Jim Boeheim has opened the Syracuse Orange men's basketball season in different ways, but on Sunday his squad, which he has coached for 37 seasons, will do something its never done - play the season opener on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
The No. 9-ranked Orange will face the No. 20 San Diego St. Aztecs (4 p.m. ET on Fox Sports affiliates or MSG Plus) on the U.S.S. Midway, which is docked in the San Diego Harbor. The contest, which is being called the "Battle on the Midway," is the last of four military-themed college basketball games that were scheduled for Veterans Day weekend.
Unfortunately, two of those contests, which were also held on the deck of aircraft carriers, were canceled due to condensation on the court. However, its not expected that the Orange and Aztecs will face the same situation as the weather forecast is calling for sunny skies, temperatures in the mids 60s with light winds.
If conditions do deteriorate - winds have been a factor in practice reports The Post-Standard - Boeheim's patented 2-3 zone defense may not be used, says San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher.
"Boeheim promised he would play man-to-man,’’ Fisher said with a straight face. "If the weather’s like this, he did not want to put us at an unfair advantage. I’ve known Jim for a long time and I’ve never known him not to be truthful, so I’m counting on if we’ve got wind that Boeheim will play nothing but man-to-man.’’
Currently, SU enters the game as 1.5-point favorites according to the oddsmakers at Bovada. If the Orange do not use their 2-3 zone defense that could easily be covered by the Aztecs.
Overall, San Diego will enter with a squad that features four returning starters, including a possible All-American candidate in junior guard Jamaal Franklin. Last year's MWC Player of the Year averaged 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
The Orange are led by senior guard Brandon Triche, who will begin the fourth straight season as a starter. He and a crop of new starters -- junior forward C.J. Fair, sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams and freshman center DaJuan Coleman -- are expected to replace four key players from last season's 34-win squad.
This will be the first time since 1987, when No. 1-ranked SU played No. 3-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, the Orange will start their season against a ranked program. Syracuse lost that game, 96-93.