Orange welcome the Rams for 2011-12 season opener

The men's basketball team zeroes in on Fordham in the team's regular season opener Saturday.

After two exhibition wins, the No. 5 Syracuse University men’s basketball team finally begins regular season play Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Carrier Dome against Fordham University. The Orange look to start the 2011-2012 season with a bang against a Rams squad that only won seven games last year. 

The last time these two met in 2007, Syracuse easily handled Fordham, 80-63, thanks to then-freshmen Donte Green and Eric Devendorf. Though the players have changed, the style of play remains the same. 

Syracuse completed its two-game exhibition schedule this week, with wins against the Cal State-LA Golden Eagles and the College of St. Rose Golden Knights. Senior guard Kris Joseph and sophomore center Fab Melo lead the team in scoring over the two games with 11.5 and 10.0 points per game, respectively. But more importantly, Syracuse proved the depth coach Jim Boeheim raved about during the offseason was fact rather than speculation. Although they played two non-Division-I teams, Syracuse had multiple players who scored over 8 points in each game.

Last year, it was the Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson show for the Orange. This year, fifth-year senior guard Scoop Jardine and junior guard Brandon Triche, who both look to pick up from their great numbers last year, hope to fill the offensive void left by Jackson. More importantly, the emergence of Melo and fellow sophomore center Baye Mousa Keita will compensate for the lack of last year’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year in Jackson. 

Syracuse will have forwards C.J. Fair and James Southerland to add to their depth, as well as bringing in freshman Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas

Rams junior forward Chris Gaston will give the Orange the most problems Saturday, as he was the leading scorer for Fordham over the past two seasons. Shifty guards Alberto Estwick and Branden Frazier will feed Gaston, who averages 17 points per game thus far in his Fordham career. 

Like St. Rose, Fordham doesn’t offer any real problems for the Orange in the paint, as the Rams tallest player is 6-foot-10-inch forward Kervin Bristol, who averaged 6.8 rebounds per game last season. With 7-foot centers Melo and Keita, Syracuse should dominate the boards. 

Although Saturday makes the beginning of the season for Syracuse, the Orange hope it will turn out much like their two exhibition matches with a defeat of the Rams.

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