Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Florida @ Syracuse

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 2nd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Gerald Smith and Patrick Prendergast are going one-on-one to break down Florida facing Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.

Patrick Prendergast: In the battle for the right to wear bright orange where ever one goes and, oh yeah, to solidify a position near the top of the national rankings, #10 Florida (5-1) will take on #3 Syracuse (7-0) in a heavyweight battle at the Carrier Dome tonight. Syracuse has proven as tough and focused as they are deep, remaining undefeated despite the significant distractions created by the ongoing Bernie Fine controversy. The schedule for the Orange has not been all soft and doughy either. They took home the NIT Season Tip-Off title with victories over two good squads in Virginia Tech and Stanford. The Orange are lauded as one of the deepest teams in the country led by reigning Big East Player of the Week, 6’7” senior forward Kris Joseph (14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG). The Gators have lost some experience and depth due to an injury to junior forward Erik Murphy.

How does Florida cope with Syracuse’s depth?

The Gators might bite off more than they can chew with Syracuse's Kris Joseph. (Photo via Bill Kostroun/AP))

Gerald Smith: One of Florida’s coping mechanisms will be stretching and distorting Syracuse’s zone. Florida has a collection of guards that can shoot from deep: junior Kenny Boynton (18.5 PPG, 48.9% 3FG), senior Erving Walker (13.7 PPG, 33% 3FG), freshman Bradley Beal (17 PPG, 35.3% 3FG) and junior Mike Rosario (12 PPG, 48.6% 3FG). The Orange have way too much length and athleticism, though; Florida can’t settle for just shooting over the 2-3 zone. The Gators will have to attack the zone with drives and make jumpers in the few open areas. That might compact the Orangemen’s defense just enough to get a few open three-pointers — and just a few might be enough for Florida’s sharpshooters.

Patrick Prendergast: There is no question the Gators have scoring punch, currently averaging north of 90 points per game, albeit against weak competition for the most part (74 versus Ohio State in their only loss of the season). The thing about Syracuse, though, is they have an uncanny way of imposing their will with the zone, where most teams would do so via man-to-man. Further if, Florida is able to spread the Orange out and get to the rim, they are going to have to deal with a team that is averaging 6.7 blocks per game led by 7’0″ sophomore center Fab Melo, who has swatted 18 so far on the young season. Syracuse’s size and athleticism may be too much to overcome, especially in a fever-pitched Carrier Dome. One intangible that could help Florida is the presence of Rosario. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario plays that tough Big East brand of basketball and may have a something-to-prove swagger that his team can rally around.

To me, it is Syracuse’s game on paper but I have a gut feeling that Florida is going to bring enough to win so let’s call an upset. Florida 85, Syracuse 82 (OT).

How do you see this one shaking out and why?

Gerald Smith: Fab Melo may have his hands full down-low with Florida’s Patric Young. The sophomore forward is averaging 10.1 PPG on 52.1% shooting in the paint and outside of it. Against Ohio State, Young scored six of his 14 points on jumpers. If Florida has any chance of an upset, it’ll be because Young becomes productive on Melo by either getting Melo in foul trouble or forcing Jim Boeheim to collapse his zone down on Young. Although Bradley Beal’s success in driving against the zone defense is probably the biggest component of a potential Gator victory.

I don’t think Florida matches up well against Syracuse. The Orange just have too much length and athleticism. If Erik Murphy were available to dice the Syracuse zone with his shooting, I’d feel more comfortable calling for a Gator upset. Instead, I think Syracuse wins 76-70.

Gerald Smith (39 Posts)

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