Last year’s season-opening Cornell-Syracuse matchup got very interesting, with the Big Red leading 36-22 in the first half and 38-32 at halftime before the Big Red faltered down the stretch to lose, 82-60. Cornell then lost 25 more games, while Syracuse started the season 25-0.
We’re lucky to have Wes Cheng, managing editor of The Juice Online, to help make sense of this year’s edition of the Big Red/Orange series:
IHO: Tell us about The Juice Online.
WC: The Juice (then called The Big Orange) was founded in 1992, one of approximately 50 independent publications devoted to the coverage of its school’s athletics programs. In 2002, it became a full-color, glossy magazine which was owned by Fox Sports. The print product ceased publication in June of 2010 and was relaunched as The Juice Online in December of 2010. In February 2012, The Juice Online partnered with SportsNet New York, the official television home of the New York Mets and New York Jets. As part of SNY.tv’s Blog Network, The Juice Online supplements SNY’s coverage of more than 125 college football and basketball games, as well as other college sports programming.
IHO: What are the major story lines with Syracuse?
WC: The last six seasons have been unprecedented successes for the program. Starting in the 2008-09 season, the Orange has averaged 29.5 wins a season, which is the best six-year stretch in program history. During that time, SU has reached the Final Four and the Elite Eight, something that has also never happened. I say all of this because Syracuse is the most vulnerable it’s been since 2008. The Orange lost its top scorer (CJ Fair), top bench player (Jerami Grant), one of its interior defenders (Baye Keita) and clutch guard (Tyler Ennis). In past years, the Orange has been able to reload on the fly, but that appears to have finally caught up to SU as they have four losses in its non-conference schedule, the most since the 2007-08 season, which is also the last time SU missed the NCAA Tournament.
IHO: Who are the stars for Syracuse?
WC: Trevor Cooney is consistently one of the most talked about players in an Orange uniform. He is SU’s top outside shooter, but got off to a horrific start to the season. At one point, he was shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc. But in five of his last six games, he’s hit at least three 3-pointers and has raised his outside shooting percentage to above 35 percent. Another player to watch for is Michael Gbinije, who is averaging 17.6 points over his last three games. Gbinije is a jack of all trades, playing wing, shooting guard and point guard. Coach Boeheim has always been on Gbinije about being more aggressive, and Gbinije showed how good he can be in a win over Long Beach State on Sunday. He scored a game-high 24 points, while adding eight assists and six rebounds. But Syracuse’s most important player is Rakeem Christmas. Aside from leading the team with 16.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, he’s also the team’s best interior defender. The one problem with Christmas is that — even as a senior — he’s still committing silly fouls, and there isn’t a ton of depth behind him. The Orange has a ton of problems whenever Christmas is in foul trouble.
IHO: Predictions for the game?
WC: I know that Syracuse has won 34 straight games against the Big Red, but Syracuse also had a nine-game winning streak against St. John’s that was snapped earlier this year. If Robert Hatter and Shonn Miller can get things going from downtown, maybe another long-standing streak will go down, as well. That being said, I still see the Orange winning by double-digits. 72-60 Syracuse.