Friday, February 4, 2011

Syracuse Takes Business Trip to "South" Florida

The Syracuse Orangemen, fresh off a big time victory in Hartford against #6/#7 Connecticut, are leaving the ice and snow of north-eastern United States and heading south. Jim Boeheim and his squad will head down to Tampa, Fl where it is currently 79 degrees and expected to be 70 degrees and sunny for tip-off on Saturday at 2PM on SNY.

Compare that with Syracuse, NY, where its expected to be 35 degrees and there's some concern that a few Orangemen athletes will look at this trip to USF (8-15, 2-8 Big East) as more of a vacation and less of a business trip. But this is most definitely a business trip.

When Syracuse got clipped by Seton Hall on their own floor the Pirates were 8-12 overall and 2-6 in Big East play. Not too different from the USF Bulls record, and they will have the comforts of home. Well, not their home. The game will be played at the St. Pete Times Forum, the home of the Tampa Bay Lightening rather than the USF Sun Dome. While the Sun Dome seats over 10,000 fans, the St. Pete Times Forum has a capacity of 20,500 for basketball, almost double. Perhaps that will get a few more Orange-clad fans in the building.

Syracuse will need to maintain the defensive intensity we saw on Wednesday if they want to earn their 20th win of the season on Saturday. Most importantly, the Orangemen will need to see the top of their zone as active as it was against Kemba Walker, when they limited the Huskies leading scorer to a season low 8 points.

South Florida has beaten Providence and DePaul in Big East play, as well as Texas Tech and Auburn during their non conference schedule. The Bulls have only won twice in their last twelve games, however they took then #4 UCONN to overtime on the road back on December 31st. The Huskies won that contest 66-61.

Agustus Gilchrist (6'10" 245 pounds) is the leading scorer for the Bulls, averaging 12.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Gilchrist had a season high 25 points against Louisville and scored 21 points against UCONN in their overtime defeat. He has also pulled down a season high 10 rebounds five times this season, most recently in back to back games against West Virginia and DePaul.

At 6'10" 245 pounds Gilchrist might prove to be a match up problem on the inside for the Orangemen. Baye Moussa Keita may have 1+" on him, however he will be outweighed by nearly 25 pounds. It would be great if Fab Melo could stay in the game and be a force on defense in this one, however I don't know if that will happen. We may see Rick Jackson play increased minutes at center to help slow down Gilchrist, however that will force Syracuse into a smaller line up.

Sophomore Jawanza Poland (6'4" 200 pounds) is averaging 10.7 points per game and is coming off a season high 20 points against Providence on Wednesday. While he doesn't appear to be a threat from 3-point range, he's shooting a mere 25% from behind the arc, that is exactly the recipe for success from beyond the arc that has recently plagued the Orangemen. Poland shoots an average of 37% from the floor, and if Syracuse can be physical with him around the perimeter, hopefully our guards will be able to slow him down.

Last year South Florida had the pleasure of having Dominique Jones run the point and he torched Syracuse for 30 points, albeit in a losing effort. The Orangemen won the game 82-65 in the Carrier Dome and were able to shut down the rest of the team while lighting up the scoreboard on the other end. Hopefully Syracuse can have a similar result this season on the road and get their second straight win after suffering 4 straight conference losses.

This would be a great game for Scoop Jardine to finally rediscover his shooting touch and get his offensive flow back for the final 8 games of the season. If Syracuse wants to be successful in their upcoming run of games against Georgetown, Louisville and West Virginia, then we are going to need some steady offense out of Scoop. And what better time to get going than Saturday against a struggling squad? In the past six games, Scoop has been shooting 3-9, 4-13, 1-8, 4-10, 5-12 and most recently 2-11 from the floor. That's 30.1% over six games from the field. Let's see what we can do about that.

The game will be tipping off at 2:00PM and will be televised on the home of the Big East Network, SNY. Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis. Also, be sure to follow @CuseConnection on twitter, where we will be tweeting live reaction to the days events.

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