‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Look at Syracuse Basketball’s Visit to Georgia Tech
Our analysts give their keys to the game and predictions as the Orange head south to take on Georgia Tech in search of a winning record in conference play.
Key to the Game: Give Bourama Sidibe More Minutes
After sitting out in last week’s win over Boston College, freshman forward Bourama Sidibe exploded in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Sidibe recorded 18 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 31 minutes, all season highs for the freshman. With questions still looming around how long Matthew Moyer will be out, the Orange needs to give Sidibe significant minutes against Georgia Tech so he can keep the momentum of that stellar performance going.
Prediction: Syracuse 68-62
Even after getting its first ACC road victory, there are still concerns about how well the Orange can play away from the Carrier Dome. These two teams come into this game on different paths. Syracuse is riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak, while the Yellow Jackets are trying to snap a four-game losing skid. If the Orange can limit Georgia Tech’s ball movement and Sidibe puts on another career performance, that should be enough to give Syracuse its fourth straight win.
Key to the Game: Ball Movement
Georgia Tech is a similar team to Syracuse in that both teams are offensively challenged and stout on defense. This game will be relatively low scoring, with both squads in the bottom five in the ACC in points per game. Because of this, it is vital for the Orange to move the ball well. The old saying goes, “you can’t win if you don’t score,” and for a Syracuse team that has struggled to shoot, that has been the issue. Moving the ball well can help get more open looks for shots that players are more likely to make. This game is yet another one that points towards a defensive struggle. But in order to win, Syracuse has to move the ball and knock down open jumpers. Points in this game will be at a premium, so it is that much more important to get good looks to score for the Orange.
Prediction: Syracuse 63-55
Expect this game to be close throughout in a tough environment down in Atlanta. Syracuse and Georgia Tech are both stout defensive teams, meaning the game should be low scoring. The team who comes out on top will be the team that is able to sink open jumpers. The Orange and Yellow Jackets are the second and third worst shooting teams in the ACC in terms of field goal percentage. Similarly to the Pittsburgh game, I expect Syracuse to be able to make just one or two more big plays down the stretch. That is why I have the Orange winning a close one down in Atlanta.
Key to the Game: Stay Out of Foul Trouble
With Howard Washington out on Wednesday night, Syracuse has just six players that have seen significant playing time this season. The Orange averages 16.7 personal fouls per game, the 67th-best mark in the country. If SU gets into early foul trouble, it will have to rely on players like Junior Braedon Bayer (who began his collegiate career at Grinnell College) and Senior Patrick Herlihy (who was a basketball manager for his first three years) – a prospect Jim Boeheim does not want to face.
Prediction: Syracuse 68-58
Despite its 10-11 record, Georgia Tech has played the ACC’s best to the wire, including wins over Miami and Notre Dame and a two-point loss to Clemson. Yes, Syracuse is depleted, but the Yellow Jackets play only five players for significant minutes; GT’s bench played just 20 minutes versus the Tigers on Sunday night. The Orange held Pittsburgh to 27.7 percent shooting from the field on Saturday and defensively should dominate a Georgia Tech offense that ranks 324th in the country in points per game.
Key to the Game: Eliminate Second Chance Points
Looking at the box score from the Pitt game, it seems as though the Orange did its job on the glass. ‘Cuse outrebounded the Panthers and allowed only eight second-chance points. But sometimes, statistics can be deceiving. The Orange did not secure rebounds as well as it should have on Saturday. If that trend continues, the Yellow Jackets, led by preseason All-ACC pick Ben Lammers, will make the Orange pay. Georgia Tech has struggled against athletic teams this year, and I think ‘Cuse can impose its will on defense. Georgia Tech might struggle to score in their half-court sets, so limiting its second-chance opportunities is essential for Syracuse.
Prediction: Syracuse 68-60
All trends point towards a Georgia Tech win on Wednesday night. Georgia Tech is tough to beat on its home court. The Yellow Jackets have notched impressive home wins over Miami and Notre Dame, and were a bucket away from upsetting a top-25 Clemson team this past Sunday. Syracuse struggles when it travels away from the Carrier Dome, but I think the Orange can put together a complete performance Wednesday night. Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard both registered quiet outings in Pittsburgh, tallying just nine and six points, respectively. If these two can get back on track and put up double-digit scoring marks, I think it should be enough for the Orange to earn a victory Wednesday night.
