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Basket Cases: Nunes Magician Talks Iowa-Syracuse

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What does Iowa need to be ready for against Jim Boeheim and company?

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2) will take on the Syracuse Orange (4-3) tomorrow night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. To learn a little bit more about each team, Kevin Wall of nunesmagician.com (formerly troynunesisanabsolutemagician (dot) com, RIP) reached out to exchange Q&As.

1) Syracuse’s defense is a little below the top 20 standard they’ve set over the last 10 years. How were Oklahoma State and Penn State able to attack Boeheim’s vaunted zone defense?

Oklahoma State was able to get out in transition and get baskets before Syracuse was able to set up the zone. Isaac Likele was especially effective at getting to the rim. Penn State controlled the boards and the Orange were unable to slow down Mike Watkins inside. One concern is that Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard aren’t as quick as the players that are usually at the top of the zone so shutting down penetration and passing lanes will be something to watch.

2) Elijah Hughes has exploded offensively in the early season, averaging 19 PPG after a modest 13.8 PPG output last year. What has Syracuse done to enable this improvement?

Hughes has really expanded his game this year. He’s handling the ball well and creating space for shots off the dribble. One adjustment Boeheim has made is having Hughes bring the ball up or catch it near half-court while Boeheim and Girard move to the wings to create space for Hughes to isolate his defender. He needs to avoid foul trouble as Syracuse’s offense needs to run through him to be effective.

3) Boeheim is known for his tight rotations but is there someone on the fringes of it who might be able to take advantage of Iowa’s porous defense?

Quincy Guerrier, the freshman from Montreal had his first college double-double and should be pushing for more minutes. Guerrier’s had trouble converting around the rim but he’s athletic and physical and could provide the Orange with some inside scoring.

4) Buddy Boeheim appears to be a major cog in this offense, shooting a team high 29.4% of shots per KenPom. Is his role and performance in the offense expected and, as a fan of a team with two coach’s sons, do you think he is held to a higher standard due to his relationship with the head coach?

He’s facing some scrutiny after the two losses because of the poor shooting and this Syracuse team really needs him to knock down shots. Last year Buddy shot 40% from 3 in ACC play but this year team’s are focused on shutting him down. He said himself that he needs to try and get to the basket and foul line when the deep shots aren’t falling. Joe Girard can provide some help but he’s making the transition to point guard and both Oklahoma State and Penn State focused on making him work to bring the ball up under pressure

5) Lastly, who ya got?

Syracuse really needs this game and while there is concern about controlling Luka Garza inside I think the Orange zone can limit Iowa just enough to give Syracuse a 66-61 win. This seems like a game where Elijah Hughes can be the difference maker.

Thanks again to Kevin for taking some time out of shoveling to answer these questions. You can follow him at @kwallcuse and Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician at @NunesMagician because “TroyNunesisanAbsoluteMagician” is too long for Twitter.