A team that started by scoring only an abysmal 34-points on opening night, has blossomed into an exciting and promising young squad. Syracuse is riding a 4-game win streak right now and averaging 82 points per game while doing it. The Orange now ride their momentum down to the Big Apple for the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center. Syracuse starts the mini-tournament with Oklahoma State, then will face-off against either Ole Miss or Penn State. Here’s the tournament bracket and a breakdown of each opposing team that’s on SU’s horizon.
Oklahoma State (5-0)
Oklahoma State is young, but old at the same time. The Cowboys’ starting lineup is comprised of three seniors that play significant minutes, but the rest of the starters and rotation players are underclassmen. The young core is playing well, led by sophomore Isaac Likekele. The guard is second on the team with 12.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. The only player outscoring him is senior Lindy Waters. He’s putting up 13 points per game and can stroke it from deep. Oklahoma State won’t kill Syracuse from three or overpower them in the paint. There is not one aspect of the game that the Cowboys look better than the Orange, especially since OSU hasn’t seen competition like SU yet this season. It should be a good matchup, but if Syracuse keeps playing like it has been, Oklahoma State won’t stack up.
Ole Miss (4-1)
Ole Miss is legit this year. The Rebels have a strong core of veterans that carry the team and have already proven they can play with the best. Ole Miss put up a fight against number 16 Memphis last Saturday, losing by just one point. They also just got back one of their top players, Blake Hinson. The sophomore was out at the start of the season due to injury, but returned for the Memphis game, dropping 15 points. Hinson partnered with Breein Tyree (16.2 points and 3.8 assists per game) and KJ Buffen (14 points and 7.6 rebounds per game) is a dangerous trio. Plus, the Rebels have a tough, active defense that gets in the passing lanes and racks up the steals, averaging 10.2 each time out. Syracuse and Ole Miss have a common opponent this year– Seattle. The Orange bested the Redhawks by 22 points a few weeks ago, while the Rebels only beat them by 13. If Syracuse and Ole Miss meet up at the Barclays Center, it would be a competitive battle and a great test for SU.
Penn State (5-0)
Penn State scores and scores a lot. They are averaging 82.4 points per game, which is 43rd in the NCAA. The potent offense is all thanks to a strong, deep bench. The Nittany Lions have nine players averaging substantial minutes. Their sixth man, Izaiah Brockington, averages 10.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Plus, their starting forward, Lamar Stevens, is fourth in the Big-10 in points per game with 16.8. Put those two and three other double-digit scorers together and Penn State’s offense is one of the best in the country. They shoot 35% from beyond the arc and 47% from the field. It would be a shootout if SU and PSU see each other in the tournament, but don’t expect much defense if they do.