Syracuse Faces Eastern Michigan in Non-Conference Finale
By Matthew Wieselthier
Syracuse (10-2) takes on Eastern Michigan (8-3) in the last non-conference game of the season for the Orange. Syracuse leads the all-time series 4-1.
May Have Lost the Battle, but Not the War
Tyus Battle is the definitive leader of the Syracuse Orange. The problem for Syracuse is that every other team knows that, and Jim Boeheim is having issues finding someone to be consistent in his place. Battle scored just 11 points in the loss to St. Bonaventure. The game before that, the sophomore only managed 13 points against Buffalo. Teams have switched to focusing their defensive efforts on Battle, including double-teams and forcing the play to go away from the Syracuse star. Boeheim addressed this after the loss on Friday, saying, “when you have a great player, they are going to have bad nights. You just keep going to them.” Battle is now 3rd the ACC in scoring at 19.9 points per game.
Transfers Can Be the Answer
Syracuse is familiar with transfers coming in and making a huge impact on the team in the last couple of years, particularly with Andrew White and John Gillon. Eastern Michigan has their own transfer who has been crucial this season. Elijah Minnie left Robert Morris after his sophomore season to join the Eagles. After sitting out one year, Minnie has played a prominent role for Eastern Michigan as their leader scorer. The junior transfer is averaging 18.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in his third collegiate season. Minnie is also crucial on the defensive end with 1.7 blocks and 1.6 steals per contest.
Eating Up the Boards
Syracuse has been very effective in rebounding this season, but they will have to watch out for Eastern Michigan’s double-double machine. James Thompson IV is in his third season at Eastern Michigan, and for the third straight season, he is averaging a double-double. Thompson is scoring 17.7 points per game, in addition to picking up 12.4 rebounds per game as the starting center for the Eagles.
Syracuse 75, Eastern Michigan 69
The Orange are in a must win situation. When you play in the toughest conference in the country, you need to enter conference play with momentum. Syracuse was riding high after victories against Connecticut and Georgetown, but the loss to St. Bonaventure could be huge if the Orange aren’t able to correct things quickly. Expect Syracuse to look for Tyus Battle early and often to get him going and make sure he is ready for ACC play. As for the score, expect a close game. This year’s Orange will be playing close games every single night, against good and bad teams. This year will be a roller coaster for Jim Boeheim, but if the offense can get a spark tonight, it may lead to good things as a date with Virginia Tech looms on New Year’s Eve.