Jim Boeheim is one of only two coaches in the Big East to own a winning record against John Thompson III. Boeheim's Orange has pulled out four wins versus two losses since JTIII took the reins in DC.
SU has taken eight of the past ten contests, nearly pulling two upsets last season alone. The ‘Cuse triumphed 77-70 over the Hoyas, the eighth ranked squad in the country at the time, at home by getting out of the gates fast. They also lost a heartbreaker 64-62 to the Hoyas in overtime, a game that SU had many chances to win as regulation wound down.
While SU was unranked for both of those matchups last year, this year's two clashes will be the polar opposite. SU and Georgetown are both firmly entrenched as two of the Big East's top dogs and will be in title contention, both in the regular season and the Big East tourney.
Tonight's matchup should be a doozy, but it will also be another chance for the Orange to prove the naysayers wrong. Expect Jim Boeheim to use both zone and man defenses in the game (predominantly the zone though because Georgetown has been going through a horrid shooting stretch). SU would like to run up and down the floor with the Hoyas, but expect this game to be a defensive chess match. If the vaunted 2-3 zone can stymie the Hoyas early (it has done so in the past) and Syracuse can get out to an early lead (something they've struggled to do this season), then the Orange will have a great shot at the win.
While diehard SU fans will likely be attending the game in the thousands, it's still a road game in a tough environment and you can expect the Georgetown student section to be all riled up for this rivalry game, having been back in school for over a week. It will be important to establish the tone and tempo of the game early to take the crowd out of it, but it will also be important how it is established. The best way: through the low post. SU has two big men in Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson that will have the chance to feast on the boards. Georgetown is being outrebounded by 3.2 boards per game. Even with the continuing emergence of freshman sensation Greg Monroe (who just missed a triple-double in his most recent outing), Arinze should still be able to do work in the low post with his size advantage on Monroe.
Expect this contest to be a physical one, a game of attrition in which both teams get to prove their mettle at the charity stripe. This, along with the homecourt advantage, should favor the Hoyas who shoot 73% from the line as a team. If this SU team is as special as many think it is though, one of its interchangeable parts, be it Andy Rautins, Eric Devendorf, Jonny Flynn or someone else, will step up to give the ‘Cuse a 5-0 start in Big East play.
Six Keys To The Game / Burning Questions
-How will Paul Harris fare coming off his monster effort (and benching after a T in Piscataway)? I broach this subject because somewhat lost amongst the shuffle was the fact that Paulie did reaggravate his hand injury on Saturday. He was noticeably grimacing after a couple of plays in the contest. When he first injured it (against Seton Hall), he sat out the following game at South Florida. While a game at Georgetown is much different than one at South Florida, you've gotta wonder how effective Harris will be. He certainly won't get a DNP tonight, but don't be surprised if he shies away from contact and drives to the rim in this one. Hopefully, it won't impact his rebounding because the Orange need as many rebounds as possible after the Scarlet Knights took them to town on the boards Saturday.
-How does Andy Rautins rebound from his first subpar game in a while? Rautins got into early foul trouble against Rutgers and was limited to just one three point basket for the night. Fortunately, Andy didn't force his shot and the Orange didn't need much from Leo's son on that night, but his services will come in handy against the nation's third-best field goal percentage defense tonight. Expect Andy to hit a couple of big ones, but also to serve as the dime machine if Jonny Flynn reverts back to the playground point guard that he has been at times this season.
-The battle of the big men will be telling in this game (also, how the refs call blocks and charges will be more important than normal). Case in point: young Greg Monroe seems to have no aversion to contact, driving the ball repeatedly down into the post in an earlier game against Notre Dame. One such play resulted in Luke Harangody, the reigning Big East POY, picking up his fourth foul early in the second half. That play had the potential to change the game (it didn't however) and also showed Monroe's propensity for getting involved in those tossup block/charge calls. Monroe averages only 2.3 personal fouls per game. But if he gets a little carried away down in the low post and the Orange draw some charges, they could sway the momentum of the game. Monroe is the knight guarding the castle and without him in the game, they would be down to lanky frosh Henry Sims. If that happens, expect A.O. to pillage the basket all night long. On the other end of this argument, it was also lost in the shuffle that Onuaku fouled out of the Rutgers game. If Monroe can pick up some cheap blocking fouls on SU's big men, who knows what will happen. That's because we've (thankfully) rarely seen Onuaku in foul trouble this season.
-Though they've played nearly half of their basketball seasons, SU and G-Town only have one opponent in common: Memphis. SU won on the road by seven (without Devendorf) while the Hoyas won by nine in overtime at home. Memphis outrebounded SU by twelve and the Hoyas by seventeen.
-For SU to win, they need to neutralize Georgetown's experience (or lack thereof). This is one of the younger Hoyas teams we've seen in a while. It only has one senior in the starting lineup, guard Jessie Sapp. In Georgetown's three losses this season, Sapp has shot 4 for 20 (20%) from the floor, averaging under five points per contest. In fact, Sapp is in quite the slump now. In his past seven contests, he's just 11 for 49 from the floor. If SU can frustrate him with the zone and put up more than 75 points in this one, they should win. However, if Sapp can pass it to DaJuan Summers for some drives, SU could be in trouble. Summers is regarded by many as Jeff Green 2.0. The versatile forward can both shoot the trey (nearly 45%) and slash and drive. Combined with the marksmanship of Chris Wright, who can get hot at any time, the Hoyas will be a dangerous matchup. However, the Orange will also give the Hoyas fits in matchups too.
-The Hoyas do not have a deep bench at all. The starters account for nearly eighty percent of their offense, with the reserves averaging under fifteen points per contest. The Hoyas also struggle in the turnover department, averaging more than thirteen per game. If the Orange can turn these turnovers into some fast break points and use its superior depth and size, this is a game that is winnable for the Orange. It will all depend on how the team starts and ends each half.
Prediction: #8 Syracuse 74, #12/13 Georgetown 69