Syracuse Orange at Illinois Fighting Illini

The Syracuse Orange will look to end their two-game losing streak on Tuesday evening when they take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in the ACC/B1G Challenge. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 PM EST tip-off from State Farm Arena in Champagne, IL. Illinois enters the game as a (-10.5) home favorite, with the total set at 145 points.

Illinois enters the game with a 5-1 record on the season and a top-25 ranking. The Illini’s only loss of the season came against the Virginia Cavaliers on a neutral court in Las Vegas. Their early season victories include a resume’ building win over a UCLA team that is also considered one of the best in the nation.

Orange Looking for Another Quality Win

Syracuse is once again one of the more trivial teams in the ACC this season. The Orange have a talented roster this year, specifically in the backcourt with freshman Judah Mintz and senior Joe Girard, who are combining for nearly 32 points per game. Where the duo falls short is in the turnover category, as they combine for a nearly 1-1 assist-to-turnover ratio through six games.

Coach Jim Boeheim also boasts one of the best big men in the ACC with senior Jesse Edwards. The 6 ’11 center is averaging a double-double to this point while living up to his reputation as a top-notch rim protector blocking 2.8 shots per game. Sophomore forward Benny Williams also appears to be coming into his own this season, averaging 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, along with nearly two thefts per contest.

Despite a high level of talent, the Orange are once again struggling in the offensive metrics. They rank 157th in the nation in effective field goal percentage and 180th in three-point shooting. In past seasons coach, Boeheim has been able to neutralize offensive struggles with a stout defense, but Syracuse has fallen short there as well this season. His patented 2-3 zone currently has the club ranking 151st in defensive effective field goal percentage while ranking 312th in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage.

The Orange have covered in just two of their six games on the season, with the total going under in four of their six contests.

Illinois Fighting for Respect

Coach Brad Underwood’s team did not have huge expectations coming into the season after losing a boatload of talent in the offseason. Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer, and Andre Curbelo have all moved on, but Illinois remains strong after landing Terrence Shannon from Texas Tech and Matthew Mayer from Baylor during free agency. Dain Dainja, a former top 75 recruit, also joined the program after transferring from Baylor and leads the team in rebounding, while five-star point guard Skyy Clark also joined the fray.

Underwood has been able to get a team of newcomers to buy in defensively, and the result is a top 20 defensive team that ranks 18th in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense and 23rd in defensive turnover percentage.

Pick and Prediction

Syracuse has shown they are vulnerable against teams that crash the offensive glass, and Illinois does just that. The Illini rank 32nd in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and 35th in the nation in second chance conversion percentage. While coach Underwood doesn’t have the convenience of Cockburn any longer, he does have a nice stable of big men to run onto the court.

Look for Illinois to hit the glass effectively and ride their superstar (Shannon) to a victory for the B1G in the challenge and covering the number in the process.

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