San Diego State vs. Syracuse: Get To Know The Orange
Who is Syracuse?
We chat with an expert
San Diego State opens up its NCAA Tournament against No. 11 seeded Syracuse Orange out of the ACC. There are a few pretty common facts about that team: they are coached by a Hall of Famer in Jim Boeheim who uses a world-famous 2-3 zone that is tough to crack.
The Orange ended the season with a 16-9 record, 9-7 in ACC play, fell to Virginia in the ACC tournament, and have a great player in Buddy Boeheim nicknamed “Buddy Buckets” for his scoring.
Beyond that, we are no experts on ACC or Syracuse hoops, so we reached out to John Cassillo over at Nunes Magician to provide some more insight and depth to who San Diego State is up against. Also, go check out their site for all of their coverage on this game, including questions we answered about this game.
1. Who are the players most important for Syracuse to win?
Syracuse has gotten a bit of a reputation these past two years for being a three-point shooting team. And while they do that, it’s also an overblown assumption. The Orange are typically at their best when they drive the lane and create open shots for their guards beyond the arc. So it’s crucial for Quincy Guerrier to both have a good game on offense, and find a way to stay out of foul trouble. We don’t have much in the way of experienced bigs this year, so he’s arguably the most important player for SU.
The other player that could be a major help toward getting a victory is Kadary Richmond. The freshman guard is the team’s top defender, and an efficient shooter as well. He was nursing an injury in the ACC Tournament, and that limited him there. If he’s close to 100% here, that’s a big difference maker who helps on both ends of the floor.
2. SDSU shoots the three-point shot well this year, so how does the Syracuse famous zone defense adjust if the Aztecs get hot?
Honestly, continuing to take shots from outside is exactly what Syracuse wants you to do. Avoiding driving the lane means SU is not getting its rebounding struggles exposed, and likely not getting its bigs in foul trouble either. Jim Boeheim will probably take a loss every time if a team just manages to get hot and bombs the Orange out of the gym. That’s less an indictment on the zone and more just a good night from the opposing team.
3. What ACC team would you compare San Diego State, too?
I don’t necessarily think there’s a perfect comp, but there are some similarities with both Virginia and Clemson (the latter of which is also in the Midwest region with us). UVA’s slow and plodding but a very efficient shooting team — where they differ is how the Hoos are just a much better team from inside the arc than San Diego State. Clemson’s similarly great on defense, but lacks the same size as UVA and isn’t a great three-point shooting squad.
Syracuse has tested both of those teams this year, and beaten the Tigers once. I think a lot of what worked in that win over Clemson — getting to the line, SU using their size advantage inside, riding a hot hand (in this case, Alan Griffin) — is replicable. Just not easily.
4. What was the team’s biggest challenge this season?
Getting absolutely crushed on the glass. Syracuse allowed offensive rebounds at an alarming rate, and wasn’t all that great on the other end either. Allowing second chance points is how the team’s interior defense gets wasted and how those threes they want the zone to create become a little too open for comfort.
5. Syracuse played Virginia the day before they left due to a positive COVID-19 test. Are there any issues with this team in that area?
None that have been reported. Everyone on the team’s tested negative several times since, and contact tracing apparently didn’t reveal any major risks. They’re now out of quarantine and practicing, so that seems like a good sign that this game should be able to go off as planned, with Syracuse at full strength.
6. Who wins and why?
I’ll start this by saying that a win by either team wouldn’t surprise me at all. San Diego State’s the better team on the year, has a defense that could scuttle a successful Orange gameplan and an offense that could get just hot enough from outside to net a win (see what happened in the second half vs. UVA).
However, given Boeheim’s NCAA Tournament experience, SDSU’s lack of familiarity with the 2-3 zone and the Orange’s recent efforts to figure out a more balanced offense that even utilizes the bench, I’m leaning SU. Not by much, mind you — a 71-67 victory. But just think Syracuse has figured enough out lately to spring another first round upset. That prediction’s thrown out the window the second there’s early foul trouble for Guerrier or Marek Dolezaj, though, so keep an eye out for that.