What to Expect: Syracuse

  • 03/27/2013 9:01 pm in

032713wertWASHINGTON — Indiana will be looking to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 11 years when it takes on Syracuse on Thursday night in an East Region semifinal at the Verizon Center.  

The game will tip at approximately 9:45 p.m. on CBS with Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery and Rachel Nichols on the call:

With three-plus days to prepare, Indiana will have the daunting task of trying to solve the zone of the Syracuse Orange, a defense unlike any the Hoosiers have seen this year. Not only is the Big Ten a league stocked full of man-to-man defenses, the teams in the league who do play some zone, like Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern, don’t have athleticism or length that compares to Syracuse.

“There is really nobody that we have played, nobody that these kids have played that you can look at and say, yeah, we went through forty minutes of this,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Wednesday. “That’s the beauty of the tournament.”

But as much of the focus centers around IU solving the zone of Syracuse, the Orange must contend with a hard-nosed Indiana defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally and an Indiana offense that is feasting on the offensive glass, which is an area that has given Jim Boeheim’s team problems this season.


Boeheim’s zone needs long, athletic players in order to be successful and those are two characteristics his current roster is stocked with. Syracuse typically plays only three guards and this season, it’s been just two for the most part with sophomore Michael Carter-Williams and senior Brandon Triche occupying the majority of the playing time.

Carter-Williams had to wait his turn last season with Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters ahead of him on the depth chart, but he’s emerged this season as one of the nation’s best point guards. His assist rate of 41.5 percent ranks 11th in the nation and his steal percentage (4.7) is 14th nationally. He’s a guy that Indiana could play off of a little bit because he’s much better going off the dribble and either finishing at the rim or creating for others than he is shooting from the perimeter. Carter-Williams has connected on just 27.9 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Triche is also a solid distributor, with an assist rate of 21.4 percent, but like Carter-Williams, he’s struggled with his outside shooting. The senior guard is knocking down just 29.8 percent of his attempts from distance and is much better around the rim, where he finishes 63 percent of his shots. Triche’s 13.8 points per game are second on the team. If either player encounters foul trouble, it’s possible Indiana could see freshman Trevor Cooney, another poor perimeter shooter, in limited backcourt minutes.

An important matchup for the Hoosiers will be 6-foot-8 junior C.J. Fair, who averages team-highs of 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. Fair is hitting 49.2 percent from three and rarely turns it over (13.9 turnover percentage). James Southerland (pictured), a 6-foot-8 senior, missed some time earlier in the season due to undisclosed eligibility issues, but has since returned and is capable of carrying Syracuse with his perimeter shooting. Southerland has hit four or more 3-pointers in nine games and shoots 40.5 percent from distance. He’s also a capable defender, as evidenced by his steal percentage (3.1) and block percentage (3.4). Freshman Jerami Grant, a DeMatha product, averages 3.9 points off the bench.

The center position isn’t one of much offensive production, but Boeheim has a pair of capable defenders and rebounders at his disposal in Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita. Christmas is the starter and is strong on the glass with a defensive rebounding percentage of 15.1 and also has the 20th best block percentage (11.2) in the country. Keita is the team’s best offensive rebounder (13.8 OR%) and typically finishes (63.1 FG%) his limited offensive opportunities.



The chess match of Indiana attempting to break the Syracuse zone is a compelling storyline to watch on Thursday and there are two key areas the Hoosiers will need to master in order to march on to Saturday. The first is taking care of the ball. The Orange are forcing opponents to turn it over on 23.5 percent of possessions and careless turnovers against a team with the athletes of Syracuse will result in easy baskets on the other end.

If there’s a major hole in the zone, it lies in the inability of Syracuse to lock down the defensive glass. The Orange rank just 270th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, which is a number that could be troublesome against an IU team that ranks seventh in the country on the offensive glass. Syracuse can also pound the offensive glass, and given that the Orange shoot a somewhat average percentage from the field, the Hoosiers must limit second chance opportunities.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Indiana was the best Big Ten team against the zone this season, scoring 1.12 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. Whether that’s any indication of what’s to come on Thursday remains to be seen, but if Indiana can get the ball into the middle or on the block and then work it back out and around the perimeter, open looks will be available for the nation’s third best 3-point shooting team.


Indiana will take the Verizon Center floor as a slight favorite, with Vegas giving IU 5.5 points and Pomeroy predicting the Hoosiers to win by four at 71-67. Pomeroy puts the chances of an IU win at 67 percent.

As noted earlier by Crean, the challenge of facing the Syracuse zone is difficult because there aren’t any other teams who Indiana has faced that have given the Hoosiers a similar look. And as well scouted as the zone may be, Boeheim is capable of throwing in a wrinkle or two to keep the opposition guessing. If the Hoosiers are to advance to face the winner of Miami (FL) and Marquette, points in transition before the zone gets set and second chance points are major keys.

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  • SCHoosier

    This is a new dog for IU which doesn’t have any proven old tricks to use against that damn zone. Hope the coaches have carefully considered the UL comeback win over ‘Cuse which featured the use of their center in the high post. Not sure how we match up on defense given their length..but my guess is not good.
    IU needs turnover D and some really patient good shooting.

  • HoosierPat

    This should be a very good game. If we control the boards and have patience of offense, we should win. Against the zone, we can’t settle for outside shots. The ball needs to get into the paint. Also, it will be really important that we limit turnovers. If Yogi leaves his feet to pass tomorrow night, he is going to rack up the turnovers. Should be interesting tomorrow night.

  • IUHoosiers23

    Yogi can get into the middle of that zone to get the ball to Zeller in great spots on the block. He can also force that zone to collapse and find guys quickly on the perimeter. If we hit the 3 at a decent percentage, we will be in good shape. Not to mention Syracuse likes to run. Good. Run with us and they won’t have time to get that zone set up while Yogi and CZ blow by. Let’s go boys!!!

