The good news: Syracuse is still dancing. The bad: The Orange now has to face one of the best teams in the nation, 1-seed Indiana. These two powerhouse programs feature some of the most devoted fan bases in the nation. So while Hoosier Nation always represents well, SU is almost twice as close to D.C as Bloomington. There shouldn’t be any distinct home court advantage, it’ll be a sea of red and orange Thursday night.
While the Hoosiers have talent across its starting five, Khalif Wyatt and Temple did a number on IU. With about 3:00 to play, the Owls held a 52-48 lead and Wyatt was crushing the Hoosiers. But one of the best players in the country, Victor Oladipo, stepped up and delivered a rebound, free throw and dagger three pointer to help push the Hoosiers ahead for good.
Wyatt bombed from long range (and missed a lot, going 3-12) but finished with 31 points on 12-24 shooting. So the Hoosiers can be susceptible to electric scorers, which means James Southerland has a chance to go off. Michael Carter-Williams’ play is going to be scrutinized in every possible way. MCW has already heard both cheers and jeers from Orange Nation. Scouts will be watching what Carter-Williams can do when the pressure and national spotlight is on. This is a perfect time to redeem some of his mistakes over the past few months. MCW and Brandon Triche have to limit the turnovers, especially in late game situations. Oladipo will be creating havoc on the perimeter and causing pressure from start to finish.
On the defensive side for SU, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita are going to have to stop Cody Zeller, who had another solid game with 15 points and 6 boards. Zeller’s inside presence makes it easy for studs such as Christian Watford to get open on the perimeter. Jordan Hulls is also capable of going on hot streaks when Indiana’s normal stars are not hitting shots. It’s also important for SU to make sure Southerland and Triche do not get in foul trouble early because the Orange does not have many offensive weapons.
As we have seen in March thus far, when playing smart, aggressive, and efficient SU is an obvious threat to opponents. However, when the game plan throws off the Orange, SU has a tough time adjusting. SU has to be able to handle any early game adversity such as foul trouble, the press, or Oladipo or Zeller having a big start. If not, it could be the end of the road for the Orange.
Posted: Zephan Mayell