Friday, January 28, 2011

Syracuse Travels to Marquette with the Season on the Line


If you are a fan of Syracuse basketball, you are sick of losing right about now. We could live with losing in Pittsburgh and get over a loss to Villanova. But what we witnessed on Tuesday night in the Carrier Dome is something we are all going to need rectified, and quickly.

The last time the Orangemen won a game was January 15th against Cincinnati. When we take the court on Saturday at 3:00PM on the road in Marquette it will have been two full weeks since the Cuse has tasted victory.

Right now, the main problem for Syracuse is protecting the basketball and taking the time to find the proper high percentage shots. And defense. Running down the floor and throwing up 3 pointers and runners in the lane are no longer going to cut it. Shooting 4-10 or 3-11 from the floor is not going to beat many Big East teams when that's the production out of your starting guards.

Missing layups and being out-rebounded by unranked and over matched teams can not and should not happen. And if Syracuse wants to save a season that started 18-0 and reached a #3 ranking in the country, than the Cuse are going to have to buckle down and get to work Saturday against the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Thankfully for Syracuse, Marquette has 4 losses in their past six games. Unfortunately for Syracuse, they haven't lost to the underachievers of the Big East (like Seton Hall). The Golden Eagles' four losses have come against Pittsburgh on the road, in Louisville, in Notre Dame and at home against UCONN. They have lost the 4 games by an average of 5.5 points. Syracuse lost their last game to then 2-5 in Big East play Seton Hall by 22 points!

Although Jim Boeheim went on the air with The Score 1260 yesterday and said his team did not quit on Tuesdsay, the effort displayed by Syracuse was never there. Seton Hall jumped out to an early 10-2 lead before Syracuse even knew what hit them, and the Cuse never recovered to even make it a game. From start to finish it was a complete embarrassment for the team, the university, and the alumni. How can Seton Hall score 90 points in a 40 minute game on Syracuse at home? The Pirates averages 68.1 points per game, 208th in the nation!!

We know we can play better than this, we've seen it. Now that we got what should be the worse loss of the season out of our system, we have to pick up the pieces and move forward.

Rick Jackson needs to keep being Rick Jackson. A double-double machine. Kris Joseph needs to be Kris Joseph and lead this team in scoring. Scoop Jardine needs to play like a true point guard and CREATE opportunities for his teammates while taking the ball to the hoop and generating high percentage shots for himself. Brandon Triche needs to play with a head on his shoulders and not throw blind passes in the lane to no one, while knocking down outside shots and playing tough defense at the top of the zone.

Fab Melo needs to find a way to do whatever he did in the second half of the Cincinnati game and keep doing it for every second he's on the floor. It's not too much to ask to use your 7-foot frame to establish position inside and grab every rebound that comes off the hoop. If you aren't going to score that's one thing, but its no excuse not to rebound the ball and play defense.

As for the guys off the bench, when they get on the floor they have to energize the guys who are out there through strong defense and smart play. Coming out and going 0-2 from 3-point range in the first 40 seconds you are on the floor isn't why Jim Boeheim is putting you in the game.

Frankly, I'd like to see C.J. Fair get more minutes. If he takes a shot, more often than not its right around the rim, and he can rebound the basketball in the lane.

Normally I'd dissect a few key players on the opposing team during a preview such as this, however today I'm not going to do that. Syracuse needs to shut down any opponent that touches the court. The defense has to be as good as the defense that held Notre Dame to 58 points in the Carrier Dome on new years day.

One might say that to think an 18-3 team has a must win game in late January is "crazy," But make no mistake, this is a must win game. After Saturday, Syracuse will face-off against #5 UCONN, travel to USF, host #20 Georgetown and then travel to #19 Louisville.

Lose Saturday, and I have very little faith in this stretch of games. However, if we can win, then we can use those next four games to springboard ourselves back into respectability with the nation's elite and begin to gear up for a serious tournament run.

The question for the team is, what kind of season do you want to finish with?


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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