By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- There appear to be many similarities between Syracuse and Stanford, beginning with their 5-0 records.
These teams meet for the first time Friday night in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.
Neither the fifth-ranked Orange nor the Cardinal seem to have superstars, with Kris Joseph leading Syracuse with a 14.8 scoring average and Aaron Bright and Josh Owens each averaging 14.0 points for Stanford.
The Cardinal have the slightly better field-goal percentage (49.4 to 49.1) while the Orange have been better by the same margin from beyond the arc (36.4 to 36.1). Stanford owns a better rebound margin (12.8 to 8.4) while Syracuse has the edge at the foul line (64.0 percent to 62.7).
It adds up to what figures to be a competitive matchup for the title.
"We're excited," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "Playing a championship game in Madison Square Garden in the preseason NIT, we're excited to have that opportunity."
The one major edge for Syracuse could be in the stands, with the majority of the crowd expected to be rooting for the Orange, who are 68-43 at MSG under coach Jim Boeheim after winning 69-58 over Virginia Tech in Wednesday's semifinals.
"We definitely feel when we come out to play at the Garden, we call this our second home," Joseph said. "We feel we're not only playing for ourselves and coaches, we're playing for our Syracuse fans. They're they're loyal to us and we want to play well for them."
The Cardinal have also fared well at the "World's Most Famous Arena," going 8-2.
"It's nice to be the Garden, nice to have that experience," Owens said. "We're coming out here to play to win."
Owens made his first nine shots from the field and finished with 21 points in Wednesday's 82-67 win over Oklahoma State. The Cardinal used an 18-0 run bridging both halves to take control.
Dawkins is pleased with Stanford's offensive efficiency after losing top scorer Jeremy Green from last season's team that went 15-16.
"This is a great opportunity to still develop some young players, to get to know what we have, our rotations, who can do what in situations," Dawkins said. "That's what we're learning right now. I've been proud of the effort."
Boeheim has also been impressed by what he's seen of Stanford.
"They got really good young players that learned a lot last year," Boeheim said. "Now they've learned from those lessons. They're a good team. They've got guys that can shoot it, handle it. They're a really good basketball team."
Syracuse has won 34 straight non-conference regular-season games since a 72-69 loss to Cleveland State on Dec. 15, 2008.
The Orange have won every game this season by double digits, and Boeheim is hoping to use these early games as preparation for the Big East schedule ahead.
"I like what we're doing," Boeheim said. "I think we can become a better team. But we're not there for sure."
Updated November 24, 2011