With all of the off-the-court drama at Syracuse, the actual basketball games have taken a backseat. However, this Friday with the inaugural Big East-SEC Challenge, Syracuse welcomes a top 10 team not from Philadelphia to the Carrier Dome for the first time since North Carolina over two years ago.
Syracuse and Florida both came into the year highly ranked in the polls, but unlike Syracuse, Florida has already played a ranked team, as they lost to Ohio State in Columbus, 81-74.
Billy Donovan won his 400th game with Florida this season and looks like he has a team that could win what would be his third NCAA title in Gainesville.
Florida is led this season by junior guard Kenny Boynton, who is averaging 18 points and three assists in 28 minutes of play a game while also shooting 50 percent from the field and just under that mark from behind the arc.
Boynton is not the only player who can score, as freshman guard Bradley Beal is averaging 17 points a game with six rebounds and is shooting 50 percent or better from the field and three point range.
Moral of the story: This Florida team is extremely talented, especially with their guards, which is always a recipe for trouble with Boeheim's zone. Syracuse is going to need a great defensive effort from Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche to start and Dion Waiters once the game gets moving.
Michael Carter-Williams, who has struggled this season, will be woken up in this game if he tries any of his crazy passes, as Florida will capitalize almost immediately in transition. If James Southerland does action in this game, a strong performance from him will do all but force Boeheim to give him more time and extent his rather tight eight-man rotation.
The good news for Syracuse is that they will have the front court advantage. Gator forward Erik Murphy may not be hurt for long, but he will not be able to go for the Gators against the Orange. This could be a breakout game for Fab Melo and C.J. Fair, as they should have an easier time controlling the boards. If they continue to hustle as they have so far, expect to see these players making big plays at both ends of the court.
Boeheimburg is already in full force, as there are tents set up in anticipation of this huge game. This is a statement game for the Orange, as many will still be focused on Bernie Fine, and a loss would be blamed on distractions.
Boeheim insisted in his press conference that his players are focused. Here's their winter final exam.