The San Diego St. Aztecs are taking on the Syracuse Orange on the USS Midway this Sunday, and to get to know the Orange better I sent over some questions to Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. I asked about how Syracuse will do replacing four starters, going on such a long road trip, how they will attempt to slow down James Franklin and other stuff about the game.
Also, make sue to check out the questions I answered about San Diego State.
1. How is it that a team that rarely leaves the state of New York in the non-conference schedule get convinced to go cross-country and play a top-20 team like San Diego State?
Our reputation precedes us but Syracuse has been opening up the non-conference scheduling in recent years. We've made some trips to Raleigh, Tampa and Kansas for early-season games but this one is certainly the most surprising. It looks like we better get used to it as we're set to go to Maui next year. Maybe Jim Boeheim just really needed to rack up some frequent flyer miles.
I'm sure the opportunity to play in a game that will showcase our military helped grease the wheels and I get the sense that Boeheim and Fisher are good friends (how it is this is only the second time they're ever facing one another?).
2. Who will be able to step in and replace the production from Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters and Fabricio Melo? And can they get things together in the season opener.
The good thing about being Syracuse is that even when you lose four solid players like that, you've got a bunch of solid guys ready to step in. On paper, it's a huge loss but we've also gone into every season for the last three years asking the same question and then a bunch of guys emerge as the news stars all over again.
Right away, Brandon Triche will step up as the team's leader. The senior guard has tons of experience and a long career of playing in the shadow of Scoop and Dion. Now he gets a chance to be the face of the team and I feel like he's going to take advantage of that. Michael Carter-Williams is expected to make huge gains and could end up doing a Dion Waiters-esquejump into the NBA by the end of the season.
Replacing Kris Joseph is the one-two punch of C.J. Fair and James Southerland. Both guys are veterans and very experienced. Even though Fair will likely start and Southerland will likely come off the bench, it's irrelevant in Boeheim'ssystem. Both will see a lot of action and both bring versatile games and a lot of athleticism with them.
As imposing as Fab Melo was (when he was actually playing), this year's frontcourt could be even more so. RakeemChristmas is expected to make gains as a shotblocker and rebounder while freshman DaJuan Coleman could have a big impact. He's a big boy and this duo will take turns plugging up the 2-3 zone while Baye Moussa Keita bring a more athleticbigman energy into the mix as well.
3. As for San Diego State, they bring back four starters, while Syracuse has to replace multiple players as mentioned above. So, could be a case that San Diego State can pull off an upset because it is chemistry vs. talent, which is similar to how mid-majors can pull off upsets in the NCAA Tournament?
Certainly, San Diego State has enough talent and chemistry to beat Syracuse, especially given the environment and "home" advantage. That said, it's a little deceptive to say that this Syracuse team doesn't have chemistry. In recent years,Boeheim has eschewed the traditional roles of starters and bench players and instead has a system that values the first substitution as much as who's on the court when the ball tips. Guys like Fair, Southerland and Carter-Williams might not have been starters last year but they saw significant playing time. And for all the hype that the young guys are getting, there is certainly a lot of experience on the court with Triche, Fair, Southerland & Keita.
4. Who are the player(s) to watch for Syracuse?
It's kinda a hard question to answer because it's unclear who's going to step up specifically. That said, I expect BrandonTriche and Michael Carter-Williams to control the tempo for the team. Triche is expected to be a floor leader for the Orange and if he plays like he did in the exhibition games, he's accepted that role gladly. Not afraid to drive when needed, he's a very capable outside shooter as well. Carter-Williams is already the team's resident trash talker and, if he can harness his potential, could end up being the star of this team.
You never know when C.J. Fair is going to have a sneaky-good game and score 14 points before you even realize it. Or James Southerland might come out red hot from beyond the arc. And of course, Rakeem Christmas is dangerous down low. The point is, Syracuse has a lot of weapons and ways to hurt you, you just never know which one is going to come out firing.
5. How does Syracuse plan to approach guarding Jamaal Franklin?
However the hell they can....
Dude's a stud and he's good at a lot of things that can break down the 2-3 zone. You'll see all the usual tricks we use, collapsing the zone, throwing multiple big bodies at him. Chances are it's going to open up a lot of opportunities for other players on the wing to shoot threes. At that point, you're either hitting your shots or you're not. And if he's able to get in the lane and create foul opportunities, that might pose issues for our big men.
6. With San Diego State utilizing a three-guard lineup with players who have an effective outside shot, how well will the Syracuse zone defense matchup with that style?
It all depends on how SD State is able to force the zone to collapse in. Their biggest weapon may end up being the ability to draw Syracuse's wings in only to kick the ball out to a waiting shooter. If you watched the Syracuse-Wisconsin game in the NCAA Tourney last year, you'll see that if you can hit threes against SU, there's little we can do about it (still not sure how we won that game). But just having multiple outside threats isn't enough on its own, you need to draw the long arms of C.J. Fair, James Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams away from those shooters first. And that's how you take advantage of your opportunities.
7. Who wins and why?
I'm nervous about this one. I can't remember the last time I was this nervous this early in the season. At the end of the day, we "know" more about San Diego State than we do about Syracuse. The Orange will be good, I have no doubt, but exactly how good and where their strengths are...I don't know that yet. I will certainly admit that the Aztecs have the talent to win this game, any team featuring Franklin would. My hope is that Syracuse's size and experience is able to overcome the potential problems that might plague the team early on as it gels with the new players and new setup. I'm gonna say that Syracuse wins, 71-68, but I can't say I'd put money on it.