Syracuse will try to end a two game losing streak when they host Miami on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (TV: ACCN) at the Carrier Dome. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
Season Record: 2-0
Even being in the same conference, Syracuse and Miami could not be more at the opposite end of the spectrum, highlighted by geography.
Northern-based SU is about as far away from Coral Gables, the ACC’s southern-most location, as any school short of Boston College, and that’s only a 75-mile difference. It’s Sunshine U. versus Snowbelt U.
Minus a lone 1963 game played at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the teams only have a rivalry dating back to 1992 in Big East days, then a 10-year gap from 2004-2014 before resuming annual meetings in the ACC.
Now in this COVID-affected 2020-21 season, Miami looked good, especially on defense, Saturday night winning its second league game 78-72 against then-No. 16 Louisville. The ‘Canes rallied together playing without four contributors because of various injuries, including starting senior guard Chris Lykes.
The seven Hurricanes who did play held off a late UL rally, led by guard Isaiah Wong scoring 30 points inside and outside, and the ‘Canes have a big man, Nysier Brooks (11 rebounds), in the middle. UM is expected to get two of its injured players back, and perhaps Lykes, Tuesday night to face Syracuse.
For Orange fans, these are tough times. The memory of three NCAA Tournament victories in 2018 is now distant. Jim Boeheim called his team’s defensive performance Saturday in the 20-point loss to Pittsburgh, “The worst I’ve seen since I’ve been here.” Ouch.
At 1-3 in the ACC, the need to win is now because there are no real homecourt advantages this season, and following UM it’s Virginia Tech (16th ranked) and Virginia (13th ranked), in a three-day span.
This game will be telling if Boeheim’s message is getting through to his team, devoid of a true post player defensively down low, and it will also end up being an exciting finish. Trailing by three with 0:22 left, Alan Griffin will bank a follow-up basket while being fouled and hit the free throw with 0:04 left to force overtime. Late in OT, Buddy Boeheim frantically hits a mid-range jumper to give Syracuse a much-needed 83-81 win over Miami.
Season Record 4-2
Miami presents the same type of personnel problems that plagued the Orange in losses to Pitt and North Carolina. The Hurricanes are a solid defending team (53rd in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings) and their roster has plenty of size, including 7-footer Nysier Brooks and the 6-foot-9 Anthony Walker.
But while Miami is one of the tallest teams in the ACC, they’re not a good outside shooting team, shooting a collective 28.1 percent from downtown. That also fits the mold of UNC and Pitt.
The Hurricanes have had all sorts of injury problems this season, with Rodney Miller Jr. and Sam Waardenburg out with season ending injuries. Preseason All-ACC First Team guard Chris Lykes has appeared in just two games, and guards Kameron McGusty and Earl Timerlake have also been hurt, leaving head coach Jim Larranaga razor thin in his back court.
Still, the Hurricanes have not used injuries as an excuse. They’ve competed against the conference elite, losing by 2 points to then-No. 24 Virginia Tech in December, while upsetting No. 16 Louisville on Saturday, 78-72.
I believe that the outcome of this game will come down to Isaiah Wong. When he’s shooting well (12-20 from the field, 3-5 from downtown and 30 points against Louisville), Miami looks as good as any team in the country. When he’s bad (3-9 shooting, 0-5 from 3, six points in a 84-62 loss to Boston College), the Hurricanes have struggled.
I see Wong having a good enough game, as the Hurricanes win their third in the last four games, shutting down the Orange 70-63.