Key to the Game: Stop Ben Lammers
Georgia Tech’s center is a matchup nightmare for Syracuse. Last year, the senior racked up 23 points and seven blocks against SU at home. On top of being a threat on offense, Lammers averages 8.5 rebounds per game, which is the seventh-best mark in the entire ACC. SU needs to make sure it keeps Lammers off the glass Wednesday or else he could easily take over the game.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 63-62
Georgia Tech has struggled this season, but the Yellow Jackets typically take care of business at home. Josh Pastner’s club upset Miami and Notre Dame at McCamish Pavilion earlier this season. Meanwhile, Syracuse has really struggled away from the Carrier Dome in ACC play this year. I expect this one to go down to the wire. However, with Howard Washington out and Matt Moyer’s status up in the air, I don’t see how Syracuse scores enough points to beat an underrated Georgia Tech team.
Key to the Game: Shot Selection
Syracuse is shooting an abysmal 32 percent from beyond the arc. To make matters worse for the Orange, Georgia Tech has shut down opposing perimeter offense in conference play, allowing the second least threes in the ACC. SU has to understand where points are going to come from against the Yellow Jackets. Points in the paint is the stat to watch if the Orange wants to come away victorious.
Prediction: Syracuse 62-58
Syracuse and Georgia Tech look very similar on paper. They each rely on guards to score the bulk of their points, but are below average shooting teams, especially as they get farther away from the basket. The Orange has the edge because it has the advantage in those overlapping strengths. The Yellow Jacket’s leading scorer Josh Okogie has gone off against teams with small guards. Too bad for him, Orange guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard are hard to push around, and without Okogie firing on all cylinders, Syracuse has the advantage in this one.
Key to the Game: Keep Georgia Tech Out of the Paint
Georgia Tech doesn’t have a stellar offense, averaging just over 66 points per game, the second-worst mark in the conference. But, the one area the Yellow Jackets succeed offensively is down low. Josh Okogie, an 18 point-per-game scorer, loves to slash hard to the rim, hang in the air and draw fouls. Against No. 20 Clemson, the 6-foot-4 sophomore poured in 26, including 12 free throw attempts. Don’t sleep on forward Abdoulaye Gueye either; GT went straight to him in the post on the first two possessions against the Tigers for a quick four points. Georgia Tech is at its best when it forces the opposition to play tough defense five-to-10 feet away from its own basket. That type of approach highlights why Georgia Tech got to the charity stripe 19 times against Clemson and 30 times in its prior contest against Florida State.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 63-59
The good news for Syracuse is that the Orange play a 2-3 zone, which should discourage Josh Pastner’s squad from repeatedly searching for post-up plays, and encouraging GT to shoot from distance. The problem is on the other end of the court, where Georgia Tech also plays a zone defense—a big factor as to why Jim Boeheim’s crew struggled mightily on offense against Pitt earlier this month. Factor in the location of this contest and the inconsistency of Syracuse’s bench attack. SU may also be looking ahead to Saturday’s big game against Virginia, and thus will come up just short on the road on Wednesday.
Key to the Game: Control the Glass
Syracuse comes into the game ranked top-25 nationally in rebound margin, which has contributed to the Orange’s excellent defense this season. By cleaning the defensive glass and limiting second chance points, Syracuse ranks 14th in the NCAA in points allowed per game. However, without Matthew Moyer, and against Georgia Tech’s 6-foot-10 senior center Ben Lammers, ‘Cuse is going to have trouble rebounding as efficiently as it has in the past. Lammers is tenacious inside, and outweighs both Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu by 60 and 20 pounds respectively. If those two SU forwards and Oshae Brissett can’t box Lammers out, it’s going to be much easier for the Yellow Jackets to generate second-chance points and easy offense.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 62-55
This has less to do with many of the individual matchups and more about the venue. This year, ACC teams have lost 13 more games on the road than they’ve won halfway through conference play. That’s on pace to break last year’s atrocious ACC road record when only three teams posted a positive road winning percentage. For whatever reason, the ACC home-court advantage continues to play perhaps the most crucial role in conference success.