Mike Waters ‘sees an avenue’ for Syracuse basketball to defeat San Diego State

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Mar 11, 2021; Greensboro, North Carolina, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim (35) drives against Virginia Cavaliers guard Casey Morsell (13) during the first half in the quarterfinal round of the 2021 ACC tournament Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

We’re only a day away from Syracuse’s matchup with San Diego State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and to get ready, we chatted with Syracuse.com Orange basketball beat writer Mike Waters.

It’s going to be a difficult task for the Orange to upset the Aztecs, who have gone a combined 51-6 over the past two years, mostly with the same core that SU will face on Friday.

“The starting lineup with four seniors and a junior,” Waters says. “Just an incredible record over the last two years. That’s going to be tough for Syracuse.”

SDSU also possesses a perfect zone killer in Mountain West Tournament MVP Matt Mitchell, its leading scorer at 15.4 ppg. He has good size at 6’6″, 235 pounds, and also decent play-making ability at 2.0 apg.

“Usually teams like to run the big man and see over the zone, or they run someone who looks a lot like Matt Mitchell,” Waters says. “They’re big enough to get the ball, but offensively skilled enough to do some damage. Someone’s going to have to guard them. That’s going to be a challenge for Marek Dolezaj. He’s got to keep him in front of him and avoid fouls.”

Still, the Orange is playing some pretty good basketball on their own. SU picked up three consecutive Quadrant 2 wins to close the season against North Carolina, Clemson and NC State, and appears to be hitting their stride at the right time.

“They’ve played their four best games in their last four, and that includes the loss to Virginia,” Waters says. “They played really well in that game and took the regular season champion down to the wire and led most of the day. A last second shot from a guy who hadn’t made one all day is the one that beat them.”

» Related: Buddy Boeheim has emerged as an elite scorer for Syracuse

Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim was named to the All-ACC Tournament First Team, and has been on a torrid pace lately, averaging 25.2 points per game over his last four games. That, plus Jim Boeheim’s willingness to go to his bench recently has Waters bullish on SU’s chances.

“I like the way Robert Braswell and Jesse Edwards have played more giving a punch off the bench off the bench,” Waters says. “All of the sudden, that’s a nice eight-man rotation with some options.”

In particular, there will be opportunities for Syracuse’s guards to score. San Diego State’s starting back court of Terrell Gomez (5’8″) and Trey Pulliam (6’3″) could be susceptible to the size and length of Buddy Boeheim (6’6″) and Kadary Richmond (6’5″).

Says Waters: “I see an avenue for Syracuse to win this game.”

I then welcome on TJO Senior Columnist Jim Stechschulte to the podcast. We chat about some interesting tidbits from Jim Boeheim and Marek Dolezaj’s press conference on Wednesday, and Jim also gives his predictions on the game.

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About Wes Cheng 2662 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.