After a long break for the Orange, the Syracuse-Villanova rivalry continues with yet another top-ten matchup early in the college basketball season.
While Syracuse was expected to be a top team in the country, Villanova’s quick rise has been more surprising. The Wildcats have played strong, with wins over Kansas, no. 2 in the country at the time, and Iowa, then no. 23. Villanova has gotten strong play out of senior James Bell and junior JayVaughn Pinkston. This year, much was expected out of Pinkston, who is averaging 16.5 points per game. But Bell has been much improved, scoring more than 15 points per game, up nearly seven points from last year. He also grabs nearly 2.5 more rebounds a game than he did last season.
The top of the Orange zone will be tested by Nova’s three guards: Bell, Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono (who hit some big three’s in Villanova’s win over Syracuse last year in Philadelphia). Each of the three guards play more than 28 minutes a game and they combine to shoot about 32 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
On the offensive end, Syracuse will need to get past Daniel Ochefu, who is averaging nearly two blocks a game. Ochefu is likely the best inside defensive presence the Orange has faced so far and the inside game for the Orange hasn’t gotten much production so far this year.
One of the biggest questions coming into this year was how the transition to the ACC would change the Orange. Even though SU has yet to play a game in the ACC, this game is an example of how the program has changed with the move to a new conference. It is hard to deny this is one of the more difficult—if not the most difficult—non-conference schedules the Orange has ever played. Saturday’s game against no. 8 Villanova.
In the Dome, this is a game the Orange should win and has to win. If they cannot get past Jay Wright and a familiar opponent in Villanova at home, what happens with Duke and UNC come to the Dome later this year? The Orange should beat Villanova as long as they keep the Pinkston in check. This is the kind of game that a top team wins, despite Villanova’s great run up the rankings.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg