It will take a few extra days to complete, but Sunday afternoon a pair of heavyweight head coaches will square off at No. 9 Syracuse and No. 20 San Diego State meet on the flight deck of the USS Midway. The game will air on Comcast SportsNet at 3 p.m., followed by postgame coverage at 5:30.
The teams hope to avoid the fates that befell other ranked teams on aircraft carriers Friday night. The game between No. 10 Florida and Georgetown aboard the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Fla., was stopped at halftime with the Gators leading, 27-23, because of condensation on the court. Meanwhile in Mount Pleasant, S.C., No. 4-ranked Ohio State and Marquette never tipped off after condensation on one end of the court persisted even after a near 30-minute delay in hopes of the situation improving.
Sunday’s Syracuse-San Diego State game was originally scheduled for Friday, but concerns about the weather (a 75 percent chance of rain and 16 mph winds) prompted officials to move the game. Sunday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the high 60s without rain.
When they do tip off, it will be the first matchup of the college basketball season that features two teams ranked in the preseason polls.
The Orange lost four of their six leading scorers from a year ago, including seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine, standout sophomore Dion Waiters and 7-footer Fab Melo. But like any Boeheim-coached team, the Orange have spoils of depth on their roster and a handful of new faces will keep Syracuse in the national championship hunt for another year.
Steve Fisher's Aztec group was supposed to be rebuilding last season after, like Syracuse, losing four starters (Waiters was the sixth man but played starters' minutes). Instead, San Diego State won 26 games and made its third straight NCAA Tournament.
Now with four of five starters back and three Division I transfers gaining eligibility this November, the Aztecs won't be doing any rebuilding and they won't be sneaking up on any teams either.
Along with two Hall of Fame coaches battling one another, Sunday will also feature a matchup of two of the top shooting guards in the country.
San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin burst onto the scene his sophomore year, increasing his freshman averages of 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game to 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in more than 30 minutes per game in Year 2.
An honorable mention All-American last year, Franklin will be targeted by defenses every night. He has good size at 6-foot-5, and may have to use that solid 3-point shooting against a Syracuse defense that won't play anything but a 2-3 zone.
Senior guard Chase Tapley and junior point guard Xavier Thomas both return as starters, and give the Aztecs one of the better backcourts in the country.
The Orange have always been a "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" offense, but senior Brandon Triche finally has the spotlight to himself in the back court and he should be in line for a stellar final season.
The combo guard had 23 points and seven assists in a tune-up exhibition over Bloomsburg College on Sunday. The Orange won handily, 103-60.
Triche can score in a variety of ways and has good bulk at 6-foot-4. He and Franklin should make for a fun back-and-forth matchup, with big stakes on the line between two ranked teams.
And a prime example of Boheim's ability to bold his raw talent into more experienced contributors will be Michael Carter-Williams. A top-30 national prospect out of high school in Rhode Island, Carter-Williams averaged just 10.3 minutes per game and scored in double figures just once. But the 6-foot-6 guard is expected to be a major contributor this year and he'll get his first test against the experienced Aztec backcourt.
Both teams have talented front courts as well, but Sunday's matchup -- despite being played outdoors -- will be won by either backcourt. Franklin is likely the best player on the court, but Syracuse's tough 2-3 zone won't make life easy on the junior standout.