Non-Con Players To Watch
Tuesday night, Dominican import Gerardo Suerdo was a pain in the neck for the Orange (well, as much as one player can be in an otherwise lopsided game). The 31 points from the Albany guard were the most by a Syracuse opponent in the Carrier Dome since Ryan Wittman went crazy for 33 for Cornell in 2008. Despite SU’s size advantage down low, Suero was able to at least get into the lane, if not score, whenever he wanted. Jim Boeheim was complimentary of his play in the postgame presser, but he also used it as a point by which to criticize his team’s defensive effort.
With the last rounds of the NIT Season Tip-Off coming soon, plus games against Florida, NC State and other non-con foes, today’s a good day to do a little advance scouting and talk about the most notable players left in the non-con portion of the schedule. They may be notable because of their experience, or for younger players, their promise and hype coming in, but they should attract as much, if not more attention by the SU defense than Suero should have.
While this is a Syracuse blog first and foremost, I’m a fan of the game in general and enjoy keeping tabs on teams across the country. With so many squads in Division I, there’s such a high level of variation in style and talent from top to bottom that you could trip over a good storyline or three for just about every team. There are ten remaining non-conference games on the schedule, so here’s a list of players to watch out for who could pull a Suero and get ‘Cuse fans talking. In no particular order:
1. Bradley Beal, Florida – The Florida game will represent SU’s biggest challenge of non-league play, not just because they’re the highest-ranked team, but because they have the shooters to test Boeheim’s allegiance to zone defense, and Beal may be the best of the bunch. A freshman from St. Louis, Beal comes to Gainesville as a gunner with high accolades. He was tabbed by RSCI as the country’s #4 overall freshman and was recognized as a McDonald’s All-American. In his first two games, he hasn’t been the least bit gunshy. Of his 26 shots attempted in two games, half of them have been threes, and he’s hit 30.8% of them, a number which will only go up.
2. Deandre Kane, Marshall – Last season, Kane was one of the nation’s highest-scoring freshman, contributing 15 points per game to the Thundering Herd’s cause, including an 18-point night in a win over West Virginia. While Syracuse doesn’t lose often at home before league play, Marshall carved out an ambitious schedule for this season, so don’t expect the atmosphere to set them back.
3-4. Keiton Page, Oklahoma State/Josh Owens, Stanford: Since the Orange will play either the Cowboys or the Cardinal, but not both, at Madison Square Garden after their game with Virginia Tech, naming a player from each team covers both possibilities. If you’re like me and follow other power conferences, you know that Le’Bryan Nash may be the most athletic player in the Big 12. While I think he’ll give the Orange a few fits inside, I’d be more concerned about Page getting hot from deep. A 37.4% accuracy rate from behind the three-point line is agreeable, and that’s what Page shot last season – but it was also the lowest three-point shooting percentage in a season for the 5’9″ guard, who is now a senior. Over 65% of his shots have come outside the arc, and he should be a primary focus if the Orange and Cowboys do battle.
Owens, on the other hand, is a big man, though like Page, he’s a senior. This Cardinal team is a far cry from the days of the Lopez twins, but the Atlanta native is a steady force down low and is considered the leader of an otherwise young and thin team. He doesn’t show much range, but at a Rick Jackson-like career 57.6% shooting percentage, he can convert inside without much of a problem. If Stanford draws the Orange, all eyes will be on the matchup of Owens against Syracuse’s back line.
5. Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech – This fifth-year senior can score inside and out, and can hurt you at the line. This year’s Hokie team is capable of finally getting over the hump instead of sweating it out on Selection Sunday yet again, but it is the play of guys like Hudson and Victor Davila that will have to get them there.
6. Richard Howell, NC State – While CJ Leslie may end up being the better overall player, he was suspended for the team’s first three games, and if you remember, he missed last season’s game against SU with an injury. Howell has exploded in the early going for an average of 16 points and ten rebounds. Rebounding has always been his strong suit, but if his rejuvenated offensive game holds up against better competition, he’ll be one of the best posts threat to face the Orange before New Year’s.
7. Mike Muscala, Bucknell – Staying in the big man category, Muscala is the top forward in the Patriot League. The Bison dominated their league last season and returned everyone for this season, and they like to schedule BCS conference teams to get them ready. Muscala had a double-double against Minnesota earlier this month and another strong game against Vanderbilt. He also nailed a couple clutch shots last season to win games for the Bison, so if they somehow keep things close next month, he’ll be the one to keep an eye on.
8. Kendall Timmons, Tulsa – In just his sophomore season, Timmons did a ton for the Green Wave last year, averaging 17 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists. In an admittedly small sample, Timmons is torching opponents this season as well, shooting 65% overall and 40% on threes, so he may be another player that threatens a switch from zone to man defense with a hot shooting night. Conference USA is Memphis’ to lose, but there’s a lot of talent up and down Tulsa’s lineup that makes it a contender in the conference.
9. Patric Young, Florida – Tabbed as a breakout player by many this season, Young came around slowly in his freshman season as the best big man in Florida’s guard-heavy system. He’s a total beast down low, however, and already looks to be much improved. He’s the ideal complement to the Gators’ stable of shooters and will ensure that SU’s zone doesn’t hedge towards the outside. Young is by far the most talented post threat that will go up against the core of Melo, Christmas and Keita and after the Orange play Florida, ‘Cuse may not see a better big man until they meet Andre Drummond in February.
10. Tony Taylor, George Washington – Through two games, Taylor is averaging 20 points, which is a godsend for the Colonials, because the next top scorer is averaging just seven. Like Bucknell, GW returns a high percentage of its returning production, but Taylor is their horse, as he played over 30 minutes per game last season and is on his way to doing it again. Earlier this week, Taylor put up 20 against Cal, who may be the best team in the Pac-12, so he’s going to come into the Dome on December 10 ready to put on a show.