On Thursday night, UConn men’s basketball will face off against their former Big East rival Syracuse for the first time under head coach Dan Hurley. The Orange enter the game ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25. The Huskies, meanwhile, are still a bit of mystery through two games.
We talked to James Szuba of Nunes Magician to get the inside scoop on Syracuse from the people that know the team best.
What are Syracuse fans’ perceptions of UConn, especially with Dan Hurley now in charge?
Generally speaking, I think the Syracuse fan base objectively has respect UConn basketball and everything it stood for under Jim Calhoun. But now it’s probably viewed as a program with its best days behind it and unfortunately for UConn, being in the AAC isn’t the same as having a power-5 conference affiliation. Hurley is a great hire and we’ll be interested in seeing how he pans out.
This is arguably the biggest game on the schedule for UConn fans. Do Syracuse fans treat it the same way?
It’s still a pretty big game for Syracuse but we would be lying if it was treated the same as the UConn-Syracuse rivalry in the early 2000’s. For the non-conference though, this is amongst the best games and from a media perspective it makes sense to play a game like this, especially in New York at MSG. It’s good for the fan base, it’s good for visibility, it’s good for recruiting and for the sport of college basketball too. We’ll see if it continues once the ACC goes to 20 league games.
Tyus Battle had 8 points in the opener but then 23 against Morehead State. Was that first game just an anomaly or is there cause for concern?
Tyus has had to move to point given that Frank Howard, Jalen Carey and Howard Washington have all been injured in some capacity and he leveled off the gas in terms of being aggressive on the offensive end. He broke out of that mini slump in the second half of Saturday’s game.
What’s the deal with Buddy Boeheim? Is he just playing because he’s Jim’s son?
While there’s already been some malaise over him starting due to the injuries of others, Buddy is the real deal and is the best shooter on this team. He’s just a freshman but he can play, Mark Few thought enough of him to offer him a scholarship. He’s good, but he’s forced it a little in these first two games. Once he settles in and lets the game come to him he’ll be fine.
Is there someone besides Tyus that UConn fans should be aware of going into Thursday night?
Oshae Brissett might be the best player on this team. He’s from Mississauga and it still feels like he’s being overlooked. He’s on another level this year. UConn might be familiar with Elijah Hughes who transferred from ECU. He can score at all three levels. Senior point guard Frank Howard might make his return against UConn, too.
So, Boeheim was supposed to retire soon, but now he’s not. How much longer do you think he coaches and does he get that elusive second national title before he finally retires for good?
I don’t think Boeheim will retire on his own volition any under circumstance. How it goes down is anyone’s guess.
Who wins and why?
I’ll say Syracuse wins based on its defense. This could be the best defensive Syracuse team of this decade. The offense is a work in progress, but the defense is good enough to get the Orange over the hump.