Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jimmy V Classic Tonight at Madison Square Garden

It's the day many of us have been waiting for since the schedule first came out. The first true test for the Orangemen. Many SU fans expected Syracuse to be 8-0 when December 7th came around, however many of us expected Syracuse to house all their opponents on their way to this record. Not beat William & Mary by 3 points, Michigan by 3 points, Detroit by 11 points, and Georgia Tech by 4 points.

Meanwhile, Michigan State, the unanimous preseason #2 team in the country, enters Madison Square Garden 6-2, with losses coming against UCONN and Duke. This Spartans squad has hit the road hard this season, and have logged enough frequent flier miles to earn a couple free flights along the way!

Starting on November 23rd and leading right up to today, the Spartans have traveled a total of 10,823 miles. That's the equivalent of 721.5 miles per day since November 23rd. Michigan State traveled 4,363 miles to Lahaina, Hawaii on the island of Maui for the Maui Invitational. They followed that trip with a 709 mile trip to Durham, North Carolina to take on the #1 team in the country, Duke. And this week the Spartans again went on the road, 679 miles to New York City's famous Madison Square Garden to take on the Syracuse Orangemen in the Jimmy V. Classic.

Syracuse, on the other hand, has only made 1 trip away from the Carrier Dome this season prior to this trip. A 315 mile trip down to Atlantic City, NJ. While many pundits out there believe Madison Square Garden to be located walking distance from the Carrier Dome, the truth of the matter is that it's a 248 mile trip. This will give Syracuse 878 travel miles going into the Garden for tonight's game against Michigan State.

Long story short, Syracuse has traveled just 8% of the miles Michigan State has logged this season. Does it matter? That remains to be seen. Michigan State has surely been tested by tougher competition, there is no denying that. The Spartans have turned the ball over 143 times in 8 games, which amounts to just about 18 turnovers per game on average.

While that is a promising sign for an Orangemen team that loves generating turnovers and running the fast break, Tom Izzo's Spartans are also shooting 43.1% from 3 as a team this season. For comparison's sake, Syracuse is shooting 29.7% from beyond the arc as a team.

The leading scoring threat for Michigan State is Kalin Lucas. He is averaging 14.9 points per game, however he does have a nagging leg injury which limited him to 15 minutes in the Spartans last game on Saturday and has held him out of practice all week. Tom Izzo said in the Detroit Free Press yesterday however that he expects Lucas to play tonight. Lucas also ruptured his Achilles tendon in the NCAA tournament last season, and is still recovering from that injury as well. Lucas is shooting 44.4% from 3-point range this season (12 of 27).

Izzo also said that guard Korie Lucious has missed practice time this week with bruised ribs. Lucious is averaging 9 points and 4.7 assists per game this season for the Spartans. Durrell Summers averages 14.5 points per game for Michigan State and is 16 of 38 from beyond the arc (42.1%). Draymond Green drops 13.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on average. Green has knocked down 13 of his 24 3-point attempts so far this year, giving him an absurd 54.2% accuracy rate from 3.

For Syracuse to be successful today, they need to take high percentage shots and avoid long stretches of the game without a field goal. It's imperative that they protect the basketball, as they have been doing lately, but also must hit the glass hard and not allow Michigan State any second chance baskets.

On defense, they can't allow the Spartans to line up uncontested 3-point shots, because unlike the weaker competition Syracuse has seen this season, Michigan State can knock down 3-pointers all night, not just in the first half. They will not go quietly into the night. This is a Final Four team, make no mistake about it. When healthy, they are an absolute beast offensively. The Spartans are shooting 49% overall from the floor this season, which ranks 25th in the nation and average 17 assists per game (21st overall).

The 2-3 zone needs to be extremely active tonight, and it may need to be extended in order to defend against the Spartans' 3-point threats. When Syracuse has the ball, they can not afford to come away empty handed. They need to knock down shots, and need to make smart plays. This is the toughest test of a young season, and Syracuse needs to use this game as a measuring stick for where they want to be come March.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00PM and will come shortly after the conclusion of the #4 Kansas versus #14 Memphis game which tips off at 7:00PM in the first game of the Jimmy V. Classic Double-Header.

The Cuse Connection will be tweeting LIVE from Madison Square Garden. Be sure to follow us on twitter as we bring all the breaking news from the Garden as it happens.

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