Syracuse looks to stop a two game losing steak as they host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Tip-off is set for 7:00 in the Dome, and is the Big Monday game on ESPN.
Notre Dame comes in to the Dome tonight on a three game winning streak. The Irish just avoided a terrible loss to DePaul, winning in overtime Saturday. Notre Dame has much of the same team from last season that knocked of Syracuse for their only regular season loss of the year, while Syracuse is in a mid-season funk that has consisted of bad offense and poor shooting. Syracuse is again without James Southerland, who is set to have an eligibility hearing later this week. If all things go well for the Orange, this may be the last game they have to play without him if he can be reinstated.
Notre Dame is notably led by the guy that absolutely killed Syracuse last season. Jack Cooley is averaging 15 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this season, and is an absolute killer on the offensive glass. Cooley has been the unquestioned leader of the Irish this season, and can be extremely difficult to guard with his persistence on offense and his physicality on defense. Syracuse is going to have to make it a point of emphasis to put a body on Cooley if they want to avoid him posting a double-double on them.
Another player Syracuse needs to watch out for they will have a great scouting report on. Jerian Grant, brother of Syracuse’s Jerami Grant, is an aggressive scorer on offense for the Irish, averaging 12.6 per game. From what I’ve seen from Grant, he will slash to the basket and is fearless around the rim, even if some of his decision making is questionable at times. If Syracuse can get a hand in his face, they should be able to force Grant in to taking some bad shots, and limit the Irish to some one-and-out possessions. Grant also will shoot the ball from the outside, and with the Syracuse zone I see him taking a lot of three point attempts as well. Jerian plays with energy and confidence, and that is the formula for a player that can either lay an egg against the zone, or light it up completely for a career night.
This game will be interesting to see if Syracuse can get their swagger back. They are playing at home which will undoubtedly be a big crowd, and this game is huge for the Orange to respond. Marquette was blown out of the KFC Yum! center yesterday, and the Orange can retake control of first place with a win tonight. I’m not ready to declare this game a “must win” for the Orange, but I think it can take them a long way in reestablishing control of the conference. The Orange play tonight, then have yet another long stretch of days off before hosting St. John’s in the Dome Sunday.
All in all I think Syracuse will have last year’s defeat in the back of their minds, and I think they know the importance of a win tonight, and I think they will find a way to get it done. Notre Dame is an inconsistent team, but I think even if they are at their best, Syracuse will still take care of business and win this one at home.
Notre Dame 58