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March 21, 2012
The Wisconsin Badgers' Sweet 16 game against Syracuse is approaching quickly, leaving very little time for both teams to learn as much as they can about their opponent. In order to get a better understanding of what the Badgers are facing tonight, BadgerBlitz.com sat down with Ryan Murray, who publishes CuseConfidential.com. The following is a Q&A with Ryan, who was kind enough to help us get to know the No. 1-seeded Orange a little better before tonight's matchup.
Most people know the Orange for their 2-3 zone defense. What's another important part of their success that flies under the radar?
Syracuse plays one of the best zone defenses in the country year in and year out. The reason it is so good is because the players play in the same system for their entire career at Syracuse. However, those players are also recruited for Syracuse's zone before they put on their Syracuse jersey. The Orange this season also have an extremely tall backcourt to go with their back court, so it is the overall size and knowing their assignments that make it tough.
Despite losing just twice this season, do the Orange have any weaknesses that they've been able to mask with a winning record?
Even though Syracuse has only lost two games they have a lot of weaknesses. Syracuse has trouble shooting the ball from the outside; their half court offense at times can be low and inefficient. Those two items go along with the fact that the Orange have been a horrible rebounding team all season long. Those three factors have been hidden under the radar because of Syracuse's defense and ability to block shots has helped the Orange get out in transition and score points neutralizing their short comings.
Losing Fab Melo was obviously a big hit, but who has stepped up to replace him, and how has he done in his place? Are there any lingering concerns about not having Melo for the tournament?
With Fab Melo out the center position is being held down by freshman Rakeem Christmas. Throughout the season Christmas has started next to Melo at power forward, but his natural position is center. With Melo out Christmas has become a rebounding threat, recording almost double-digit rebounds in every game he has started at center. The Orange do not rely on Christmas to score and that allows him to focus on defense and rebounding. As of right now there are no concerns for Syracuse as long as Christmas can keep his game at a high level.
Who is the Orange's top source of offense?
Losing Fab Melo also has not really hurt the offense because Melo was not one of the top scorers on the team. The top scorers are shooting guard Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph. Other scoring can come from James Southerland who is scoring double figures in the NCAA Tournament. Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, and C.J. Fair are also able to lead Syracuse in scoring on any given day.
If you had to pick one under-the-radar player to break out during the game, who would you pick and why?
Despite leading the Orange in minutes played C. J. Fair is not having a great tournament. If Fair can return to form it would be an absolutely huge lift for the Orange. With Fair back it would relieve pressure on many players when it comes to rebounding and scoring.
The Badgers have one of the nation's best defenses in a statistical sense. Can Syracuse adapt to that kind of play, or will they need to force their own tempo on the game to win?
One of Syracuse's losses this year came against Notre Dame. In that game the Irish slowed the tempo down and that frustrated the Orange. After that game teams tried to do the same thing to Syracuse, but the Orange have been able to respond. With Wisconsin slowing down the Orange it could force them into a bad game without a doubt.
Thanks again to Ryan for sitting down with BadgerBlitz.com. The Badgers will take on Syracuse at 6:15 p.m. CST tonight, with the game scheduled to air on CBS.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.