At a Glance
In the throes of a four-game losing streak, the Ramblin’ Wreck sputters into Saturday’s matchup against the Syracuse Orange looking for a much-needed win ahead of their impending matchups with Clemson and Duke.
Syracuse Season Overview
A tale as old as time, the Syracuse Orange started the season in uninspiring fashion, but have begun to right the ship in ACC play. With losses to Colgate and Bryant, as well as an absolute drubbing at the hands of Illinois, the Orange seemed to be carving out a nice spot for themselves among the ACC’s basement. However, a one point win in South Bend springboarded a 9-3 stretch for the Orange, with all three losses coming in competitive fashion against the top of the conference. The Syracuse Orange now find themselves fighting for a seat at their favorite table – the NCAA Tournament bubble. If they want to secure a seat, they’ll need to take care of business on Saturday against a floundering Georgia Tech squad.
As has become the norm in his latter years, Jim Boeheim’s squad wins with their offense. However, unlike last year’s team, this Syracuse squad does not generate much offense from the perimeter. Instead, they look to attack the paint, with 10% of their shot attempts being dunks and over 70% coming inside of the three point line. Although they rarely shoot threes, they do still shoot at a high clip from beyond the arc. Defensively, they look to force their opponents into doing the complete opposite, using their 2-3 zone to pack the paint and encourage longer shots. So far this season, nearly half of the shots attempted against Syracuse’s defense have come from beyond the three point line. The issue is that many of these shots are either poorly contested or just not contested at all. Teams that can make open threes have had their way with this Syracuse defense. Earlier in the season, the Colgate Raiders made 19 threes on 39 attempts en route to scoring 80 points against this Syracuse team. If Georgia Tech can knock down their open looks (admittedly, that is a pretty big if) then they will have a chance to win this game.
Players to Watch
#14 Jesse Edwards | 6’11 | C | Sr.
13.9 PPG | 11.0 RPG | 2.8 BPG | 1.1 SPG
The heart and soul of this Syracuse team, Jesse Edwards is the only thing keeping an already below-average defense from being truly terrible. However, Edwards is not just a defensive stalwart, he is also a terrific rebounder and a scoring threat near the rim. At 6’11, and with long arms, Edwards is a poor man’s Rudy Gobert. An agile rim runner and prolific shot blocker, Jesse Edwards could spell trouble for a Georgia Tech team that is ill-equipped to compete with dominant frontcourt players.
#11 Joe Girard III | 6’1 | G | Sr.
16.9 PPG | 3.6 APG | 2.8 3PM | 36.7 3P%
Joe Girard is almost a walking stereotype at this point. A streaky-shooting, undersized combo guard with supreme confidence, deep range, and questionable decision making. Girard has started for the Orange in all four of his seasons and has been, for better or worse, the same guy every year. He is just as likely to go for 30 points as he is to shoot 5-20 from the field. If he gets hot on Saturday, it might be a long day for the Yellow Jackets.
#3 Judah Mintz | 6’3 | G | Fr.
14.9 PPG | 2.3 RPG | 4.4 APG | 2.0 SPG
Judah Mintz is one of four Freshman in the Syracuse rotation. He’s a crafty playmaker with a smooth handle, great vision and a knack for weaving his way into the paint. Mintz is not a great shooter, shooting an abysmal 17% from three. However, he is so skilled at getting to his spots and creating off the dribble that his lack of range hasn’t prevented him from being extremely productive. Despite being only a Freshman, Mintz currently holds the highest usage rate on the Syracuse roster at 26.9%. He is also a pesky defender, leading the Orange in both steals and steal rate. If he can become even just an okay shooter, Judah Mintz will likely find himself on an NBA roster in the near future.
I am not feeling too confident about the Yellow Jackets’ chances in this one. In the few moments we have seen this team play against zone defenses, the results have been disastrous. However, Josh Pastner’s teams have not typically struggled to score against the Syracuse zone, and perhaps that will continue to be the case. With their backs against the walls, I would not be surprised to see Pastner and his staff throw some different looks at the Orange. In the only meeting between these teams last season, Jalon Moore saw extended playing time and was used extensively at the high post on offense. I would love to see more of that, as I believe Jalon has a feel for the game that is not present in any of the other frontcourt players. He and Rodney Howard could make for a serviceable high-low post tandem. Where my concerns really lie, however, is on the defensive end. This team has struggled to limit dribble penetration and defend dominant big men all year. The duo of Edwards and Mintz seems tailor made to expose the flaws of this Georgia Tech defense. Josh Pastner will have to get creative with his defensive looks if the Yellow Jackets want to stop this losing streak on Saturday.
Prediction: Tech struggles to protect the paint or convert open looks and loses soundly, 65-78