Coming into this season after losing high-flying Flynn, "Do-it-all Paul", and the fiery Devendorf the Orange were dubbed a middle of the pack team. While they returned big men Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson and the leadership of Andy Rautins, coaches and experts still picked this team to finish sixth in the Big East. Their pre-season ranking was 24th in the Coaches Poll and unranked in the AP poll as many people believed they had lost too much talent to hang with the elite programs.
While the skills of Onuaku, Jackson, and Rautins were common knowledge two question marks entering the season were Scoop Jardine and Wesley Johnson. Jardine had missed last season and the somewhat mysterious transfer from Iowa State had some hype but was largely unproven. How much would they contribute to this team and how quick would they make an impact?
It took just two games in Madison Square Garden for coaches, experts, and the entire country to realize how talented this team really was.
After Jardine had a career night against then #12 California in a 95-73 win, Wesley Johnson stole the show against then #4 North Carolina in an 87-71 victory. The Orange had dominated both teams en-route to the Coaches vs Cancer tournament title. It was clear this team was better than everyone had predicted.
Since those impressive wins the Orange have absolutely crushed every opponent they have faced, with the most recent dismantling of Maine 101-55! Wesley Johnson leads the team in scoring and rebounding with averages of 17 PPG and 7.3 RPG and 7 other Orange players average between 7 and 13 points. This team is balanced and did I mention can play defense?!
The length and tenacity of the 2-3 zone has held 5 of 8 opponents to 60 points or less while the offense is averaging 90 PPG.
The numbers and results so far are clear and display the potential this team has of being special. With games against the #11 Florida Gators, a dangerous Seton Hall team, and a talented Memphis Tigers squad on the horizon we will see if this team is the real deal.