‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Preview Syracuse’s Matchup with Louisville
Our analysts give their keys and predictions as Syracuse tries to snap its two game losing streak.
Key to the Game: Breach the Paint
In Saturday’s loss to Virginia, the Orange saw little to no success scoring points in the paint. Syracuse has size down low with Paschal Chukwu, Oshae Brissett and even Bourama Sidibe when he gets minutes. Louisville has experienced veteran presence down low in senior Anas Mahmoud and junior Deng Adel, but the size advantage still mostly favors Syracuse. The Orange needs to use its size down low to match up with the Cardinals’ bigs and make its presence in the paint known.
Prediction: Louisville 66-59
After a dismal offensive performance at home against UVA, it’s hard to see the Orange having success scoring on the road in Louisville. The Syracuse offense maintains a bad habit of relying on Frank Howard and Tyus Battle making shots while covered. It doesn’t seem like the Orange will be breaking those bad offensive habits anytime soon, and won’t have an easy time on this road trip.
Key to the Game: Scoring or Putting the Ball in the Round Thing
To be blunt, this offense has been terrible at times this season. The Orange has struggled to move the ball all season. SU is 331st in the nation in assists per game. Ladies and gentlemen, there are only 351 teams in Division I of the NCAA. For a Syracuse team that struggles to shoot like the Orange has historically, it is paramount that the squad moves the ball to get the best possible shots. In order to beat the Cardinals on the road for the first time in five years, Syracuse needs to get good shots that are easier to make.
Prediction: Louisville 61-56
If Syracuse can make shots, I like the squad’s chances in the game. However, even I am questioning now if the team has the capability to do that. The game will be close and the Orange will have chances to take the game. When it comes down to it, the winner of this game will hit the big shots down the stretch. In the end, I need to see that shooting performance come to fruition against a quality opponent. Syracuse has a lot to prove on Monday night; I think the team has a chance but the offense is in clear need of work.
Key to the Game: Attack the Basket
Louisville struggled with foul trouble in its last few games, including Saturday’s loss to Florida State in which the Cardinals committed 22 fouls. The Cards’ best players, forwards Ray Spalding and Deng Adel, are in the paint. If Syracuse can get the ball inside and force these players into early fouls, the Orange can take advantage from the charity stripe.
Prediction: Louisville 72-60
Louisville enters Monday night’s matchup having lost two of its last three games. But UofL is one of the nation’s best scoring teams (top 100 in points per game), and Syracuse’s offense has been woefully bad (51.6 PPG in its last three games). That, coupled with the fact Louisville is 14-2 inside the KFC Yum! Center this season, means SU will be hard-pressed to grab a road victory.
Key to the Game: Offensive Rebounding
For one of the tallest teams in the country, Syracuse’s performance on the offensive glass this season has been lackluster. The Orange recorded just six offensive rebounds on Saturday, which translated into only three second chance points. Coming off of two performances in which ‘Cuse shot less than 33 percent, Jim Boeheim’s squad needs to crash the boards for follow up opportunities. Easy putbacks could be a solution for this sputtering offense.
Prediction: Louisville 70-63
The Orange is playing some of its worst basketball at arguably the hardest part of its schedule. A road game against a tough Louisville squad does not sound promising for ‘Cuse. The Cardinals’ veteran lineup will be hard-pressed to drop two home games in a row. Deng Adel and Anas Mahmoud present matchup nightmares for the 2-3 zone, and the Cardinals’ stingy defense will prolong ‘Cuse’s offensive woes.
Key to the Game: Take Care of the Ball
Behind Virginia, Louisville might have the best perimeter defense in the entire ACC. The Cardinals love to press and are ranked third in the conference with just under 8 steals per game. On top of that, Syracuse consistently struggles to take care of the ball on the road. The Orange has turned the ball over at least 11 times in every single road game it’s played this season. That has to change Monday night if SU wants any chance of pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Louisville 71-54
It’s really hard for Tyus Battle and Frank Howard to play forty minutes without getting tired and careless regardless. But it’s even harder when you are playing a full game on just one day of rest. Syracuse might keep this one close in the first half, but I don’t see how the wheels don’t fall off in the second half. At the end of the day, SU simply doesn’t have enough depth to win a road game on this quick of a turnaround.
Key to the Game: Make Shots
With just over seven minutes left in the first half against Virginia, Tyus Battle’s jumper fell to bring the Orange within two of the Cavaliers. By halftime, SU trailed by 10, and the issue was obvious. Syracuse’s shots stopped falling, and the defense’s strong performance went to waste. The Orange need to knock down the shots they get. Some looks will be better than others, but unless SU wants to lose its third in a row, they need to find a way to create offense out of the hand they are dealt.
Prediction: Louisville 65-57
Syracuse’s recent performances have done little to inspire confidence, especially on the offensive end. The fact that SU has to play at Louisville just two days after getting thumped by Virginia at home does not help. In the end, the Orange cannot win ball games unless it finds a way to produce outside of Tyus Battle, and with little reason to have faith in the Syracuse supporting cast, the Cardinals should not have much trouble getting by the Orange.
Key to the Game: The Inside Game
With 27,000 fans behind it on Saturday, Syracuse looked lethargic against Virginia, and didn’t score a bucket for over a six minutes at one point in the second half. SU consistently struggled to find an open look in the first 20 seconds of the shot clock, and that can largely be attributed to the lack of an inside presence. Paschal Chukwu went scoreless in 26 minutes of play, and Bourama Sidibe was cushioned comfortably on the bench the entire game. The task doesn’t get much easier against a Louisville team that is second in the nation in blocked shots. Oh, and by the way, the Cardinals best shot blocker, Anas Mahmoud, doesn’t even start. If Chukwu can’t exponentially increase the four points he’s had in the past three contests combined, Syracuse’s offensive struggles will continue.
Prediction: Louisville 71-59
‘Cuse averaged 59 points per game over the last five games, and that amount won’t fetch a team many Ws at home, much less on the road. David Padgett’s team hasn’t skipped a beat following the departure of Rick Pitino, only losing two games at home the entire season. The Cardinals’ length is comparable to the Orange’s, and its 112th-ranked scoring defense is plenty to stop Jim Boeheim’s unorganized offense. Don’t expect a savory result for SU at the KFC Yum! Center on Monday.
Key to the Game: Attack the Rim
Against Virginia, Syracuse only scored 10 points at the basket. The lack of close looks likely explains SU’s shooting struggles against UVA (33 percent FG, 19 percent 3-point FG). In order to turn it around, Jim Boeheim’s bunch should prioritize driving and getting baskets close to the rim. This is especially important when Louisville’s backup center Anas Mahmoud is in the game. The seven-footer leads the ACC in blocks despite getting limited playing time. Going at Mahmoud’s body and drawing fouls will be important to open up scoring on the inside.
Prediction: Louisville 64-52
Syracuse’s abysmal offense inspires zero confidence in this team headed into a matchup with one of the better teams in the ACC. In the last eight games, the Orange are 3-5 against teams with defenses ranked inside the top-100 in defensive efficiency. Louisville ranks 15th in defensive efficiency. Roll Cards.