What’s changed in the last 10 days since Syracuse played Providence?
For the Friars, it was a signature win.
Hosting Louisville at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI, the Friars completely dominated the Cardinals in a 90-59 win over the No. 15 team in the country.
They did it against their former coach, Rick Pitino, who led Providence to the 1987 Final Four. During halftime, Providence honored that team.
Current Friars Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts did their part to stir up memories of the past, as each scored 27 points each en route to the win.
Can Providence make it two in a row at the Carrier Dome?
Here are three other questions to ask on Saturday:
1) CAN PROVIDENCE REPEAT ITS EFFORT?
The first team that beats the Orange this season will do all of the following: Shoot the ball well from 3-point land; get SU in foul trouble; not turn the ball over; and exploit weaknesses in the zone.
For most of Syracuse’s Jan. 4 game against Providence, the Friars did exactly that.
The Friars attacked the free throw area, which helped it shoot 49 percent from the field. They were able to shoot over the top of the zone, hitting 46 percent from downtown. They took care of the ball, committing just 13 turnovers, five below the amount that Syracuse has forced on the season. Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas combined for nine fouls with Baye Keita out because of a hip injury.
Had Providence done this the entire game, Syracuse might be 17-1. They will need a near flawless performance to make it happen on Saturday.
2) CAN FAB MELO STAY OUT OF FOUL TROUBLE?
In SU’s last three games, Melo has accumulated a combined 13 fouls. Although he’s averaged 20.5 minutes a game over that same stretch, he’s only accumulated four or more fouls in just four other games this season.
Fortunately for Syracuse, Keita has been healthy the past few games. But as we saw on Jan. 4, there is a steep drop off between Melo/Keita and the freshman Christmas.
3) WHO IS JAMES SOUTHERLAND?
Southerland enjoyed by far his best game in the Big East this season, with 15 points and four rebounds against Villanova on Wednesday. He had averaged only five points in SU’s first three conference games.
It will be interesting to see if Southerland stays in Syracuse’s rotation as the season continues. Although it’s widely advertised that the Orange’s rotation runs 10 deep, it’s in danger of becoming the customary seven.
Michael Carter-Williams didn’t see action against Marquette and played only four minutes against Providence (although he did play 11 minutes against Villanova). Christmas has only played 13 minutes in the last two games.
Southerland is the wildcard in this situation. A repeat performance against the Friars would go a long way toward keeping his playing time.