Jim Boeheim says Syracuse basketball fans who’ve been talking about booking flights to Indianapolis for the 2010 Final Four are a little crazed. He’s right. But how could they not be after watching the way this team has performed while winning 20 of its first 21 games in decisive fashion.
And after the way the ‘Cuse turned a 14-0 deficit into a 17-point blowout victory against 10th-ranked Georgetown last night, expect the citizens of Orange Nation to become even more crazed. Consider this: After spotting the Hoyas that two-touchdown lead in the first three minutes, SU outscored them 73-42 the rest of the way, fueled by 19 forced turnovers. That’s the kind of ho-hum, yawn-yawn steam-rolling you might expect against Colgate or Marathon Oil, not against the 10th-ranked team in the nation.
I’ve been following Orange basketball since the mid-1960s – the days when the incomparable Dave Bing and a gangly, bespectacled guy by the name of Boeheim were manning the backcourt at the dark and dusty basketball pit known as the Manley Field House Zoo. I’ve witnessed a handful of SU teams more talented than this one, but I can’t recall any who have played better defense or been more unselfish on offense. The word ‘chemistry’ is thrown around a lot, but this team truly has it. You can tell by their actions that they genuinely enjoy playing together.
The NCAA statistics bear out just how well-rounded this team’s dominance is. SU is tops in the nation in field goal percentage, second in assists, third in scoring differential, seventh in scoring, ninth in blocked shots and 11th in field goal defense.
Five guys are averaging in double figures, led by Wes Johnson’s 17 ppg, and Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine are close to joining that quintet. Their backcourt of Andy Rautins, Brandon Triche and Jardine combine to average 13.3 assists per contest.
Yeah, I know, there’s still that old bugaboo – free throw shooting – to be concerned with, but I don’t believe it’s enough of a problem to derail this team’s march to Indianapolis.
The way I see it, injuries and complacency are the only things that will stop this march.
If the regular season were to end today, I could see SU receiving a No. 1 seed and being placed in Buffalo for the first two games. Playing in HSBC Arena would be like having two home games and propel them into the Sweet 16.
Johnson says the players aren’t looking any farther ahead than Saturday’s Big East Conference game at DePaul, and that’s good. But he also says he’s noticed how stoked the fans are talking about a trip to the Final Four, etc., and he says that’s good. “Let ‘em have their fun,’’ he says. “That’s what being a fan is all about.’’
How could they not be?