The Big East-SEC Challenge is underway and tonight, the marquee matchup between No. 3 Syracuse and No. 9 Florida takes place in the Carrier Dome.
Although much has been made of the off-the-court drama with Bernie Fine and the Westboro Baptist Church, the Syracuse Orange have remained focused and undefeated this season. The question is, how can they pull off a win against the best team they have faced all season?
First, the Orange must match the offensive explosiveness of Florida.
Florida loves to shoot the three-ball and has a trio of guards who can. Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Kris Joseph are going to match up against Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker, all three of whom lead the Gators in offense.
This means that surprise player James Southerland, a consistent threat with the three, may see significant playing time after a trip to MSG that rarely saw him leave the bench.
Secondly, the Orange will have to take advantage of a depleted Gator frontcourt.
Forward Erik Murphy will miss the game against the Orange with an aggravated meniscus injury dating back to high school (according to ESPN). This means that the Orange, with Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas, need to establish early on that they are the better unit by grabbing rebounds and forcing Florida to play to their tempo.
Watch for C.J. Fair to have a big game as this mismatch, coupled with his improvement, make a recipe for success.
Finally, the Orange can win this game if players like Michael Carter-Williams and Jardine make good decisions with the ball. Both of these players, when in the game, tend to try to make plays that are either not there or are far too risky.
Jardine has really improved on this so far and that is a result of his five-year maturation. MCW, however, is still a freshman and outside of the most recent Eastern Michigan contest, has looked fairly green running the offense.
The Orange have had fantastic ball rotation all season and if they continue that trend, watch for the Orange to pull away from the Gators late.
Prediction: Orange 87, Gators 82