Despite a delay in the action, the ninth- ranked Syracuse Orange and the 20th-ranked San Diego State Aztecs finally tip off the 2012-13 campaign this afternoon as they meet on the deck of the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego.
Under the direction of head coach Jim Boeheim, who ranks second among active Division I coaches with 890 career victories, all with the Orange, Syracuse is again considered one of the elite teams in the Big East Conference. Involved in the NCAA Tournament again last season for the fourth straight year, the Orange finished with a record of 34-3, but two of those setbacks came in the final 10 outings.
As for the Aztecs, they too have a highly successful coach at the helm in Steve Fisher, who is entering his 14th season at SDSU and his 22nd in college basketball overall. Fisher has generated strong results over the last seven seasons, winning at least 20 games in each of those campaigns. Last year the Aztecs again made the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 26-8 record, 10-4 in Mountain West Conference play.
Originally scheduled for Friday before it was changed due to weather concerns, this wasn't the only college game scheduled to be played on the deck of a military warship to begin the new season. Also on Friday, fourth-ranked Ohio State was slated to take on Marquette on the U.S.S. Yorktown in South Carolina, but the meeting had to be canceled due to persistent condensation on the court. Georgetown and 10th-ranked Florida had a similar situation on the U.S.S. Bataan at Naval Station Mayport as they had their game halted at the half because of condensation as well.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Orange won the only previous encounter during the 2007 NIT with an 80-64 triumph at home.
The face of the Syracuse program this season is Brandon Triche, a starter in all 37 games a season ago as he scored 9.4 ppg and handed out 95 assists. Triche averaged less than 23 minutes per contest, but you have to assume his time on the floor will increase this year given his experience and leadership. C.J. Fair (8.5 ppg) will man the inside and seek to increase his rebounding after pulling down close to five and a half board per game in 2011-12. Fair would also be wise to shift his interest in three-point shooting (6-of-24) to be more of a force in the paint. Now a senior, forward James Southerland (6.8 ppg) is another player who came off the bench last year and will have more responsibilities added to his plate.
With four starters returning for a program that won the regular-season crown in the Mountain West, the expectations are rather high for the Aztecs as they tip off the season today. The most visible performer for SDSU coming in is Jamaal Franklin who is an All-America candidate and was also named the Preseason MWC Player of the Year. Franklin is the top returnee for SDSU in terms of both scoring and rebounding after delivering 17.4 points and 7.9 boards per contest a year ago. A preseason all-conference selection himself, Chase Tapley is another budding star for the Aztecs who generated 15.8 ppg as he made good on an impressive 43.3 percent of his three-point attempts. An honorable mention All-MWC performer, Xavier Thames adds to the scoring punch with 10.1 ppg and is also one of the league's top passers with 4.1 assists per outing.