UConn men’s basketball heads to New York City tonight to face off against their arch-rival Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. Last season, the Huskies squeaked by 52-50 thanks to a pair of foul shots by Christian Vital in the final seconds.
1) I know it's early, but with a 6-1 start do you feel Syracuse has exceeded expectations?
I think this team is slightly above the expected benchmark for this season. There's no shame in dropping a game to Kansas and the guys hung close the second half. Relative to youth and inexperience, Syracuse has played pretty well, all things considered.
2) How does the loss of Geno Thorpe affect the team?
Well depth is a factor, first and foremost. Now Syracuse only has three guards in rotation so injuries and foul trouble become key. It's really a shame as I felt the more reps and experience he got within the program would have led to an increase in playing time. We still don't exactly know why he left, but I felt he could have had an increase in role/responsibility as the season went on.
3) How proficient would you say Syracuse is down low, offensively and defensively?
Our bigs have generally done a solid job anchoring the zone but offensive play leaves a bit to be desired. Sidibe is the better of the two on the offensive end but he's been plagued with tendonitis in the knee.
4) Tell us what to expect from leading scorer Tyus Battle?
He's been as good as advertised, really. He's playing like a first-round pick. He can score it from all three levels and he's a tenacious, long defender atop the zone. He's not shooting a great percentage from deep but he's more than capable of knocking down the long-ball. That's about the only thing he hasn't done well thus far.
5) What did the loss to UConn at MSG last year mean for Syracuse?
Had Syracuse won that, or any other non-conference road/neutral game, it likely would have made the tournament. It was a discouraging loss especially on a national stage against a former rival. And to lose a game on a foul call is always tough.
I'll say Syracuse wins this one 70-66. From what I've seen, UConn is still playing apropos of a bunch of guys who just met each other for a pickup game. And I mean that in a matter-of-fact way and not an insulting one. One-on-one against a zone isn't a sustainable strategy so unless UConn plays as a unit, I'll take Syracuse all day.