So how good is this Syracuse basketball team?
So good that it can throttle the nation’s seventh-ranked team by 18 points on a night when its best player – Wes Johnson – misses nine of 11 shots from the field – that’s how good.
I was thinking that at some point in March and April, the Orange men are going to need Johnson to put the team on his shoulders the way Carmelo Anthony did in 2003 and John Wallace did in 1996. But there’s so many go-to guys on this wonderfully balanced basketball team that maybe that’s not going to be necessary. As ESPN analyst Jay Bilas astutely noted, the go-to guy on this unselfish team is the open man.
My good friend and former colleague, Frank Bilovsky, knows as much about college basketball as anyone I know and he told me a month ago that this is the best Syracuse basketball team he has seen. I would tend to agree, but it won’t be regarded as such unless it caps this season by cutting down the nets in Indianapolis. That’s the harsh reality of the sports world. And Frank and I have covered several Orange hoop teams with the talent to win it all that didn’t.
The dismantling of a very, very good Villanova team last night gives SU 27 wins – the most regular-season victories ever in school history. It also improved the Orange men’s record to 7-0 vs. ranked teams. They are unbeaten on the road, which bodes well for tournament play. And they play better defense than any Syracuse team I’ve ever seen, and my history goes back to the Dave Bring-Jim Boeheim playing era of the mid-1960s.
It was fabulous to see not only that enormous Orange-clad throng in the Dome, but also SU legends such as Floyd Little, Derrick Coleman, Pearl Washington, Lawrence Moten and Wallace. I could have done without the foolish Dome Ranger, but, what the heck, if the fans like him, then so be it.
It would be a nice boost for Orange Nation if SU were ranked No. 1 in this week’s poll. But as Boeheim said, the true No. 1 won’t be determined until early April – on the court and not by pollsters. And that is how it should be.
• As expected, Terrell Owens’ career with the Buffalo Bills was one-and-done. Terribly inconsistent quarterback play and declining skills conspired against T.O. putting up big numbers for the Bills. But he did provide some exciting moments, including a 98-yard touchdown reception, the longest pass play in team history. And he did reach the 1,000-reception milestone during the season finale. His brief stay in Buffalo was devoid of the histrionics that plagued him in other places. Owens seemed to genuinely enjoy his time there and the fans enjoyed having him.
• Those of us involved with Rochester Press-Radio Club Childrens Charities are tickled pink to have Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees as the headliner for our Day of Champions Dinner on May 12 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Brees is only doing a handful of these affairs. That he would choose our cause is a great honor. Kudos to our vice-president Mike Kauffman for negotiating the deal that will bring the New Orleans Saints quarterback and philanthropist to our banquet. It’s become increasingly difficult to land sports stars of this caliber, so it was great to see Mike’s perseverance rewarded. Tickets are $125 and going fast. You can purchase them by calling 585-340-1460 or clicking on our website at www.pressradio.org. We are an all-volunteer organization and the proceeds go to local children’s charities.
• Am looking forward to today’s Team USA-Canada gold-medal hockey game. I believe the Canadians have too much fire-power along with the incentive of their earlier loss to the Americans. But as we all know, strange things can happen in Olympic hockey. The U.S. will need a superb performance by Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. And as we saw in the first meeting between these teams that’s not out of the question. Call it Canada 4, U.S. 2.