Predictions: Syracuse – Kansas
Our analysts give their predictions for the final of the Miami Hoophall Invitational. It’s Syracuse vs. Kansas.
How Syracuse Wins: Execute Threes
Syracuse only scored three three-pointers against Maryland on Monday. Kansas is known executing threes as they are shooting 45.1% from beyond the arc. They are also averaging 94.5 points per game, a number the Orange have not even come close to this season. In order for Syracuse to win, the 2-3 zone needs to stay spread to avoid allowing the Jayhawks to nail triples. With this, covering Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk who is averaging 18.2 ppg and 56.4% from downtown will be crucial.
Prediction: Kansas 95-77
It is hard argue that this young Syracuse team can beat No. 2 Kansas. The Jayhawks have beaten opponents by an average of 33.0 point per game. The Orange defense is going to be deciding factor. It is averaging more rebounds and blocks per games than the Jayhawks. As long as the zone doesn’t pinch in as much as it has in the past, it could make up some ground for the offense. It just may not be enough
How Syracuse Wins: Make the Three Point Shots
Syracuse is going to have to improve its three-point shooting for a chance to win against Kansas. SU has only made 29.1 percent of its threes on the season, and over the past two games, as Syracuse has played tougher opponents in Toledo and Maryland, the Orange’s three-point shooting has only gotten worse (Toledo 4-18, 22.2 percent; Maryland 3-18, 16.7 percent). The Orange cannot afford to miss threes and turn the ball over to Kansas. And just as important as not missing the threes is that Syracuse will have to make a good number to keep pace with a Jayhawks offense averages 94.5 points per game.
Prediction 91-74 Kansas
The No. 2 team in the country is the stronger one in this game. Both teams are undefeated 6-0, but just look at how each has fared against common opponents: Syracuse wins 80-67 against Texas Southern while Kansas wins 114-71 against the Tigers; Syracuse wins 74-50 over Oakland while Kansas wins 102-59 over the Grizzlies; Syracuse beats Toledo 72-64 while Kansas beats Toledo 96-58. Syracuse and Kansas are simply not the same caliber teams right now. Meanwhile, Syracuse just lost graduate-transfer Geno Thorpe from the program, so SU suddenly has 14.3 minutes per game to fill—something that won’t be figured out in the first game with this situation. Expect Kansas to dominate on Saturday.
How Syracuse Wins: Frank Howard Scores 20+
Devante Graham is going to put up points, regardless of how well Syracuse’s defense performs. However, the pace will likely be slowed down, and many of KU’s guards will have a difficult time making their way into the paint with Pascal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe patrolling the lane. If this game turns into a slugfest, it’s even more critical that Frank Howard scores. His ability to play second fiddle to Tyus Battle out of the backcourt will open up things for the rest of the team. Battle has been the only player on Syracuse who has consistently demonstrated the ability to create his own shot, but Howard isn’t far behind. If he has a big night, SU has a chance against the #2 team in the country.
Prediction: 72 – 61
Kansas The overwhelming talent on Kansas’ roster will keep Syracuse on it’s toes all game. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk’s sharpshooting ability (56% from 3 this season!) and Udoka Azubuike’s strength and size on the inside (7’0”, 280 lbs) poses threats that Syracuse likely has no counter for on the offensive end of the floor.
How Syracuse wins: Stay Out of Foul Trouble
The key for the Orange in this big-time matchup is to keep its big men out of foul trouble. Paschal Chukwu has encountered foul issues most of the season, but his replacement Bourama Sidibe has fouled out in the past two games against Maryland and Toldeo. With Kansas’ center Udoka Azubuike weighing in at 280 pounds and towering at seven feet tall, Syracuse needs its shot blockers on the court more than ever.
Kansas Syracuse’s defense has been stellar this season, but this is Kansas. Bill Self’s program is averaging 94.5 points per game. That is absolutely absurd for a college team. Kansas is the number two team in the country and will continue to prove that it deserves the number one spot against SU.
