Last week I mentioned that going 3-1 in the four-game stretch that includes games at St. Johns, versus Cincinnati, versus Rutgers and at Marquette would be huge and would all but lock up an NCAA tournament berth. Well Orange Nation, so far, so good.
SU demolished St. Johns at the “home away from the dome,” destroyed a Cincinnati team that should have played a good game and decimated Rutgers at the dome.
However, the weaknesses of this team showed early and throughout the first half of the Rutgers game as SU had several sloppy turnovers and was allowing a lot of open looks (which Rutgers was not cashing in on).
The Orange managed to get its act together in the second half though, and used a huge run to blow the game open and eventually win by 30.
Props to walk-on senior Justin Thomas who, in his last game at the Carrier Dome, was able to register four points. Paul Harris also had some absolutely electrifying dunks in the game and concluded it all by tossing his headband into the crowd. Some lucky fan got a sweaty souvenir.
And yes, this is the first time EVER that SU has beaten three straight big east teams by 20 points or more in each game.
The Orange used a balanced offensive attack, and an active, suffocating zone defense to win all these games convincingly, and started off the most important month of college basketball scorching hot.
This team is completely healthy for the most part (although Arinze Onuaku’s knee continues to be an area of concern) and SU is looking more and more like the top 15 team we saw in late December and early January.
Anyone will tell you that any momentum you can get going into March is huge and this team is definitely rolling right now. I think Doug Gottlieb, college basketball analyst for ESPN, put it best when he said after the Cincinnati game: “When we see this good ‘Cuse team, they look like a Final Four team.”
I don’t doubt his sentiments there. Granted, the past three opponents aren’t the “cream of the crop” of the Big East, but by taking them to the woodshed, SU has gathered some steaming momentum at a time when it desperately needs it.
If you recall also last week, I mentioned the Orange would win at a reeling Marquette, and boy is Marquette ever reeling. The loss of Dominic James has really hurt this team as it has lost three straight games in what is their “gauntlet” of Big East games this season.
As I also mentioned, the Orange is 2-0 against Marquette in Big East play, winning by an average 14 points over the past two seasons. I believe this will be a close one, however. I think Syracuse pulls it out in the end and wins at Marquette by seven points.
Momentum is clearly on SU’s side and we all know how important that is heading into the big dance.
Also, after Syracuse wraps up play on Saturday I will begin writing a season review, hopefully to be done by late next week. It will be divided into three sections: the non-conference schedule, the Big East “gauntlet,” and the end of the Big East season.
Finally, once the NCAA tournament starts, I will be covering all of Syracuse’s games and will have full recaps of each game until it reaches the end of its tournament run.
What do you think out there? Is momentum clearly behind this team? Are they finally back to the form we saw at the beginning of the season?
As always, leave questions or comments or shoot me a message.