For the second time in just four league games Saturday the No.1-ranked Syracuse Orange men's basketball program will be looking to avenge a loss from last season, as they host the No. 20 Marquette Golden Eagles in a Big East Conference game at the Carrier Dome (4 p.m. on SNY). Syracuse (16-0, 3-0 Big East) will face its second nationally-ranked program this season, as it downed No. 13 Florida Gators, 72-68, Dec. 2, while Marquette (12-2, 1-1) has lost three of its last five games, including a nailbiter Wednesday at the No. 9 Georgetown Hoyas, 73-70.
Last season, the Golden Eagles knocked off the higher-seeded Orange, 66-62, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Marquette went on to lose in the round of 16 to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 81-63. Since the release of the 2011-12 Syracuse schedule, this has been widely regarded as the, "circle your calender game". Already, there has been 23,500-24,000 tickets sold for the contest.
On Wednesday, the Orange played in their tightest contested game since the early Dec. showdown with the Gators, as they visited the Providence Friars, who gave Syracuse a run for its money but lost 87-73. The Orange led by just two points at halftime and used a 12-3 run early in the second half to widen the gap.
However, the Friars slowly crept back into the contest closing the margin to just 62-55. A small 5-0 run helped the Orange earn enough cushion to pull out their 16th straight victory, a mark reached only three times during head coach Jim Boeheim's tenure.
Entering Saturday's contest, senior forward Kris Joseph is the Orange's leading scorer with 13.0 points per game, while sophomore guard Dion Waiters is coming of the bench to average 12.6 ppg.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles, who began this season with 10 straight victories, including a road win, 61-54, at No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers, has struggled of late. On Wednesday, Marquette blew a 17-point lead to lose to the Hoyas.
Currently, senior guard Darius Johnson-Odam is pacing the Golden Eagles in scoring with 17.9 ppg, while forward Jae Crowder is adding 16.6 ppg and a team-best 7.3 rebounds per game. However, the Orange will also need to keep tabs on freshman guard Todd Mayo (10.2 ppg) and junior guard Junior Cadougan, who's averaging a team-best 5.0 assists per game.
Overall, Marquette is shooting 34.7-percent from behind the 3-point arc and averaging 78.1 points per game.
The Golden Eagles will enter as 11 1/2-point underdogs.
On Saturday, SB Nation New York will be blogging live from press row at the Carrier Dome for the Syracuse vs. Marquette Big East showdown. Be sure to check back to this StoryStream for in-game and post-game updates.
For more on the Orange, visit the SB Nation blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, while Anonymous Eagle as everything on Marquette. Make sure to follow along on Twitter at SBNationNY or JaredSmithCNY.