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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: SYRACUSE @ SETON HALL

March 5, 2008



Syracuse has lost five of six during a brutal stretch in their schedule and their hopes to dance in the NCAA Tournament hang by a dwindling thread. However, having one of the top SOS ratings in college basketball and the predictability of this year's bubble, the Orange could still make a push for a spot in March Madness with a couple victories to close the regular season and a win or two in Madison Square Garden at the Big East Tournament next week.

Seton Hall has definitely had their shares of ups and downs. At one time, they were riding a 5-game winning streak and were 5-3 in the Big East. However, they have lost six of their last eight games, including some ugly defeats along the way against Notre Dame (home), Marquette (home) and West Virginia. Wins against DePaul and South Florida were nice, but their loss to St. John's last weekend was a big disappointment to the Pirates.

Here are the local media game stories and previews on tonight's match-up:

Seton Hall-Syracuse Scouting Report (Courier News)
No Time to Lick Wounds (Syracuse Post-Standard)
SU Men Look Ahead After Devastating Loss (Post-Standard)
Outside Looking In (Auburn Citizen)
Orange's Harris Weathers Ups, Downs (SportingNews.com)

Syracuse hits the road as a 2.5-pt favorite when they travel to Newark (NJ) to face Seton Hall at the Prudential Center. The Orange are trying to re-group following Staurday's devastating loss where they blew an 11-point lead at the media timeout with 3:30 left. Pittsburgh outscored Syracuse 18-2 to finish the game with an 82-77 victory. Now, Syracuse is facing a must-win two-game stretch to earn a shot at the NCAA Tournament and have to erase the memories of Saturday's meltdown on their home floor from their minds quickly.

Not too long ago, Seton Hall was 5-3 in the Big East and people were whispering about the chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament mix. However, those days seem to be gone, although they have a similar record to the Orange. SHU is also coming off a demoralizing loss where they fell to St. John's on a late three-pointer by Anthony Mason Jr.

Seton Hall will look to get back on track tonight by pressuring the ball. Syracuse is very thin on ballhandlers and if Eugene Harvey can keep the ball away from Jonny Flynn, SU is very vulnerable to pressure. However, not having Paul Gause limits the depth of the SHU backcourt, especially thier defensive pressure.

On offense, the Pirates will look to bomb away against the 'Cuse zone defense. Jeremy Hazell and Jamar Nutter can heat up quickly and if they can spot up against the SU zone they could get comfortable and make big shots. Brian Laing will look to find holes near the coul line and hit his nearly automatic 16-foot jump shot. The size of the Orange frontline will likely dominate the boards and make things very tough close to the basket, but the Pirates will look to pressure the ball and hot from downtown against SU.

Look for a motivated effort from Syracuse tonight. The Orange have a lot of offensive firepower and their big three were clicking Saturday as Paul Harris, Jonny Flynn and Dante Greene put up big offensive numbers. Those three will look to continue their offensive assault and hope Arinze Onuaku carves out space against the Seton Hall front line for rebounds and easy baskets. I think SHU will have a hard time containing the offensive firepower of the Orange, and when they miss, SU is likely to be in position to score on offensive rebounds.

This will likely be a high scoring game. If Seton Hall is hot from the outside, which definitely could happen, they could pull the surprise. However, I look for Syracuse to bring a strong effort on defense and be very active extending their zone on defense and hitting the glass. Look for the Orange to keep their slim NCAA hopes alive tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Syracuse 84 Seton Hall 77

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