The Matchup: Syracuse (7-4) vs. Long Beach State (5-8)
Time: 2:00pm Eastern
Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
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.
PG Trevor Cooney – Syracuse: The improvement of Cooney over the last five games has really helped Syracuse on the offensive end. Over that span, he is shooting much better from the outside, taking defenders off the dribble and being a creator for others with the basketball. This is another great opportunity for Cooney to continue his ascent.
PG Mike Caffey-Newsome – Long Beach State: Caffey is the floor general and leading scorer for the 49ers. He is a sharp shooter, hitting 50% of his attempts from beyond the arc. Not only that, he is a skilled passer at nearly four assists per game. On the downside, he does struggle with turnovers. Defensively, he is a solid on the ball defender and is able to create turnovers for the opposition. All Syracuse eyes should be on Caffey all game as he is easily their best player.
PF David Samuels – Long Beach State: The best rebounder and interior player for Long Beach, Samuels is a bit undersized by power conference standards. But he also has a solid mid-range jumper and is good attacking the basket. He will test the Orange forwards, but does not have the athleticism or strength to battle with them consistently.
Long Beach State Offense vs. Syracuse Defense
Long Beach State is a good outside shooting team at 39% on the season from beyond the arc. Despite that, they are not an incredibly efficient team offensively. They shoot only 43% from the floor overall, 64% from the foul line and turn it over 15 times per game.
The best chance for the 49ers to beat the Syracuse zone is with their outside shooting. Point guard Mike Caffey is their best option, but he also dominates the ball. The key may be for some inside-out ball movement that frees Caffey and fellow guards Tyler Lamb and Branford Jones, both of whom can hit the outside shot.
Look for Caffey to also try to penetrate off the bounce and either create for himself or find other shooters in the corner, a place where the Orange zone has been vulnerable this season.
On the inside, Long Beach State does not have a lot of size. David Samuels and Temidayo Yussuf are the top options, but stand at only 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8 respectively. Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough for the Orange will have a size and strength advantage inside, which could make things very difficult for the Long Beach frontcourt.
What the 49ers do have is depth. They will rotate nine or ten guys, which keeps them fresh throughout the game. If Syracuse gets into foul trouble, this could be an edge for Long Beach State.
Syracuse Offense vs. Long Beach State Defense
Long Beach is going to play a traditional man-to-man style of defense. They will attempt to pressure the ball a bit to challenge the Syracuse ball handlers. The 49ers are not a great defensive team, however, and Syracuse should have the ability to get open shots.
The pick and roll will be key for Syracuse, with Kaleb Joseph finding Christmas or McCullough inside. The Orange will use both frequently, running sets for them out of the low-post as well.
Cooney will be key for Syracuse, as Long Beach is likely to pack in their defense and double the Orange forwards. That should give both Cooney and Kaleb Joseph opportunities to drive. Cooney can also get open shots off of some passes from the forwards out of the low block.
Michael Gbinije’s ability to hit the mid-range and outside shot will be important as well, as he can help open the rest of the floor for Cooney, Christmas and McCullough.
Syracuse is the more talented team and has a significant advantage inside. Look for the Orange to exploit that throughout Sunday’s matchup. This should be another solid win for Syracuse as they improve to 8-4 on the season.