Syracuse (14-1 overall, 2-0 Big East, #7 nationally) visits the Dunkin Donuts Center Wednesday night (7pm, Cox and SNY) to take on the Friars (8-6, 0-2) for perhaps the final in Providence. The Orange will join the ACC next season. Here’s what to watch for on Wednesday night.
1. Michael Carter-Williams has exploded as a sophomore. Jim Boeheim’s staff was out in front of most when they got a verbal commitment from MCW in the fall of his junior year. At that point Carter-Williams was a single digit scorer at St. Andrew’s, but a monster junior year followed by continued improvement as a senior landed him on the McDonald’s All American team in 2011. He was the first Rhode Island high school basketball player to be awarded the honor.
After playing sparingly on perhaps the nation’s most talented team last season, the 6’5 point guard has taken over at Syracuse and is leading the nation in assists (9.8 per game) and is 5th in steals. After shooting well from three point range as a freshman, he’s struggled to find the range from deep (a sub 30% shooter) and is only shooting 37% from the field, but he’s a talented scorer and superior distributor who could well be on his way to winning the Big East’s Player of the Year award.
Having played high school ball in nearby Barrington and growing up in Massachusetts, Carter-Williams (a former high school and AAU teammate of Ricky Ledo) will be geared up for this one.
2. The Orange return a veteran core, one capable of beating you in a variety of ways. Senior combo guard Brandon
Triche leads them in scoring (just over 15 ppg) and has put up 45 points in their two Big East games – wins over Rutgers and South Florida. Triche torched Providence last season, scoring 16 points on 4-5 from three in only 23 minutes, making a trio of huge threes early in the second half.
Baltimore product CJ Fair could be a star in most other programs, but here he is a matchup nightmare at 6’7 with tremendous athleticism. The lefty is one of the most ferocious finishers in the conference. He played for Jason Smith at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
The player most capable of turning a game around offensively may be fifth year senior sniper James Southerland. New England fans may remember him from his Notre Dame Prep days running alongside a group including Sean Kilpatrick, and former Friars Ron Giplaye and Johnnie Lacy. At 6’8, he’s a long cover on the perimeter and hoists away at will, taking five three pointers a game while making them at over 40%. He hit 9-13 from deep in a win over Arkansas.
3. Continuity and depth on the Orange’s side. Boeheim has nine players averaging double figures in minutes per game and each has played in all 15 games this season. Triche and Carter-Williams are the only two who play over 30 minutes.
Conversely, only Kadeem Batts, LaDontae Henton and Josh Fortune have played in every game for a Friar group that is still searching for continuity on both ends of the floor.
4. A flashback to 2012? Providence gave Syracuse all they could handle in a similar situation last year. The Orange were #1 in the country then, while PC stood at 0-2 in the conference, but they went toe to toe for 35 minutes before falling late.
With the game out of hand and the final seconds ticking away, Syracuse threw down a windmill dunk that Providence head coach Ed Cooley didn’t seem very fond of.
5. End of an era. While it appears as though Providence will land on their feet, Syracuse played a key role in putting the final nail in the Big East’s coffin (as we’d known it) last year when they announced they were departing for the ACC along with Pittsburgh. This very well could be the last time we see the Orange in Providence.
For all of the positive publicity regarding the future of the Catholic 7, games like this will certainly be missed.
Providence is 10-46 all-time against Syracuse and 6-22 at home. Their last win over the Orange was a 100-94 victory over then-#15 Syracuse in 2009. Sharaud Curry had 22 points to lead six Friars in double figures. Jonny Flynn had 35 for SU. Providence stood at 6-2 in the conference at that point in Keno Davis’s first season at the helm.
6. What kind of impact can Kadeem Batts have in the middle of the zone? Batts had one of his better games at home against Syracuse a season ago, scoring 14 points (3-5 FG, 8-10 FT) after struggling a bit from his return after missing the first semester. Batts connected from the top of the key and got to the line frequently and could be asked to play a similar role this year.
Aside from his 27 versus Louisville, Batts’s two highest scoring games last season came against Syracuse.
7. Cotton a key. His health and ability to find shots from deep against Syracuse’s zone will be a critical factor in Providence’s upset hopes. Syracuse held Rutgers to 36% shooting before limiting South Florida to only 44 points on Sunday.
Cotton has been PC’s swing player throughout the past two seasons and they’ll desperately need him to spread the floor on Wednesday.
Bonus: for old time’s sake.
Email Kevin at email@example.com