Iona wraps up its Central New York swing with a stop in Syracuse tonight. The Gaels are on the heels of a 69-67 loss to Albany in its opener, meanwhile the Orange comes off a big win over Cornell. Last season, Iona won the MAAC and was ousted in the first round of the tournament by Oregon after notching a 14 seed. Here’s what to look for from both teams tonight:
Three Things To Watch From Iona:
The Gaels return four starters from last year’s tournament team. That’s huge for a mid-major program that’s going up against a youthful Orange team. If Iona can land the first punch, SU might have some trouble playing from behind with just two guys who contributed serious minutes last season.
Three point shooting
This is always a key for an upset. While it wasn’t a pretty showing against Albany (just 4-for-22 from deep), the Gaels return most of a team that shot 39.7 percent from three last year. That’s an astronomically good figure, which ranked the team 16th in the nation. If Iona can shake off the early season rust and get threes instead of twos, Syracuse could be on upset alert in game two.
Iona has a pair of bench transfers that were exceptional in the opener. TK Edogi and Zach Lewis figure to be major parts of the Gaels attack again today after combining for 28 of their 67 points against the Great Danes.
Three Things To Watch From Syracuse
What kind of start for SU?
We have yet to see Syracuse put a stranglehold on a team in its first three showings against much, much inferior teams. The Orange needs to prove that it can beat down on teams in the early going if it wants to prove that it can be a player in the ACC. The shooting has struggled out of the gate, so look for Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett to be aggressors early on.
Iona’s tallest player that logged a minute in the opener stood at just 6-foot-8. For context, the Orange’s shortest starter is 6-foot-5. SU has a clear height advantage and needs to capitalize on the boards. Albany outrebounded Iona 47-27 in the opener, and there’s no reason why Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe can’t feast against a much shorter Gaels team.
How good is the youth?
Against Cornell, Sidibe continued to show he might be the most underrated freshman in the ACC, but aside from that, not much stood out. Brissett did have 11 points, but it came on 3-for-13 shooting. Marek Dolezaj did have 8 points and 6 rebounds, but those numbers may not translate to ACC play given his frame. Howard Washington saw limited playing time, but he’s shown he is a capable shooter. We’ll see if he gets more freedom to unleash from three tonight.