After a strong defensive effort against #25 Michigan at the CLA a few nights ago, the 5-0 Gamecocks face their latest challenge: the #18 Syracuse Orange at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Orange, a Final Four team from last year, enter the game 4-0 with wins over Colgate, Holy Cross, Monmouth and South Carolina State.
To help us break down the matchup, we got a chance to speak with James Szuba over at our sister site, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, which covers the Orange. Enjoy the Q&A!
Certainly I (no one) expected Syracuse to get to the Final Four last year, especially with all the distractions of the NCAA investigation still hanging over them. How was Jim Boeheim able to handle all of that and focus his team?
One of Boeheim's biggest strengths is avoiding distraction. He takes away all the extraneous material from his players so they can go out and just play basketball. Certainly they got a break with Michigan State losing to Middle Tennessee, but the guys were competitive in every game throughout the season in the toughest conference. That helped catapult the team to the Final 4.
Boeheim is obviously retiring at the end of 2017-18. While that's still a little ways off, is it fair to assume that the Orange under Mike Hopkins will look somewhat similar to the Orange under Jim Boeheim, or is it too early to tell?
We can't be too sure with new AD John Wildhack in the fold now. The original plan was to have Hop take the reigns after 2017-2018, but so far we haven't had a definitive answer. TBD.
How have the Orange gotten it done thus far over their first few games? I know Tyler Lydon is a player of the year candidate, but who else should Gamecocks fans be looking at on Saturday?
Lydon has actually gotten off to a slow start sans last game. Andrew White is currently leading the team in scoring and he can shoot with the best of them. Syracuse is getting good play from the point guard spot as Frank Howard and John Gillon have split time. And Tyler Roberson is still getting boards. There's really not one guy to focus on because this team can hurt you in so many ways.
South Carolina wins if...
Syracuse struggles to shoot and gives up easy threes and shots at the rim. The team as a collective has shot well from outside but hasn't imposed its will on the interior just yet. If you guys knock down shots and loosen up the zone, anything can happen.
Syracuse wins if...
It does what it does. Syracuse just simply has to play its game and I think it comes out with the victory.
Any predictions? Do the Orange keep rolling or do the Gamecocks make it 6-0?
I ultimately think Syracuse will win this one but crazier things have certainly happened. I'm looking forward to covering and seeing Syracuse take on its first true test of the season away from home. Cheers to a good game!