Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's Time for the Regular Season Finale

Way back on November 12th Syracuse began their 2010-11 basketball season with a victory over Northern Iowa. The Orangemen went on to rattle off 17 straight wins to give the University the 2nd best start in school history, 18-0. With a chance to tie the best start in school history, then #3 Syracuse let then #4/#5 Pittsburgh run out to a 19-0 lead before storming back with a 17-0 run of their own to open the game on January 17th. The Orangemen dropped that game 74-66, and then lost three more in a row putting their season on the brink.

With the team in danger of losing five games in a row for the first time in Jim Boeheim's coaching history, the Orangemen (who had fallen to 17th in the nation) woke up and delivered a huge win in Connecticut (then ranked #6 in the country) 66-56 behind Rick Jackson's 15th double-double of the season (13 points 13 rebounds).

That win ultimately saved the Orangemen's season, and helped spur the Orangemen on to their current four game winning streak. Now, we are ranked 12th in the nation, and with a win today Syracuse can earn a double bye in the Big East Tournament which begins this week in New York City. The Orangemen have matured a lot over the course of the season, and today we gather in the Carrier Dome to say goodbye to one of our own.

Earlier this week we discussed Rick Jackson, the lone member of the 2007 recruiting class that has used up all four years of college eligibility. Donte Greene left after his freshman season, Jonny Flynn left after a dramatic sophomore campaign and Scoop Jardine sat out the 2008-09 season following knee surgery. Leaving just Rick Jackson to be honored before tip off today at 4PM when Syracuse takes on the DePaul Blue Demons. It will be the last time Rick Jackson takes the floor in the Dome in an Orange and Blue uniform.

There is some speculation that he may not be the only Syracuse player to play his final game in the Dome today, however. At the start of the season, there was a lot of chatter about Kris Joseph's name being called at the 2011 NBA Draft. While he may not have lived up to the hype coming into this season, Joseph is the leading scorer on the #12 ranked team in the nation, averaging 14.3 points per game.

While I don't think Kris Joseph should leave for the NBA draft after this season, in today's environment I would not be at all surprised if he did. A lot will depend on his performance in MSG this week and the NCAA tournament. If he has a strong March and takes Syracuse deep in the tournament, than today will certainly be KrisJo's swan song at the Carrier Dome.

DePaul comes to the Carrier Dome sporting a 7-22 overall record and just 1 win in 17 games in Big East play. The odds are certainly in Syracuse's favor to win today. Even the most die hard DePaul fan (those exist right?) will tell you that this game is going to be all Orange.

So assuming that the Cuse hold court today, the Orangemen will earn a double-bye in the Big East tournament and play their first game on Thursday in Madison Square Garden. As a four seed, the Cuse will play at 2PM against the winner of the 5th overall seed (likely St. Johns) against the winner of the 12th v. 13th seed match up (currently Rutgers v. Seton Hall).

DePaul has shown some signs of life of late despite their dreadful record. The Blue Demons lost 77-75 to Villanova at home on February 19th and two days earlier defeated the Providence Friars on the road, which is no small feat. DePaul also lost by 4 points in the YUM! Center in Louisville, Kentucky and lost by only three points against Cincinnati three days after the Louisville game. So while DePaul is awful, they can't be taken too lightly.

A player to watch for Syracuse will be Scoop Jardine. Scoop, who averages 12.6 points and 5.9 assists per game has struggled much of January and February. However in Georgetown on February 26th Scoop put together the most consistent game he's played in quite some time. Jardine finished with 17 points 7 assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes on the floor. It was the first time since December 18th against Iona that Scoop turned the ball over just once.

With the Orangemen getting hot down the stretch, now would be a TREMENDOUS time for Scoop to find the game he lost for January and February and get the team clicking on all cylinders heading into March Madness.

Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis. The game begins at 4PM and will be televised live on SNY. We will also be previewing the Big East Tournament this week and will be tweeting live from Madison Square Garden and all the surrounding festivities as Championship week rolls on. Follow us on twitter @CuseConnection to get all the pictures, rants, raves, and opinions as they unfold!

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