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Three Hot Takes for Syracuse-Houston in Sweet 16

Eleven-seeded Syracuse meets 2-seed Houston this weekend in the Midwest region semi-final. That’s a fancy way of saying the Sweet 16. The Orange appear in the second weekend as a double digit seed for the third time in the last six years. Crazy how this was a Syracuse team that barely even made the NCAA Tournament a couple weeks ago. Fast forward to today and nobody wants to play this team. 

Saturday night presents just the second ever matchup between the ‘Cuse and the Cougs. The first came back in December of 1982 when the Orange downed the Phi Slamma Jamma 92-87. Coach Boeheim and Company look to make it 2-0 this weekend against the Block “H.” For that to happen a lot has to go right for Syracuse, and a lot has to go wrong for the Cougars. So bear with me as I present you with some hot takes for this matchup. 

  1. Kadary Richmond scores 15+ points  

Houston is a very good defensive team, top 10 in basically everything on Kenpom.com. However, that strength can at times be flipped over into a weakness. The Cougars allow opponents to get to the line quite frequently. Our own Gill Gross mentioned in the article tagged above, Houston is the 5th luckiest team in the country in terms of opponents free throw percentage. 

If you’ve watched any SU Hoops this season you know this team doesn’t major in the dribble drive and attacking the rim. In fact there’s only one player on this roster that has shown a capability to get to the hole. That player is Kadary Richmond. 

Coupled with Houston’s aggressive defensive approach and foul frequency, I think Richmond consistently beats defenders to the key and can kick out for perimeter shots, score himself, or draw fouls and get to the charity stripe. The freshman is 44-61 from the line entering Saturday’s game, that’s good for 72%. As a team Syracuse is shooting the ball very well from the free throw line, in fact SU’s 78% shooting from a line as a team is destined to be a program record.  

  1. Buddy Boeheim goes for 25 (again) 

There isn’t much evidence to back this up. In fact this take is probably scorching hot because, as previously mentioned, Houston has one of the best defensive units in the nation and holds opponents to a respectable 35% shooting from deep. 

So this take is fairly hot, but you know what else is hot, Buddy’s shot. The junior rarely misses and has scored 25+ in four consecutive games, five out of the last six. When you’re hot, you’re hot and in the words of Buddy “I’m a bucket.” I’m rolling with the sniper here to get things rolling again by hunting his shots and burying triple after triple.  

  1. Syracuse holds Houston to 50 points or less

If Syracuse actually accomplishes this, there’s just no way they lose this game. The Orange have a consistent offense to compliment the 2-3 zone as you saw in the West Virginia game. SU can score 75+ if they need to, but I don’t think they will against Houston for a few different reasons. 

Houston plays at a slower pace and favors the half-court offense. The Cougars possessions tend to last about 19 seconds so it’s not always just releasing on the first good look. Against a man-to-man this is viable, but against a zone it’s not. When you play against Boeheim’s contraption you need to be ready to shoot at all times, even if it’s within the first five seconds of the shot clock. I think we’ll see a lot of late second heaves by the Cougars and a lot of shot clock violations. 

Nearly half of UH’s points come from 2-pointers which ranks 294th in the country. Houston’s point distribution is as follows: 46.1% 2-pointers, 35.4% 3-pointers (57th in country), 18.5% free throws. What does this mean? Houston seems to live and die by the three.  

As I said, 293 teams do a better job scoring deuces to balance their scoring. I think Syracuse will force UH to make those shots, and against a zone that’s a favorable matchup for the Orange. If the shots aren’t falling, don’t expect Houston to break 50.  

I am aware of the fact that Houston is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. If Syracuse can’t play disciplined on the boards there could be some trouble. You’ll see three and four guys crashing the boards looking for boards and put-backs.

SU needs to limit the second chance opportunities to hold UH under 50. I wouldn’t be too worried because Syracuse already played the best offensive rebounding team in the country (UNC) and found a way to beat them. Plus the tallest big on UH’s roster is 6-8. 

Alright those are my hot takes for tomorrow’s game. What do you think? What are your hot takes? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @orangefizz. Feel free to expose me after the game if these turn cold or give me a shoutout when they hit ;). 

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