI: 5
Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche share the primary ball-handling duties for the Orange, though Andy Rautins can also help in this area. They make a very good combination: Jardine takes better care of the ball and plays better defense but Triche offers more scoring and shoots well.
Waterbug Erving Walker can’t shoot a lick (under 40 percent) yet somehow is second on the team in scoring while taking good care of the basketball. He spreads the wealth effectively and can be a tough matchup thanks to his quickness.
Advantage: Syracuse. Walker might be a pest but he will have trouble against this zone.
Andy Rautins has focused on other areas of his game (he is averaging an amazing 3.8 steals per game) but hasn’t let his shooting slip (50 percent from the field and even better from downtown). He has followed in the footsteps of Gerry McNamara, Sherman Douglas, and his father in serving as the heart and soul of Boeheim’s squad. It doesn’t hurt that he’s no longer rockin’ the Joe Strummer hairstyle either.
Were it not for the “Wall” of fame Kenny Boynton would be a good candidate for SEC Freshman of the Year. He doesn’t have a thing called radar love (20 percent from three) but finds ways to score regardless. However, he is not a great defender and must work on other areas of his game to be considered top-notch.
Advantage: Syracuse. This will be a good opportunity for Boynton to gain some knowledge.
If there were a transfer of the year award in Division I Wesley Johnson might walk away with it right now. He literally does everything well. He can guard any position, score with ease from any range, put the game on ice at the end and take care of the ball. The only question is how Iowa State wasn’t more prominent with him and Craig Brackins sharing a year together.
Dan Werner was heavily recruited during his freshman year. Now a senior, he hasn’t exactly justified the press as he has yet to average double figures in scoring. This year he is shooting the three exceptionally well (51 percent) but reserve Chandler Parsons seems to be the better option here.
Advantage: Syracuse. Johnson should have a field day with Werner.
Rick “Tombstone” Jackson does exactly what he’s asked as a banger. He grabs rebounds, plays tough defense, doesn’t put up crazy shots and doesn’t foul. He doesn’t get the press of his more celebrated teammates but gets the Mike Rowe award for doing the unglamorous things very well.
Alex Tyus seemed to symbolize the Gators’ downward spiral the last two seasons as he seemed more interested in making the highlight reel than playing basketball. His overall game has improved and he now seems to content to be a steadying influence for this club.
Advantage: Even. Both Jackson and Tyus know their roles as unsung soldiers.
Arinze Onuaku is more of a scoring threat at center than a rebounding or defensive machine. Long-time Orange fans are reminded of Derek Brower every time Onuaku gets to the line and instantly have recurring nightmares. Other than that he’s a very efficient scorer (12.5 ppg in only 22 minutes a game).
Vernon Macklin should be very familiar with Orange fans as he came down south from Georgetown. His scoring has almost quadrupled but he has yet to grab double figures in rebounds. That could spell trouble against the likes of Jackson and Johnson.
Advantage: Syracuse. Onuaku won’t battle Macklin that hard on the glass but will wear him down when Macklin has to play defense.
Unlike previous Orange editions this year’s team is comfortable going ten deep. Mookie Jones has finally emerged as a scoring threat from outside and James Southerland reminds some people of Preston Shumpert. Kris Joseph is in the top five in scoring coming off the bench and DaShonte Riley can give good minutes if Onuaku or Jackson get in foul trouble.
Furthering the role reversal, this year’s Gator squad, outside of Parsons, is pretty thin on the pine. Ray Shipman and Erik Murphy are the only reserves to see ten minutes a game and Murphy’s time could be further reduced as the season progresses.
Advantage: Syracuse and it’s not close.
Jim Boeheim has been to three Final Fours, making the national championship game in each appearance and shedding the dreaded Best Coach Not To Win A Title albatross in 2003. There are other loaded teams this season but don’t bet against the headmaster getting a fourth Final Four appearance – his amoeba-like swarming defense will confound any opponent.
Billy Donovan drove Boeheim to distraction when he played at Providence in the late 80s and is enjoying some redemption following two straight NIT appearances. Some people forget he has three Final Four appearances as well with two rings but considering that his recent recruits have finally seen the light after a couple years it’s not surprising.
Advantage: Syracuse. The young turk has been humbled while the wise master is one of the top ten college coaches of all time.
True, these are two undefeated teams and you can’t discount the Gators’ win over Michigan State. But other than that Florida hasn’t played anyone of note while Syracuse has taken on North Carolina, California and an underrated Cornell squad, winning handily each time. This will be a good lesson for Florida but it will come at a price.
Syracuse 86, Florida 70.