Friday, November 12, 2010

Syracuse Basketball Season is Officially Back Tonight!


After completing the exhibition schedule with games versus division II Kutztown and LeMoyne, the Syracuse Orangemen are ready to kick off their regular season with a home match up against the Northern Iowa Panthers. Tip off is at 7PM tonight, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

Northern Iowa, who made a surprise appearance in last years sweet 16 after knocking off #1 seed Kansas in the 2nd round, returns 8 players and two starters from last year's squad. Kwadzo Ahelegbe is the teams leading returning scorer and runs the point for the Panthers. They also have two 3-point scoring threats in Johnny Moran (6'1" 190 pounds) and Kerwin Dunham (6'6" 200 pounds). Jake Koch (6'9" 255 pounds) can also knock down the outside shot and can score inside as well. He could prove to be a difficult match up for the Orangemen. Anthony James has also been a scoring threat off the bench for Northern Iowa. During their exhibition schedule, he dropped 10 points against Wartburg and a team high 6 rebounds against University of Mary.

In terms of defense, Northern Iowa was 2nd in points allowed in the nation last season, allowing just 55.2 points per game. The Panthers have also made the NCAA tournament 5 out of the last 7 seasons. However, the Panthers have never beaten a Big East team (0-8). Since 2002-03 Northern Iowa is 7-9 against ranked opponents. They last beat a ranked opponent on the road when they knocked off Wichita State (#16) in 2006-07.

We learned quite a bit about this year's Syracuse squad during the exhibition schedule. First thing is that this team can make foul shots. They shot 90% from the line as a team in the two exhibition games and hopefully can continue that into the season. Even the big men were efficient from the line, something Syracuse hasn't seen since in ages. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine look like two players ready to shine in the starting lineup, and Fab Melo should be the beast in the middle Syracuse fans expected to see when we signed him to a letter of intent.

Off the bench, C.J. Fair has tremendous athletic ability and a nose for the ball. He can rebound in the lane and throw home a dunk with the best of them. Baye Moussa Keita, who many viewed as a project, is much further along in his development than we expected. He certainly gets his hands on a lot of loose balls and can knock down jumpers and shots from the foul line. He will not be a push over in the middle. Dion Waiters struggled during the exhibition schedule, but broke out of his funk in time for the 2nd half of the LeMoyne game. We will see if he can continue to make plays for the Orangemen, or if he will have to sit in favor of one of the other players.

Rick Jackson is back for his senior season and will provide the leadership and experience on the back end of the 2-3 zone. He will still be a threat to score inside and will be an important player on this team, especially with two freshman as the only options at center.

We have been waiting a long time for basketball season to return after last years disappointing finish at the hands of Butler. This is no easy opening game for the Orangemen, and they will need a focused team effort to overcome Northern Iowa. Smart passes, tough defense, and efficient possessions will be the key to victory on this day. Be sure to check back with The Cuse Connection for post game recap and analysis.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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