Wednesday, January 28, 2009


January 28, 2009

Syracuse will limp into Providence banged up mentally, after losing three of their last four, and physically. It is unlikely Andy Rautins will play because of a sprained ankle and Arinze Onuaku will be a game time decision in regards to his availability.

The Friars have won five of their first seven conference games, but they still need to beat someone of significance. Their best win(s) this season have come against Cincinnati, whose RPI is 58. Their best non-league win is over Rhode Island (RPI of 62), so the Friars are desperate for a win to place on their resume. They have some opportunities in front of them as the date with the Orange kicks off a stretch of four games that has a road trip to UConn, home date with ‘Nova and a trip to West Virginia in succession.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the internet today:

Capsule Summary: Syracuse @ Providence (Providence Journal)
Rautins, Jones Out for SU (Observer-Dispatch)
Orange Scouting Report: SU vs. PC (Post-Standard)
Weakened SU Offers PC Opportunity (Providence Journal)
PC Hosts Syracuse Tonight (Pawtucket Times)
PC Hopes to Get Healthy Against Ailing Syracuse (Pro-Jo)

This could be a very telling game for the Keno Davis era at Providence. It seemed every so often the Tim Welsh-led Friars had an opportunity to get over a hump, but each time they were turned back by the powers of the conference. While the Orange are a little bit battered and bruised, the perception of a victory tonight can go a long way for the Friars as they try to carve out an identity in the Big East.

As noted earlier, PC needs a ‘quality’ win and the circumstances in earning such a victory probably could not be set up better. However, Syracuse will not make the snowy commute looking to hand over the game to the Friars. Led by Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris, the Orange backcourt has strength and firepower that will certainly test the PC group of Sharaud Curry, Weyinmi Efejuku and Jeff Xavier. Brian McKenzie and Marshon Brooks provide backcourt depth, which the Orange are without because of the Rautins injury and Mookie Jones and Antonio Jardine being out for the season.

The frontcourt match-up could be where tonight’s game is decided. Arinze Onuaku has experienced pain and swelling in his knee since the loss to Louisville on Sunday and has not practiced. They hope the 6-foot-9, 260-lb big man is able to give it a go. His size is a match-up that PC will have great trouble with. Jonathan Kale and Randall Hanke will be tasked with match-up up with him, but neither has the size and strength to out-muscle Onuaku when he gets position. The Orange also have long and athletic Rick Jackson at the power forward spot and he can also play in the middle to relieve (or replace) Onuaku. Jackson is not nearly as burly as Onuaku, but paired together they make the SU zone extremely tough. Geoff McDermott is the power forward for the Friars, not the tallest, but a rugged player that can handle and pass extremely well.

This game will likely come down to Onuaku’s effectiveness. If he can go and play 75-80% of his normal minutes, the Orange should find themselves in pretty good shape. However, losing Rautins saps their depth and their perimeter game, which you will see PC lining up three’s early and often. The combination of a missing Onuaku, or even a limited Arinze, and Rautins might be too much for SU to overcome against a very hyped PC club. Keno Davis will have to keep his players grounded, but he seems to have the laid back personality to prevent his team from getting too tight. With the latest college basketball odds listing PC as a 1 ½-point favorite, this could be the game they can add to their resume.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Providence 75
Syracuse 68



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