E. Michigan-Syracuse Preview
Syracuse remained unbeaten well into last season, and its favorable upcoming schedule lends reason to believe it could happen again.
The fourth-ranked Orange seek their 48th straight regular-season non-conference victory when they host Eastern Michigan on Monday night.
Syracuse won its first 20 games of 2011-12 before a loss at Notre Dame on Jan. 21 en route to a 34-3 overall record, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and an appearance in the regional finals.
The Orange (5-0) got a tough challenge at Arkansas on Sunday but ultimately stayed perfect with a 91-82 victory behind a career-high 35 points from James Southerland.
The senior forward finished 12 of 17 from the field, including a career-best nine 3-pointers on 13 attempts. Southerland's previous career high was 22 points - Nov. 21 against Princeton.
"It felt good when I hit that first shot," said Southerland, averaging 19.2 points. "I wasn't expecting to be that open, but I was open and you have to knock it down when you're open, right?"
The Orange fended off the Razorbacks' full-court pressure with help from point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who handed out nine assists and leads the nation with 9.2 per contest.
"You've got to attack it. You're going to get some open shots," coach Jim Boeheim said. "It's just a question of if you're going to make them, and James was right there all night.
"Michael did a great job of finding him."
Carter-Williams, who also ranks second nationally with 3.8 steals per game, added 17 points and 10 rebounds Sunday.
It doesn't appear Syracuse will have much trouble remaining unbeaten and continuing its streak of regular-season non-conference victories before beginning Big East play against Rutgers on Jan. 2, which will mark its ninth straight home game.
The rest of the Orange's non-conference schedule doesn't feature a single team from a major conference - Arkansas of the SEC is the only one on the entire non-conference slate - with currently 5-0 Temple possibly providing the biggest challenge Dec. 22.
Though Eastern Michigan brings a couple of familiar faces to the Carrier Dome, it is unlikely to be much of a threat to a Syracuse team which hasn't lost in the regular season to a non-Big East foe since falling to Cleveland State on Dec. 15, 2008.
Coach Rob Murphy spent seven years as an assistant to Boeheim before taking the Eagles' job prior to last season, and leading rebounder Da'Shonte Riley played his freshman season at Syracuse before transferring.
Murphy has Eastern Michigan (5-1) off to a solid start after leading the program to its first-ever MAC West Division title in 2011-12.
Riley is averaging 7.2 rebounds after grabbing a career-high 13 in the Eagles' latest game, a 75-57 win over NAIA Madonna (Mich.) on Nov. 24. Riley, who also had seven points and five blocks in that victory, appeared in 17 games for the Orange in 2009-10 before sitting out his sophomore season with an injury and following Murphy to Eastern Michigan.
Daylen Harrison has totaled 33 points and 21 rebounds over the Eagles' last two games and averages a team-high 14.2 points.
Syracuse is averaging 80.2 points, but Eastern Michigan allows 52.7 per contest to rank seventh in the nation.
The Orange, though, held the Eagles to 34.7 percent shooting in an 84-48 win last season as Southerland scored a game high-tying 19 points.
Eastern Michigan has lost its last 10 games against ranked teams by double digits.