Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is UCONN Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Four straight losses by an average of 11.75 points per game. Never before have the Orangemen lost five straight games under Jim Boeheim. Tonight, Syracuse will take on the #6/#7 Connecticut Huskies (17-3, 5-3 Big East) at the XL Center in Hartford, CT at 7PM on ESPN.

Maybe this level of competition will finally light a fire under the collective bottoms of the Syracuse Orangemen basketball team?

There's a lot of turmoil surrounding the team right now. Four game losing streak. Getting thumped at home by Seton Hall. Some idiots hiding behind a keyboard who thought they would start a point shaving rumor. Dion Waiters suspension rumors. None of this is going to matter when Syracuse takes the court in Connecticut. All that matters is fighting hard for 40 minutes and walking out with a HUGE conference win.

Just one win can turn around all the bad press, bad vibes, and negative energy circling the program. Who better to record that win against than Jim Calhoun and our old friends at UCONN?

Standing in the Cuse's path back to respectability is superstar Kemba Walker (6'1" 172 pounds). The junior is averaging a team high 24.2 points per game and is one of the most lethal players in the country. Walker's season low is 14 points, which came against Marquette on January 25th, and he registered a season high 31 points twice, most recently against Pittsburgh on the road. Walker is the real deal. Stop Kemba Walker, and we might just be able to stop the UCONN Huskies.

If Syracuse has a snowball's chance in hell at stopping Walker, it's going to have to be from the top of the zone. Unfortunately for Syracuse, the top of the 2-3 zone has been absolutely horrible during this 4 game losing streak. Maybe this kind of match up will help Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche elevate their game to the next level. Or, maybe they will fold and allow Walker to torch them for long 3-pointers and penetrate into the zone and get the easy mid-range jumpers. It's up to Scoop and Triche if Syracuse will be successful tonight.

The only other Huskie averaging in double digits is Alex Oriakhi (6'9" 240 pounds) who is averaging 10.7 points and 9 rebounds per game. Oriakhi had a season high 18 points against Kentucky way back on November 24th and a season high 21 rebounds against Texas on the road on January 8th. The past two games Oriakhi has found himself in foul trouble, however the rate at which fouls have been called against Syracuse versus called FOR Syracuse has been staggering of late, so I'm sure that will not be a factor.

In order for Syracuse to be successful they will need to channel the energy we saw in the zone defense the first 18 games of the season that carried the Cuse through bad shooting performances. If Connecticut scores 40+ first half points, it's safe to say our chances of winning this game are slim. The Orangemen have absolutely got to find a way to limit second chance rebounds and somehow manage to slow down Kemba Walker.

If Syracuse can do that, then we have a chance.

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