Basketball Preview: Syracuse – Toledo

Syracuse's Tyus Battle, left, shoots over Cornell's Matt Morgan, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 2:56 pm by Sports Editor

Syracuse (4-0) hosts Toledo (3-0) tonight in the second campus game of the Hoophall Miami Invitational. Both teams are coming off victories against Oakland.

Things to Look For:

Dynamic Duo

One of the reason’s why Toledo has opened the season with three straight wins is its backcourt play. Junior guard Jaelan Sanford and graduate transfer Tre’Shaun Fletcher have combined to average 43.3 points per game through the Rockets’ first three contests. The pair has accounted for just over half of their team’s scoring. Both have shown the ability to drive to the basket and draw fouls. But both have struggled from the perimeter, shooting just 26.7 percent from beyond the arc. If the Orange wants to slow the two down, the 2-3 zone should force Sanford and Feltcher to shoot from outside.

Size

Unlike the four teams Syracuse has played thus far, none have boasted great size, minus Texas Southern center Trayvon Reed. Toledo matches up against SU better physically than any of the Orange’s first four opponents. Frank Howard and Tyus Battle, who run the top of Syracuse’s zone stand at 6’5” and 6’6” respectively. Sanford and Fletcher are 6’4” and 6’7”, and have more experience than anyone on SU. Plus the Rockets have a big man in Luke Knapke, 6’11”, who can be a bruiser around the basket. The sophomore averages 9.3 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks, while also showing the ability to shoot the three-ball. Knapke shoots it at a clip of 42.9 percent.

Tyus Battle

Against a team with solid size, great experience and a tenacious backcourt, Syracuse is going to have its first game of many this season, where it is going to have to rely on Tyus Battle to generate offense. The sophomore guard has shown the ability to score in bunches this season. He has hit multiple threes in each game as well as shooting at least six free throws every game. He can shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket and has shown the ability to create his own offense when no one else on the team can. The team will have to rely on its interior to make defensive stops against the Rockets, but Toledo is the first SU opponent that has multiple dynamic offensive weapons. When the shots start falling, SU is going to need a go-to man to match the scoring. That man will be Tyus Battle.

Prediction: Syracuse 79, Toledo 74

This game is going to be much closer than the average fan may think. Toledo is a team with serious weapons that will likely be dancing come March. If Sanford and Fletcher get hot, the game could get out of hand for SU. Syracuse has the size to defend the interior, but it has to do so without fouling, which has been a problem thus far among big men. Battle will show NBA prospects that he can carry a team on his own, but in creating offense, Battle will command double teams and open opportunities for other wing players like Oshae Brissett and Howard. It will be a close game that will come down to who can score in crunch time, and that will be Battle.