Two of the five winningest programs in college basketball history meet in the Hoophall Miami Invitational on Saturday when No. 2 Kansas takes on Syracuse in a matchup of early-season unbeatens. The Wildcats have blown out five of their six opponents, while the Orange continue to slip by the competition.
Kansas took care of Toledo its last time out, rolling to a 96-58 triumph behind Devonte Graham’s career-high 35 points. Graham, who had struggled with his shooting over the previous four games, made 14-of-19 shots in the tuneup for Saturday’s affair. “We have a big one coming up,” Graham said. “That’s where our focus is now.” Syracuse edged Maryland 72-70 on Monday thanks to strong games from Frank Howard and freshman Oshae Brissett with leading scorer Tyus Battle battling back pain. “I wasn’t feeling too great out there,” said Battle, who nevertheless scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. “I had to gut it out. It’s all about heart. The team with the most heart gutted it out.”
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT KANSAS (6-0): The Jayhawks have five players averaging between 13.5 and 18.2 points with Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk leading the way behind his blistering 56.4 percent connection rate from 3-point range. Mykhailiuk was 5-of-6 from the arc against Toledo and has made five 3-pointers in three of the last four games. Meanwhile, guard Lagerald Vick’s points have declined in four straight games — from 22 to 19 to 15 and finally to seven points on 3-of-9 shooting against Toledo.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (6-0): The 70 points that Syracuse allowed against Maryland were a season high for an Orange opponent, and in particular Syracuse was dominated in 3-point shooting by the Terrapins. The Orange shot 3-of-18 from the arc, while the Terps were 11-of-23 from long distance. Howard struggled with his shooting (6-of-17 from the field, 1-of-7 from the arc) but finished with 15 points, 10 assists, seven steals and five rebounds.
1. There are only 19 undefeated teams in college basketball entering Thursday’s action.
2. Brissett has posted back-to-back double-doubles, averaging 16 points and 13.5 rebounds in that stretch.
3. Syracuse defeated Kansas 81-78 to win the 2003 national championship and has won three of the five all-time meetings.
PREDICTION: Kansas 73, Syracuse 59