SU enters a Saturday matinee matchup with in-state rival Colgate riding high after a 72-63 win over UCONN at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. On paper, this matchup doesn’t really scream interesting. Colgate hasn’t lost to SU since the Kennedy administration and the Raiders come in at a measly 3-5 on the season and have lost three straight games. But don’t fear there are still some intriguing parts of this matchup that may fly under the radar and they lie in the players that Colgate brings to the floor. They’re not going to blow you away with incredible athleticism or skill, but they do bring fundamentals to the floor and have one critical weapon that may be able to keep them in the game on Saturday. So with that let’s do some recon on the Raiders and meet the three Colgate players to watch in Saturday’s matchup.
Will Rayman is far and away the best player that Colgate has at its disposal on Saturday. The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the tallest players on the team and leads the Raiders in both scoring and rebounding on the season. He is the do-it-all player for Colgate on the offensive end. Deceptively strong near the basket considering his rather slight frame, Rayman can power through contact and finish near the rim, something you really wouldn’t expect from a Colgate player much less someone with his frame. What makes Rayman ultra-special, however, is his shooting touch from beyond the arc. In a word, he is lethal from downtown. For a Colgate team that is 6th in the country in three-point shots made per game, he is the team’s best shooter by a mile. He is tied for 9th in the entire country in three-point field goal percentage at a 59% clip and makes more than three of them per game. His stroke is compact and difficult to block, making him the kind of guy that could wreak havoc on the 2-3 zone which typically gives up more threes than a normal defense. If SU doesn’t pay close attention to Rayman when he’s behind the three-point line, he will hurt them and could keep the Raiders in the game far longer than they should be. On a side note, he also played one year at New Hampton Prep, the same high school Tyler Lydon attended before heading to Syracuse.
Moving from one of the tallest players on the team to one of the shortest, 6-foot guard Jordan Burns is the key player to watch off the bench for the Raiders. Despite being the team’s second-leading scorer at nearly 14 points a contest, Burns has yet to start a game this season for Colgate. While he’s not an especially fantastic three-point shooter (just 33% on the season), the freshman more than makes up for his lack of range with his ability to create his own shot off the dribble. He has a very quick first step that allows him to get around bigger defenders that are a little slower than him. Once he gets by them, he has the ability to either take the ball to the bucket and draw fouls or pull up in the mid-range game where he’s incredibly accurate. Even with the poor three-point percentage, he’s still shooting over 50% from the floor. On the defensive end, he again utilizes his speed to get into passing lanes and create turnovers, ranking second on the team in steals. Because of his size, SU should be able to matchup with him pretty well on Saturday, but if he gets himself a little space and can get one-on-one with a forward or center, then he might be able to carve out a nice little niche for himself this weekend.
At the beginning of this article, I told you that Colgate wasn’t going to be flash any kind of crazy athleticism or skill and that the way they compete in games is by playing fundamentally sound basketball. If there’s any Raider that personifies that style, it’s Sean O’Brien. The senior is in his third year of starting for Colgate and brings that unteachable experience to the floor every time out. He’s a capable scorer that will get you double digits nearly every time he plays. However, his real worth doesn’t come in scoring the basketball, it comes in distributing it. He’s the best passer on the team by a wide margin and always seems to be able to find ways to get his teammates involved in the most unselfish way possible. He averages a team-high four assists per game and the ball will run through his hands on offense similarly to how it goes through Frank Howard for SU even though Tyus Battle is the go-to scorer. O’Brien is also the best on-ball defender the Raiders have. Again he’s not a special athlete or anything like that, but he’s so fundamentally sound that he just knows how to defend multiple positions and take the ball away at a pretty good rate (2.6 spg). O’Brien’s the kind of guy who will have a really solid game and you’ll see his stat line and think, “Was this guy even on the floor?” Well, he will be and Orange fans should be watching for him.