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After blowing out Rider and Niagara, Syracuse faces its toughest test of the season Tuesday against No. 21 Rutgers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Scarlet Knights have three comfortable wins so far and return four of their top five scorers from a 2019-20. The team finished last season 20-11, the program’s most wins since 2003-04.
The Orange will be without Buddy Boeheim and Bourama Sidibe for their third consecutive game.
Here’s what our beat writers think will happen Tuesday night:
Andrew Crane (3-0)
Not knighted yet
Rutgers 78, Syracuse 70
This game would be tough for Syracuse to win with a complete roster, with Boeheim and Sidibe in its starting lineup and with a normal practice schedule ahead of its first matchup against a ranked opponent. But none of that is the case this season, and that’s why Rutgers will wear Syracuse down throughout the game.
The Orange definitely impressed with their 3-pointers against Rider on Saturday night, and if they get hot again Tuesday, this score might flip. But the team’s lack of proven depth at forward is extremely concerning, and it will be enough for the Scarlet Knights to snap SU’s three-game winning streak heading into Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Anthony Dabbundo (3-0)
Rutgers 78, Syracuse 66
Syracuse plays its first and only nonconference road game against Rutgers, a physical team with more size and interior defensive ability. We saw last year that the athleticism of Penn State and Oklahoma State overwhelmed the Orange early in the season. That was with Sidibe. They won’t have him on Tuesday night.
Rutgers will be able to dominate the glass on both ends and pass through the yet-to-be-tested Syracuse 2-3 zone. The Orange will be able to stay in this, and maybe win, if they make lots of 3s. But I suspect Syracuse will take some time to adjust to its opponent’s physicality. Rutgers 6-foot-11 Myles Johnson is one of the better shot blockers in the country, and Marek Dolezaj will have one of the toughest tests of his career.
In Syracuse’s first real test of the 2020-21 season, they fail.
Danny Emerman (3-0)
Syracuse 71, Rutgers 68
The Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball this year. But like Syracuse, Rutgers hasn’t been tested yet. Its first three games came against quadrant four teams, and the team handled each matchup with ease. But with conference opponent Maryland scheduled to take place soon, Tuesday’s matchup has potential to be a trap game.
As one of the 30 teams with a higher average height than Syracuse, Rutgers should have the edge inside, which could be enough to beat an SU team without Sidibe. But if the Orange can shoot anything like they did against Rider, they should be able to hang in with Rutgers and even end the game with an upset. Now that they’ve presumably had a more normal practice schedule, the Orange should have some offensive rhythm that carries over from Rider to Rutgers.
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