Setting: Jim Boeheim and his No. 5 Syracuse Orange (12-0) visit the Prudential Center for a Big East tilt with Bobby Gonzalez and his Seton Hall Pirates (9-2/0-1).
Plot: After a week break the Orange open Big East play at 12-0 for the sixth time during Boeheim’s tenure. Seton Hall will face their second consecutive undefeated and top ten team. On Saturday, the Pirates lost in overtime to West Virginia, 90-84.
Sub-plots: The game pits two of the top scoring teams in the nation. SU ranks third in the nation with 88.3 points while Seton Hall is fourth with 88.1.
Flashback: Eric Devendorf dropped five of eight from behind the arc, and Jonny Flynn added 19 as the Orange downed the Pirates in the second round of the Big East tournament, 89-74. Syracuse owns a 43-15 lead in the all-time series. The Orange have won four of the last five tangles between the Big East rivals. Seton Hall last defeated SU at home in 2004, 74-67.
Foreshadowing: 34 Orange alums have played in the NBA including current players Carmelo Anthony, Jonny Flynn, Donte Green, Jason Hart, Eton Thomas, and Hakim Warrick. 25 Pirates have played in the NBA. Samuel Dalembert is the lone Pirate currently in the NBA.
Conflict: Both teams have a rebound margin of roughly four. Seton Hall grabs 44.8 while giving up 40.4. SU gets 39.8 as opponents get 35.7. These numbers will show tonight’s battle for tempo. The Pirates have created more possessions. Syracuse and their zone slows down opponents. Can Seton Hall keep up with Syracuse in a fast-paced game?
Seton Hall scored 84 points against a West Virginia team that was holding opponents to less than 50 per game. The Pirates scored 36 of their points on lay ups. Many of those buckets came in transition. Seton Hall created 13 Mountaineer turnovers. The Pirates only turned the ball over six times.
Can Syracuse take care of the ball? Will the Orange stuff the outlets and limit the Pirates’ opportunities for easy baskets?
Eugene Harvey is effective in the open floor leading the Pirates with 64 assists (5.8 per game). The senior is resilient and will keep the pressure on Syracuse.
Herb Pope (6′8″) and John Garcia (6′9″) will have the unenviable task of keeping the Orange front line in check. At 6′9″ and 240 pounds, Rick Jackson represents the largest forward the Pirates have had to deal with all season. Arinze Onuaku (6′9″) has been slowed by injuries by still must be accounted for. When those two are taken care of, 6′7″ Wes Johnson (8.2 rpg) will look to grab up the remaining boards.
Can Jeremy Hazell (rhymes with gazelle) and Jamel Jackson get lost in the SU zone? Hazell is not afraid to shoot. The junior took 33 shots against West Virginia including 19 from behind the arc. Hazell finished with a career-high 41 points. Jackson hit 12 three-pointers versus VMI en route to dropping 40.
Both VMI and West Virginia played man-to-man. Usually, three-point shooters enjoy zone defenses. That is probably not the case with this Syracuse team. These Orange are long and athletic and give opponents very little breathing room.
Tonight’s game will be Brandon Triche’s first Big East action. The freshman point guard has shown the potential for being a steadying force on the floor. He makes the easy pass and looks up the floor for open teammates. He has also shown his inexperience with some questionable decisions. Scoop Jardine will see time off the bench. Against Florida Jardine’s handle was exposed as he committed four turnovers in 19 minutes of play.
Andy Rautins should provide the necessary leadership. The senior averages 9.5 points and 5.5 assists. But his value cannot be appropriately assessed with those numbers. Rautins makes the extra pass that moves defenses. He doesn’t always get the assist on that play, but in the long run the Orange benefit from his selfless play.
Resolution: Syracuse has too many weapons to not win a high-scoring affair. Seton Hall will come a another moral victory staying with the Orange until late in the game.