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Basketball Preview: Q&A with Nunes Magician

Thanks to Nunes Magician for the great information on the Orange!

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of tonight’s matchup at the Barclay’s Center against Syracuse, we talked with Nunes Magician, the Syracuse SB Nation site to get some insight into the Orange.

Cowboys Ride For Free: I kind of agree with Boeheim that starting the season with conference games doesn’t make sense except for monetary reasons. How does your fanbase feel about the new ACC model?

Nunes Magician:Fans weren’t happy with opening the season with an ACC game but it seems like a lot of that had to do with the opponent being Virginia more than anything. Starting with the nation’s best defensive team wasn’t the best introduction for a team replacing four starters but in a way it should make this Syracuse team more prepared for the games in NYC.

CRFF:Boeheim has been running the nation’s most effective zone for a long time now. What makes it so effective and how is it different from other teams that play a majority of zone? Has this year’s version looked any different thus far or it pretty consistent year-to-year?

NM: The Syracuse zone really extends out on the wings so that it’s almost like a 2-2-1 defense rather than a 2-3. While the guards don’t typically trap at the top the idea is to push teams further off the 3-pt line and make them use more of the shot clock to get a good look, It often disrupts the way teams like to play offense because it forces them out of the drive and kick plays that usually work against man to man. The numbers for this year’s team look really good, but there are two areas of concern right now. Syracuse doesn’t have a shot-blocker in the middle and the guards aren’t as quick as in years past. We need to see if this group can keep teams with quick guards from getting into the lane and to the rim.

CRFF: Syracuse exploded on offense against Bucknell in their last outing. Is this an anomaly or is Syracuse starting to figure some things out on that end of the court?

NM: It’s a little bit of both. While we don’t expect the team to be hitting as many shots every game, this group is unselfish and can really space the floor. If Bourama Sidibe can continue to make shots near the rim, it’ll keep teams from sending double-teams at Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard on the perimeter. Both of those guys have deep range and the combination of Elijah Hughes and Marek Dolezaj have shown they can find the open shooters. The next two games will give us a better sense of how Syracuse will handle P5 opponents not named Virginia.

CRFF: Elijah Hughes has played the entire game twice this year and has been very close on two other occasions. What makes him such a vital part of the Syracuse team and are there any concerns about his workload over the course of the season?

NM: Jim Boeheim has long held the belief that there are enough breaks during games for college players to play the entire game so Elijah is a pretty good bet to lead the ACC in minutes played this season. Hughes has gone from a mostly spot-up 3-point shooter last year to this Syracuse team’s best all-around offensive player. We wondered how he’d handle having the offense run through him but I don’t think any Syracuse fan expected to see him leading the team in assists. With Girard in the starting line-up Syracuse will get Hughes the ball at the top of the key and let him go to work. Since they have two strong shooters on the wings, teams must decide how they will help on Hughes. We still need to see how this Syracuse team will handle pressure defense and the one concern could be Hughes having to assume the primary ball-handling role and how that might impact his offense at the end of close games.

CRFF: Prediction for the game?

NM:Despite the offensive display against Bucknell, Syracuse likes to slow the tempo and with both these teams in the top 40 in KenPom’s defensive ratings I think it will be played in the 60s. Since this is a home Orange crowd I’ll say that Syracuse grabs a 64-60 win.

Be sure to read Nunes Magician for the latest on Syracuse!