The Syracuse Orange have their biggest stretch of early-season games coming up this coming week. The list includes Florida (No. 18 AP, No. 19 ESPN/USATODAY) on Monday; either Washington or defending national champion Kansas (No. 24 AP and ESPN/USA TODAY) on Tuesday (both games are in Kansas City), and Virginia in the Dome on the night after Thanksgiving. Who made this schedule? Dr. Frankenstein? It's mad!
But it's also so thrilling and I think this edition of the Orange is up to the challenge. If you watched Cuse's 86-66 win Friday night against Oakland, what you saw was a free-flowing, pass-happy, relaxed Orange team that was playing pretty tough defense, mostly man-to-man.
Sure Oakland is a mid-major, but the Golden Grizzlies just beat Oregon in Eugene. They are a tough team with some really good shooters.
Jonny Flynn, the best floor general at Syracuse since Sherman Douglas and Pearl Washington, has been the key to this very balanced team. Flynn had 18 points and 4 assists in 31 minutes, which means that he got nine minutes of rest, which is a lot for the tireless point guard.
What should we expect in the Florida game? The Gators have destroyed Toledo and Bradley, no slouches. Their best players are Nick Calathes, a 6'6'' sophomore guard/forward and Dan Werner, a 6'8'' junior forward. Both are averaging 15 points per game.
This is going to be a very evenly-matched game and they key will be which team plays better defense and can rise to a big-game occasion.
Florida is long, but I don't think they can match Syracuse's bigs inside. The key to a Syracuse win will be 20 points each from Flynn and Devendorf and some dominant play (i.e easy buckets) by centers Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson.
This is a game that can shut up all the Boeheim-never-leaves-New York state-before-January critics. It's in Kansas City against potentially two Top 25 teams. It's potentially the last two national champions.
On the heels of the Syracuse football team's 24 to 23 win in South Bend, it doesn't get any better than this.