From the outside looking in, tonights Cornell at No. 7 Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome, may look like a slaughter that when you wake up in the morning, you’ll look right past it. Right here, right now, I am here to inform you, this game will be anything but! Let’s look closer at this match-up.
For the time being, I’m going to focus on Syracuse. Coming in at 6-0 and ranked seventh in the country, Syracuse has got to be considered one of the most fortunate teams in NCAA to still be a top 10 team. In the Legends Classic, the Orange barely got by Michigan and Georgia Tech, two programs that are in more of a rebuilding process than the Pittsburgh Pirates. After slaughtering Northern Iowa and Canisius to start the season, Syracuse has won their last four games by a total of 21 points. Hell, they opened up with a 22 point victory. Barely beating Detroit, William & Mary, Michigan, and Georgia Tech should not give great confidence if you are going to lay money down on this game.
Now, we can take this one of two ways. First, the Orange, have the make-up of a great team and can win games while playing horrendously. Secondly, and this is my personal take, they haven’t established an identity. This is a team with a lot of new faces, also a great amount of talent. It features a promising freshman in the starting line-up. Along with really, a completely different starting line-up this season, the Orange are not a deep team at all. In the championship game of the Legends classic, eight, count them, EIGHT, men stepped on the floor for Syracuse. This was their second game in 2 nights, the day after they played a close game, and were in another close game. Anyone else see where I’m going with this? While this game is not day after a night game, or anything ridiculous like that, the point needs to be taken, this team is not a deep team.
Syracuse is not a high powered offense. This is a team that struggles to get going offensively. They have scored 80 points twice, but, if they don’t score 80 points, they will be lucky to run the score above 65. Now this tells us a few things about the Orange. They play excellent defense. And shutting down an inferior Cornell team should not be an issue. But again I go back to the last four games, which have been atrocious for Syracuse.
While this isn’t the Michigan State/Duke match-up that will draw the attention of most of the country tonight, Cornell may force a flash or two for upset alert throughout the night on the ESPN family of networks.
While probably 85 percent of my previous ramblings were, “Thank you captain obvious!” worthy, let’s move on to Cornell. What comes next will not be compelling evidence that Cornell will beat, much less play with, Syracuse.
Cornell enters this game at 2-4. I don’t know what is worse, the losses the Big Red have already suffered this year, or the loss of their coach to Boston College, who by the way, turned the program into a Sweet 16 team. I mentioned the Cornell Sweet 16 run last year in the post-season. That was a Cornell team that brought back 5 starters, played with great discipline, and was a very balanced team. This version of Big Red basketball, returns just one of those five starters. Chris Wroblewski. Your guess on how to say his name, is as good as mine. But last year, Wroblewski wasn’t the best player on his team, and managed to lead Cornell in scoring in their match-up at Syracuse. Syracuse won 88-73. Again, I make the point, this is a much different Cornell team, the same also goes for Syracuse. For one, so far this year, the Big Red have beat the Great Danes(Albany), the Fighting Blue Hens(Delaware) but have managed to lose to the BONNIES (St. Bonaventure) and the Terriers(Boston). My next rant, in a different article I might add, may just be on the ridiculous mascots of some college institutions. But let’s get back to business. Chris Wroblewski gained a tremendous amount of experience as a sophomore, and as a junior comes in with a lead role on this Big Red team, and is one of the best players in the Ivy League, which doesn’t sound like much, and quite frankly, he probably won’t get recognition by Dick Vitale or Jay Bilas or anyone else as the nation’s better players, but he is a solid player no less. The Big Red as a whole, are a solid group. Allowing 70 points or better in just 2 games this year, one being to the Big East’s Seton Hall. Not that Seton Hall is a national powerhouse, let alone a Big East powerhouse, but they play in a major conference.
Bad losses aside, Cornell really has a lot going for them. They will play with a great amount of confidence. They will play solid defense. And they are deep. They run eight to nine men deep and rotate them regularly. The guards for Cornell will have to play big in this game, as Syracuse has a huge size advantage down low. Seniors guards Max Groebe and Anthony Gatlin, along with junior guard Andrew Ferry will need knock down shots in order to take pressure off Wroblewski. It will be critically important that the experience of the Big Red make their presence known on the floor tonight.
For Syracuse, should they start fast and shoot the ball well, this will be a long game for the Big Red. The Orange will have a tremendous size advantage in the low post in this ball game, as I mentioned. Freshman Fabricio Melo, the seven footer, will have three plus inches on each of the Big Red big men. Rebounding has been the Achilles heel for Cornell thus far, making it vitally important Syracuse crash the boards. Giving Cornell second chance opportunities will make this game closer than it should be, and give Cornell more confidence than they already have.
Seth’s prediction: Cornell 75, Syracuse, 69.