Sunday, February 15, 2009

Where The Orange Stand

The overtime win against Georgetown yesterday was another classic Syracuse/Georgetown game, going down to the wire with a lot of dramatic action and heroic efforts. The win was crucial for the Orange stopping a slide that saw Syracuse losing six of their last seven games. While the win against the tumbling Hoyas is not as impressive as it would have been a month ago, it is still a big win.

Syracuse is now 19-7 for the season, 7-6 within the Big East conference with five games to go. The strong out of conference schedule and the success against that schedule is looming as extremely important for the Orange right now. But the NCAA selection committee looks at how you do in your last ten games, and that, with other factors, is going to become very important right now.

Syracuse is above .500 in the Big East, but they are 0-5 against the six teams ahead of them in the standings, and 7-1 against the nine teams below them. That pretty much says the Orange are situated in the conference rankings right where they belong. Being the 7th team from a conference is not an ideal situation to be in, though with the depth of the Big East, it is a good position right now. However, the last five games are going to be very important.

Syracuse is currently 2-5 in road games. Their last five games are against Villanova, @ St. Johns, Cincinnati, Rutgers, and @ Marquette. Two of those teams are ahead of Syracuse in the standings: Villanova and Marquette. Syracuse cannot afford to lose to any of the three teams below them: St. Johns, Cincinnati and Rutgers. If they won those three and lost to Villanova and Marquette, they would be 22-9 going into the Big East tournament, 10-8 in the conference, 5-5 in their last 10 games, and 3-6 on the road. I’d be afraid of those last two numbers, and I think it would require them to win at least a couple of games in the Big East tournament to show they are NCAA tourney worthy, enough to get them off that bubble. In this scenario, one and done, or one win and then out in the Big East tournament, could leave the Orange on the bubble… and I know from past history I do not want to be there.

However, a win at Marquette on March 7th would be huge, as it would be a quality road win against a top 20 team to close out the regular season, it would make them 4-5 on the road, and 6-4 in their last 10. That would put them in the NCAA tourney regardless of how they perform in the Big East tournament. Likewise a win against Villanova, instead of Marquette, would also be important and improve the resume greatly.

Winning the last five would be great for Syracuse, and it is well within their reach. That would take them to 24-7 going into the Big East tournament, 12-6 in the conference,7-3 in their last ten games, and 4-5 on the road. They are going to have to play some defense, get some offensive cohesion, and improve their teamwork.

The Georgetown game saw Johnny Flynn join the 1,000 point club for Syracuse, becoming the 51st player to reach that level. Paul Harris reached that mark earlier this year, now at 1,123 points, 43rd all time. Eric Devendorf is ten points from becoming the 20th player to reach 1,500 career points. The game also saw Arinze Onuaku pass Carmelo Anthony on the all time scoring list (though it took Arinze three seasons to accomplish what Melo did in one).

As reported in earlier blogs, Onuaku is toying with some Syracuse records. He is the all time worst free throw shooter in Syracuse history, and with his 33% shooting this year (33 of 99), he is securing that position. His career total is now 118 for 290, 40.7%, keeping him well ahead (or behind) of Terrence Roberts (48%). Onuaku is on the verge of shattering the single season free throw shooting record, with his 33% shooting. The previous mark, for someone with over 100 shots, is 42.1% by Terrence Roberts who went 56 of 133 in the 2005-2006 season.

On the positive side, Onuaku is still on pace to set the single season field goal accuracy. He is 127 of 188 from the field, at 67.6%, ahead of Roosevelt Bouie’s 65.4% in 1979-1980.

Other items of note: Devendorf is now 7th all time in three point field goals. Flynn is at 19th, and Andy Rautins is 10th all time.

Flynn is now 14th all time in assists. Devendorf is just behind him at 15th.

Let’s hope there is a lot to cheer for in the last five conference games this year.

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