We don’t always get a chance to put together Q&As with opposing teams’ sites during Notre Dame Fighting Irish basketball season, considering the sheer volume of games and necessary time it takes to put them together — but it’s become somewhat of an annual tradition for my guy James Szuba over at the Syracuse Orange SB Nation site, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, to collaborate with me for ND/Syracuse hoops Q&As.
So, with another match-up between the two programs set to take place at Purcell Pavilion on Saturday at noon ET, James and I traded questions and answers so our readers can better understand the other team heading into the game. You can find my answers to his questions here.
Without any further blabbering by me, let’s dive into James’ answers to see what kind of team the Orange are this year, when Jim Boeheim will finally get out of our collective hair, how Mike Brey would do against him in karaoke and H-O-R-S-E, and more.
1. How are you feeling about this year’s ‘Cuse team? Just based on their results so far, they look solid, considering their losses have almost exclusively come against good, tournament teams. What’s the Orange’s ceiling this year, both in terms of the ACC and the NCAA Tournament?
James Szuba: It’s actually been a pretty disappointing start, as many figured Syracuse would be among the top 25 all season given that all five starters returned and that Elijah Hughes and Jalen Carey joined the fold.
Frank Howard missed the preseason and the first four games with an ankle injury, and the offense has faced similar problems as last year.
Ceiling? Probably a fourth place finish in the ACC and maybe an Elite 8 run, but a lot has to change for Syracuse to reach that sort of mark.
2. Tell me about the key players on the team this year -- how have Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett improved for this season, who else should ND be wary of heading into this match-up, etc.?
James Szuba: Tyus and Oshae are the two biggest names to know for Notre Dame fans. Tyus can score from all three levels, but is best in transition and finishing around the rim. Oshae can impact the game in a lot of ways but is best suited around the rim and crashing the boards.
Other than that, Elijah Hughes is Syracuse’s biggest threat from deep and Marek Dolezaj does a lot of little things well. Frank Howard is a big key for the Orange at point but his injury has slowed him a bit in the scoring column. Still, he can pass the ball and play the 2-3 zone with the best of ‘em.
3. Looking at ND with its short-ish rotation of young, inexperienced guys, are there any weaknesses in this Syracuse team that you think the Irish can exploit to have a chance in this one? Alternatively, what are Syracuse’s greatest strengths this season?
James Szuba: Syracuse’s zone has been solid for the most part this year, but play from the center position has left much to be desired. I think if Notre Dame is to have success it’ll have to slow the Syracuse offensive attack, which by and large means containing Battle and Brissett.
4. How much longer do you think Jim Boeheim will coach at Syracuse, and who would you choose to succeed him if the answer, hypothetically, was “not much longer”?
James Szuba: Hard to say. I think Boeheim is set on coaching his son for these next four years. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’ll just be ready to walk away at that point.
As for who replaces him? It’s Mike Hopkins’ job if he wants it. Beyond that, Adrian Autry and Gerry McNamara are probably next in line.
5. Jim Boeheim vs. Mike Brey in a karaoke battle: who has the best stage presence and charisma, what song(s) does each coach sing, and who ultimately wins the contest via crowd applause-o-meter?
James Szuba: Brey. Not even close.
6. Jim Boeheim vs. Mike Brey in a game of H-O-R-S-E: who gets the fanciest with their shots, who makes the most ridiculous shot, and who ultimately wins?
James Szuba: Boeheim, even at his age. He probably wins by hitting banked in 12-footers or something along those lines.
7. If Paschal Chukwu and Juwan Durham were to sit on one or the other’s shoulders to form a mega-center, how many blocked shots could they accumulate in one game, and how many times would they topple to the floor due to being too tall to run gracefully down the court?
James Szuba: Paschal could theoretically do that without Durham on his shoulders. Let’s say that.
8. Prediction time: who wins, what’s the final score, and why?
James Szuba: Syracuse 71, Notre Dame 68
I think Syracuse actually takes this one on the road given limited Notre Dame’s depth and no Rex Pflueger.
I wanna give a big ole shout-out to James for, per usual, answering my stupid questions with excellent insight into the Syracuse hoops team. I suggest you all check out his work over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician (including my Q&A for this game), and also follow James and the site on Twitter for any and all fast-breaking news regarding Syracuse basketball overall and this game in particular.
Note: this will be the first game of the year I’m able to attend in-person, so get ready for my unnecessarily-long and extremely-detailed post game recap!!!