deconnor's Blog

Three thoughts from SU vs. Rutgers

Senior Scoop Jardine and sophomore C.J. Fair helped lead the No. 2 Orange past the Scarlet Knights on the road.

Syracuse (27-1, 14-1 Big East) continued its tear through the Big East with a hard-fought 74-64 victory over Rutgers (12-15, 4-10) on Sunday at the RAC. Senior point guard Scoop Jardine led the way for the Orange with 17 points and seven assists. The game was close throughout until Jardine nailed a 3-pointer with 72 seconds left to increase the lead to seven. Sophomore forward C.J. Fair also had a strong effort, scoring 21 points while playing 38 minutes. The Orange now head back to Syracuse and will host South Florida on Wednesday.

1. Syracuse will go as far as Scoop takes them.

Jardine is prone to turnovers, taking bad shots and occasional mental lapses. But he is the fearless, emotional leader of this squad. Head coach Jim Boeheim trusts his senior guard and has repeatedly said that Jardine is the only point guard SU has on its roster that can steadily run the offense. Against Rutgers, Jardine did more than just run the offense. He pushed the ball in transition, made tough shots and found the open man. For Syracuse to make a run in the NCAA tournament, the Philadelphia native is going to have to continue to lead SU with his smart play and effective facilitating. Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said Jardine “gives Syracuse another college basketball coach on the floor.” Good thing for SU, Scoop has more youthful legs than most college basketball coaches.

2. C.J. Fair is kind of talented.

Against Rutgers, Fair scored a career-high 21 points, while shooting 6-of-8 from the floor. He also had eight rebounds and played all but two minutes of the game. Fair slammed down some alley-oops and hit on some catch-and-shoot jump shots, which is exactly what the Orange need from him. In the future, as he progresses, Fair will have to create more for himself off the dribble. For now, he fills his role as a energetic finisher and rebounder off the bench. But in the future, look out because Fair is as efficient and athletic as they come.

3. Finally, there's some offensive aggression.

Lately, Syracuse has struggled offensively. They’ve settled for too many 3-pointers and have taken too many ill-advised shots. That changed today. They were finally the aggressor. Without James Southerland taking 26-foot bombs he only played three minutes Syracuse was finally focused on getting into the paint and to the free-throw line. The Orange took 31 free throws and only 12 3-pointers. This is something to keep an eye on. Will Syracuse continue to attack the hoop or will they settle for 3s? To make a deep run in the tournament, opponents will slow the Orange down and force them to take long-range shots. For Syracuse to make a run, players like Fair, Fab Melo and Dion Waiters have to keep getting to the line for easy points.

Three thoughts from SU vs. St. John's

Melo returns and the No. 2 Orange roll

Jim Boeheim is now tied for third with Dean Smith on the all-time wins list with 879 career wins after Syracuse (23-1, 10-1) cruised past St. John’s, 95-70 on Saturday. Fab Melo, in his first game back from reported academic issues, scored a career-high 14 points. The Orange shot 56 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Red Storm (10-13, 4-7) in a dominating performance at Madison Square Garden. Here are three thoughts from the game:

1. Michael Carter-Williams gave Syracuse fans a glimpse of what they’ll see in the future...

 The freshman from Hamilton, Massachusetts hasn’t seen the floor much in Big East play. Carter-Williams is still learning how to play defense in the Syracuse zone and hasn’t played enough minutes to get into a rhythm offensively. That changed today, though. He confidently shot threes without hesitation - going 3-of-4 from beyind the arc - and was poised with the ball. Carter-Williams even threw down an impressive dunk, showing some unexpected explosiveness. He still took unnecessary gambles on defense and dribbled into a couple double-teams, but overall, Carter-Williams showed progress today. Last spring, scout Tom Konchalski told me Carter-Williams “scores like we breathe.” We haven’t seen that side of him this year, but expect to see a more aggressive and confident MCW in the future.

2. The Syracuse offense is unstoppable when they get into the open floor...

 In the last four games, SU is averaging only 65.25 points per game, a far cry from its season average of 77.4. Teams are slowing down the pace and making Syracuse play a half-court game. Today, that wasn’t the case. The Orange forced only 11 turnovers, but were still able to get out and run. Syracuse was scoring with ease in transition which opened up the floor in the half-court. When the Orange are running, everything else falls into place.