How Syracuse Wins: Make it Rain
In order for the Orange to pull off this big time upset, it’s simple: the shots must fall. From everywhere. Especially from three-point range. With Kansas averaging roughly 95 points per game this season, SU’s only chance is to one-up the Jayhawks on the offensive end. This falls on the guards, and leaders, of the team in Tyus Battle and Frank Howard.
Prediction: Kansas, 88, Syracuse 79
Bill Self’s team is just way hot right now to stop (No pun intended, considering this game is at the home of the Miami Heat). Jim Boeheim’s squad will be able to hold their own for most of the time, but expect the nation’s number two team to pull away late.
How Syracuse Wins: Shut the Back Door
Throughout the young season, the SU defense has played well if you look at the statistics. The Orange is allowing less than 60 points per contest and opponents are only shooting 36% from the floor. However, when you take a closer look at how the defense operates, there’s a big flaw that Kansas can exploit this weekend. Whenever the opponent gets the ball to the wings of the 2-3 zone, the wings of the backline of the defense shift up to take away shooters’ air space. When this happens the zone becomes more of a 2-2-1 than a 2-3 and leaves the center on an island trying to defend the baseline. Coupled with the fact that SU tends to ball-watch a lot more than it should, the backdoor and baseline are left wide open for big men to get easy looks at the basket. We saw it in the Texas Southern game with big Trayvon Reed and in the Maryland game with Bruno Fernando. The two combined to shoot over 90% from the field against the Orange and that’s because they got so many good looks as a result of getting in behind the zone. Now SU is going to have to deal with an entirely new monster this Saturday in Udoka Azubuike. The Kansas center is more talented, skilled and just flat out bigger (7 foot, 280 pounds) than anyone SU has faced this season. He’s also fifth in the entire country in field goal percentage. If Syracuse wants any chance at pulling the upset, it’s going to limit the effectiveness of Azubuike and shut the backdoor so that he can’t get easy looks.
Prediction: Kansas 87-69
With all that talk about having to defend the baseline, I just don’t think the Orange is going to be able to do that versus Azubuike and the Jayhawks. Kansas is simply more talented, more athletic and more well-coached than any team SU has faced this season. Azubuike is a matchup nightmare for an SU team that lacks physicality on the interior and even if Syracuse can shut him down, he’s still got a slew of teammates that can pick up his slack from beyond the arc. In the end, SU is still in a transition period and this is the first time all season we are going to see signs of that kind of youth and roster turnover. The Orange should put together a nice game, but not a great game and that simply isn’t enough to stop the Jayhawks.
How Syracuse Wins: Stop the Three
Kansas simply has shooters all over the floor. Through six games this season, the Jayhawks have four guards that are shooting above 50 percent from beyond the arc and that doesn’t even include superstar Devonte’ Graham who went 5-8 from deep in KU’s last game. All those shooters add up to one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country with a combined average of 45 percent from deep. To make matters worse, three-point defense has been a problem for SU this season. On Monday night, Maryland went pound for pound with Syracuse because it was able to shoot nearly 48 percent from downtown. Syracuse simply can’t let Kansas shoot anywhere near that number if it wants any chance of pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Kansas 76 Syracuse 60
Syracuse has been winning games this season because of its defense. However, SU’s defense can only do so much against Kansas. With an average of 95 points per game so far this season, the Jayhawks are going to get theirs no matter what and I just don’t see how the Syracuse offense can keep pace. Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett have been great but outside of them, SU doesn’t really have anyone that can create their own shot. The Orange might keep this one close at the halftime break but in the end SU just won’t be able to keep up with the plethora of KU scorers.
How Syracuse Wins: Limit turnovers
A key to any basketball team is taking care of the rock. For Syracuse on Saturday, it will be a must. Against a team like Kansas, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Being sloppy with the ball early could put the Orange in a hole it’s not capable of getting out of. If SU is sloppy against KU, it won’t be long before they trail by double digits.
Prediction: Kansas 71 – Syracuse 62
The Orange is off to a great start, but it hasn’t played a team like Kansas yet this season. The 2-3 zone has been good, but bigger players have been getting behind the zone regularly for easy buckets. This is one of the biggest tests that SU will face all season long. It won’t be a blowout, but the Orange certainly has its hands full in Miami this weekend.