The Louisville Cardinals face a familiar foe in their new conference, but they will be without one of their best players. According to Sportsline.com, the Cardinals announced that Chris Jones would be banned from Wednesday’s game, and will not travel to Syracuse in a pivotal game for the ACC newcomer.
Louisville (20-5, 8-4) is likely out of the running for the regular season ACC title, and a No.1 seed, but they were headed for a top three seed all season long. Entering the week, Louisville dropped in the Top 25 AP Poll. Jones’ suspension is indefinite, so it’s not known how long he will be out of the lineup. Louisville didn’t elaborate, but the suspension is unrelated to basketball issues.
Louisville is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country with Jones in the lineup. Without Chris Jones, facing Syracuse’s 2-3 zone may cause different problems for Louisville. Throughout the season, the Cardinals have taken plenty of shots from long range. It will be interesting to see if they settle for as many in the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse’s season is running out of time for a big win. As is the case with most losses, the shortened bench causes the Orange starters to play huge minutes. Rakeem Christmas wants to redeem himself from having a subpar offensive performance in the loss to Duke. It will be a difficult time against Louisville’s vaunted defense. Christmas found other ways to get involved, but Syracuse needs his scoring punch to be effective.
Michael Gbinije has been lights out for the Orange, but to get a win over Louisville he’ll have to do more than score 27 points. In the 80-72 loss to Duke, the Syracuse starters scored all of the points. Although Louisville doesn’t play their bench as much as other years, this maybe the game that Rick Pitino unleashes the reserves early in the game.
If it becomes a half court game, it may look like one of the worst shooting performances of the season. Neither team has displayed consistent scoring ability on a possession by possession basis. For Syracuse, Trevor Cooney has to be the guy to shoot a better percentage. If not, the Orange will continue to struggle in offensive sets.
Montrezl Harrell is coming off of his worst game of the season. Harrell scored seven points in the loss to North Carolina State, while hitting one shot. In 39 minutes of play, he only took five shots in the game. Still, Harrell was able to grab 13 rebounds. If Syracuse is able to keep Harrell from a few early dunks, they might be in good position. The Wolfpack held Harrell without a dunk on Saturday.
Chris Jones led the Cardinals with 20 points during the loss. It will be up to Terry Rozier to replace that scoring. Rozier was in foul trouble in Louisville’s loss to North Carolina State, and only played 24 minutes. They can’t afford for the same thing to happen against Syracuse.
The game starts at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN. Currently, Louisville is still a 2.5 favorite entering the game.