Syracuse – Memphis Preview

SU nears the conclusion of its non-conference slate and will take on last year's national runner up, Memphis. Though the Tigers lost many key components from last year's squad, they'll still present a daunting challenge for the Devo-less Orange.

Syracuse will get a taste of adversity, as it'll be missing shooting guard Eric Devendorf for the first time this year.  While his suspension was reduced on Friday, number 23 is still suspended indefinitely until he meets certain terms laid forth by the University Appeals Board, one of which includes forty hours of community service.  To top that off, point guard Jonny Flynn is a game-time decision, according to coach Jim Boeheim.  Flynn tweaked his hip in the Canisius game and played sparingly in the second half. 

For all of Boeheim's bluster and talk though, you can bet Jonny Flynn will be out there playing.  This is a showcase game for not only the team but also for Flynn as one of the nation's premiere point guards.  In Antonio Anderson and freshman Tyreke Evans, Flynn will face perhaps his biggest challenge yet.  Without Devendorf, Flynn will be relied on even more for ball control and penetration.  While he'll take his bumps and bruises going in the lane against Memphis' athletes, Flynn is a gamer.  And what's more, even if he plays this one and aggravates the injury more, he shouldn't be needed in the Coppin State game.  This would give him ten days to rest and recover for Big East play.

As for the teams, they've met twice.  Memphis topped SU 70-63 in November 2002.  The Orange would go on to win the national title that year and would even up the series with Memphis the following season.  While the teams are much different now, the keys to the game remain relatively unchanged.  Both teams have a plethora of athletes, but can be very mistake-prone.  Whichever team can stick to the fundamentals of basketball (rebounding, free throw shooting, staying out of foul trouble, etc.) will likely win this clash.

Expect some of the subs to play a bigger role than usual with Devo's absence (here's looking at you, Kris Joseph and perhaps Mookie Jones).  Rick Jackson should also continue his meteoric rise to national prominence.  Memphis features two main big men, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier.  They are both long and lanky, so you can expect to get a healthy dose of A.O. and Jackson down in the low post.

6 Keys and Stats to Ponder

·       -Memphis shoots just 27% from behind the arc.  This is an athletic team that relies on its speed and quickness to create mismatches.  Boeheim's 2-3 zone could be successful in frustrating Memphis, but the fact remains that it does allow a lot of open 3s from opponents.  Cornell is the most notable team to torch the zone so far this year, but most teams have seen a spike in shooting percentages when playing SU this year.  Thus, how Boeheim chooses to handle the defensive schemes will be a pivotal factor.

·       -The boards will be a key.  Memphis is traditionally known as a physical team and as very solid rebounders.  They pull down just over 42 a game so far this year and routinely outrebound opponents.  We've all seen SU's propensity for slow starts and shoddy rebounding (11 first half offensive boards for Cleveland State).  Paul Harris will be more valuable scrapping for boards than for his offensive prowess.  Hopefully, SU can get a dozen rebounds out of the power forward position too (Kristof Ongenaet and Rick Jackson).

·       -A couple of things for SU to exploit.  Memphis can be undisciplined at times, averaging nearly 14 turnovers per game.  Tyreke Evans is one of the biggest culprits, with nearly four per game.  Whether it's Andy or Paul on defense, a few stops could definitely fluster Memphis' talented freshman.  Also, one of Memphis' big men, Robert Dozier averages 3.5 fouls per game.  (As a team, they average over 19 per game, which should give SU its fair share of opportunities to perfect that foul shot).  If SU can take him out of the game early, it should be able to reign supreme in the low post.

·       -The key matchup I'll be watching is Jonny Flynn versus Antonio Anderson.  Jonny can prove himself as one of the nation's elite by handling Anderson (very underrated) and a Memphis team that is likely to press and speed the game up as much as possible.  If a less-than-100% Flynn is able to control this game and be the catalyst for his team, he'll be making a big statement to the rest of college basketball.

·       -The coaches will be interesting to watch, as John Calipari and Jim Boeheim are two of the nation's best coaches and have been involved in some memorable games in the past. 

       -Scoring more isn't always good against the Tigers.  Their goal is to play a frenetic, up-tempo game.  The two games they've lost this year were low scoring games (keep in mind, the Georgetown game was knotted in the 60s before the overtime session).  SU will likely slow the game down, with some sets and plays for the shooters.  Both Flynn and Rautins struggled with their shots last game.  Andy has struggled for much of the year.  This game is one where they'll likely need him to hit a couple of threes to escape hostile territory with a W.

Prediction:  Syracuse 81, Memphis 76


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