It’s time for Ivy Hoops Online’s usually annual exchange with Wes Cheng of The Juice Online, except this is our second one of the week after Brown’s battle at Syracuse Monday. The Big Red take on the Orange Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.
1. Tell us about The Juice Online.
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.
2. What are the major storylines with Syracuse coming into this season?
This is not your father’s Syracuse 2-3 defense. The Orange zone, which is consistently one of the best defenses in the country, has struggled through the first 10 games of the season. KenPom rates SU’s defense as 173rd in the country, a far cry from Syracuse’s last Final Four appearance in 2016 when they finished 18th, or even last year’s relatively leaky defense (77th). The main reason is lack of athleticism. Syracuse lost defense stalwarts Quincy Guerrier (Oregon) and Kadary Richmond (Seton Hall) through the transfer portal and Alan Griffin to the pros (Westchester Knicks). They were replaced by transfers Cole Swider (Villanova), Symir Torrence (Marquette) and Jimmy Boeheim (Cornell). None of the three are good fits for the zone in terms of length and athleticism, which is also true for SU’s starting backcourt of Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim. As a result, opposing teams are shooting 34.1% from downtown against Syracuse, which is 227th in the NCAA. The lack of being able to get stops has led to embarrassing losses to Georgetown, VCU and Colgate.
3. Who are Syracuse’s standout players?
Buddy Boeheim was a first-team All-ACC preseason selection after he averaged 17.8 points per game on 38.3% shooting from beyond the arc in his junior campaign. He has not found a similar rhythm so far, as he’s averaged 17.6 points per game, but on 27.5% shooting from downtown. Syracuse’s most improved player is center Jesse Edwards. The 6-11 big man from the Netherlands is averaging 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game, all of which is a quantum leap from his 1.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game from 2020-21. Ivy League fans should also remember Jimmy Boeheim, a former Big Red standout who has filled the role of a glue guy for SU (14.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, one assist per game).
4. What are your predictions for the game?
Syracuse has struggled defending the 3-point line this season, and Cornell has shot well (37.8 percent) against it. Even with nearly three weeks away from the court due to COVID-19 protocols, I expect the Big Red to start sharp, and take an early first half lead similar to what happened in Cornell’s matchup against Penn State in November. But, like what happened against Brown on Monday evening, I see Syracuse adjusting its defense to a 1-3-1 zone and pulling away in the second half for a 78-63 win. In particular, Jimmy Boeheim enjoys a standout game against his former team, with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.