Getting to know: Syracuse basketball
In the preseason ACC media poll, Syracuse was picked to finish 10th because it had to replace six of its top seven scorers from last season. So far, no problem.
The Orange (6-0) have frustrated opponents with their 2-3 zone, which features 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu in the middle of the paint. But it will be a different challenge for Syracuse when it tries to contain the Kansas offense at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN) at American Airlines Arena in Miami.
“We'll try to attack this a little differently than what we would most conventional zones,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Syracuse will be shorthanded, similar to Kansas, after senior guard Geno Thorpe announced Friday that he was leaving the program. Thorpe was averaging six points and 14.3 minutes per game, leaving the Orange with only eight scholarship players.
Fun fact: Kansas and Syracuse are among five schools in the nation with undefeated men’s and women’s basketball programs. The other three: Florida State, Villanova and Mississippi State.
Series history: Syracuse leads, 3-2. The Orange, which beat KU in the 2003 national championship game, last played Kansas in 2008 at Sprint Center. Syracuse won 89-81 in overtime behind 25 points from Jonny Flynn.
BREAKING DOWN SYRACUSE
No. 25 — G Tyus Battle | 6-6, 205, so.
Despite playing through a lower back bruise in the last week, Battle has been dominant all season. He’s averaging 19.7 points while shooting 36.7 percent from the 3-point line. He is second on the team with nine steals.
According to hoop-math.com, Battle is only taking 18 percent of his shots at the rim, preferring mid-range jumpers and threes.
Originally committed to Michigan, Battle won a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA U-17 World Championship.
- "When I start playing basketball, I get pretty intense," Battle said. "Especially me showing that leadership role this year, you have to come into the game with that intensity and that passion for the game. I feel like if I do that, it's contagious.”
No. 23 — G Frank Howard | 6-5, 205, jr.
After averaging less than five points in his first two seasons, Howard has played a much bigger role for the Orange this year. He’s averaging 15.7 points in six starts, shooting 31 percent from the 3-point line with a team-best six assists per game.
Howard, who has a 2.25 assist-to-turnover ratio, hounds opposing guards with his defense at the top of Syracuse’s zone. He’s already recorded 15 steals, which ranks among the top 50 in the country.
No. 11 — F Oshae Brissett | 6-8, 210, fr.
Brissett has already recorded three double-doubles in his freshman season, averaging 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
From Findlay Prep in Nevada, Brissett is only shooting 32.4 percent from the field, including a 6-for-24 mark from deep. He leads the Orange with 19 offensive rebounds.
ONE THING SYRACUSE DOES WELL
In a combination of their zone defense and length among forwards, the Orange make it very difficult for opponents to score in the paint. They average 7.3 blocks per game, highlighted by 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu (18 blocks), and opposing teams are only shooting 35.7 percent from the field.
According to hoop-math.com, Syracuse blocks 22.9 percent of the shot at the rim, which ranks fourth in the country.
ONE AREA SYRACUSE STRUGGLES
There are very few solid 3-point shooters in Syracuse’s lineup. Through the first six games, the Orange are shooting 29 percent from behind the arc in 103 attempts — ranking 314th in the nation. In the last three games, they are a combined 10 for 44 from long distance.
MEET THE COACH
Jim Boeheim is the second-winningest coach in the country with a 909-357 record. He had 101 wins vacated by the NCAA because of compliance violations.
In his 42nd season with his alma mater, Boeheim led the Orange to a national title in 2003 and five Final Four appearances, most recently in 2016.
Kansas by 10. It’ll be a step up in talent for the Jayhawks, playing a defense that’s comparable to Kentucky with its length. The Orange are fresh off a two-point home win against Maryland in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, but haven’t faced an offense near as dangerous as KU. How well can the Jayhawks shoot from the 3-point line against a talented 2-3 zone?
My prediction: Kansas 75, Syracuse 62. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 3-2.