I’m not sure if there is ever a good loss, but I was not disappointed in the loss the Orange had to Villanova. I thought the team showed it had grown over the course of the season, and showed some poise down the stretch. In the last few weeks, they seemed to finally have grasped the concept of working the ball inside out, looking for the open shooters and mixing that with strong moves to the hoop. They seemed to have improved their overall zone defense. Sooner or later it was inevitable that Andy Rautins would cool down, and it was good to see Eric Devendorf snap out of his shooting slump to carry the team.
Yesterday we saw one of the most impressive dunks I’ve seen in a while, when Paul Harris brought it home to end the first half. I’m not sure if a replay does it justice. And we almost saw one of the most miraculous come backs in basketball history. Syracuse was down by 6 points with five seconds to go, and no time outs… and they had a chance to win the game.
A few observations:
I’ve been saying for a while now that I think the Orange had to finish the regular season 6-0 to lock an NCAA berth. I think I still believe that; finishing 5-1 isn’t locking us into the tournament. I think 5-1 with the win over Georgetown is very helpful… but not a lock. Yes, we are 21-9, and 10-6 in the Big East. And if they did the selection right now, I’m fairly certain that we would be in. However, I believe a first round loss in the Big East Tournament would put us on the bubble.
It’s not that we need to add to our resume. It’s that a loss to St. John’s or UConn would damage that resume. Neither of those two teams are quality opponents, so a loss would be a bad loss. If I were on the committee, I’d want to know Syracuse is going to take care of business, and a loss there would not be an indicator to me. It would also leave the Orange at 6-4 over their last 10 games; that’s not bad, but it’s not a plus. The number of quality wins on the Syracuse resume is low: Marquette, Villanova and Georgetown. Especially when compared to the poor losses: Wichita State, Drexel, St. Johns, UConn.
We could still make the NCAA with a first round loss, but I think it would be from the bubble position. A first round win moves us to at least 22-10, with no worse than 7-3 in our last ten games, and a loss at that point would be to a quality team (in all likelihood). So, winning the first round should lock it in for us.
Demetris Nichols had a good chance at being the Big East Player of the Year, but I think he lost it with the end of the game yesterday. It’s a tight race this year, with none of the top five players really separating themselves from the pack. If Nichols had made both of the technical free throw shots, and then made the three point shot to win the game… that would have clinched the award for him. It would’ve been a great player pulling off the miracle ending to a big game. He’s made many big shots this year, but I think he needed that moment to do it. The fact he failed to deliver, as harsh as that may be, will likely be held against him, and I think that puts the ball back in the court of a front runner for Pitt or Georgetown.
Eric Devendorf looked great on the court yesterday, playing mostly in control. It was good to see him actually succeed when he put the team on his back; he’s tried that a few times this season but with little success. He still had his five turnovers, and he did miss ten shots, but it was a great effort for Devo. It was the first time since the 2003-04 season that two different Orangemen have scored 30+ points in a game in one season (Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara did it that season). It’s also the first time an Orangemen has scored 30+ points in a road game since Warrick did it against Nova in February 2005.
Terrence Roberts is playing extremely inspirational basketball. I’ve questioned his toughness before, but its amazing the toughness and grit he’s shown the past couple of games. Playing on one knee, and only 24 minutes of playing time he pulled down 8 rebounds (four offensive), and showed some solid defense. Now he did go 0-2 from the free throw line ( that’s 54-108 50% for this season, 167-347, 48.4% for his career ), and he took another three point shot and missed (Why does he even try? For his career he’s now 5-25, 20%). But Roberts is going out on a positive note… and that’s how a lot of people will remember him.
Andy Rautins finally had his hot streak snapped, and was 2-11 from three point range. However, for those who think he offers little else on the court, he still played tremendous zone defense, and had four assists with only one turnover.
Did I mention Paul Harris’ dunk? Wow. If anyone has been paying attention, Harris is only 10 rebounds off the team lead. Not too bad for a guy who hasn’t had nearly the minutes many thought he should.
Nova shot 29-32 from the free throw line. You’re not going to win too many games when the opponent shots that many free throws and makes 91% of them.
I’m trying to keep an open mind about Syracuse having new uniforms. I’m not optimistic on what I’ll think. And if any color but Orange is the dominant color, I’ll be extremely disappointed. I am getting tired about everything always being about money. I’d like to see a college actually do something for another reason. Perhaps, maybe for educational purposes, pride, history, tradition, etc. I can think of a lot of reasons… the monetary focus needs to be toned down several notches.
Don’t think it can be done? Hey, this blog is written for free, and I hope you find it has some quality to it. And there are several other blogs out there regarding Syracuse basketball, all of them with quality, and most of them done by fans who have a passion for the game and for the team. So money does not need to drive everything.