Orange Welcome Canisius Into The Dome
After finals week featured very few games of consequences, it’ll be a relief to see the action resume Saturday when Syracuse takes on Canisius in the opening round of the Gotham Classic.
The Golden Griffins have raced out to a 6-1 record thanks to a very solid offense that averages 78 points per game, but in giving up 75 or more to Boston University, Stony Brook and Marist, they haven’t put forth nearly as inspiring an effort on the defensive end. Billy Baron, who followed his dad from Rhode Island when he was named as Canisius’ head coach, has been something of a low-major version of Michael Carter-Williams, but I say that somewhat crudely. The junior is averaging 17 points, six assists and 4.7 rebounds while playing 86% of his team’s available minutes. Additionally, he has assisted on 35% of his team’s baskets, which makes him an incredibly important player to Canisius. That’s about where the similarities end, though. Baron is one of the best three-point shooters on his team, having buried 12 of his 35 attempts, but has totaled just nine steals so far.
In addition to Baron’s firepower, the Golden Griffins have another zone buster in leading scorer Harold Washington, who is shooting a blistering 56.2% from beyond the arc. While that clip may give the Orange some Colin Falls-like jitters, the juco transfer stands just 6’1″, so Syracuse’s length may be one of the few things that can stop him from going off Saturday. As with most opponents, if the Orange close out on Canisius, they should be alright.
Defensively, Baron’s team has shown very little to write home about. They’re in the top half nationally in forcing turnovers, but they allow opponents to shoot 50.8% and let up more than their fair share of offensive rebounds. Forward Chris Manhertz is good on the glass, averaging eight boards a game, but their next-best rebounder, Jordan Heath, takes down just five a night. Help was supposed to be on the way in the form of 6’10”, 280-pound Kansas State transfer Freddy Asprilla, but a three-game suspension to start the season and foul problems after he was cleared have kept him from contributing in the way Baron envisioned when the Golden Griffins took him in.
Billy Baron: Averaging 18 point over his last three games on 40% 3FG to go along with 6.3 assists in that time.
Harold Washington: Averaging 19.7 points per game and shooting 11-22 3FG his last three games.
Alshwan Hymes: Shooting 37.8% this season with 15 turnovers to just 6 assists.
Freddy Asprilla: Committed four fouls in ten minutes in Sunday’s game against Marist.
Canisius isn’t good enough to make the NCAA Tournament on anything but an automatic bid, and they’re just a middle-of-the-road team in the MAAC. SU shouldn’t have much trouble Saturday. While Canisius’ comes into the Carrier Dome fielding one of the nation’s top 80 offenses, it’s does so having faced a porous schedule.
SU won’t run into many problems, but they do need to focus on holding onto the ball. If they can’t, we’ll see a game like the one against Eastern Michigan, but the key differences are that Canisius doesn’t mind running, and the Golden Griffins have the shooters who can make SU pay if the Orange don’t take them seriously. Still, Canisius will have to catch lightning in a bottle to stay in this one, and I just don’t see it happening.