Syracuse Offers Tough Test, AU Coach Says

Auburn is running into a hot basketball team in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.

Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn to survive and advance to the NCAA Basketball Tournament Elite Eight round, the Tigers will have to play one of their best games of the season.

That is the opinion of Auburn coach Cliff Ellis, whose Tigers will take on Syracuse in Albany, N.Y., on Friday night at the Pepsi Arena, a short drive away from the home of the Orangemen. The Tigers practiced during the noon hour on Wednesday before catching a plane for Albany, New York.

Coach Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team has an impressive 26-5 record. A major component of that success is a 2-3 zone defense that has given many opponents lots of trouble. "Offensively, we are going to have to move the ball and take it inside, play inside out, and try to hit open shots and get to the glass," Ellis says.

Coach Cliff Ellis

Defensively, the Tigers will have their hands full against a team that features four players scoring in double figures. The Tigers will likely continue their pattern of mixing a variety of zones in with their man to man defense.

The biggest headache for the Tigers is trying to find a way to stop freshman star Carmelo Anthony, who doesn't play like a rookie. He is averaging 22.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Ellis says that Anthony is tough to deal with because he is very quick, very strong and has a good feel for the game despite his youth. "I understand he is likely to be one of the top three players taken in the NBA draft so that says a lot," Ellis notes.

Auburn faced the ACC Player of the Year in Tampa in round two, Josh Howard of Wake Forest, and six-foot-four, 195-pound guard Derrick Bird kept the forward under control. Comparing Anthony and Howard, Ellis says, "Both are up for college player of the year. Anthony is a bigger Josh Howard--6-8 as opposed to 6-5."

Ellis says that Auburn's scouting report on the Orangemen indicates that Boeheim's team likes to run the fastbreak more than many of his other teams have. He also notes that although Syracuse is primarily a zone team, the 2002-2003 Orangemen have played man to man at times this year and had some success doing it. "They probably press more than Jimmy's teams have in the past," Ellis says. "They have played man to man, but only if down and they are needing to. They want to play the zone."

Tipoff for the game is set for approximately at 8:40 p.m. CST at the Pepsi Center in Albany. The winner of the game meets the winner of Butler vs. Oklahoma for the right to go to the Final Four in New Orleans.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories