Entering Saturday’s loss to Duke, Rakeem Christmas had been rolling as his draft stock was steadily rising. However, Christmas met the brick wall of Jahlil Okafor and fouled out with roughly ten minutes left in the blowout. He only took six shots en route to 11 points and five boards in a totally underwhelming performance.
Monday, the Orange will return home for senior night and all eyes will be on Christmas. The four-year player saw an incredible increase in minutes and production this year, and has no chance to showcase his skills in postseason play.
So, when the second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers march into the Dome, Christmas will have a chance to prove his value and worth to NBA scouts. The Orange also has a last game on the road at NC State, but the real challenge comes tomorrow.
The defending ACC champs have had a better year this year than last, losing only once to the Blue Devils in January. The team is highlighted by its defense, which is allowing an NCAA-best 50.1 points per game. The Cavaliers also rebound very well, allowing opponents just 26.7 per game and grabbing 37.2 of its own. Virginia wins with its slow pace, averaging only 60 possessions per game, among the lowest in Division I.
Christmas will be matching up with a couple of big men that have each contributed heavily throughout Virginia’s season. Mike Tobey, who has played his way out of the rotation, only played four minutes against the Hokies yesterday. However, the 6-foot-11 junior has the size to give Christmas the fits and may see an increase in minutes because of his height. Darion Atkins, a 6-foot-8 senior, has been taking some of Tobey’s minutes and has made the most of them. He scored a season-high 16 points yesterday.
Rak will have to put on a show at the Dome, and with everyone understanding the implications of the game for the senior; Christmas should be fed the ball on a night dedicated to his time at SU. Expect Boeheim to tell his players to find the senior in the post, especially if the team struggles to score against the skilled Virginia guards.
The Dome will be packed, the crowd will be rocking, and Christmas will show up big in SU’s final opportunity at a big upset this year. Don’t be surprised if Rak leads the Orange to one of the biggest upsets in college basketball this season.
Posted: Jason Weingold