Men's Basketball

Syracuse men’s basketball opponent preview: What to know about No. 5 seed Ole Miss

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

John Gillon and the Orange will look to advance to the NIT's Elite Eight with a win on Saturday against Ole Miss.

Syracuse’s postseason rolls on Saturday morning, as the top-seeded Orange (19-14, 10-8 Atlantic Coast) host No. 5 Ole Miss (21-13, 10-8 Southeastern) in the Carrier Dome at 11 a.m for the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. SU is coming off a 13-point win over UNC Greensboro on Wednesday while the Rebels topped No. 4 Monmouth, 91-83, in a first-round win earlier this week.

Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s game.

All-time series: This will be the teams’ first meeting

The Ole Miss report: The Rebels experienced a relatively successful season, finishing fifth in the SEC after a preseason poll pegged them to finish ninth. Both Syracuse and Ole Miss profile somewhat similarly on offense, but the Rebels will try to feast in the paint a bit more than the Orange. Like SU, Ole Miss rewarded its efforts in the paint by successful shooting at the free-throw line, making an NCAA-best 678 free throws this season. Flanking double-double specialist Sebastian Saiz, guards Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis each average over 14 points per game for a team that averaged 78.1 points per game.

How Syracuse beats Ole Miss: Against a good rebounding team such as the Rebels, SU has to be careful about its shot selection. The Orange did an outstanding job of that in its opening-round win against UNCG, shooting 55.8 percent from the field. Ole Miss doesn’t do a particularly great job of defending the arc, allowing more than nine 3s per game, so Syracuse would do well to start attacking the Rebels from there. That’s an obvious cue for Andrew White and Tyus Battle, but perhaps even Tyler Lydon will stretch the visitors’ defense a little bit.

Stat to know:

39.7 — Rebounding has been an area of weakness for the Orange all season, and the Rebels are going to give SU a hefty challenge on the boards. Ole Miss led the SEC with 39.7 rebounds per game, punctuated by 12.7 offensive rebounds per game. The Orange averages 34.8 rebounds per game, but lost the battle on the boards in 13 of 18 ACC games this season.

Player to watch: Sebastian Saiz, forward, No. 11

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior is undeniably the Rebels’ best player. He was the only player in the SEC to average a double-double per game, and Saiz picked up his 21st of the season after collecting 23 points and 11 rebounds against Monmouth. He’s bound to give the Orange trouble on the glass, ranking fifth in the country with 11.2 rebounds per game. The onus will be on the bottom of Syracuse’s zone — a mixture of Taurean Thompson, Tyler Roberson, Lydon and White — to neutralize the stud forward.

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