Blogs > Pemberton's Point

Inside look at high school and Oakland University sports from Oakland Press sports writer Dave Pemberton.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oakland-Syracuse preview

The opponent — Syracuse (2-0) is just outside the top 25, earning 97 points in the Associated Press poll, which is good for 30th in the nation. The Orange were predicted to finish 8th in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, which is still impressive considering seven Big East teams are currently ranked in the top 25 and four are in the top 10.

Syracuse returns four starters from last year’s 21-14 team, if you include junior guard Eric Devendorf, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. The Orange are led by the trio of Devendorf (18 points per game), sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn (22 points) and junior forward Arinze Onuaku (14.5 points). The trio scored 66 of Syracuse’s 76 points in its, 76-71, win over Richmond. Junior forward Paul Harris (9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds) is the fourth returning starter and 6-foot-8 senior Kristof Ongenaet has started the first two games, with junior guard Andy Rautins the first player off the bench.

The Orange don’t have a ton of height, 6-foot-9 Onuaku is the tallest starter and second tallest player on the team. The tallest is 6-11 sophomore Sean Williams, who has played two minutes this season.

Key matchup — Oakland senior Erik Kangas vs. Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf. There is no question the matchup between Oakland’s Johnathon Jones and Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn is huge, but the Kangas-Devendorf matchup could prove to be the difference maker. Both players can hit multiple 3s in a hurry and change the whole momentum of a game. Both teams like to play a zone defense and nothing hurts a zone more than a hot 3-point shooter. Kangas has hit just 35.7 percent of hits 3s this season, but that likely means nothing. Devendorf is hitting 45 percent of his 3-point attempts this season and had four against Richmond.

Matchup history — This will be the first meeting between Oakland and Syracuse. The Grizzlies are 0-6 all-time against the Big East. Syracuse has played just one Summit Leauge team in its history, falling to Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA tournament back in 1974.

The skinny — The Oregon win was huge for Oakland’s confidence in this brutal schedule to start the season, but it also serves notice to future opponents to not take the Grizzlies lightly. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has probably told his team all about Oakland’s win over Oregon, plus the Orange survived somewhat of a scare against Richmond earlier this week so will likely be less prone to take a team lightly. The Grizzlies will need to hit their outside shots, limit Syracuse’s 3-pointers and sophomore Keith Benson will need to have a big game inside and avoid foul trouble, which has been a problem in the first two games. A big part of Syracuse’s gameplan will likely be shutting down Jones, so he will need to make good decisions and find open shots for his teammates if he can’t find any for himself.

Note: I will be on ESPN Radio 1260 in Syracuse Friday at 3:25 p.m. to talk about the Grizzlies. You can listen online at

To see my preview of Oakland's road trip click here



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home