Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What if?

The Orange ended up in the NIT tournament for the second year in a row, though this year there is no complaining about where they ended up. They did not take care of their business during the stretch run of the regular season, and took an early bow out of the Big East Tournament against another bubble team Villanova.

The loss to South Florida really hurt them, as did the three straight losses to Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh loss was a very painful one for the fans. I think the loss had even further implications for the Orange.

If Syracuse beats Pittsburgh that day, and everything else stays the same, the Orangemen go into the Big East Tournament with 20 wins, 10-8 in conference play. Pitt would have been 9-9. Syracuse’s first round match-up would have been against Cincinnati, while Pitt would have played Villanova. As well as Pitt is playing, that would’ve favored a win by Pitt. Since Villanova was the last at-large bid to make the tournament, they would have been on the outside looking in. It’s even quite possible that had Pitt lost that game to Villanova, Pitt wouldn’t have made the NCAA. They finished 21-9, 9-9 in conference play, but they were poor down the stretch and had a very weak out of conference record. If they bowed out in the first round of the Big East tournament, they definitely would have been bubble material.

With 20 wins, a 10-8 conference record, and a higher RPI, Syracuse would not have been as perilously close to being a bubble team. Villanova (or Pitt) losing, would have opened up a tournament position. Even if Syracuse lost to Cininnati in the first round, they may very well have earned a tournament bid.

Ahhh well. No reason to cry over spilled milk.

A close game to Robert Morris last night is not what the Orange wanted for the start of the NIT, but that’s what they got. The loss of Jonny Flynn for most of the game was paralyzing to the Orange offense, and shortened the short bench by one (again). It looks like Flynn may not play on Thursday (Donna Ditota indicated that earlier today), and playing Maryland with six players, and Scoop Jardine at the point for 40 minutes is scary. Not that Scoop can’t play the point; he can. But he’s going from spotting Flynn a few moments each game (even while Flynn staying on the court) to being the sole point guard for 40 minutes. That’s a lot for a guy who is not used to it.

Plus the loss of Flynn leaves the Orange with one reputable three point shooter in Dante’ Greene (I know Onganaet can shoot the three, but nobody’s too worried about it defensively). With Jardine playing the point, if I were Maryland, I would pack the paint. Scoop can’t drive, Harris won’t have any lanes, and Onuaku won’t be able to get open. I’d challenge Greene to beat me. Greene can do it, but we’ve seen him disappear from many games down the stretch run this year, and if I’m Maryland, I’m taking my chances on Greene not being able to carry the team with his perimeter shooting.
To further hamper the Orange lineup, reserve point guard Justin Thomas is unlikely to play. Apparently he too is injured (per Brent Axe).

It figures the Orange should have a couple more injuries for the post season. It seems only fitting for this injury hampered season. Hopefully it will be out of the Orange's system for years to come.


Anonymous said...

first round against louisville? what? if syracuse had beaten pittsburgh, the cardinals would have dropped from the two seed to the 10? seems illogical.

probably would have faced cincy in that first round.

OrangeRay said...

I did realize after posting the blog, that a brain freeze had me type Louisville instead of Cincinnati for Syracuse's possible Big East first round opponent. I have fixed my error.