Maryland-Syracuse preview: Slumping Orange come to town

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange have been slumping lately, and that could bode well for Maryland. Each side presents unique match-ups for one another, and this could result in yet another low-scoring Syracuse game.

The Syracuse Orange will roll into College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins on Monday, February 24. The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 7pm EST. The Orange will drop from their number one ranking after suffering losses to Boston College and Duke this week, so the Terps will face a slumping team that had won its first 25 games of the season.The Orange bring in a fairly well-rounded team, but only possess one senior on the roster in C.J. Fair, the Baltimore native. Jerami Grant is also returning to Maryland, as he played his high school ball in Hyattsville.

Players to watch

C.J. Fair, 6'8", 215 pound senior

C.J. Fair is who gets it all started for the Orange. He is averaging 16.4 points per game, but is a versatile player that is tough to defend. He has a smooth stroke from the mid-range, and will attack off the dribble to set his shots up. Fair will find a way to attack the rim, seeming to rarely miss around the rim. It is likely that Jake Layman will get the task of guarding him, which could be a nightmare scenario. They both match-up height wise, but Fair is strong and will use his body when attacking. Layman will have to bring his "A" game against Fair.

Jerami Grant, 6'8", 210 pound sophomore

Here's how good Grant is. When Baye Moussa-Keita was out for a few games with a knee injury, Grant was able to play some time at center. Grant is what many would call a "high-flyer." He will jump out of the gym, out-muscle players for rebounds, and finishes near the rim with the best of them. Averaging 12.6 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game, this is a tough match-up for Evan Smotrycz. While Grant can knock down the mid-range shot, he looks to get near the rim for higher-percentage looks. He will also never take a three-point shot, so there is no reason to step out on him when he is beyond the arc.

Rakeem Christmas, 6'9", 250 pound junior

Christmas is listed at 250 pounds, but that is tough to believe. Christmas is a player who will score when the chance is given, but won't exclusively look to score. He is on the floor to block shots, and rebound the basketball, two things he does extremely well. Christmas averages six points per game and 4.9 rebounds per contest. The problem for Christmas is he gets in foul trouble regularly, so that is an area Charles Mitchell should look to attack. However, don't send Christmas to the free throw line, because he has gotten a lot better shooting free throws, seemingly knocking down a majority of them every game.

Trevor Cooney, 6'4", 195 pound redsirt sophomore

Which Trevor Cooney will Syracuse get on Monday? The red-hot Cooney who is knocking down threes, or the ice-cold Cooney who can't get anything to go? That is what helps the Syracuse offense go. If Cooney is hitting his shots, the Orange offense is a tough animal to stop. Cooney averages 13 points per game, but has been in a bit of a slump recently, and teams have been defending him tightly, knowing he is the guy that helps get it going for the Orange. This will be a fun match-up for Dez Wells, as he will likely be the one to guard Cooney. If Cooney gets hot, look out, because he will not miss. But if he is cold, that bodes well for the opposing team.

Tyler Ennis, 6'2", 180 pound freshman

Ennis is a jack-of-all-trades. He can knockdown the outside shot, attack the rim, and defer to his teammates. The most impressive part of Ennis' game is his poise for a freshman. No matter the moment, Ennis keeps a cool demeanor, and never gets rattled. Ennis averages 11.7 points per game to go along with his 5.7 assists per game. He rarely turns the ball over, and will make you work for every possession. Many in Syracuse argue he is the best point guard they have seen don the uniform since Earl "the pearl" Washington.

Michael Gbinije, 6'7", 200 pound sophomore

Gbinije is a Duke transfer, and is one of the least aggressive on the team. He plays his role to perfection, which is play defense and help distribute the basketball. He only averages 3.4 points per game, but do not give him an open look because he will hit it if given the opportunity. Gbinije is long and athletic, and has the ball-handling to spare Ennis when he needs a breather.

Strengths

Syracuse can rebound the ball well out of their 2-3 zone, and look to run-out any chance they can. They do not score a lot of points consistently, but they are efficient and methodical in their offense. Ideally, the Orange like to get in transition for easy buckets. They're also good for a highlight-reel dunk. The Orange know how to wear down opponents, and strike when the moment is right, as can be seen in their many tightly contested games this season. The Orange don't seem impressive, but they know how to win games. Their 2-3 zone is tougher to pick apart than many might think, and that could be a challenge for Maryland. It is imperative that the opponents hit threes on that zone, and if Maryland can't find a consistent outside shot, they could be in trouble.

Weaknesses

The Orange struggle mightily to score consistent baskets. They can go minutes at a time without a basket, giving weaker opponents a chance to stay in the game, which was never more evident than their loss to Boston College. This is where Maryland must take advantage. It is almost inevitable that the Orange will have a lull in the game, so the Terps will have to take that moment and make the most of it if they want to be in this game. Besides Cooney, the Orange do not have another consistent outside shooter, so the interior is where they like to attack.

Prediction

KenPom prediction: Syracuse win, 66-63, 62% chance of an Orange victory.

Our prediction: Maryland wins, 65-60.

Syracuse is known to go through bad times where they lose a few games, even to opponents they shouldn't lose to. If the Terps can find a way to take advantage of the stagnant offense of the Orange, they can pull out this victory.

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