3. But they’re still taking too many three’s...

Syracuse got out of its scoring funk but it wasn’t because of smart or efficient shooting from deep. On the season, the Orange are shooting 34 percent from long-range, and today, the struggles continued. Syracuse made 7-of-21 from three, but still managed to light up the scoreboard because it shot 65 percent from two. It’s important to take more of those higher percentage shots rather than settling for deep threes, like teams are forcing the Orange to do. 

Photos by Allison Milligan

Three thoughts from SU vs. WV

What we learned from SU's game against the Mountaineers

1. Syracuse misses Melo... badly.

Coming into this year, no one would have thought that losing sophmore center Fab Melo would make Syracuse go from great to just really good. But, it has. Without the seven-foot Brazilian guarding the paint and anchoring the defense, the Orange have no girth inside. In the last three games, teams have exploited the mouth of the Syracuse defense. Against West Virginia, behemoth center Deniz Kilicli only shot 2-for-10 from the field. On paper, it looks like the duo of Baye Keita and Rakeem Christmas did a solid job and that they’re learning after struggling against Jack Cooley and Yancy Gates. However, the poor shooting performance was as much a result of Kilicli missing bunnies as it did Keita and Christmas affecting his shots. In the three games of the Fab-less era, the Orange have been out-rebounded by an average of almost 11 boards per game. It goes without saying, but the Orange are just not as effective, especially on defense, without Fab Melo.

2. Syracuse misses Dion, too.

Like Melo, Dion Waiters has been quiet the past three games. However, unlike Melo, the super-sub can’t blame his ineffectiveness on sitting out. In the three previous contests, the sophomore guard has shot 7-for-28, an alarmingly awful 25 percent. Against WVU, both of his field goals were dunks and he was 0-for-3 from deep. Apparently, the issue isn’t his self-assurance. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said, “He’s got more confidence than this room has, but he needs to make some shots.”

3. Boeheim is tightening the rotation, as he said he would

With the loss of Melo, the rotation went from ten to 9. Thanks to the inconsistent and lackluster defensive play of freshman guard Michael Carter-Williams, the nine has become eight. Boeheim hinted towards a potential tightening of the rotation earlier in the season and after the Villanova game. But it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Players are playing more minutes and are able to maintain a high level of effort and intensity. Boeheim doesn’t seem bothered by the new rotation. Considering Carter-Williams has only played four minutes in the past four games, it appears Boeheim will keep his bench shortened, at least for the near future.


MBB rewind: Season opener edition

News and notes from Syracuse University's strong victory against Fordham, 78-53.

Fred Imbert with the recap of No. 5 Syracuse University's season opener victory against Fordham, 78-53. 

Syracuse’s zone, which can be susceptible to the long ball, was particularly effective against Fordham. The Rams made only 4-19 three-pointers. 

Brandon Triche struggled from the field, shooting only 3-10, but he still hit the glass hard. Triche led the team with 7 rebounds, including 5 offensive boards, in only 16 minutes.

Sophomore Dion Waiters was in Jim Boeheim’s doghouse last season thanks in part to his poor decision-making and quick trigger. In the opener though, Waiters was efficient from the field, 6-9, and had zero turnovers.

The Orange’s length was intimidating inside. Syracuse blocked seven shots, led by Fab Melo, who totaled four rejections.

Much has been discussed of Syracuse’s depth this season. Versus Fordham, 10 players logged at least nine minutes.

Syracuse shot 47 percent from the field, 30-64. There doesn’t seem to be much dust on the cobwebs heading into the season.

The Orange host Manhattan Monday in the Carrier Dome at 7 p.m. The Jaspers took the Orange to overtime the last time they visited the Dome, 2005, but could not pull off the upset, losing 87-82. Watch out for junior guard George Beamon. He scored 15 points and recorded 10 rebounds in the team's season opener against the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  

Looking ahead: A trio of talented recruits could help the 'Cuse on the court

Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams, and Trevor Cooney have committed to the Syracuse men's basketball team. All three players were ranked in ESPNU's Top 100 prospects, and each will help the Orange in different ways.

In today’s world of college basketball, half the battle is recruiting. Coaches can win games, but players win championships. Coaches spend their summer days in hot, sweaty gyms, looking to find the best talent across the country for that simple reason.

Recruiting is vital in building a program and sustaining its success. This year’s Syracuse University three-man recruiting class though, could not only sustain the always prestigious program, but hopefully, elevate it to a new status.

