Although he is not a major playmaker for the Orange, Baye Moussa Keita’s return is key for Syracuse to stay undefeated and prepare for March.
Keita practiced with the team on Monday for the first time since injuring his knee against Clemson. The big man was seen warming up for some time with the team before Syracuse’s matchup with N.C. State, though he did not play in the nail-biter.
“I think we might be getting Keita back. We think we will pretty soon,” said Jim Boeheim during an ACC conference call Monday.
Syracuse has been exposed ever since Keita was sidelined with the right knee sprain. Rakeem Christmas stepped up to the challenge of limited depth with a career night against NC State that included 14 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. He also did a great job of staying out of foul trouble against the Wolfpack, which has been an issue the past few games.
Although it seems as if Keita will be returning to the lineup against Boston College on Wednesday night, Syracuse will have to get its confidence up when the Eagles come to town. The Orange has only won its last two games by a combined three points. If it was not for a miracle shot and two opponent turnovers down the stretch, the Orange would not even be No. 1 in the ACC.
Syracuse might be catching a major break this Saturday. In what will be the biggest revenge game of the year, No. 5 Duke will be exhausted by time the Orange visit Durham. The Blue Devils had their February 12 game with UNC postponed due to weather; it has been rescheduled for February 20.
Duke will play Georgia Tech, UNC and Syracuse within a five-day stretch.
What does this mean for Syracuse? The Orange must look to tire Duke out on both sides of the ball. Fast breaks and momentum can hurt a team that is fully rested, so that energy will be vital, especially since Duke will be tired playing its biggest and newest rival in a three-day stretch.
As for Keita, strength will soon be restored to the frontcourt. Ryan Anderson is averaging more then seven rebounds a game for Boston College and Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson both average seven or more boards a game. Second-chance opportunities have been an issue for the Orange since Keita’s injury. Rakeem Christmas will also have an opportunity to be aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, something he excelled at this past weekend despite being conscious of fouls.
Syracuse has a tough road schedule coming up. Since Syracuse is wearing that No. 1 target, teams will try their best to pull off the upset in front of packed crowds. Baye Moussa Keita’s return would make life a lot easier going forward for the Orange.
Posted by: Zephan Mayell