Just two games ago, the Canes were fourth in the ACC. But two straight setbacks have induced a slip to sixth as Syracuse comes to town.
Who: Syracuse Orange 17-9 (6-7) at Miami Hurricanes 18-7 (7-6)
When: February 17th
Time: Noon Eastern Time
Radio: 560 WQAM and 90.5 WVUM
Best win: A 78-73 win over Louisville on February 5th, a road win. Tyus Battle lead ‘Cuse with 25 points, while fellow guard Frank Howard and forward Oshae Brissett provided another 22 and 16 respectively.
Worst loss: A 55-51 defeat in Atlanta to Georgia Tech. In what was an ugly game from both sides, Syracuse shot just 30 percent from the field and got just three bench points on January 31st.
Obviously, Syracuse is known for their 2-3 zone that they have run virtually exclusively for decades. Miami has not always attacked the zone well this year. The Canes are very athletic, and often times the best way to beat raw talent and athleticism is by throwing a pain-clogging zone at an opponent.
The Canes can successfully attack the zone by winning the rebounding battle and making outside shots. Look for Amp to be stationed in the high post, while dishing assists to Dewan Huell down low or any of the guards for open three-pointers— something Syracuse has struggled to defend. If that happens smoothly and consistently, the game will go in Miami’s favor.
What the Hurricanes cannot do is have a lack of ball movement while trying to overanalyze the Orange defense. This has been a problem all year, and if the Canes are forced to take low percentage jump shots with little time on the shot clock, tomorrow could be a long day.
Miami also needs to have a good day with their fast break offense. Too many times off a turnover, the Canes will slow the possession down and allow the defense to get into their half-court set. Miami needs to be quick and aggressive to make Syracuse uncomfortable.
Depth is a weakness for Syracuse, as injuries have forced Jim Boeheim's rotation down to just seven men. While Battle, Howard, and Brissett all average close to or above 15 points per game, nobody else averages above six. Over the past five games, the Orange have 17 total bench points. Miami’s subs had 18 against Virginia alone, and Ja’Quan Newton hung 16 by himself off the bench in the Wake game last week.
If the Canes get any of the Orange leading scorers into foul trouble, Syracuse could be in deep trouble. It is hard to get zone teams into foul trouble, so Chris Lykes’ ability to draw offensive fouls may be a key in this game.
Line: Miami -4.5
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index Win Probability: 79.4% Miami
Prediction: This game is more about Miami than Syracuse. If the Canes stick to what they have done best, and what any team would need to do in order to execute against a zone team, Miami wins. But a flat effort could lead to another disappointment. However, I think the Canes depth and talent will be too much for Syracuse to handle, and Miami will win 68-54.