Monday, February 21, 2011

Syracuse and Villanova: We Meet Again

It's rematch time. Back on January 22nd Syracuse, then ranked #3 in the nation and sporting an 18-1 record hosted then #7 Villanova who came into the Dome with a 16-2 overall record. Syracuse would suffer their 2nd straight loss that afternoon, falling 83-72 in front of 33,736 fans, including yours truly.

Fast forward to today, Syracuse is currently ranked #17/20 in the nation and Villanova is clinging to a #14/15 spot in the polls (note: the new rankings have yet to be released at the time of this publication). Nova is coming off a nail biting victory at Depaul on Saturday, where we saw the Wildcats and Blue Demons head to overtime before Villanova pulled out a 77-75 victory over the Big East doormat. The Wildcats are currently 21-6 on the year, 9-5 in Big East play.

Syracuse is coming off an equally frustrating win against another one of the weaker Big East opponents. The Orangemen survived going to overtime with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (who entered the Dome with a 4-9 Big East conference record) and emerged victorious 84-80 behind strong games by Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson and C.J. Fair.

The last time these two teams met James Southerland and Dion Waiters received extended minutes, minutes that we have seen go to C.J. Fair recently. And he has not disappointed. Fair scored 17 points and pulled down 8 rebounds against Rutgers on Saturday while playing 37 of a possible 45 minutes. Fair is averaging 12 points and 6.3 rebounds per game over his last four contests.

For the Wildcats, senior guard Corey Stokes has sat out the last three games with a big toe injury. Stokes is averaging 14.6 points per game and shoots 41.5% from behind the 3-point line. With Syracuse looking extremely vulnerable from 3-point range lately, it would be a tremendous loss for Nova to play without Stokes tonight at the Pavilion.

This is a tremendous game for the Big East standings as well as the seeding for the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden. Syracuse has three games remaining and are currently in a log jam of teams jockeying for seeds 3 and 4 in the Big East. There are four Big East teams with 9 wins (Nova, Louisville, St. Johns and Syracuse) and three with 8 wins (Cincinnati, Connecticut and West Virginia). Throw in Notre Dame at 10-4 and Georgetown at 10-5 and the top tier of the Big East standings are still very much in reach for both Nova and Cuse, who have both struggled lately.

Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis from the game. Also be sure to follow us on twitter @CuseConnection for live, in game reaction and commentary throughout the course of the game. Tonight's game is at 7:00PM and will be broadcast live on ESPN.

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