The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team take their first step in the Gotham Classic by playing host to the Canisius College Golden Griffins.
Syracuse enters the match-up with an 8-0 record, while Canisius has also had a respectable start at 6-1.
Here is a look at what you need to know about the Golden Griffins:
1. Veteran leadership:
Veteran college guards Billy Baron, a junior, and Harold Washington, a senior, are leading the Golden Griffins in scoring this season. Baron and Washington are the only Canisius players to currently be averaging double-digits in points per game this season. Both Baron and Washington are recording almost 20 points per game apiece, Baron with 17.7 and Washington with 18.6.
2. Depth of the team:
Canisius goes nine deep, with three players that have consistently come off the bench throughout the season. Those three players, guard Alshwan Hymes, guard Reggie Groves, and forward Josiah Heath, bring different levels of experience from senior to junior to sophomore class, respectively.
In four of seven games, two of the three aforementioned players have been in at least half of the game, showing how much the bench is relied on by the Golden Griffins.
Hymes has provided the most help off the bench in scoring with 7.1 points per game, while Heath averages the most rebounds for the bench with 3.4.
Speaking of depth, Hymes has made 184 shots from beyond the arc, placing him in third-place overall in Canisius men's basketball history in made three-point shots. Hymes needs one more three to tie Golden Griffins' alum Kevin Downey for the number two spot all-time, and two more threes to own the spot outright.
In the last four games, senior forward Freddy Asprilla has been joining Hymes, Groves, and Heath in coming off the bench. But, Asprilla has seen his time cut in half recently. After playing for 22 and 24 minutes, he has only reached 10 minutes in both of the last two games for Canisius as he struggles to score and stop making turnovers.
3. Under the basket:
The Orange are leading the country in rebounds per game with 51.6, so the Golden Griffins will need to attack the boards at all times in order to give themselves the best opportunity for victory.
Canisius is averaging 35.1 rebounds per game, placing them almost 20 rebounds below Syracuse's average per match. The best options that the Golden Griffins have to increase their performance on the boards all rely in their junior class with Baron and forwards Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath. Of the three, Manhertz leads the squad with eight rebounds per game.
4. Familiar faces:
The Golden Griffins fill two spots on their roster with brothers Josiah and Jordan Heath, making Canisius one of a mere seven teams in NCAA Division I men's basketball who have brothers on their rosters. Those teams are Duke, Furman, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Rider, and UTEP.
Josiah attained more rebounds than any other rookie in the MAAC last season.
Jordan sat out last season after transferring in from Roberts Wesleyan College.
This season, Jordan is putting together more on the court than younger brother Josiah, leading Josiah in points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage per contest, playing approximately 10 more minutes per game than Josiah as a starter for Canisius. The only area where Josiah bests his older brother is at the charity stripe where he makes a little over 60% of his free throws as compared to Jordan who connects on less than 40% of his freebies.
5. Traveling partner:
When Jim Baron accepted the head coaching position at Canisius to lead the Golden Griffins beginning this season, his son was given a unique opportunity. Jim was the head coach at the University of Rhode Island and his son, Billy, played under him. Billy wanted to take his basketball ability from Rhode Island to Canisius as his father was doing and the NCAA obliged, waiving the one-year inactive season that typically comes with a transfer.
In his first season with the Golden Griffins, Billy is contributing heavily in scoring, as previously mentioned, while also leading Canisius as well as the entire MAAC in assists per game, with six.
His father, Jim, has led the team to its best start in the 21st century at 6-1. Under Jim, the Golden Griffins have already won more games in seven opportunities than they did in 30 games last seasons, where they won a mere five games and lost the other 25.