Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Conference Play Set to Start - Providence and Syracuse Square Off

Syracuse basketball fans have enjoyed watching their team jump out to a 13-0 start and a #5 ranking nationally. Beating then #8 Michigan State in Madison Square Garden by 14 was fantastic. Winning the Legends Classic down in Atlantic City, NJ was wonderful. Now it's time to bunker down and get SERIOUS about Syracuse basketball. Throw those 13 games out and get ready for the toughest test in college hoops. The Big East regular season schedule.

Seven of sixteen Big East members are ranked in the Top-25. Two more teams are receiving votes from both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls. To raise the stakes even higher, five of the nations Top-10 teams hail from the Big East Conference. Even the ACC's biggest cheerleader Dick Vitale tweeted today that "Flat out the Big East will be the best conference in the nation!" Will be? We've been for years!

Today, Syracuse will take on their first Big East conference member, the Providence Friars (11-2), in the Carrier Dome at 9:00PM on ESPNU. Although unranked, the Friars are averaging 81.2 points per game (17th in the nation) and 42.5 rebounds per contest (5th in the nation) and it's their best start since the 1988-89 season. The Friars have yet to play any ranked opponents, and their two losses came against La Salle (84-73) and at Boston College (88-86). Providence also beat Morgan state 77-55, a team Syracuse beat 97-55 back on December 20th.

Marshon Brooks (6'5" 190 pounds) a senior out of Stone Mountain, Georgia is leading the Friars this season with 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Brooks has scored a season high 33 points twice this season, most recently against Alabama. He is also shooting 35.5% from 3-point range this season and has six double-doubles through 13 games this season.

Providence is also getting good production from Brooklyn born guard Vincent Council (6'2" 180 pounds). Council is averaging 16 points, 6.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. He shoots 33.9% from beyond the arc and dropped a season high 29 points against Wyoming on November 24th. Against Brown on December 6th Council dished out a season high 16 assists.

Gerard Coleman (6'4" 170 pounds) is another offensive contributor for the Friars, averaging 10.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. In Providence's win over Alabama Coleman had a season high 18 points for the Friars.

Providence has had an interesting travel schedule. Originally set to depart Rhode Island via airplane, the Friar's flight was cancelled due to the winter snow storm that has literally crippled the North East. As a result, the Friars boarded a team bus at 12:30PM on Monday and they will be busing it to the Carrier Dome in order to arrive on time for the 9:00 tip.

For the Orangemen, C.J. Fair has returned to practice following the Christmas break. While the rest of the team went home for the holidays, Fair stayed behind and received treatment consisting of ice baths and ultrasound to loosen up the ankle and get back on the court quickly. Fair told reporters "I expect to play on Tuesday," which is good news for Syracuse fans.

Fab Melo, who was looking extremely impressive against Morgan State with 9 points, 2 rebounds and 4 blocks on 3 of 4 shooting rolled his ankle during the contest and was limited to just 8 minutes against Drexel in Syracuse's final tune-up before the conference schedule began. Melo practiced on Sunday along with the rest of the team and did not appear to be limited.

As usual, check back with The Cuse Connection for complete recap and analysis from the first Big East conference basketball game of the season.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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