Pregame: Syracuse vs. Northeastern

The Northeastern University Huskies invade the Carrier Dome on Wednesday evening for a 7 PM game against the 3-0 Syracuse Orange. The 'Cuse is fresh off a 3-0 start, having just swept the BCA Invitiational. The Syracuse players will be playing their 4th game in 6 days, but they can look forward to a week off before their next game against Charlotte.

Northeastern will be playing their first game of the year on Wednesday night under new head coach Bill Coen. Staying competitive against the Orange will be a tall task for a team that lost its top two performers from last season's 19-11 squad. On the plus side for NU, Coen is intimately familiar with the Orange after serving 9 years as an assistant coach at Boston College.

Northeastern Personnel:The big issue for Northeastern will be how they replace former All-League players Jose Juan Brea and Shawn James. Brea is now making a living with the Dallas Mavericks after turning in a monster senior season at 21 ppg and 8.4 apg. His playmaking ability will surely be missed. C Shawn James led all Division 1 players with 196 blocked shots in 30 games last year. He also managed to score 12.4 points a game. It will be tough for NU to overcome the loss of such talented players.

It would have been nice to see James match up against SU's big men to help gauge their improvement over last year. James provided a legitimate interior presence, the type of which is rarely seen in the Colonial Athletic Association. Understanding the limited exposure that he would continue to receive in that league, James transferred to Duquesne in the off-season.

The Huskies do have some hope, however, in that 2 senior starters return from last year's team. Bennet Davis, a 6-9 F, and Bobby Kelly, a 6-3 SG form the nucleus of this Northeastern team. Both were productive players last season when they averaged around 8.5 ppg apiece. Davis is a pretty good interior rebounder and Bobby Kelly is a strong outside shooter (44-100 on three point shots).

The knock on Kelly is that he is not very good at setting up his own shot, which could end up being a big problem with Brea no longer on campus. The only other returning player who has seen major minutes is 6-2 G Adrian Martinez, a 5 ppg scorer last year. Martinez will take over the point guard slot this season and Coen expects much more production from his senior starter.

The rest of Northeastern's lineup is very much unsettled, but keep an eye out for freshman Matt Janning, who averaged over 30 ppg as a high school senior. Also, look for FR F Manny Adako to get some minutes in the frontcourt.

Game Outlook Northeastern suffered major personnel losses from last year and doesn't appear to have the firepower to stick with the Orange. This team is not on the level of SU's last two opponents UTEP and UPenn. Syracuse should be able to impose its will on the younger and less athletic Huskies, en route to a large margin of victory.

Look for Boeheim to resume focus on the man-to-man defense in this game, largely because SU will have some serious physical advantages. The Orange employed moderate amounts of zone in the last two games, but will likely shelf that defense unless the game gets close.

The other major thing to keep in mind tonight is that the bench will likely be expanded past the 8-man rotation that Boeheim used on Sunday. Freshman Mike Jones and Devin Brennan-McBride are both likely to see significant minutes, as long as the starters come out focused and gain a big lead. Considering their play over the last 3 games, that shouldn't be a problem.

Prediction SU wins big, 92-71. Paul Harris hits his first collegiate three pointer. Devendorf leads all scorers with 20+ points.

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