Syracuse leads the nation in field-goal percentage. DePaul ranks last in that department not only in the Big East, but also among teams that hail from major conferences.
What appears to be a major mismatch is on tap Saturday at Allstate Arena when the fourth-ranked Orange try to win their eighth straight as they meet the Blue Demons.
Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) has won 20 of its first 21 games for the second time in six seasons. The last time the Orange went 21-1 was 1979-80 in their fourth season under Jim Boeheim, who does not want to label this team a national championship contender just yet.
“I feel that any of teams that are near the top in the country feel they can get to the Final Four,” Boeheim said. “And if you get there, you think you can win.”
The Orange are shooting 53.4 percent and are in the top 15 nationally in defense at 37.8 percent. That’s in sharp contrast to DePaul (8-12, 1-7), which replaced Jerry Wainwright with interim coach Tracy Webster on Jan. 11.
The Blue Demons are shooting 39.3 percent from the field. That’s the lowest mark among teams in the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac-10.
Syracuse, though, has a poor history at DePaul, falling 108-69 on March 2, 2006, for Boeheim’s worst loss. The Orange won for the first time in four road games in the series with a 60-55 victory two seasons ago in their last visit.
Boeheim is trying to guard against any overconfidence by pointing at the Blue Demons’ lone conference victory - a 51-50 win over Marquette on Jan. 20.
“Watching DePaul, I see that they are playing very hard,” Boeheim said. “They’ve really I think got the big guy back inside (Mac Koshwal) and I was really impressed with the game they had against Marquette who I think is a really, really good team.”
Syracuse enters off two home wins, beating the Golden Eagles 76-71 last Saturday and No. 7 Georgetown 73-56 on Monday. The Orange rallied from a 14-0 deficit against the Hoyas in a performance Boeheim described as “good as we can play.”
Kris Joseph and Andy Rautins each scored 15 points and Wesley Johnson added 14 for the Orange, who shot 53.3 percent.
The Blue Demons ended their 24-game losing streak in Big East regular-season play with the win over Marquette before falling at Notre Dame last Saturday and to No. 9 West Virginia on Tuesday.
Will Walker was the only Blue Demon to reach double figures with 17 points in the 62-46 loss to the Mountaineers.
“I keep saying it, I truly believe we’re going to be fine. We just have to continue to get better, but we can’t continue to have those slow starts whether it is in the first half or second half,” Webster said.
The Blue Demons are limiting opponents to 43.4 percent shooting in five Big East games under Webster compared to 52.1 percent in three with Wainwright as coach.
“It’s a tribute to their kids,” Boeheim said. “They’re rallying around the new coach and they’ve been impressive watching them play.”