  • pcantidote

    Yogi’s penetration of the zone and limited turnovers, and Sheehey’s mid range game and extra minutes to combat their length are the keys in my estimation.

  • BluegrassHoosier

    Everyone talks about Orange length, but Gtwn had it too and we overcame. And UofL blew them out of the gym and they start 2 six guards and don’t really shoot well in a half court set. We can’t press like UofL but outside of that we outperform the Cards in most categories.

    I love the fact that so many like Cuse for this one. Our boys love being the underdog and I think there is nothing that fires them up more than people saying they can’t do it.

  • Eastwood88_2

    I think this is a strong matchup for us. Nobody plays zone against us due to our great shooters and passing. U beat iu by getting into us. Period. Zones dont do that. As for defense, get ready for our 2-3 zone. Did it a ton against g-town. Make cuse shoot over the top.

  • HoosierD

    Yogi, leaving his feet to make the pass… usually on the baseline too. i like his ability to create but you’re right, that has to get under control. Jordy and CWat need to have big nights from outside too.

  • b_side

    I’m feeling more comfortable given our sweep over Michigan and Sparty. Both teams looked like mismatch nightmares as well, but Crean and co. found a way.

  • Juan


  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    I think this game mostly comes down to rebounding. We’ve got a real advantage against their zone on the offensive glass for our opportunistic team. However, you don’t get second chances unless you get shots off without turning it over. Yogi has been benched against the zone in our limited exposure to it. I’ll be looking closely at his use and decision making. One of the best ways to attack the zone, through the high post, could be a place for Zeller to assert himself. But again, sometimes he has gotten a little clumsy with the ball under pressure. We need our versatile big to be just that.

    On the defensive end, I could see us going 2-3 like we did against Gtown, but I cringe at trying to get bodies on their athletic lengthy players. We have to limit second chances. If we do go man, we cannot get caught over-helping our smaller guards on the drive. Their mids can knock down open threes. We just have to live with giving up some pull jumpers and drives scores from their guards, cover the three and block out.

  • CreamandCrimson

    The game within the game:
    -Rebounding. Both teams are pretty strong on the offensive glass. While IU is not a good defensive rebounding team, Syracuse is a dreadful defensive rebounding team.
    -Turnovers. Syracuse isn’t a great offensive team but they could hurt us if they can force turnovers and turn some of those turnovers into easy buckets.
    -Perimeter shooting. James Southerland (and potentially Triche and Fair) could get hot and really hurt us. Our Hoosiers will have some open looks from three as well…who’s going to capitalize?
    -Fouls. This goes into how the game is called and how physical it is. Syracuse isn’t great at avoiding fouls, we’ll see if the refs see it that way tonight.

    Syracuse is very talented and they are used to being on this stage. We are going to need to play a really good 40 minutes and if we do, I feel good about us moving on. If we don’t play particularly well, the Orange can certainly knock us off. Indiana has an opportunity to move on to our first Elite Eight in a decade, let’s get it done Hoosiers!

  • Benhyoung14

    As long as IU gets an advantage on rebounds, and turnover’s then I think IU wins. It won’t be too difficult to rebound on the offensive side of the ball if Watford, and Oladipo are battling. I really like our inside/out game here. I don’t think it’ll be quite as close as advertised. IU by 8.

  • The difference will be Oladipo sneaking in to get offensive put-backs. He’s gonna get a double-double. IU!

  • Judging by the numbers it looks like it’s going to come down to rebounds. Time for CWat, Vic, and especially Cody to take care of business on the glass.

  • PDXHoosier

    Don’t forget Hollowell. He is a good rebounder and may come in handy against their size

  • xCowHoosier

    I want the Hoosiers to win as bad as anyone; no matter what happens though, this is a great time to be a Hoosier. A nationally competitive program with honorable, graduating athletes is something to be proud of. Coach Crean takes a lot of heat, but at the end of the day he has recruited some great kids on and off the court and has led IU basketball back where it needs to be. Go Hoosiers, play your hearts out tonight!!

  • J Smith

    I’ll take Raftery over card-board Nance any day

  • Ole Man

    Hopefully, you’re correct. I just have visions of short Yogi trapped in the middle by those tall guards and one of those wings.

  • Daren Collentine

    I think this is a game where Hollowell can make a giant leap towards being a Hoosier favorite. He has that size that we need and he is a very versatile defender. I thought his minutes were great in the 1st half against Temple. He helped us get the big lead early on.

  • dschiller33

    for sure going to be a very tough match up and need to set tone early…
    I wonder if Ron Patterson is going to be at the game.. Since he is going to Syracuse now!

  • calbert40

    Of course, we need Zeller and Oladipo to play well, limit our TOs, shoot well from outside, rebound well, etc.

    I think there are 3 keys on top of those mentioned above.

    1. CWat has to have a solid performance – perimeter shooting, flashing to the middle and passing to the open man, rebounding on both ends, etc. If CWat plays like he is capable, we are winning this game…possibly handily.

    2. Will needs to be prepared for more minutes…and play well on both ends. I think ‘Cuse’s length could limit Jordy’s effectiveness in long spurts. He will be important, but more in a Matt Roth style role instead of that of a starter. Will’s ability to shoot, penetrate, rebound and defend multiple positions could cause the Orange some trouble AND allow Oladipo some (minimal) rest.

    3. Remy…yes, Remy. I thought his D against Temple was very strong, and if we have any foul trouble tonight, or Jordy has an off night, Remy’s play off the bench will be huge. If he can give us 10-15 mins, hit a couple shots and play solid D, we are golden.