Coach Jim Boeheim's renowned 2-3 zone defense has led to tremendous success over the past decade at Syracuse, and the fifth-ranked Orange are again looking dominant at their end of the court.
Syracuse looks to open 2-0 for an eighth consecutive season when it hosts Manhattan in Monday night's opening round of the NIT Preseason Tipoff.
The Orange (1-0), who gave up just 63.3 points per game in 2010-11 to rank third in the Big East, picked up right where they left off in their season opener. Syracuse limited Fordham to just 34.6 percent shooting - including a 4-for-21 effort from 3-point range - and amassed a 43-32 rebounding advantage in Saturday's one-sided 78-53 win.
The Orange led 32-19 at the break after holding the Rams without a basket for more than an 11-minute stretch in the first half. Syracuse also recorded seven blocks - including a career high-tying four from center Fab Melo.
"Defensively, you look at our zone, if all our hands are up and we're moving like we're supposed to, it's a scary thing to go against," said senior forward Kris Joseph, who scored a game-high 16 points. "Our zone is our bread and butter. It's always going to work well because we have big guards up top, our forwards and centers are pretty big, and we're very mobile."
After averaging a team-best 14.3 points last season, Joseph looks primed to again lead the team in scoring. He is four points away from becoming the 55th player in school history to reach 1,000 for his career.
The Orange could also get a huge boost from sophomore guard Dion Waiters, who earned high praise from Joseph after scoring 14 points off the bench Saturday - 11 coming in a five-minute span in the second half.
"He's that type of player," Joseph said. "There's no question in my mind he could start anywhere in the country. He's coming in and giving us positive minutes offensively and defensively. That's what we'll need him to do for the whole season. When he gets into that groove, there's no taking him out of it."
Syracuse is counting on 6-foot-9 freshman forward Rakeem Christmas to fill the void left by Rick Jackson, who averaged 13.1 points and a conference-best 10.3 boards in 2010-11. Christmas had five points and six rebounds in 20 minutes in his collegiate debut.
The Orange have won 23 straight non-conference home games by an average of 24.0 points. They are 20-7 all-time against the Jaspers (1-0), taking 10 straight meetings in the series since falling 94-80 on Feb. 4, 1965.
Manhattan won its fifth consecutive season-opener, defeating New Jersey Institute of Technology 62-48 on Saturday. Junior swingman George Beamon recorded his eighth career double-double with 15 points and 10 boards, helping coach Steve Masiello earn his first NCAA Division I victory.
"(It's) an awesome feeling, it's a dream come true. But its not about me, it's about the players," Masiello told the team's official website. "They are the ones who got it done. These guys put the work in and have totally changed everything about themselves and about this team. They deserve all the credit. I am really privileged to have them."
While Masiello was pleased with the win, he'd surely love to see his team improve from long distance after making just 2 of 20 from beyond the arc Saturday.