Wednesday, February 9, 2011


If you watched SportsCenter this morning you would have been well aware that #5 Duke are playing #20/21 UNC tonight and that it is the #1 game of the year. There are no other games today. Duke. North Carolina. That's it. 9PM on ESPN. College basketball at it's finest on display.

But there's another game on tonight. Against two higher ranked teams. Between two bitter, bitter rivals in the best basketball conference in the country. No, not the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big East.

Tonight on ESPN, before the watered down ACC tips off the Big Boys will be taking the court at the Carrier Dome. #12/13 Syracuse Orangemen against the hated #11 Georgetown Hoyas.

College basketball at it's finest.

Syracuse returns home after knocking off the #6/7 Connecticut Huskies and blowing out the South Florida Bulls on the road on the heels of a four game losing streak. Georgetown travels to Upstate New York with a six game winning streak in the Big East after starting 1-4 in Conference play.

Syracuse has seven games remaining on their regular season schedule, five of them against ranked opponents. What better way to kick off the home stretch than kicking the crap out of some Hoyas in front of the hometown crowd?

Leading the Hoyas into Cuse is Austin Freeman (6'3" 227 pounds), a senior out of Mitchellville, MD. Freeman is averaging 18.7 points per game and shoots 45.7% from 3-point range. Freeman has been on fire lately, averaging 22.2 points in his last six contests. If Syracuse's 2-3 zone can slow him down like they did against Kemba Walker, than the Orangemen will greatly increase their chances of victory. When Georgetown lost 3 straight games in early January Freeman was held to 6, 11 and 12 points in those contests.

Also averaging in double figures is Chris Wright (6'1" 208 pounds), another senior who hails from Bowie, MD. Wright is averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 assists per game. After being held scoreless in the January 29th win at Villanova despite playing 32 minutes, Wright bounced back with a 24 point performance against Louisville two days later.

Junior Jason Clark (6'2" 170 pounds) out of Arlington, VA averages 12.5 points per game and shoots 38.8% from 3-point range. Clark is a very streaky player, seemly having one good game followed by one bad game and so on, and so on. Thankfully for the Orangemen, Clark scored 18 points against Providence in the last game after a 2 point effort against Louisville. This tells me that Clark should have another off game tonight.

For the Syracuse Orangemen, who else do we talk about outside of Rick Jackson? The dude is an absolute beast. A menace. He had his 16th double-double of the season on Saturday against USF and scored a season high 21 points. Jackson has improved his season average to 13.5 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per contest to lead the Cuse.

C.J. Fair has been emerging off the bench as a viable option off the bench as well. Against South Florida Fair shot 3 of 5 from the floor for 7 points and added 9 rebounds. He also matched a season high in blocks with three in 27 minutes of action. Fair should continue to play a steady amount of minutes tonight and hopefully he will be able to establish himself inside to help Rick Jackson out on the glass.

Two questions for the Orangemen: 1. Will this be the game Scoop Jardine snaps out of his shooting funk? 2. Will Fab Melo or Baye Moussa Keita make a significant contribution to the game?

Scoop Jardine's shooting troubles have been well documented here the past week or so. Playing a weak opponent like USF did not wake up his jump shot like I had hoped, perhaps playing an arch-rival will wake him up? There's only seven games left in the season, there's no better time than the present to make some shots, even layups!

As for the freshman centers, Fab Melo is averaging just 7.8 minutes and 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per Big East game this season. Against USF Melo played 12 minutes and made 2-3 shots from the floor for 4 points and 3 rebounds. Not exactly award winning numbers. Baye Moussa Keita had his best game of the season against Connecticut on February 2nd grabbing 11 boards and 6 steals and scoring 4 points for the Cuse before playing just 6 minutes against USF.

Will either center emerge to play major minutes against Georgetown? Odds are in Keita's favor, he's actually had major contributions this year. However, maybe this is the day Melo will break out of his shell and show the world he "gets it"? In all likelihood Rick Jackson will get a significant number of minutes at center, however there's a chance Baye Moussa Keita can catch a rhythm and play meaningful minutes for Jim Boeheim and the Orangemen.

Tip off tonight is at 7PM on ESPN. Be sure to check back with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.

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