Caleb King (@calebking_2): Tuesday night will mark the first time that Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange will visit Madison to face Greg Gard’s Wisconsin Badgers.
This matchup will be part of the Big 10/ACC Challenge. The last time these two sides faced off was last season in New York at the Carrier Dome, also as part of the Big 10-ACC Challenge, where the Badgers knocked off the Orange by score of 66-58 in overtime. This will be the first time that Gard and Boeheim match up, however, because Bo Ryan was still the Head Coach for this game last season.
Syracuse comes in with a 4-1 record, their only blemish coming in their last contest where they saw defeat at the hands of South Carolina by score of 50-64. The Orange have not faced a ranked opponent, their closest win came against Monmouth, a 21-point route at the Carrier Dome. There’s no doubt that this top-25 showdown with Wisconsin will be the Orange’s first big test.
Wisconsin comes in after finishing 2-1 as the Runner-Ups in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament, and since then knocking off Prairie View A&M University on Sunday by score of 95-50 in Madison. At Maui the Badgers defeated Tennessee and Georgetown before falling to UNC in the title game.
The Badgers are definitely a more battle tested team coming into Tuesday’s clash, having already matched up with Creighton, now ranked 10th in the nation, and North Carolina, now ranked 3rd in the nation. Granted, the Badgers fell in both of those contests, giving them their two losses on the season to put them at 5-2 coming in. Wisconsin has felt the high intensity and pressure big games bring, which I believe will give them an edge in their matchup with Syracuse.
Syracuse brings in 4 players averaging double figures, the top scorer being Andrew White III, a transfer from Nebraska, who averages 17.3ppg for the Orange. There’s no doubt that White is the key player to watch for Syracuse. He’s a lanky 6-7 guard that spent his first two seasons at Kansas, then a year off, then a year at Nebraska and now will finish his college campaign with the Orange. He knows how the B1G plays and has had success against the Badgers in the past, in specific last season in the B1G tournament opening game. He’s a dynamic forward who just knows how to get buckets, it’s going to be a tough matchup for whoever (I’d assume Hayes) will take on that task. Look for Zak Showalter to have a matchup on Frank Howard. A lot of the Orange’s offense goes through this man, averaging 9.2ppg and 6.4apg. Showalter will make it hard for Howard to facilitate the offense as he’s accustomed to doing.
Obviously the Badgers will see a classic Orange 2-3 zone on Tuesday night, look for the Badgers to really settle into ball movement and penetrating the lane and kicking it out to shooters. It will be key for the Badgers to be active on the offensive glass as they were against Georgetown, Syracuse isn’t a great rebounding team and it will be essential for the Badgers to capitalize down low when given the chance. The Badgers perimeter defense will also need to be strong, Syracuse is known to love the outside chance which is a big reason why they aren’t a great rebounding team. It will be dangerous for the Badgers to allow them to get going early from beyond the arc.
My Player-To-Watch for tomorrow night is Vitto Brown. In a game like this, Vitto plays a big role in stretching that 2-3 zone and getting in those perimeter pockets to shoot. If Vitto can get going early it will be difficult for the Orange to maintain their effectiveness in the zone. There’s no doubt they will want to key on Koenig and not allow him to get open looks, but if Vitto can prove early on to be a threat, I believe this game will open up pretty fast.
King’s Prediction: BADGERS 64 Syracuse 54
Ben Thorson (@benjthorson): Caleb did a great job previewing this game, so I will make my comments short and simple. Here’s a list of strengths and weaknesses for the Badgers as they match up against Syracuse.
- Rebounding advantage: The Badgers outrebounded the Orange 51 to 25 in last year’s meeting. Wisconsin currently ranks fifth in the country with a +14.6 rebound margin.
- Effective forwards: UW found success last year penetrating zone and capitalizing on second chance opportunities. Nigel Hayes finished last year’s contest against the Orange with 15 points and 12 rebounds. While Ethan Happ collected 18 points and 15 rebounds. Look for dominant play from Hayes and Happ once again tonight.
- Pritzl Factor: The Badgers could look to use Brevin Pritzl against the Syracuse zone. Pritzl got live reps with the game day lineup in Monday’s practice, as he could look to boost the Badgers dismal 3-point shooting percentage (31.6%)
- Jump Shooting Team: We have already witnessed the result of games in which the Badgers are too dependent on jump shots. Wisconsin may think they have open looks against the zone, but should place emphasis on trying to penetrate and score easy buckets. The saving grace in this, is that the Badgers won last year in the Carrier Dome on 5-for-18 shooting from deep.
- Turnovers: The Badgers still haven’t done a good job of protecting the basketball. Wisconsin is currently averaging 13.3 turnovers per game, which ranks 136th in the country. Last season the Badgers turned the ball over 20 times against the Syracuse zone.
Limiting turnovers, dominating the boards, and strong play from Happ and Hayes will lead the Badgers to victory at the Kohl Center on Tuesday night.
Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 61 Syracuse 55