With all the excitement surrounding Syracuse football bowl eligibility, do not forget Syracuse basketball has a tough home matchup tonight with the Indiana Hoosiers in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Indiana is looking to get revenge on the Orange after last March’s upset in the Sweet 16. In that showdown, Indiana was the no. 1 seed and Syracuse was a fourth-seed. Tonight’s game features no. 4 Syracuse against an unranked Indiana squad coming off an easy win a week ago in Assembly Hall against Evansville.
Syracuse is coming off a big victory against no. 18 Baylor in the Maui Invitational. Tyler Ennis proved he can become a scoring threat and complemented his 28 points with eight assists against California in the semifinals. We talked last week about how Ennis needed to balance his shooting with distributing the ball. It is safe to say he answered that question against the Golden Bears, if only for one game. C.J. Fair, who dropped 24 points on Baylor, was named MVP of the tournament. Another Orange player who showcased his potential was Jerami Grant. Syracuse fans came into the season thinking that Grant could be a special player for the Orange. He has double-digit point totals in all of his games besides against Colgate.
Just because Indiana is not ranked in the AP Poll does not mean they are not dangerous. The Hoosiers are averaging 50.3 rebounds per game, the most in college basketball. Yogi Ferrell and former Syracuse recruit Noah Vonleh are averaging 18 and 13 PPG, respectively. In fact, their only loss of the season came at Madison Square Garden a few weeks ago against no. 18 Connecticut by one point.
This program was a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and has improved recruiting immensely after getting back on the national stage. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have since moved onto the NBA, but Noah Vonleh, as a freshman, has proved he can play with the big boys. The big issue Indiana will face is the 2-3 zone. Last March, the Hoosiers could not handle the zone, only shooting 33 percent from the field for 50 points. It will be interesting to see how they use their size on the perimeter to muscle through the zone.
Meanwhile, the Orange is creeping up the rankings. Syracuse was a preseason no. 8 in the AP poll and has since climbed. But Jim Boeheim is more concerned with how his team will handle Indiana’s scoring attack. The Hoosiers have scored more than 100 points in three games this season and are averaging 86.4 PPG. However, the Hoosiers are not a good three-point scoring team, a major way to beat the 2-3 zone. One key for the Orange to win this game is continuing to make free throws. Known for some questionable free-throw shooting, the Orange has only missed two free throws in the past two games. Recent progress and success could come into play in a close game.
Although most expected a ranked matchup with the Hoosiers, Indiana will be a solid test at the Carrier Dome. Rebounding and free throws will be crucial for the Orange to be successful.
Posted by: Zephan Mayell