The class includes 6-foot 9-inch center Rakeem Christmas, 6-foot 5-inch guard Michael Carter-Williams and 6-foot 4-inch guard Trevor Cooney. Each possesses an array of skills as well as outstanding athleticism that will help the Orange in the future.

Christmas is an extremely athletic, defensive-oriented big man from Philadelphia. He is ranked second among centers and nineteenth in the country in the 2011 class, according to the ESPNU Top 100. Christmas was honored as one of the top players in his class by being selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game as well as the Jordan Brand Classic.

Alex Kline of called Christmas, “One of the best defensive players in the class of 2011.”

Christmas is quick off his feet, runs the floor well and can jump out of the gym. He excels in the paint on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he is a rim-rattler who finds most of his points on dunks and in transition. Defensively, he uses his 88-inch wingspan to block and disrupt shots and grab rebounds. He will be an excellent fit in the Syracuse 2-3 zone, where his long arms and intimidating presence will keep opponents out of the paint. He is expected to move into the rotation and play significant minutes as a freshman.

However, Christmas is far from a finished product. He has had problems with his consistency, and bringing the same energy night in and night out. He struggles to score with his back to the basket and has limited range on his jump shot. Though, according to national basketball recruiting analyst Evan Daniels, Christmas has “more offensive tools than people give him credit for.”

Christmas chose the Orange over Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgetown, Rutgers and Florida International, despite the fact that he was looking for a warm-weather school.  

Carter-Williams is a versatile guard out from Hamilton, Mass. He also played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. The ESPNU Top 100 ranks him fourth amongst shooting guards and twentieth nationally in the class of 2011. Carter-Williams is a smooth player who can put the ball in the bucket in many ways.

“He scores like we breathe,” said college scout Tom Konchalski.

Carter-Williams can hit from deep, but is not limited to just shooting. He is also able to use his length and athleticism to knife into the paint and finish or dish to a teammate. Even though the entire Syracuse backcourt returns, Carter-Williams will find a way onto the court because he can score at an alarming rate and play multiple positions, though he did say SU head coach Jim Boeheim has told him he will be primarily a point guard.

Carter-Williams is noted for his special ability to close out games, something that Syracuse is in search of. On the defensive side of the ball, he plays with energy and is able to use to long arms to get into passing lanes.

Once he gets to Syracuse though, Carter-Williams will need to bulk up. As of now, strength is his biggest issue – he is a wiry 175 pounds. To play in the rugged Big East, Carter-Williams will need to gain muscle to his skinny frame.

“He’s got a slender build and might not look intimidating, but he can really score the basketball,” said Alex Schwartz, President and Chief Scouting Officer of Northstar Basketball.

Carter-Williams chose Syracuse over Providence, Boston College, Temple and UMASS because he felt at home during his campus visit, and he loved the coaches and players he said.

Cooney is a shooter out of Wilmington, Del., and was the first of the group to commit. He picked Syracuse over Big East foes, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Villanova as well as Maryland. He is ranked seventeenth amongst shooting guards and sixty-seventh in the in the class of 2011, according to the ESNPU Top 100.

First and foremost, Cooney is a three-point marksman. He excels at running off screens and shooting off the catch or after one or two dribbles. However, unlike most players who serve the role of a shooter, Cooney can also use his athleticism to penetrate. At the same time, Cooney doesn’t always take advantage of his athletic abilities.

“He almost pigeonholes himself into the role of a shooter, when he has the ability to do more than that,” Schwartz said.

Cooney – who said he models his game after Ray Allen and J.J. Reddick – needs to continue to work on his ball handling in order to complete his offensive repertoire. No matter how his ball handling skills progress though, he will always bring to the table a skill that every team needs - shooting.

The three players could all play pivotal roles next season, despite the many returnees on the Syracuse roster. This recruiting class possesses the athleticism, skill, and intangibles to make a difference for the Syracuse basketball program next year and in the years to come.

Men's lacrosse rolls again, this time flattening Rutgers, 12-2

After falling behind 1-0, Syracuse reeled off 11 straight goals to blow away Rutgers, 12-2, and set up a showdown with the No. 1 ranked fighting Irish this coming Saturday.

In the second annual Warrior Lacrosse Classic in East Hartford, Conn., Syracuse University won its third consecutive game with a blowout win over Rutgers University, 12-2.

With the win, Syracuse improves to 12-1(4-0), while Rutgers drops to 5-7, (0-3) following its sixth consecutive loss. Syracuse now owns a 39-8 lead in the all-time series between these two schools.

