It turns out that Syracuse University doesn’t play basketball on November 13 very often. Digging back through old season results, the last two times that the Orange took the court on this particular date were in 2007, when Syracuse edged St. Joe’s 72-69, and 1999, when the Orange cruised to a 68-49 win over Wisconsin.
You probably remember that 1999 matchup as the Battle of the Duanys, as Kueth was pitted against his brother, Duany Duany. I remember it a little differently, because while it was my freshman season at Syracuse, it was also the first and only home game I ever missed in my four years as a student. We also lost to Rutgers in football on that day, which went one step further in making it a really lousy birthday, considering I spent the bulk of the day in the car on the way to my grandmother’s funeral.
Yes, I’m 35 years old today, and it turns out that in my entire lifetime, Syracuse has only played basketball on my birthday two times. The Orange have played a lot on November 12 and November 14, but tonight is a rarity. And coming to the Dome is Lehigh, a team coming off a 16-14 season but which features the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year in Tim Kempton, along with the conference’s Rookie of the Year, Kahron Ross. Kind of makes you wonder how a team with two major conference award winners just barely finished above .500, but that’s neither here nor there.
The 6-foot-10 Kempton will prove a solid early test for Dajuan Coleman as he continues to shake off the rust from being away from basketball for two years, having averaged 15.3 points and 8.7 rebounds-per-game a year ago. Ross, meanwhile, is a 5-foot-11 guard who averaged 10.4 points and 2.8 assists while shooting 32.4% from three point range a year ago. Ross has the quickness to give Syracuse’s guards some fits, but as an undersized point guard, chances are he’s going to struggle against the big, lengthy, athletic top of the 2-3 zone.
Syracuse has never lost to Lehigh, albeit in a tiny sample size of three games. The last time these two teams met was way back during the 1931-32 season when SU won 34-17 in what was surely a thrilling affair. I expect a few more points to be put on the board tonight, of course.
Some of the things I’ll be looking for include, as I alluded to before, seeing how Coleman does against a legitimate big man in Kempton. I’ll also be curious to see how well Chino Obokoh does, and more importantly, what kind of minutes he actually gets now that we’ve entered the regular season. I’ll also be curious to see how Syracuse’s perimeter shooting does against a Division I opponent. Knocking down jumpers and dominating a DII school is one thing, but it’s an entirely new ballgame against an actual Division I opponent, even if it’s a team the Orange should beat by well into double digits.
Rebounding will be interesting as well, as Syracuse is obviously a bit undersized this season and Lehigh does have some beef down low. Along with Kempton, 6-foot-9 Jesse Chuku and 6-foot-8 Justin Goldsborough will get plenty of run, and 6-foot-11 freshman Caleb Sedore, who hails from up north of Syracuse in Pulaski, could get some minutes in the post tonight as well. Outside of Coleman and Tyler Roberson, Syracuse needs another wing player to step up and prove they can rebound against some legitimate size. This is where Malachi Richardson can take a real step forward, and where Tyler Lydon will first begin showing just how ready he is to compete physically at the Division I level.
I fully expect Syracuse to win by a score of about 82-60 tonight, but tonight it’ll be worth watching more than just the score. This is a Syracuse team that comes into the season as a bit of an enigma, and tonight against Lehigh, we might start getting a real glimpse as to what kind of team this will actually be in 2015-16.