Matchup Preview: Syracuse vs. Colgate

Syracuse is looking to get back on track against long-time foe Colgate after a heartbreaking loss to Villanova just two days ago.

The Matchup: Syracuse (6-4) vs. Colgate (3-8)
Date: 12/22/14
Time: 7:00pm Eastern
Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
Television: ESPNU
The Series: Syracuse holds a 121-45 all-time edge, including 48-straight.

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. Against a smaller and athletically inferior team, he should be able to take a step towards staying out of foul trouble on a more consistent basis.

SG Trevor Cooney – Syracuse: The improvement of Cooney over the last two games has really helped Syracuse on the offensive end. During that stretch, he has hit seven of his 13 three-point attempts and averaged 21 points per game. Not only that, Cooney has added a dribble drive to his game. Cooney coming into his own completely changes how teams defend Syracuse’s offense.

SG Damon Sherman-Newsome - Colgate: Colgate’s leading scorer, Sherman-Newsome is a bigger guard who shoots nearly 50% from the floor despite taking almost six three-pointers per game. He is a strong outside shooter who rebounds well for a guard as well. He averages nearly 15 points per game and shoots 40% from beyond the arc.

PG Austin Tillotson – Colgate: Tillotson is Colgate’s best passer and second leading scorer. He leads the team in assists at 4.5 per game, but is also a strong outside shooter at 44%. He takes care of the basketball well and runs the show for the Raiders.

Colgate Offense vs. Syracuse Defense

Colgate is a solid, but not elite, outside shooting team. Outside of Sherman-Newsome and Tillotson, only forward Matt McMullen is a real threat. He is an undersized stretch four who struggles with bigger, more physical front lines. So if the Raiders are going to shoot over the top of the Syracuse zone, those three are the primary threats.

The Raiders will move the ball around the perimeter to try to get open looks for both Sherman-Newsome and Tillotson. Also, look for Tillotson to drive and kick or for McMullen to play at the free-throw line and distribute. Colgate may also overload one size of the floor to help get shooters good looks.

On the inside, Ethan Jacobs is Colgate’s best low-post threat as a 6-foot-11 center. Being their best low-post threat isn’t saying much, as he not an overly physical player. Despite his size, he is not a strong shot blocker or rebounder. Jacobs plays as a jump-shooting center, but only makes 39% of his shots.

Luke Roh is a third starting guard for Colgate. He is primarily a slasher and does not have much of an outside shot. He could be the primary candidate to dribble drive in order to penetrate the zone.

Colgate plays their starting five a vast majority of their minutes and do not go to the bench for extended minutes.

Look for the Syracuse zone to push out on Colgate and try to pressure their guards. They will stay at home on shooters, though the corners are where the Orange have been the most vulnerable. That means Michael Gbinije, Tyler Roberson and Chris McCullough will have to be smart about their rotations.

Syracuse Offense vs. Colgate Defense

With a significant size advantage, look for Syracuse to go inside early and often. Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough figure to be the focal point of the Orange attack. Ethan Jacobs and Matt McMullen will asked to guard those two, but will have their hands full to say the least.

Kaleb Joseph was very good at running the point for Syracuse in their loss to Villanova. Look for him to be efficient in this one against a subpar defensive team. He is learning to be a pass-first leader and will be counted on to feed the Syracuse frontcourt in this one.

Cooney will also have an advantage and should be able to have some success off the dribble. The strong play of the Orange forwards should allow Cooney to have a few open looks from the outside.

Also adding to that is Gbinije’s ability to drive and be aggressive on the offensive end. That really opened the floor for Syracuse against Villanova and would have the same effect in this one.

Final Thoughts

Syracuse is bigger, strong and more talented than Colgate all over the floor. After some tough non-conference games, this one should be a much needed blowout to help the Orange start to focus on conference play when the new year begins.

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