San Diego State Aztecs vs. Syracuse Orange -1.5 (Total: 129.5)
** Game Played at USS Midway, San Diego Bay
Perhaps the third time will be the charm… the first two attempts at games played on aircraft carriers have been miserable failures so far this season, with both the other two resulting in cancelled games that won’t be made up. This game has already been rescheduled from its original Friday date. Hopefully the wait will prove wise and we will be the high caliber college basketball game this matchup promises on paper.
Syracuse enters with the more familiar name, but for college hoops hardcore fans, the Aztecs should enter this game with more name recognition. The Aztecs return a loaded lineup led by Jamal Franklin who averaged 17.6 ppg and 7.9 rebounds last season. He is on my sleeper list for National POY honors, and is a very strong All American candidate. He has some help returning as well, in the form of Chase Tapley (15.8 ppg, 5.3 reb) and Xavier Thames, their best retuning distributor (10.1 pgg, 4.4 asst.). They bring back as much as all but about four or five teams in the country (Indiana, Louisville, Michigan) and are legit Final Four contender.
Now for the potentially BAD news for SDSU. They are really small. As in, no one over 6’8’’ in the starting lineup small. Syracuse is BIG. As in, three guys 6’9’’ or bigger in the rotation big. This game will be an interesting contrast in offensive goals, especially given the aircraft carrier variable. Reports yesterday were that winds were strong enough to blow jumpshots half a foot in the air right or left, which could lead to an interesting dynamic. Syracuse would seem to have the edge with their size, but I look at it slightly differently; errant jumpshots tend to lead to long rebounds (placing emphasis on guard rebounding, which SDSU does very well) and leading to run-out fastbreak opportunities (which SDSU also does well).
Overall, I think most experts give the winner a slight tip of the cap, and easily dismiss the loss given the location and oddity of the game. However, this game still feels a little more important for San Diego State. Syracuse will get plenty of chances to prove themselves in Big East play, and will benefit from the overrated factor of simply being in the Big East (as evidenced by their #9 preseason ranking). The ‘Cuse return some talent, Rakeem Christmas, CJ Fair and Brandon Triche, but I think it is going to take them a few more games to adjust to life without the underrated Scoop Jardine.
This has the potential to be one of the early-season gems, if Mother Nature cooperates (a huge IF). I think Syracuse is a contender in their Big East swan song, but I really like this SDSU team. Steve Fisher has built a helluva program out west; a legit national player. Today is a big chance to prove it, and I think his kids will play like it.
Free Pick: San Diego State Aztecs +1.5
** Editor note – This game OPENED at Syr -3.5 and continues to move with all the tipoff fluctuations, etc. This would be a wise game to shop around for a favorable line, as I’ve seen them all over the map in the last 24 hours.