Similar to most of SU’s opponents, Rutgers attempted to slow down the game to keep the Orange off the board. The long and methodical offensive possessions worked for the Scarlet Knights – initially at least. RU scored first after Will Mangan put an end to a three minute possession with a goal.

However, after that, it was all Orange as they scored 11 straight goals. Junior Tommy Palasek had a career day and led the way for SU. He scored three goals to go along with three assists. Palasek was able to knife through the RU zone defense and either find a teammate or score.

“(I’m) just trying to play the role I’m supposed to,” Palasek said in a postgame television interview.

Palasek, a transfer from Johns Hopkins, was not the only Orange player that was having his way with the Rutgers defense. Sophomore midfielder JoJo Marasco played with energy throughout the game and displayed great vision with the ball. He finished the game with two goals and two assists. His hustle plays though, made just as big of an impact for SU as his goals did.

Senior midfielder Jovan Miller showed off his cannon by scoring twice, including one from deep. Collin Donahue, a junior attacker and transfer from Rutgers, also scored twice against his former team.

Overall, Syracuse outshot Rutgers 35-16, and the Orange’s defensive strength and brute force proved to be too much for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers’ attackers could not get into the teeth of the SU defense and therefore, had a hard time finding shots. Even when up a man, RU struggled to find the net. It scored on only one of its six man-up opportunities, and failed to take advantage of the Syracuse penalties.

The Orange have responded well since suffering their first defeat of the season to Cornell. Since the loss, SU has won three straight – all in convincing style.

“The strength of our team is we’re able to forget it,” Pelesak said, referring to the only blemish on the SU schedule.

Syracuse will look to reclaim its spot atop the polls when the Orange host No. 1 Notre Dame, Saturday, April 30, at the Carrier Dome. That game that will determine the top seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Surging Orange can't look past DePaul in regular season finale

Riding a four game win streak, Syracuse can lock up a double-bye in the upcoming Big East tournament with a win over DePaul Saturday.

The Syracuse Orange will welcome the DePaul Blue Demons into the Carrier Dome Saturday to end the regular season. The Orange (24-6, 11-6) will look to extend their four-game winning streak heading into the Big East tournament.

Saturday is Senior Night for SU and its lone senior, Rick Jackson. Jackson has progressed each year at SU, after coming in as a raw prospect. He has developed into a presence in the paint both offensively and defensively. Jackson leads the Big East this season in rebounding, field goal percentage, and blocks.

“Rick’s been as steady and consistent a player over his four years as just about anybody we’ve had,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said.

Despite only one win in conference play this season, the Blue Demons (7-22, 1-16) won’t just sit back and let the Orange win this one. DePaul has played better basketball of late, forcing Villanova into overtime and pushing Rutgers down to the wire in the Blue Demons previous game.

“Depaul has played very well,” Boeheim said, “It’s important for us to be ready to play.”

With Seton Hall’s surprising upset of St. John’s Thursday night, the importance of Saturday’s game is even greater. With a win over DePaul, Syracuse would pull into a tie with the Red Storm for fourth place in the conference. Having already defeated the Red Storm earlier in the season, SU would own the tiebreaker, and receive a double-bye in the Big East tournament.

The Blue Demons will be without leading scorer, freshman forward Cleveland Melvin. Melvin sprained him thumb against Rutgers, ending his impressive freshman campaign.  DePaul will miss his athleticism and the 14 points he averages per game.

Freshman Brandon Young is the Blue Demons’ second leading scorer. He is a skilled ball handler and quick penetrator, but not a particularly adept 3-point shooter. Young has been playing with confidence lately and has two consecutive 20 plus scoring games, so the Orange will have to keep an eye on him.

Young will be complemented by the inside game of Tony Freeland and Kyrs Faber. The two starting frontline players combine to average 18 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Rebounding is the biggest weakness for the Blue Demons. They are 320th in Division I in rebounds per game due to a lack of size in the paint and toughness on the glass.

The Blue Demons also struggle from long-range where they shoot 32 percent. Jeremiah Kelly is the only DePaul player who shoots better than 35 percent from deep.

What was once a weakness for most of the season has become a strength in the latter part of Big East play for the Orange. SU’s zone struggled to contain the 3-point shot early on, but during its past two wins over Villanova and Georgetown, opponents have been held to an abysmal 23 percent from deep.

Scoop Jardine has played well during the win streak and has been an integral part of the surge. His intelligent shot selection and distribution of the ball is key to the Syracuse offense being effective. Last week, in two big away games, he averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 assists.

