It certainly will not be easy, but Syracuse has a unique opportunity to take down longtime rival and powerhouse Louisville in the Dome tonight in front of what figures to be a very boisterous crowd.
Louisville, which is currently ranked twelfth in the nation, is coming off of a bad loss at home to North Carolina State. Aside from the Wolf Pack, Louisville has only lost to undefeated Kentucky, up-and-down North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia.
For the Orange to pull the upset and shake up the top of the ACC standings, a lot will have to go right. However, the one thing that coach Boeheim has the upper hand on this season is his zone.
Louisville struggles immensely to score from the outside, something that will allow the zone to collapse on players like Montrezl Harrell on the inside. The Cardinals have had enough trouble scoring without playing against SU’s zone, as only four players on the roster average more than four points per game. The team only shoots 30 percent from three collectively, 305th in the country (out of 351 teams).
Where Louisville will beat the Orange, however, is on the inside. Harrell leads the Cardinals with 9.3 rebounds per game, 30th in Division I and tied with Jahlil Okafor, who terrorized the Orange with a double double this past weekend. The Orange has struggled with teams that can rebound offensively, and Rick Pitino has his team grabbing over 12 offensive rebounds per game, 12th best in the nation. The Cardinals are also the seventh-best defensive rebounding team in the nation.
For the Orange to win the game, it has to have all of its players show up. While Lousiville’s lack of outside shooting will help the Orange defensively, unless it boxes out on missed shots, it has no chance of winning. In addition to a strong defensive effort, the Orange needs somebody to step up alongside Michael Gbinije, who has quietly scored 20+ points in three straight games, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Jonny Flynn did it in 2009. Rakeem Christmas will have his hands full with Harrell, so players like Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson will need to score points efficiently to give the team any chance against Louisville, who is holding opponents to just 38 percent shooting.
Because Louisville often struggles to score, the Orange should keep it close into the second half. In front of a home crowd, as long as SU can find a way to score points against a stingy defense, the Dome will be rocking with the smell of upset in the air. But remember, students, don’t storm the court.
Posted: Jason Weingold