Big East Conference (28-4, 15-3)
Big Wins: 1/16 at West Virginia (72-71), 2/18 at Georgetown (75-71), 2/27 Villanova (95-77)
Bad Losses: 1/2 Pittsburgh (72-82), 2/14 Louisville (60-66), 3/6 at Louisville (68-78)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009, Sweet Sixteen loss to Oklahoma
Coach: Jim Boeheim (42-25 in 26 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Syracuse has catapulted themselves towards the top of the Big East largely due to their impressive frontcourt. Wesley Johnson has been tearing it up after transferring from Iowa State and is averaging an impressive 16.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.9 blocks. There is nothing Johnson cannot do. He even connects on 39.1 percent of his attempts from long range.
Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku are the usual starters up front beside Johnson. Jackson ranks fifth on the team in scoring, but he still puts up 10.0 points per game. The 6-9 junior is a bruiser under the baskset and is a fine rebounder and a great shot blocker. At 6-9 and 261 pounds, Onuaku is the bigger body under the basket. He will use his large frame to create space for himself under the basket and is a proven and experienced interior scorer. However, a knee injury in the Big East Tournament may sideline Onuaku for some, or even all, of the NCAA Tournament. That puts a lot of pressure on Kris Joseph, a 6-7 sophomore. Often left as the unappreciated forward due to the fact that he rarely cracks the starting lineup, Joseph is third on the team with 11.2 points per game and he can step out and hit the mid-range jumper relatively consistently. The problem is if Onuako is out, there is absolutely no depth in the frontcourt after Joseph takes his spot in the starting lineup.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The usual way to beat Syracuse is to find a way to break the zone. That means the opposition needs to hit the long ball. However, that has not been an easy thing to do against this group of players who are solid defenders. The other weakness, at least occasionally, is the play in the backcourt. Brandon Triche has done a great job during his freshman campaign, averaging 8.1 points and 3.1 assists, but he is still a freshman. Scoop Jardine will play just as much as Triche and he has done a better job holding onto the ball. Both Triche and Jardine are good scorers and do a great job sharing the ball, but their youth could be a problem later in the NCAA Tournament.
Who To Watch:
Andy Rautins is the player who is actually leading the team in assists. But Rautins provides a lot more than just an experienced player in the backcourt who will make the hustle plays and find the scorers on the wings. He is a great defender and, on a team that ranks fifth nationally in steals, leads the way with two per game. Rautins is also Syracuse’s most prolific three-point shooter. The Orange offense is tough enough to stop with all the great athletes under the basket, but when Rautins is hitting the long ball, it becomes nearly impossible.
Brandon Triche, Freshman, Guard, 8.1 ppg, 3.0 apg
Andy Rautins, Senior, Guard, 11.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.0 spg
Wesley Johnson, Junior, Forward, 16.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.3 apg
Rick Jackson, Junior, Forward, 10.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Arinze Onuaku, Senior, Forward, 10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Scoop Jardine, Sophomore, Guard, 8.8 ppg, 4.5 apg
Kris Joseph, Sophomore, Forward, 11.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 81.4 (7th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.1 (115, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 51.5 (1, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.4 (20, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.6 (124, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.9 (35, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.0 (227, 11)
Rebound Margin: 3.8 (60, 6)
Assists Per Game: 19.4 (2, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 15.0 (268, 16)
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