College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary
If you're looking at Thursday's schedule from a national perspective there really isn't a reason to miss out on Syracuse taking on Florida in the SEC/Big East Invitational in Tampa. The two leagues split on Wednesday night in New York and the same could occur on Thursday with DePaul/Mississippi State being the opener. The Blue Demons have become a far more efficient club on offense and the departure of Dar Tucker (went pro but wasn't drafted), who dominated the ball last season, likely had something to do with the improvement.
But with Mac Koshwal still out due to injury DePaul doesn't have an answer for Jarvis Varnado. If the Bulldogs come out focused on the task at hand and not worried about issues such as playing time they should pick up the win. The second half of the doubleheader should be tougher to predict with both the Gators and Orange already possessing some of the best wins in college basketball thus far. Billy Donovan's team may have gone through a transformation similar to DePaul's (albeit with more talent) due to the departure of Nick Calathes. More players have the opportunity to make plays with the ball in their hands, most notably freshman Kenny Boynton, and as a result Florida is a better offensive team.
Syracuse had to get over its fair share of personnel losses going into the season but when you welcome a player the caliber of Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson the transition becomes that much easier. Johnson was unstoppable in Syracuse's two-game romp through the Coaches vs. Cancer event at Madison Square Garden, and as a team the Orange have depth at all positions. The point guard tandem of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine may not be Jonny Flynn but together they've been very effective thus far. It will be interesting to see how Florida deals with the 2-3 zone and big bodies up front such as Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph.
6:30p ESPN2 DePaul vs. Mississippi State
7p BTN Oakland at Michigan St
8:30p ESPN2 Miami (OH) at Cincinnati
9p ESPN Syracuse vs. Florida
9:30p MTN Colorado at Colorado St
7p Northeastern at Rhode Island
7p Campbell at Western Carolina
Syracuse over Florida: Going with Jim Boeheim's team here due to their zone and their offensive versatility. They simply have more weapons provided Onuaku show up with his head in the game. Andy Rautins can knock down shots from deep and Kris Joseph has become a valuable player off the bench. And if Syracuse needs a role player to come off the bench with a scorer's mindset they've got Mookie Jones, who can knock down shots in a hurry so long as he masters the sometimes questionable shot selection. Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus will have to match Syracuse's bigs on the glass if the Gators are to win but at the end of the night Syracuse will be too much to overcome.