Breaking down Wednesday's NIT matchup between the Syracuse Orange and UNC Greensboro Spartans.
SYRACUSE (18-14) AT VIRGINIA TECH (25-9)
Time – Wednesday, March 15th, 7:00pm
TV/Radio – ESPN2, 99.5FM WTKW
Playing for.... pride? – Both teams had NCAA Tournament aspirations. It is natural to be disappointed about not reaching that goal. Will either team, or both, come out flat as a result? If one team is ready to play while the other is not, that will show itself very early.
Last Hoorah – However long Syracuse remains in the NIT, these are the last college games for seniors John Gillon, Andrew White, Tyler Roberson and DaJuan Coleman.
Size Matters – Greensboro's starting frontcourt goes 6-foot-6, 6-8 and 6-9. Not the biggest, but no slouches either. Center R.J. White goes 255-pounds, so Syracuse will not simply be able to out-physical or overpower the Spartans inside.
Bombs Away - Greensboro has four regular players who are shooting over 37% from beyond the arc on the season. Their most dangerous are Francis Alonso (47%), Diante Baldwin (38%) and Demetrius Troy (37%). Expect the Spartans to try to get open looks from the outside.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Francis Alonso vs Syracuse Zone
Simply put, Alonso is one of the best shooters in college basketball. He is shooting 47% from the three-point and has made over 100 threes on the season. He is as dangerous a player to shoot over the top of the zone as the Orange have faced all season. Syracuse has to know where he is at all times and prevent open looks or he will torch them.
Orange Wins if …
They play with defensive energy – One of the reasons Syracuse has been so successful at home is better defensive efforts than on the road. Against a good outside shooting team like Greensboro (38.7% from deep as a team), Syracuse must not allow a disappointing NCAA Tournament omission to impact how they play.
Spartans Win if …
They shoot well from the outside – Everyone knows strong outside shooting is one of the best ways to beat a zone. With a plethora of shooters at their disposal, Greensboro has the tools to pull off an upset. If they are hitting their shots, it will put a lot of pressure on the Orange.
PG John Gillon – As John Gillon goes, so goes Syracuse. When he plays well, they can play with and beat anyone. When he does not, they can lose to anyone. A strong game from him likely means the Orange advance.
Something to Prove
F Tyler Lydon – Lydon has taken a lot of criticism for his play this season, specifically for his lack of aggression on the offensive end of the floor. Some of that criticism has been fair. Some has not. Regardless, this is a perfect opportunity for him to take over a game.
Looking to Build
G/F Andrew White – White had a 40 point record setting game the last time he played in the Carrier Dome. Can he continue his strong play and help lead the Orange to victory?
Freshman to Watch
G Tyus Battle – Battle has become arguably Syracuse's best player over the last several games. He can hit the outside shot and has developed a strong dribble-drive game with the ability to finish. Greensboro does not have anyone who can match up with his length, athleticism and burst.
Opposing Players to Watch
G Francis Alonso - The Spartans' leading scorer at over 15 points per game, Alonso can flat out shoot the basketball. He is making over 47% of his three-pointers and nearly 46% overall. Alonso is also a strong free-throw shooter at 87.7%.
G Diante Baldwin - Baldwin does a little bit of everything for the Spartans. He is the team's second leading scorer at over 13 points per game, shoots well from the outside at 38%, leads the team in assists at over four per game, snags over three rebounds per game and leads the Spartans in steals at nearly two per game. He is a strong all-around player who try to get the zone out of position with penetration and ball movement.
C R.J. White - White is a physical low post player who is also Greensboro's second leading rebounder. He averages 12 points and seven rebounds per game. He will test the interior of the Orange zone. White is making nearly 55% of his shots.
Greensboro will be able to score on Syracuse, but the Orange have too much length and athleticism. The game will be close for a while, but Syracuse will pull away with a strong offensive showing. Syracuse 81 Greensboro 73.