Syracuse and Villanova fans are getting a treat Saturday afternoon as the former Big East rivals square off in the Carrier Dome. Both teams are undefeated through 11 games and ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll, the Orange sitting at the number two spot while the Wildcats are ranked eighth.
The Wildcats are on a hot streak against ranked opponents of late, having won four out of their last five games against AP top-five teams in the past two seasons, including a win in their last matchup against the Orange last January in overtime. The Orange were number three in the polls at the time.
This year’s matchup is a little different as the two rivals are facing each other for the first time since the Orange made the move to the ACC. The Wildcats are good at putting points on the board, averaging 82.5 points per game which is 24th best in the country. The Orange are 25th in the country in points allowed, only giving up 62.1. Despite their high-scoring offense, the Wildcats only shoot 44.9% from the field. They do, however, average 29 free-throw attempts per game and they make 21 of them. The Orange will have to stay out of foul trouble, which they normally do, averaging only 17.1 fouls per game.
The Wildcats are also very good defensively. They give up only 64 points per game and hold opponents to 38.3% from the field, 20th best in the country. The Orange have shot well of late, shooting 51.5% from the field in their last six games, so they will have to come out hot against this tough defense. The Orange also have an advantage on the defensive end, forcing 16.7 turnovers per game, and the Wildcats turn over the ball 12.6 times per game, ranked 167th in the nation.
An interesting matchup to look at is between Villanova junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston and Syracuse senior forward C.J. Fair. Both are very similar players who lead their teams in scoring, Pinkston averaging 16.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per outing, while Fair averages 17.8 points and 5.3 boards. It will be interesting to see how Pinkston handles Fair on the defensive end, averaging a steal per game while Fair turns it over more than three times per game. Pinkston also turns it over more than twice per game, so the zone might make that number a little higher.
Another interesting matchup will be between two brothers. Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis’ brother Dylan Ennis averages 9.1 points off the bench for the Wildcats.
The Pick: As always, this matchup will be a good game. The Orange are expecting to host over 30,000 fans inside the Loudhouse for the first time this year, but the Wildcats are no stranger to that kind of pressure, winning two out of the last three meetings between the two teams when there are 30,000-plus in the Carrier Dome. The Wildcats are also the 13th best rebounding team in the country with 42 boards per game. The Orange struggle on the glass, so they will have to crash the boards effectively. I think both teams will have better days on the defensive end then on offense, so rebounding and turnovers will play a huge role. The Orange win a close one, 64-61.
Where: Carrier Dome
When: 2 p.m.