Syracuse vs UConn Preview

Syracuse vs UConn

One of the best rivalries in college basketball isn’t played in conference anymore, but that doesn’t stop the anticipation when the teams do play–and it doesn’t get any more iconic than Madison Square Garden.

That is where Jim Boeheim’s 6-1 Syracuse squad will take on Kevin Ollie’s 6-2 UConn team as part of the Jimmy V Classic–tipoff set for 9 P.M. ET.

Neither team is as good as they once were, especially UConn, who has struggled out of the gate, earning tight victories over lesser caliber programs.

Still, UConn does have one solid result this year, having beaten Oregon in Portland during the Phil Knight Invitational, and the Huskies have three different players that have scored at least 27 points in a game.

Guard Jalen Adams leads UConn with 19.4 points per game, followed by forward Terry Larrier (16) and guard Christian Vital (12.3). Despite that, UConn has struggled on offense, particularly from behind the 3-point line, where the Huskies are shooting just 30.4 percent.

The Huskies who regularly had some of the best rim protection in college basketball when the two teams were in the Big East, have no players taller than 6-foot-9. The Orange, meanwhile, lead in the country in Ken Pomeroy’s block percentage metric thanks to Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe.

UConn will be without former Syracuse recruit and point guard Alterique Gilbert who continues to miss an extended period of time with a shoulder injury. He has not played in UConn’s last two games, when it has struggled against middling opponents.

The Orange come into this one looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 76-60 defeat at the hands of No.2 Kansas last time out. Tyus Battle led the team with 22 points on 7-of-20 shooting with a pair of threes and a pair of steals. Frank Howard came second with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting with a team-high seven assists while Oshae Brissett added 13 points with a team-high nine rebounds and a pair of steals to round out the scoring in double-digits for the Orange.

Syracuse has struggled against Big East opponents since leaving its old conference, compiling a record of 3-7 during the past four seasons against UConn, Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova.

This is the third consecutive year that Syracuse has played UConn. The Huskies won an ugly 52-50 contest in MSG last year on a putback and two free throws with seconds remaining by Christian Vital.

Prediction

Currently the Orange are favored by five points–a number that could increase as the day progresses. I’ve watched the last two UConn games against Columbia and Monmouth–two teams no one would mistake for NCAA Tournament favorites. In those games, UConn struggled drastically, not just offensively shooting in the mid-30%, but defensively, allowing the opponent to easily penetrate the paint and kick out for wide open threes. To their credit, UConn came back and won both of those games, but a program like UConn shouldn’t consistently struggle against those mid-major teams.

Size will be the deciding factor tonight, Syracuse can protect the paint with thei multitude of big men, while UConn has to learn to play taller than they really are (difficult I know). As long as the line hovers around (-5) for Cuse, I think they win outright and cover the points.

Syracuse 77 UConn 69

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