Can the Orange remain perfect in ACC play?
The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (11-4, 2-0) maintained their perfect start in ACC play with a 61-53 win over the Clemson Tigers Wednesday evening, and now they’ll look to make it three wins to start conference play as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-6, 1-1) come into the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse’s offense struggled to find a rhythm against the Tigers, but their defense was as dominant as it’s been all season long. The Orange can survive against the weaker ACC teams when their offense struggles due to their stout defense, but with some tough ranked opponents coming up, SU could use a hot shooting game against the Yellow Jackets to gain some confidence.
The center situation
Paschal Chukwu was the odd man out of the big man rotation Wednesday night, as starting center Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe took all of his minutes. Dolezaj was able to space the floor with two made threes, as his versatility and passing ability helped Syracuse find just enough offense. Sidibe came through with some key rebounds and blocks to help stop the strength of Elijah Thomas inside; whether or not Chukwu comes back in the rotation will be something to watch Saturday night.
Can Frank Howard make it back to back quality outings?
Frank Howard has struggled ever since he returned from injury this season, but the senior point guard had arguably his best game of the season against the Tigers. Howard finished with 12 points (4-of-8 shooting from the field), five rebounds, and four assists, as he was able to get his jumper into a rhythm. The Orange need last year’s version of Howard if they want to reach their full potential, so let’s see if his last outing was a sign of good things to come.
The three-point shot is going to be a question mark all season long for the Orange, but it is going to be nearly impossible for the Orange to win the “big games” if Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett combine for zero threes on 10 attempts again. Brissett and Battle do their best work inside, but this offense becomes truly difficult to stop when two of the team’s top three scorers are in somewhat of a rhythm from deep. Elijah Hughes was able to hit some key threes against Clemson, but it’ll be important for Battle and Brissett to turn things around against Georgia Tech.
Slowing down Jose Alvarado
Alvarado, a sophomore guard for the Yellow Jackets, nearly carried Georgia Tech to an upset win over the number nine ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in his last outing (he had 20 of their 49 points). He can score from all over the floor, so it’ll be crucial for the Orange to contain him starting from the perimeter most importantly. Syracuse is the only team below Georgia Tech in scoring this season in the ACC, so limiting Alvarado’s points would be a great start to coming out a winner on Saturday.
Taking care of the ball
The Orange have the tendency to get sloppy with the ball at times, which allows weaker opponents to stay in games longer than they should (see Elijah Hughes’s turnovers last night that assisted in keeping Clemson around longer than they should’ve been). Tech has the fifth most steals per game in the ACC (7.7), which could cause some trouble for Syracuse’s ball handlers. It’ll be crucial for the Orange to take care of the ball if they want to alleviate any stress for the Syracuse faithful in this one.