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Miami vs. Syracuse Q&A with

Talking with the enemy ahead of Saturday’s crucial ACC matchup

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Syracuse vs Miami Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Canes Hoops is in the midst of a 2-game skid, but will look to turn things around against the Syracuse Orange (17-9, 6-7) Saturday at the Watsco Center. Right now the Canes are considered a 6 or 7 seed in the tournament, but a couple of losses could put Miami in dangerous territory, so a game like this is crucial for the Canes postseason dreams.

Syracuse is no pushover, as they are led by one of the top scorers in the ACC in Tyus Battle. Don’t forget the infamous 2-3 zone Coach Boeheim’s players always run so well. We reached out to our friends at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and liaised with James Szuba to gather intel on Syracuse.

SOTU: Give us a general synopsis of how the Syracuse season has gone.

James Szuba: The non-conference portion of the schedule went about as good or perhaps even a little better than expected, but Syracuse grad transfer Geno Thorpe left the program early. Syracuse has had a rough go of it since turning to the new calendar year in ACC play with Bourama Sidibe being hampered with knee tendinitis, Howard Washington suffering a season-ending injury, Matthew Moyer having a bad high-ankle sprain and just recently Paschal Chukwu had a scary back injury against NC State.

Injuries have left this roster anything but replete, but the players fight hard. Syracuse is right on the bubble and remains in the thick of things for a bid but a lack of Q1 wins leave a little to be desired as far as the resume is concerned.

SOTU: I saw you had a tough loss to NC State, what do you think was the difference in the game?

JS: You could point to many things, but missed free throws at crucial junctures proved costly and Syracuse failed to defend the three. That’s been a major story-line all season. Syracuse has more often than not struggled to limit teams from the perimeter.

SOTU: You have an iconic coach in Jim Boeheim, and I feel like Syracuse usually recruits very well. How has that shaped your expectations of the program each year?

JS: Syracuse basketball is Jim Boeheim. Really. While still reeling in the wake of NCAA sanctions and scholarship reductions, Syracuse has actually taken a step down in recruiting in recent years. That’s not to say the Orange are getting bad recruits, but there have been probably more misses on the recruiting trail than there otherwise would have been. Expectations are always high though. There’s not one fan of the program that doesn’t at least hope Syracuse will make the NCAA Tournament every year. We’ve been a bit spoiled in that regard.

SOTU: Syracuse has one of the top scorers in the ACC in Tyus Battle, what has helped him make such an improvement this season?

JS: You can’t check him. Seriously, pick your poison. He can do it from all three levels -- Tyus can attack the tin, has a nice mid-range game with a floater, step back and pull up and he shoots the three fairly well to boot. Tyus was really good last year though. It took him a bit to adjust and get comfortable but he had a really strong ACC showing last year as well.

SOTU: What are the keys to breaking down Syracuse (especially the 2-3 zone)?

JS: If you’re every color analyst that’s ever lived, you want to get the ball into the ACC logo (read: high-post). But this year I’d say working the ball inside out for open shots is key. Syracuse has proven its vulnerable defending the three. Depth is a huge factor as well so nobody on this team can afford to get into foul trouble.

SOTU: Who wins and what’s the final score?

JS: Over at our site I predicted a 66-61 Syracuse win but I will admit that that’s going out on a bit of a limb. I think Syracuse is right there in terms of youth and inexperience with Miami and I’d like to think the taller Syracuse guards will have a bit of an advantage. I think Tyus or Frank will have a big height advantage over Lykes and whoever DJ is guarding will have a bit of a first step advantage as well.

Thanks James. We’re looking forward to a great game Saturday, hopefully there’s a little more scoring than the 109 combined points on Tuesday in Coral Gables.