Men's Basketball

Syracuse basketball primer: What to know about Wisconsin and Georgetown

Logan Reidsma | Photo Editor

Syracuse is coming off a Battle 4 Atlantis title and will face Wisconsin and Georgetown this week. SU is 6-0, one of three undefeated teams left in the ACC.

Syracuse’s (6-0) trying nonconference schedule rolls along this coming week, with a Wednesday date with Wisconsin and a trip to Georgetown over the weekend.

The Orange won the Battle 4 Atlantis by beating No. 18 Connecticut and No. 25 Texas A&M, and put itself on the national landscape in the process. SU’s next two games aren’t as tough as they looked at the start of the season, but still could provide chances to build a tournament resume in the early season.

Wisconsin (4-3) — Wednesday, 7:15 p.m., Carrier Dome (ESPN2)

All-time series: Syracuse leads 2-1.

Last time they played: Top-seeded Syracuse beat No. 4 seed Wisconsin, 64-63, in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. C.J. Fair paced the Orange with 15 points, and SU eventually fell to Ohio State, 77-70, in the Elite Eight.

Wisconsin report: The Badgers started the year ranked No. 17 in the preseason AP poll, and now they’re not even receiving Top 25 votes. The season started poorly when Wisconsin was upset by Western Illinois, and it’s since lost to Georgetown by 10 and No. 7 Oklahoma, 65-48, on Sunday. The Badgers are led by Bronson Koenig (16.1 points per game) and Nigel Hayes (14.9 points per game), but aren’t shooting like a typical Wisconsin team. On the season, the Badgers are shooting 30.4 percent from 3 but, like Syracuse, are fully committed to a perimeter-style offense. In its lopsided loss to the Sooners, Wisconsin shot 7-for-33 from deep with Koenig and Hayes going a combined 5-for-22. The Badgers are also not particularly big, with no rotational player taller than 6 feet, 9 inches.

Statistic to know: Opponents are shooting 45.1 percent from 3 against Wisconsin according to Kenpom.com, a site that ranks 345 out of 351 Division I teams. Syracuse has been living, and thriving, beyond the arc this season and the Badgers will need to be aggressive in alert defending the perimeter on Wednesday.

How Wisconsin beats Syracuse: In order to take down Syracuse — and the early season has shown that Wisconsin is an underdog in this game — the Badgers need to move the zone by quickly moving the ball. Hayes is built to beat the zone from the high post and the perimeter, and getting him touches in different spots could exploit the Orange zone in different ways. Out of the high post, Hayes can draw attention from Syracuse’s guards and distribute to shooters. And if he’s shooting well from the outside, Hayes will stretch the zone and create opportunities for the Badgers inside. The Badgers, in simple turns, will also need to shoot a lot better than they have been.

On defense, Wisconsin is terrible defending the perimeter and can’t afford to give Syracuse too many open shots. Its best bet will be to close out hard and make SU go to the rim and hope that Hayes, Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ can do a serviceable job protecting the rim.

Georgetown (2-3) — Saturday, 1 p.m., Verizon Center (FOX)

All-time series: Syracuse leads 49-41, with the first of 90 all-time matchups coming in 1930.

Last time they played: Syracuse beat Georgetown, 58-55 in overtime, in the semifinals of the 2013 Big East Tournament. The win came as revenge for the Orange after it fell twice to the Hoyas during the 2013 regular season.

Georgetown report: The Hoyas were upset by Radford in two overtimes on opening night, and have since lost respectable losses to then-No. 3 Maryland (75-71) and then-No. 5 Duke (86-84). In both of those games, Georgetown couldn’t guard Maryland’s Melo Trimble or Duke’s Grayson Allen, both of whom are considered top-flight guards. When the Hoyas beat Wisconsin, 71-61, it held its starting backcourt of Koenig and Zak Showalter to a combined 16 points. Aside from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s offensive struggles — he’s shooting just 28.6 from 3 and surprisingly isn’t leading the Hoyas in scoring — he and his backcourt mates have been exposed defensively by talented backcourts. To hide that, 7-foot freshman Bradley Hayes has been a decent rim protector and naturally alters shots at the rim. Guard L.J. Peak and forward Isaac Copeland are both double-figures scorers who provide mismatches at their positions.

Statistic to know: According to Kenpom, Peak’s 94.4 free-throw rate is the 23rd best in the country. Free-throw rate weighs a player’s free-throw attempts against field-goal attempts to measure how many free throws he generates relative to how often he tries to score. Peak, at 6-foot-5, frequently attacks the basket and Syracuse’s bigs will need to go straight up on him to stay out of foul trouble.

How Georgetown beats Syracuse: Like Wisconsin, Georgetown takes a lot of 3s and can’t let Syracuse get going in transition. The Orange is potent when on the run and the Hoyas guards and small forward need to be cognizant of that from the start of the game. Georgetown has the offensive horses to make this a tight game the whole way, and that will happen if Smith-Rivera snaps out of his shooting funk and Peak gets into the creases of the 2-3 zone. If those guys are operating as an effective one-two punch, SU will have trouble deciding whether it wants to extend or tighten its defense, which could lead to crunch-time breakdowns.

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