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A Syracuse Perspective On Duke

We traded a Q&A with John Cassillo of Syracuse site TroyNunesIsAnAbsoluteMagician for Saturday's big game. Here are his answers. Thanks John!

Actually this is pretty much Tyler Ennis' game face too.
Actually this is pretty much Tyler Ennis' game face too.
Rich Barnes

1) What would you say is a weakness for Tyler Ennis? I can't really see any.

For a freshman point guard, he does seem kind of perfect, doesn't he? But our star does have his flaws. He's uncomfortable playing in transition (watch any tape and you'll see he either slows the pace and lets everyone catch up, or we see a very awkward finish at the basket). Additionally, he can force passes (see the late "tipped ball" on Wednesday night) under duress -- but no more than any other point guard might. So, in short, his late-game play-making is more a product of his shooting than passing, and if you find him in transition, there's no guarantee that ball's making it to the net.

2) How would you attack the zone? It's been pretty effective so far, but the ACC has always been a man-to-man league. It's an interesting change.

Boston College's drive-and-kick was a perfect way to attack the zone, drawing it in and then leaving a man isolated on the perimeter. Problem is, you have to hit those shots. As you guys noticed in our last matchup, even if you pull that off, though, there needs to be that extra element, too. Be it getting our big men in foul trouble (we're shorthanded right now) or hitting a ton from the free throw line, that's what elevates a "hit all the threes" gameplan to a winning one against the zone.

3) Assuming Syracuse and UVa enter their game with the same record, how would you attack Virginia?

On offense, drive the lane and draw fouls. Clemson did this to a degree on Saturday, but that broke down into ill-advised jump shots over time. Dedication to that inside game and offensive rebounds (which SU has actually collected at an impressive clip this year) is our best bet, and since that's what we do anyway, it's unlikely we deviate for UVa. Defensively, force Joel Harris to make plays, lock down the paint and get into passing lanes. Virginia has low turnover numbers overall, mostly due to pace (so similar to SU), but as we saw against the Tigers, they're mistake-prone when rushed. I hope the Orange plan to run a bit to take the Hoos out of their comfort zone.

4) Along the same lines, what's your impression of the ACC so far? I know there's still an afterglow from our first game, but you asked in your questions if this was a down year for the league. For argument's sake it is, but the worst team in a down year beat your guys at home. Is that sort of different from the Big East?

For the most part, it is what we thought it was: a top-heavy league with a very pesky middle section. But you can see there are a lot of passionate (and even a bit unsung) fan bases around the ACC, which is familiar to what we're used to. Obviously, it's a bit of an adjustment going from a league in which you hold the reins (the Big East) to one where others (Duke, UNC) primarily do, but I think we're asserting ourselves. Starting 25-0 helps that, for sure. Regarding BC, that actually reminded a lot of us of the Big East. There were no nights off in that league and a lot of mutual respect (and disdain) in every single game. We were battered at the end of the regular season. Kind of hoping the ACC never gets to that EXACT level of intensity, though.

5) What differences do you see between your old league and the ACC? Are you happy with the move?

Sort of addressed some of this in the last question, but there are a lot of differences: Less regional travel, less familiar fan bases, a completely different ton of fan base interaction (both good and bad), and a much different hierarchy to adjust to. As we were leaving, the Big East had turned into a slog and a lot of teams were prepared for the zone. So right now, the ACC is sort of that, but with some training wheels. Lots of zone premises being implemented and preparation for it is being stressed. The ACC's full of low-scoring teams for the most part, which (again) isn't too different from what we're used to. I've been thrilled with the move since day one (especially for football), but I think everyone's come around at this point. If we didn't move, someone else (UConn) would've, and then we'd be stuck on the island of misfit toys. Do hope we get Georgetown locked into the non-conference schedule, however.

6) Honest question/answer here: outside of Syracuse, a lot of people see Boeheim as whiny, crotchety and a guy who is not that great a coach. Not me - I think he's pretty good and with a wonderfully dry wit - but that's the takeaway down here. If you gave him, say, UNC's, State's or Maryland's roster, how do you think he'd do?

We all love Jim because of that dry wit, his dedication to Syracuse and the surrounding community, and the "zero fucks given" attitude he always puts out there. Before we were a "big time basketball school," that's what made us one. He's the draw to come to chilly Central New York and always will be, even after he retires. If he had another roster, he'd transition them to a 2-3 zone and that might take a few years to really catch on. So right away, maybe he'd struggle a bit. But eventually, it would all work out. Took us awhile to really perfect things at SU, honestly. Only recently has this zone been running on all cylinders with the perfect athletes for the system.

7) What do you do in Syracuse in winter besides basketball and snowball fights?

Drink. We have a podcast all about it. I live in Los Angeles now, however, so my "winter" involves beaches. Much better alternative.

8) Any word on the prospective new arena/dome? Any personal hopes on your part?

We've created a unique on-campus experience with the Carrier Dome -- a setup that allows us to bring 30,000 for a basketball game with little issue and a gameday atmosphere that completely overshadows most others. However, there are plenty of issues, too. Luxury boxes are terrible, there are a lot of bad seats in the upper deck for hoops, and we signed a foolish naming rights deal that was a one-time fee of $1 million when the place opened. I want the Dome to always be there because it's a huge part of what the program has become. But you could've said the same about Archibold Stadium (our old football field) and Manley Field House (still standing on South Campus) beforehand. So who knows. I expect there will be movement on this one way or another, even if the majority of the fan base isn't pleased with the idea.