The Jackets take on Syracuse in their second game of conference play, looking to keep the momentum going from the previous game against Nebraska. Before the game, we sat down with Kevin Wall from Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to get his insight on what he expects when the Huskers and Jackets battle in Atlanta.
FTRS: Let’s jump right into the meat here. Syracuse is sitting at 4-4, including a couple double digit losses. What are the thoughts on this team and their performance so far this season?
The record and the performances are a little disappointing only because this team was thought to be one that could overcome some deficiencies with strong outside shooting. In the last three games Syracuse has struggled to make shots and the ease in which Iowa pulled away in the second half the other night brought a lot of questions about the talent level on the roster. This Syracuse squad lacks players who can create their own shots so it puts a lot of pressure on Elijah Hughes.
FTRS: Syracuse is ranked 48th in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency metric, which is not terrible, but not the terrifying defense Syracuse has historically been known for. How are team’s attacking the zone better than in years past?
This year’s team lacks a strong rim protector and is missing size and speed at the top of the zone. Teams have been able to find passing lanes at the foul line which have opened up more shots on the wings and that’s pulled those defenders further from the basket meaning more opportunities for offensive rebounds. With a number of new players in the line-up the zone’s rotations have been slower as players just aren’t as accustomed to where they need to be on the floor. So the overall numbers seem to mask some of the issues that need to be fixed as the season goes on.
FTRS: Elijah Hughes leads this team in scoring by a significant margin. What makes his game so effective?
Elijah’s shown a better ability to take his defender off the dribble this year and his size usually allows him to be able to shoot over opponents when closely guarded. What has also helped him is his willingness to pass the ball to open teammates. He struggled in the Iowa game so we’ll see how he bounces back on Saturday. I’d expect that Syracuse will try to combat Georgia Tech’s defense by putting the ball in his hands and trusting him to make the right reads.
FTRS: Outside of Hughes, who are the main players on Syracuse to watch for?
Both Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard have the ability to catch fire from outside. Boeheim shot 6/8 from 3 against Bucknell and Girard was 5/6 against Seattle so if both get hot in the same game it will make Syracuse tough to defend. Jim Boeheim has challenged Marek Dolezaj to be more aggressive on offense so look for the Orange to try to get him involved early in an attempt to open up opportunities for the shooters. Last game he had 10 first-half points and Syracuse needs him to look to score.
FTRS: What’s your prediction for this one? Who wins and why?
I think Georgia Tech wins this one by 6 or 7 points. I think the defense is going to pose problems for the Syracuse backcourt and Hughes is going to wear down from carrying a heavy load. Players like James Banks have killed Syracuse this season and his offensive rebounding could lead to open looks for Michael Devoe against an unsettled zone.
Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure to check out some Syracuse coverage over at Nunes Magician.