Already having faced four ranked opponents early into the Big East season, the Marquette Golden Eagles might be facing the most complete opponent they will see all year when they head to New York to take on the Syracuse Orange.
Jim Boeheim's crew has rushed out to an 18-1 record, including 5-1 in conference, with their lone loss coming against Pittsburgh back on January 2.
In the backcourt, the Orange are led by senior Andy Rautins and freshman Brandon Triche. Rautins comes into the contest averaging just under 11 points and just over five assists per game. The sharpshooter from New York leads a relatively young Orange team into battle, while Triche has run the offense well, shooting just under 54 percent from the field.
In the frontcourt, the Orange are just as dangerous with Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku manning the paint. Onuaku has been the team's most consistent player in the post, averaging 10 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest. Jackson has been more hit or miss this season. He scored a season high 21 points against Florida but has failed to reach double-digit points in each of his last three games. Last season he scored 17 in a win over Marquette.
Sophomore Kris Joseph has improved greatly from last season, with his scoring up six points per game (9.7) and his rebounds up by two (4.9). Another sophomore, Scoop Jardine, has provided good depth off the bench as well.
However, the engine that makes the Orange go stands six-feet-seven-inches tall. His name is Wesley Johnson. The Iowa State-transfer has been as good as advertised and is the main reason the Orange are ranked fifth in the nation.
With the ability to guard four positions on the court, combined with an array of moves and touch on jump shots, the Big East Player of the Year candidate is likely the best player the Golden Eagles will play all season.
On offense, the Orange are extremely disciplined and take high percentage shots whenever possible and it has reflected in their field goal percentage (53 percent). They are tops in the Big East in assists per game (20.1), led by their deep backcourt and the hot shooting of Johnson.
Defensively, expect the Golden Eagles to see Boeheim's 2-3 defense all game. If they want to hang tough with the Orange, they will need to take care of the ball as Syracuse leads the league in steals per game with 11.3. They will not be able to stay close if they fail to shoot the ball with consistency, as the Orange average nearly 85 points per game.
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