Jackson has also returned to his productive play down the stretch. He continues to average a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards.

One blow for the Orange, athletic freshman C.J. Fair will not play Saturday. He injured his ankle last week, and Boeheim said he is still experiencing pain and has not been able to participate in a full practice.

Tipoff for the ‘Cuse’s final home game is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Streaking Orange going for fourth straight

Syracuse will be looking for revenge when it takes on Georgetown Saturday at the Verizon Center. The Hoyas beat the Orange at the Dome less than three weeks ago.

Following a win at Villanova Monday, Syracuse will have another chance to avenge an earlier home loss Saturday against a depleted Georgetown squad. The Orange could be playing for a bye in the upcoming Big East conference tournament.

The Hoya’s will be without senior leader Chris Wright who recently broke a finger on his non-shooting hand. Wright is not expected to return until mid-March.

Monday’s win was SU’s third in a row, and the Orange are hoping to maintain their late season momentum. The Hoyas are led by the feathery shooting touch of senior guard, Austin Freeman. Freeman averages 17.8 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the field. He is currently one of the leading candidates for Big East Player of the Year.

Freeman is complimented by jet-quick junior guard, Jason Clark. Clark, like Freeman, is an efficient scorer. He shoots 50 percent from the field and has made 46 3’s this season.

The high-scoring guards are helped inside by a group of role-playing and bruising big men. The best of the bunch is 6-foot 9-inch senior forward Julian Vaughn. Vaughn averages 8.8 points per game to go along with his team-leading 6.3 rebounds per game.

Sophomore Hollis Thompson provides a scoring punch off the pine, as he chips in nearly nine points a game in 22 minutes of action. 

The Hoyas’ unsung hero may be forward Nate Lubick. The freshman doesn’t score much, but he makes his presence felt on the court. Lubick is known as the one of the best screener’s in the country, and he is vital to Georgetown’s offense because there are so many screens involved in the complex sets it runs.

To beat the Hoyas, the Orange will need to limit the amount of 3’s Georgetown takes. This has been an issue all year, but against Villanova, the Syracuse 2-3 zone chased the shooters off the 3-point line and into the lane where help was available. This effectively limited Villanova to 5-of-26 from long range.

“We did a great job containing their 3’s,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said.

Georgetown has plenty of long-range threats, so the SU zone will need to extend to the Hoyas’ shooters. Freeman, Clark, Thompson, and sophomore guard Vee Sanford can all be deadly from beyond the arc.

Syracuse (23-6, 10-6) also will look to maintain its offensive firepower that it has had during its three-game win streak. In each of those wins, the Orange have shot at least 43 percent from the floor.

The resurgence of senior forward Rick Jackson has been key during the stretch. When he is aggressive and getting touches in the post, the Syracuse offense is at its best.

Junior guard Scoop Jardine has also been playing much more composed basketball as of late. Along with Jardine, sophomore guard Brandon Triche has also turned up his game. The play of SU’s backcourt duo will be one of the deciding factors Saturday.

Tipoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised on CBS.

SU looking to continue dominance over Rutgers Saturday

After breaking its losing streak with a comeback win over West Virginia Monday, Syracuse hopes to win its 11th consecutive game against Rutgers when the Orange host the Scarlet Knights Saturday.

Saturday Syracuse will welcome the Rutgers into the Carrier Dome. The Orange will be looking to extend their winning streak against the Scarlet Knight’s to 11 straight.

However, this is not the typical Rutgers team of the past. Led by first-year head coach Mike Rice, the Scarlet Knights have showcased outstanding defensive intensity and discipline over the course of the season. Rutgers even pulled off one of the biggest conference upsets of the year, when it defeated Villanova on a four-point play in the closing seconds. 

“Rutgers can play with anybody,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after earning his 850th career win against West Virginia. 

The Orange (21-6, 8-6) will look to continue their success following a comeback victory over West Virginia on Valentine’s Day.

Sophomore guard Brandon Triche has led the charge lately for SU. After two consecutive games of scoring more than 20 points, Triche is shooting the ball with confidence and has been drawing praise from his coach for doing so.

“Brandon has been very aggressive,” Boeheim said. “That has been very important for our team.” 

During the Orange’s rough stretch this season, they have struggled to get easy buckets in transition and in the paint. Against the Mountaineers though, SU was able to run the floor early and often.

