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Syracuse’s 2021-22 season opened exactly how it was supposed to, with the Orange easily handling Lafayette — a nonconference, Patriot League opponent — en route to a 97-63 win. Joe Girard III recorded 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including a perfect 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, and Jimmy Boeheim contributed 18 points and five rebounds in his first game with SU.
The Orange will next host Drexel on Sunday in the Carrier Dome, with the Dragons playing their game in the first week of the season. They opened with a 103-74 victory over Neumann and will face Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday.
Here’s what our beat writers think will happen in the first meeting since 2010 between the Orange and Drexel.
Andrew Crane (1-0)
Playing with fire
Syracuse 85, Drexel 74
Drexel sneaked into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 6 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association postseason last year, returned its top two scorers from that team and dropped 103 points in its season opener. That game was against Neumann, though. The same could be said about Syracuse’s 97-point output while playing Lafayette — a Patriot League school, but the Orange flashed some potential that a performance like that won’t be an anomaly as the season progresses. Will Jimmy Boeheim rip off four consecutive baskets to open the game and finish 8-for-9? Definitely not. Will Joe Girard III make every shot he takes from beyond the 3-point arc? He absolutely won’t. But, if all goes right for SU, those are the games when Buddy Boeheim and Cole Swider take over, providing a buffer in case certain scorers in their potent offense have an off-night.
The Dragons will pose a greater challenge for the Orange with their guard play and rebounding numbers — Drexel’s defensive rebounding percentage ranked 34th in the country last year, per KenPom — but SU’s plethora of scoring opportunities should keep its nonconference record unscathed, and do so by a comfortable margin.
Roshan Fernandez (1-0)
Syracuse over PA
Syracuse 88, Drexel 71
Syracuse will improve to 2-0 against Pennsylvania teams (and spoiler alert, they’ll probably beat Lehigh and at this rate, Pittsburgh, too). The Orange looked convincing against Lafayette both offensively and defensively, putting up 97 points on a 3-point shooting off-night for Cole Swider and Buddy Boeheim. It’s still very early to know how deep into nonconference and conference play the Orange can keep that up, but it’s a good sign — Syracuse has the offensive weapons around the perimeter to put up points, even when some aren’t having the best shooting days. The Orange have the weapons to drive inside and score in the paint. And, at least for now, the defense will be sufficient against a nonconference opponent from the CAA.
Gaurav Shetty (1-0)
Syracuse 92, Drexel 76
Unlike a handful of other ACC teams, the Orange avoided upsets against nonconference opponents in their season opener. In a game where Swider started the game slowly and Buddy Boeheim had a relatively quiet game for his standards, the Orange still cruised to an easy victory over Lafayette. It should be another routine victory over Drexel on Sunday as Syracuse’s newcomers continue to find their footing. Keep an eye on Syracuse’s assist total against Drexel as Girard and company tallied 26 helpers on Tuesday night, a mark higher than any game last season. On the other end of the floor, Jesse Edwards and Frank Anselem helped keep the Leopards out of the paint, with Swider and Jimmy Boeheim providing support on the wings of the zone. With Syracuse’s newer, more experienced team still coming together, Drexel should be an easy hurdle to jump.
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