Miami Hurricanes Basketball Game 19 Preview: Syracuse Orange


Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York

Time: 4:00 PM


Line: Syracuse -3

The Miami Hurricanes Basketball team increased its conference record to 3-2 with a crucial victory over NC State on Thursday night. The ‘Canes (13-5) have a quick turnaround as they travel to play the Syracuse Orange (14-5, 5-1) on Saturday afternoon. A win at Syracuse should launch the Hurricanes into the Top-25 rankings.

Syracuse Scouting Report

Of the top six teams in the ACC this season, only Syracuse sits outside of the Top-25 rankings. ranks the Orange as the 68th best basketball team in the nation.

Syracuse fell out of the polls due to underwhelming losses to California, St. Johns, and several others. Their conference record appears fairly impressive until you uncover the teams that they have played. Syracuse has beaten the five worst teams in the ACC (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech) and lost to an unimpressive Clemson team by 13 points. Five wins and a loss in the ACC is generally intimidating, but not in the case of the Orange.

As usual, going against Syracuse means you have to deal with a slow tempo on offense and a 2-3 zone on defense. The Orange average 68.8 points per game (149th in the country), shoot 43.8% from the field (162nd in the country) and 31.7% from beyond the arc (255th in the country). Needless to say, this Syracuse team is not offensive-minded. Conversely, they possess one of the top defenses in the nation. Syracuse ranks in the top-35 in points allowed, defensive efficiency, blocks, and steals. When dealing with this zone the general game plan involves working from the inside out. This means risky passes to the center of the key and taking advantage of the rare open looks.

Senior Rakeem Christmas mans the paint for the Orange and has had one of the best individual seasons in the ACC thus far. Christmas averages 18.0 points (2nd in the ACC), 8.9 rebounds (5th in the ACC), and 2.1 blocks (2nd in the ACC) per game. He does all of this while shooting an efficient 60% from the field. Christmas, at 6’9”, 250 pounds, is a long-armed, quick power forward who has excelled in his first season as a full-time starter. He projects as a 1st round pick in the next NBA Draft.

Wing player Trevor Cooney is the other go-to scorer for Syracuse. This season and last he has been the team’s top threat from beyond the arc, but he has developed more of a consistent offensive skill set. Cooney still shoots a solid 37.8% from three, but he can also score near the basket. Sheldon McClellan may end up chasing him around the court on Saturday.

Chris McCullough, a big man out of IMG Academy, signed with the Orange as a 5-star recruit this past cycle. The 6’10” rim protector was averaging 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. McCullough suffered a torn ACL against Florida State, which will sideline him for the remainder of the season. Syracuse has struggled in his absence, going 2-1 with a bad loss against Clemson.

Point guard Kaleb Joseph, another highly touted freshman, ranks third in the conference in assists with an average of 4.9 per game. Small forward Michael Gbinije averages 10.8 points per game for Syracuse. Most of his looks come from behind the three-point line.


Miami: 61 – Syracuse: 56

I like the Hurricanes in this one because Syracuse has lost each game this season against an opponent of Miami’s caliber. Syracuse has not shown any consistency on the offensive end, and opponents need to score points to beat this year’s Hurricanes team. Even last season, when the Orange were touted as one of top teams in the nation, Miami played them extremely closely. Tonye Jekiri matches up very well with Rakeem Christmas, the team’s best player.

My lead concerns are the two sharpshooters for Syracuse. Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije can light it up in a hurry, and against NC State it was a couple sets of hot hands that brought back the Wolfpack and nearly cost Miami the game.

Going up against another lengthy team, Coach Laranaga may go with the starting lineup that features both McClellan and Davon Reed on the perimeter. This worked very well on both sides of the court on Thursday.

The Syracuse zone requires good passes and timely shooting. McClellan, Reed, Angel Rodriguez, Omar Sherman, and James Palmer combined for 9 three-pointers against NC State. More of the same will be needed against Syracuse.