Syracuse scored 19 points in transition, while not allowing any transition points on the defensive end. In the paint, SU scored 34 points, a far cry from the previous games where the Orange seemed happy to settle for jumpers.

One area that has consistently hurt the Orange this season is their opponents 3-point shooting. Despite the Mountaineers not being a good 3-point shooting team, SU’s 2-3 zone allowed West Virginia to shoot 11-of-22 from deep. WVU’s Casey Mitchell singlehandedly hit seven 3’s, the second game in a row where one opposing player has torched the Syracuse zone.

Luckily for the Orange, Rutgers does not shoot particularly well from the field, but it does have two shooters who possess deep range.

Leading scorer and rebounder Jonathan Mitchell, a senior forward who transferred from Florida’s title team in 2007, is seventh in the Big East in scoring at 16.9 points per game and shoots 42 percent from long range. It was his four-point play in the closing seconds against Villanova that allowed Rutgers to win its biggest game in recent memory.

Rutgers senior guard James Beatty is another threat to the Syracuse zone. Beatty leads the Scarlet Knights with 54 made 3’s and is also an adept ball handler. Dane Miller, a member of last season’s All-Big East Freshman Team, is also having a good year for the Scarlet Knights while averaging 9.3 points per game. A high-flyer in the open-court, Miller looks to get started with easy buckets in transition.

Syracuse will need its bench to step up during the last few games of Big East play heading into the postseason. Two of its contributing members, Baye Moussa Keita and Dion Waiters have struggled of late. Against West Virginia, the two freshmen combined for zero points and only five rebounds in 18 minutes.

“This is not a league for freshman,” Boeheim said in his press conference after the WVU game.

However, one freshman has stepped up and is playing a vital role for SU and that is C.J. Fair. In his the last six games, he is averaging nine points and more than five rebounds per game. His surge into the rotation should help the Orange as the season comes to a close.

Tipoff for Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m.

Syracuse prepares for a Valentine's Day battle with West Virginia

After losing three consecutive home games and two consecutive road games, the Orange are hoping to stop the bleeding Monday night as they host Big East rival West Virginia.

Following a disappointing loss to Louisville Saturday, Syracuse returns home to the Carrier Dome to play Big East foe West Virginia. The Orange are looking to pick up a home win for the first time in more than a month, since beating Cincinnati January 15.  

After its 18-0 start to the season, the Orange (20-6, 7-6) have won only two of their last eight games. During this stretch, defense has been a major issue, as the Orange are allowing 11 more points per game than they did during their first 20 games. 

“We’ll be ready Monday night,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after the loss to Louisville.

West Virginia is coming off a win against DePaul, but the Mountaineers are now entering one of their toughest stretches of the season. Starting with Syracuse, the Mountaineers (16-8, 7-5) will face five top-15 ranked teams in their next six games to finish Big East play. 

WVU is led by the quick trigger of senior guard Casey Mitchell. Mitchell enters the game averaging a team-leading 15 points per game, but has played limited minutes since his return from a suspension after violating team rules. 

Junior forward Kevin Jones and guard Daryl “Truck” Bryant add a scoring punch as well, as they are averaging 13 and 10 points a game, respectively. 

Despite WVU’s lack of height – their two starting bigs are both under 6-feet, 10-inches tall – the Mountaineers rebound the ball well. Thanks to their toughness and athleticism, they could pose an inside threat to the Orange.

Similar to the past eight games, this one will come down to whether or not Syracuse can stop the opponents from shooting a high percentage. 

“Against the zone, you got to keep making shots,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said in a press conference following the DePaul game.

One positive note for the Orange, WVU is not an extremely talented outside-shooting team. The Mountaineers are shooting only 32 percent from 3-point land. Casey Mitchell is its only true 3-point shooting threat and the only player on the squad shooting above 35 percent from long range. It would require WVU’s best shooting performance of the season to match the shooting clinic that Louisville and Georgetown put on the Orange last week. 

Syracuse will be looking to get senior Rick Jackson back on track after two consecutive games where he failed to reach his usual double figures in scoring and rebounding. 

Leading scorer Kris Joseph will also have to be more assertive for the Orange after taking only five shots in the previous game against Louisville. Meanwhile, guards Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will both look to build on their success from Saturday’s game, where they shot 15-of-23 from the floor.

The Orange - and its fans - will look to impress and leave the Dome with a win after its Valentine’s Day date with the West Virginia Mountaineers.