Matchup Preview: Syracuse vs. Loyola

CuseNation.com breaks down the matchup between Syracuse and Loyola inside the Carrier Dome Tuesday night.

The Matchup: Syracuse (3-1) vs. Loyola (2-2)
Date: 11/25/14
Time: 7:00pm Eastern
Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
Television: ESPN3/YES

Key Players

C Rakeem Christmas - Syracuse: When Christmas has been on the floor, he has been very, very good this season. The problem is, he has been in foul trouble in every game. The key for Christmas, and the Orange, is to play smart basketball in order to limit his fouls. This game is a perfect opportunity to show he has improved in that aspect of his game.

G Trevor Cooney - Syracuse: Cooney has quietly put together a solid start to his junior season. Averaging 11 points, three assists, two steals and nearly three rebounds per game, Cooney has been steady as the shooting guard for the Orange. His shooting percentage overall is up, though his three-point percentage is down. If he can get closer to 40%, the way the rest of his game is rounding out, Cooney can become a consistent threat for the Orange.

G Eric Laster – Loyola: Loyola’s best player, Laster is a pure scorer who can hit from just about anywhere on the floor. He is hitting nearly 53% of his shots from beyond the arc this season, and that is not due to selective shooting. He attempts nearly five threes per game. Laster is athletic and quick off the bounce. He could be a zone killer for the Greyhounds. Against Butler in their last outing, he scored 24 of Loyola’s 39 points.

G Andre Walker – Loyola: The second best scoring option for Loyola, Walker is a solid guard who has struggled from the outside this season. Despite that, he has a smooth stroke and could test the Orange zone. He struggles with shot selection at times, hitting only 24% of his shots after an 0-7 performance against Butler. The Westbury (N.Y.) Native will be back in his home state and is a streaky shooter.

Loyola Offense vs. Syracuse Defense

Loyola does not have the athletes to beat the zone through consistent penetration, nor do they have the size to battle down low. So how can they attack the vaunted Orange zone? The answer is simple. Outside shooting.

The Greyhounds are only shooting 33% as a team from beyond the arc, but they have a few options who can fill it up from deep. The aforementioned Laster is shooting 53% this season from distance. His smooth shooting stroke and ability to get hot fast will test the outside of the zone. If he is hitting shots, it will open things up for everyone else.

Another of their three starting guards, Tyler Hubbard, is hitting over 41% of his shots from behind the arc. Most of his attempts come from deep, but he is another shooter Syracuse cannot leave open.

Forwards Cam Gregory and Franz Rassman are more finesse type players. Gregory is the team’s best rebounder. Rassman is a stretch type with a solid mid-range jumper. Both of these players will be at a length and athleticism disadvantage against the Syracuse front line.

The Greyhounds are a poor free-throw shooting bunch at just 63% on the season. Laster is hitting just 45.5% of his attempts from the charity stripe to go along with Rassman at 58%, Jarred Jones at 56% and Gregory at 50%.

Syracuse has a significant advantage in this battle. The zone will likely stretch out as Loyola does not possess significant inside threats. If they can hinder Laster, the Greyhounds will struggle to score. The play of Kaleb Joseph and Trevor Cooney up top will be critical.

Syracuse Offense vs. Loyola Defense

Through the first several games, Syracuse has pounded the ball inside with Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough. That theme should continue against Loyola. Christmas will be bigger and more physical than anyone the Greyhounds can throw at him. If he stays out of foul trouble, he should have a huge night on the low block.

McCullough will look to follow up the best performance of his young career with another strong outing. This matchup shapes up very well for him. He should have a strength and athleticism advantage much like Christmas. These two should pace a Syracuse offense that will get back on track.

Without a rim protector on Loyola’s roster, Syracuse should go into the paint early and often.

Kaleb Joseph will have to take care of the ball, as Loyola does like to pressure a little bit. He has turned the ball over too much in recent games, and has to be smarter with the basketball. His main job in this one will be to get the ball to Rak and Chris in favorable spots inside.

With the focus on the inside, there should be plenty of kick-out opportunities to get Trevor Cooney some open looks.

Final Thoughts

Syracuse has a huge advantage in this one and should be able to win rather easily. Their athleticism, talent and size advantage will be evident from the start. If the Orange plays as hard as they did against Iowa, they should blowout Loyola in the Carrier Dome.

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