Syracuse: They Are Who We Thought They Were

Kenneth WalterContributor IJanuary 27, 2009

Let’s admit we knew so much about the Big East before the season that Dennis Green couldn’t have said it any better.  

We knew that you were going to get mauled every time you play Pitt.  We knew Connecticut would be deep and talented.  We knew that Marquette has about 90 guards that they could throw out there at any time.  We knew that Notre Dame would come at us with an inside-outside combo of Harangody and McAlarney.

We knew that there were a lot of bad teams towards the bottom of the league.  We knew that this league could send up to nine tournament teams dancing in March.

We knew a lot, but I don’t think we knew enough about Syracuse.  At least we didn’t talk a lot about Syracuse. 

Syracuse is ranked 15th in the country, which most people would not have predicted in the beginning of the year.  They were ranked eighth last week, but back-to-back losses to Pitt and Louisville drop them back. 

Now I don’t think they are officially a lock for the tournament, baring a complete collapse they will get in.  It seems every year they are the 66th team in a tournament of 65, but this year looks and feels different.

Syracuse has gotten off to a 17-4 start and already has marquee wins against Florida, Kansas, and Memphis.  Add a couple of decent Big East wins and if they don’t have any bad letdowns and ‘Cuse would be a lock for the tourney. 

But this isn’t about simply making the Big Dance, this team can really make some noise on the big stage.  They will probably need to maintain at least a .500 record in league play to attain a seeding where they can properly win a few games. 

Sure, this team always makes a good showing at the Big East tournament, but they haven’t made a run in the big dance since the days of Carmelo Anthony. 

But this team has a legitimate shot to win some big games in the tournament.  They are led by sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn, who has really grown into the team’s leader.  The sure handed Flynn is their leading scorer and assist man and would certainly be the decision maker in crunch time. 

But this team has more than Flynn.  Andy Rautins adds a lights out deep threat to this versatile offense.  Paul Harris and Arinze Onauku are bruisers, who hit the boards hard. 

Then there is Eric Devendorf.  Devendorf is a feisty player for better or for worse.  Reports have him showing that same side off the court, which isn’t good, but he brings it on the court.  Devendorf at his best is a heady player, who is scrappy as he is talented.  Devendorf at his worst is an emotional wreck on the court.

Whether or not Devendorf should be still on the team is a different argument.  If what he is accused of doing is true, then there is no way Devendorf should be on this team.  But Syracuse and the NCAA apparently have a soft stance towards assault and Devendorf is still on the team. 

Jim Boheim is a good coach and should have his team ready to play come March. 

Syracuse isn’t North Carolina.  They aren’t Connecticut.  They aren’t Pitt.  They aren’t Duke and they aren’t Wake Forest.  Hell, they aren’t even Louisville. 

But don’t kid yourself about this team, they can make some noise.