Syracuse will play its first conference game as a member of the ACC when they host Miami on Saturday afternoon. Here is a quick look at the game:
A SWITCH TO ZONE: Add Miami among the teams that have switched to a zone defense. The Hurricanes spent most of their surprising 2012-13 run in a man-to-man defense, but head coach Jim Larranaga switched to a 2-3 zone after he was displeased with his team’s early returns this season. The team started 5-5 with bad losses to St. Francis (NY), UCF and George Washington, and that forced Larranaga to begin tinkering with the zone during the John Wooden Legacy tourney. Finally, Larranaga fully switched to the defense during a loss to Nebraska and has begun to see results, including a recent three game winning streak. Miami closed 2013 with a 71-48 rout of Loyola (Md.) where the 2-3 zone held Loyola to just 34 percent shooting from the field.
SCOUTING THE HURRICANES: This isn’t the same Miami team that went to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes lost four starters from that squad, including 2012-13 ACC Player of the Year Shane Larkin, now with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Senior Rion Brown has become the team’s focal point on offense, and is averaging a team-high 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds. Fellow senior Garrius Adams is back after redshirting the 2012-13 campaign and is second on the team with 10.7 ppg. The duo was supposed to be helped by heralded freshman Deandre Burnett, but Burnett is out for the season after suffering a wrist injury.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: These two teams have plenty of history playing in the old Big East, though Syracuse holds a lopsided 14-5 advantage in the series. The last time the teams met as members of the same conference was on Feb. 16, 2004, with SU claiming a 91-74 victory. Hakim Warrick finished with 27 points on a perfect 11-for-11 shooting performance while Gerry McNamara chipped in 23 points and six assists. The game was Jim Boeheim’s 900th game as head coach at Syracuse.
GAME INFORMATION: Saturday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. TV: ACC Network.