Syracuse comes back home after a rough trip to the Bahamas farther away from the bubble than they were when they touched down in Paradise. The scramble to get back on track begins now. After winning all five matchups against Indiana since the 1987 title game, that might seem a little more probable than it is.
The Hoosiers are off to a hot 6-0 start under first year Head Coach Mike Woodson. The nine-year NBA coaching veteran did a good job in the offseason recruiting a lot of the talent that Indiana already had to stay, and an even better job recruiting through the transfer portal. Xavier Johnson, who plastered 23 on the Zone last year with Pittsburgh, is actually a second option. Preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis just set an Assembly Hall record with 43 points in a win over Marshall. The 6’9, 245 pound bowling ball could be a matchup problem for an SU defense that is still scrambling for answers. Johnson had 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and five steals against the Thundering Herd. The Covid-sophomore is reaping the benefits of a free-flowing, point-guard centric offense.
There’s plenty of film on how to beat this year’s version of the Orange defense. Colgate, VCU, and Auburn all figured it out rather easily. Woodson said the Hoosiers studied all three games. When asked about his plan for the 2-3 Zone, he did not seem too concerned. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to get to the game and see what happens” Woodson said. “We can‚Äôt run from it. When I played here, I licked my chops [when I saw zone] because we felt teams couldn‚Äôt play us man-to-man.‚Äù
The Syracuse defense should not be the point of discussion though. Indiana is the second best scoring defense in their conference. The Hoosiers are holding opponents to just a 32% clip from the field, which is the best mark in the nation. At one point in their November 21st game against Louisiana, the Ragin’ Cajuns were held to 25 straight misses, an Indiana record.
Here’s the good news. Indiana is winless in road openers since 2014. It’s a mammoth fall from grace for one of the most historic programs in college basketball.