ACC-Big 10 Challenge Preview: Syracuse vs. Indiana

CJ Fair

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 15th annual ACC-Big 10 Challenge opens up with the Indiana Hoosiers traveling to Syracuse to take on the Orange in a battle of two of college basketball’s most historic programs. Lets take a look.

Backcourt

This game matches up two of the best point guards in the entire nation. Yogi Ferrell, a sophomore for the Hoosiers, will face off against Syracuse’s big-time freshman Tyler Ennis. The two are asked to do different things for their ball clubs. Ferrell is asked to take a lot of shots and carry them offensively. He is averaging 18.1 points per game and has currently taken 39 more shots then the next guy. He has improved his jump shot greatly since last season, shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc so far this season.

The freshman, Ennis, does not play like a freshman. He does a little bit of everything to make this team better. He is currently averaging 11.7 points per game to go along with 3.1 rebounds, 4.7 assist and 2.9 steals. He has 33 assists and only eight turnovers through seven games. Not many players, let alone a freshman, have assist-to-turnover ratios that good. Ennis is a special player.

Indiana lacks a true shooting guard. They will have senior Will Sheehey and freshman Troy Williams interchanging between the two and three position. They are both big and long guards who can defend whomever. However, both struggle shooting the ball and with Syracuse playing their daunting 2-3 zone this could be a problem for the Hoosiers.

For the Orange, redshirt sophomore Trevor Cooney will start alongside Ennis. Cooney is the Orange’s second leading scorer. He is averaging 14.3 points per game and is shooting 45.7 percent from three this season. He is also a menace atop their 2-3 zone, averaging 2.4 steals per game.

Advantage: Syracuse

Frontcourt 

Noah Vonleh may be the most talented freshman that no one is talking about. He is averaging 12.9 points per game along with 10.4 rebounds for the Hoosiers in only 21.3 minutes per game. That is an incredibly effective stat line. Vonleh, who is listed at 6-foot-10, is a legit lottery pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA draft. He is extremely long and athletic, has good hands and dominates both the offensive and defensive glass. He is putting up extremely good numbers, but as Crean increases his minutes as the season goes on this guy will be putting up All-American type numbers. He is that talented.

Alongside Vonleh is sophomore Jeremy Hollowell, who saw action last season as a freshman but has improved greatly and became a nice player for the Hoosiers. He is averaging 10 points per game this season and has been a nice surprise thus far this season.

Syracuse is led by preseason ACC player of the year C.J. Fair, who has lived up to the hype through seven games. He is dominating ball games averaging 18 points per game along with nearly six rebounds. He is scoring around the basket as well as hitting mid-range shots at an extremely high rate. Fair is also getting to the line and knocking down his foul shots. He is shooting 88.9 percent from the line. He is a tough cover because of how versatile he is on the offensive end. Fair also brings something many teams lack, senior leadership from their best player.

Beside Fair is sophomore Dajuan Coleman as well as junior Rakeem Christmas. Neither are great scoring options, but they have experience in Boeheim’s 2-3 and provide length and toughness that make the zone so tough to score on. Neither light up the box score, but they both play a huge role in making this Syracuse team go.

Advantage: Syracuse

Bench

The bench is one of Indiana’s biggest problems. Their leading scorer off the bench is Evan Gordon, who is averaging 6.1 points per game. Gordon is a graduate player from Arizona State where he averaged 10.1 points per game last season. He has the ability to score at this level, but it is obvious he is getting adjusted to Crean’s system because he has struggled so far this season. Freshman Devin Davis is an athletic asset for Crean off the bench. Davis is averaging over five rebounds per game as well as over one block. He can provide a quick spark off the bench.

Syracuse has maybe the best sixth man in all of college basketball in sophomore Jerami Grant. Grant is playing starter minutes for the Orange (27.7 MPG), but Boeheim has him coming off the bench. Grant is averaging 14.2 points per game and 6.7 rebounds. He is one of Syracuse’s best all-around players.

Advantage: Syracuse

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