The Syracuse Orange look to improve to 2-0 in Big East play with a win in Tampa against South Florida today. Opening tip is set for 12:00 on the Big East Network.
South Florida is a team who has struggled to this point in the season despite their record of 9-3. The Bulls had a lot of preseason hype to be an upper echelon team in the Big East, but have struggled at points this year. USF has losses to Oklahoma State, UCF, and Western Michigan on the season. The Bulls’ signature win to this point in the year was a home win over Georgia, with their next most impressive win being over UCF (yes, they’ve played the Knights twice) on the road. Four of the team’s nine wins have been by single digits in what has been a less than impressive out of conference schedule to date.
One of South Florida’s major problems this season has been scoring the basketball. The Bulls average just 66.5 points per game, with a .421 field goal percentage. Senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is the team’s leading scorer averaging 11.7 points per game, with junior Victor Rudd right behind him averaging 11.3 per game. These two should have a difficult day with the Syracuse zone, and as the Bulls’ two leading scorers and re-bounders could lead to a disaster in this game for South Florida. Sophomore guard Anthony Collins is back after a solid freshman campaign last season, and has a better than 3:1 assist to turnover ratio this season. The Bulls will need a huge game from their guards if they are going to have a chance to even keep it close in this one. Should the Bulls get the lead late in the game, South Florida is just a 69% free throw shooting team, so the game is always in doubt as long as they are on the floor. I don’t see this game coming down to free throws, and even if Syracuse has an off day they should still be able to take care of business in Tampa.
For Syracuse, this game will be interesting to see if Brandon Triche continues to take charge offensively in this one. Triche was aggressive and shot the ball well against Rutgers, and had a great game to show for it. Hopefully Wednesday night gave him the confidence he needs to take control on a regular basis throughout Big East play.
Another thing that will be interesting to follow is the play of the big men for the Orange. Rakeem Christmas is starting to really show what he can do, and that trend should continue this afternoon. Aside from Christmas, the play of the big men have been less than impressive, and it should be interesting to see how they respond to the challenge of the talented South Florida forwards. The bigs will definitely have to step it up in the zone to contain them, and it should be a good test to see where they are at defensively.
All in all, I believe this game will end up in a blowout due to the overall talent mismatch. Syracuse is clearly the better team, and even if they struggle offensively in the game, there is very little feeling on my part of a potential upset down in Tampa. Syracuse has a great following down there, and in previous seasons the arena has had more orange than green in attendance. The team generally feeds off that atmosphere, and I think Syracuse cruises in this one.
South Florida 59