Syracuse basketball is receiving a much-needed Christmas break before hosting undefeated #8 Villanova Saturday. Although the Orange has been very active ever since the late summer circuit around Canada, the team has only played two games in the past two weeks. The four-day holiday break is also longer. We look at the pros and cons of all the recent time off for the Orange and how it might affect their play.
The Orange (11-0) has so far played very well. The schedule has included games against legitimate opponents (Indiana, California, Minnesota) and even a ranked team (#18 Baylor). The team also got a “true road win” under pressure against St. John’s. Usually most do not call a game at Madison Square Garden a good road win for the Orange, but Syracuse kept its composure against a surprisingly loud Johnnies crowd.
Strong momentum heading into a break is always good for morale. The break comes at a great time for Jerami Grant. Grant sprained his ankle against High Point after falling down and stepping on a Panthers’ foot along the way. Although the injury does not seem too serious, the break will allow Grant to rest his ankle and avoid missing games, something the Orange cannot afford for their leading rebounder and consistent scorer. The time off also helps C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis, who are averaging 35 and 31 minutes per game respectively. It’s crucial for starters to play most of the game, as the bench isn’t quite as strong as it has been.
The major con of having so much time off, especially in Syracuse’s situation, is breaking the team’s winning momentum. The Orange has not lost a game since the Final Four last March. We saw last week against High Point how Syracuse had a slow start to the game after having a week of rest. The Orange has made a habit of starting games slowly against cupcake teams this season. Setting the tone early against a team like Villanova will be crucial for the Orange.
This will be a great time for the Syracuse players to go home, rest up and see family before a big game. Tyler Ennis will be facing his big brother Dylan, who plays for the Wildcats. Dylan Ennis is a transfer from Rice and has made an immediate impact for Villanova, averaging nine points a game after returning from a fractured hand in late October. In other family matters, Jerami Grant goes home to the news that his older brother Jerian Grant will be out the remainder of the season due to academic issues at Notre Dame. Jerian was the Irish’s leading scorer.
In general, the long break should be welcomed. The Orange need the rest before ACC play kicks off in a few weeks against Miami. Syracuse will need to stay focused during the break, however, because a sluggish start will not work against a revitalized Villanova program.
Posted by: Zephan Mayell