By Paul Casey Gotham
Setting: The Carrier Dome at 900 Irving Avenue in Syracuse, New York is the site as Tom Parrotta and his Canisius College Golden Griffins (1-0) pay a visit to Jim Boeheim and his No. 10 Syracuse Orange (1-0).
Plot: It’s the Metro-Atlantic Conference versus the Big East Conference. Both teams are coming off season-opening wins at home, Friday night. Julius Coles scored 21 and Gaby Belardo chipped in 19 as Canisius downed St. Bonaventure 80-70 at the Koessler Athletic Center. Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph scored 14 apiece as the Orange defeated Northern Iowa 68-48 on “The Hill.”
Sub-plot: With a win, Boeheim would pass Jim Phelan on the all-time wins list. The two legends are tied for fifth with 830 career triumphs.
The Griffs’ senior-laden team has 465 total games of experience – second only to UTEP in NCAA men’s basketball.
It will be a homecoming for the Griffs Elton Frazier (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Alshwan Hymes (DeWitt, N.Y.). Hymes was a high school teammate of Syracuse point guard, Brandon Triche. The duo led Jamesville-DeWitt to the 2008 Class A New York State championship.
Flashback: Arinze Onuaku scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Orange beat the Griffs 82-60 at the Dome, December 17, 2008. Syracuse holds a 44-24 advantage in the series that began February 20, 1957. The Orange have taken 24 of 36 from the Griffs in games played at Syracuse. Canisius’s last victory over Syracuse came on February 15th, 1975.
Canisius has earned four invitations to the NCAA tournament with back-to-back Elite Eight showings in ’55 and ’56.
The Orange have made 33 NCAA Tournament appearances including back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past two campaigns. Boeheim has guided his alma mater to “The Dance” on 27 occasions including 11 regional semi-finals, one Elite Eight, two runner-ups and the 2003 title.
Foreshadowing: Eleven Golden Griffins have gone on to play in the National Basketball Association including Mike Smrek who won a pair of titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. Thirty-four SU alums have laced them up in the N.B.A. Current players Carmelo Anthony, Jonny Flynn, Donte Green, Jason Hart, Wes Johnson, Eton Thomas, Hakim Warrick and Darryl Watkins.
Conflict: After missing their first seven three-point attempts against the St. Bonaventure’s 2-3 zone Friday night, the Griffs hit 6 of 12 to pull away for the win. Can Canisius find the mark on the road against the Orange?
The Griffs dictated tempo in their victory over the Bonnies. Syracuse will counter with an equally potent transition offense.
Both squads used seven players for 18 minutes or more in their season-opening wins.
Frazier, Greg Logins and Tomas Vazquez-Simmons slowed St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. While the pre-season first team Atlantic 10 selection finished with 21 he looked uncomfortable for most of the night, and it showed when Canisius had the ball. The Griffs will have their hands full with Jackson, Joseph and Fab Melo. Frazier and Vazquez-Simmons both finished with four fouls. The pair will need to play disciplined defense to stay on the floor.
The Bonnies rarely tested Canisius’s defensive transition. Triche is adept at looking up the floor and finding the open man. Joseph and Jackson run the floor well.
Canisius will need to contain Scoop Jardine’s dribble transition in the half-court set.
At the same time, the Orange zone will have to be wary of Coles and Belardo. The Orange zone tends to extend creating gaps that the Canisius front court can exploit.
Canisius was successful Friday night moving the ball quickly on the perimeter. They will need to keep Syracuse honest by mixing in precision high-low interior passing.
Hymes hit three of four from behind the arc at the Koessler Center. He will need to continue that momentum if Canisius is to be successful at the Dome.
Resolution: Syracuse will not overlook this talented Cansius group. Syracuse started slowly Friday night going into the halftime with just a three-point lead. A similar start against the Griffs could be trouble.
Belardo is just beginning to show what he is capable of doing. Coles and Hymes will continue their hot shooting as the Griffs give Syracuse a wake-up call.