Syracuse vs. UCONN to the DOME

Jim Boeheim in Syracuse Uniform

"Bring it on, you rascal!"

A little email thread back and forth preview of my favorite game of rivalry week with my good friend CJ of UConn By the Numbers and the UConn blog. Check out the game on CBS at 1:00 PM EST.

ESTEBAN:

Hola my UCONN loving compadre!  In spite of UCONN’s recent troubles with putting the old roundball in the peach basket, I’d love to rub it in your face that Syracuse is poised to win big, and ram Boeheim’s musty and dusty old checkered jacket down George Bailey Blaney’s gullet.  After the thrilling overtime win over the incredible Chinese Fighting Dragon spirit that is the Georgetown Hoyas, I don’t believe Boatwright and co. have any chance at victory.  In the words of Aragorn son of Arathorn: “What say you!?!?

CJ:

George Blaney

"Boatwright will topple your mast, vile beast!"

Alright, well let’s get this started. First off I’ll start by drawing your attention to the last time these two met up in the Carrier Dome. It was two years ago today, February 10, 2010. George Blaney was at the helm during Jim Calhoun’s last prolonged absence.

All that’s really important in that video is the stretch from 5:51-6:15. The game was tied 65-65. Rick Jackson grabbed an absolutely huge offensive rebound, kicks it out to Scoop Jardine who inexplicably drives the line for a layup despite there being a 3 second differential between the game and shot clocks. Jardine is block by Gavin Edwards, Stanley Robinson corrals the rebound and then there’s a whistle for a timeout…by Syracuse. As you can see at the 6:10 mark, John Cahill not only called the timeout after Jardine shot, he didn’t start raising his hand until after Robinson has possession of the rebound!

It was an absolutely absurd turn of events that ended up being not so monumental since UConn crashed and burned spectacularly down the stretch. Including that game they lost 5 of their last 8 to close out regular season play, and eventually lost in the 2nd round of the NIT to Virginia Tech.

Two things that jump out at me about this video: 1. Cuse is much, much better this year. 2. Kemba Walker’s improvement from his sophomore to junior seasons was absolutely incredible. 3. Ator Majok was a guy. 4. Jerome Dyson occasionally made shots.

I think mostly I’ve been conditioned by this years UConn team to just assume that a shot in the air wont go in because they’re shooting 16.7% from beyond the arc the past 5 games. I would be shocked if UConn won on Saturday. In a fitting way it would make sense (they’d no doubt follow it up with a loss to DePaul), but it’s hard to imagine UConn not beating themselves at this point, much less beating Syracuse on the road.

Frankly I’d be more than happy with simply not collapsing in the 2nd half. Just show me something–anything–that could be a positive. Maybe Boatright (no W) will shred the zone, maybe they’ll finally realize they can put Lamb in the middle of the zone (like they did against Cuse in the Big East Tournament last year), maybe Andre Drummond will do one of those things he does no other human can do. I know its February and moral victories mean nothing, but I’d honestly be okay with a moral victory here. That’s how defeated I am as a fan. It could set up a nice rematch, save-the-season opportunity in Storrs on the 29th.

ESTEBAN:

Attention drawn.

Don’t worry about the officiating this year. In two years we have progressed so far down the “Oh dear god, think of the ramifications if we fuck this one up” instant replay era that they stop EVERY possible scoring play in the NFL to make sure it wasn’t an inch short, just to see your uncle Fred (or Run DmC, when he’s healthy) score the very next play. So I don’t foresee a mistake like that happening again. Then again, it probably won’t be that close.

You are right about the team being better this year but I still have my doubts. Fab Melo looks like an absolute goofball and has the basketball IQ of an eight year old male cheerleader, but he’s a tall shot-blocking upgrade from Rick Jackson. Scoop and Triche are still around, though I hate the fact that Triche doesn’t seem to be playing as much. I have serious doubts of Jardine’s shooting confidence compared to his shooting percentage. Thank god the Montreal Sensation Kris Joseph is putting on his best Rashad Anderson impression this year. And don’t get me started on Dion Waiters. All the fawning over him by the sports press seems to have gotten to his head, and I bet you a beer that he declares for the draft next year only to bust worse than Jonathan Bender.

What scares me about UCONN is how bad they are playing right now. First, there is no statistically possible way they can continue to shoot such a poor percentage from deep. (You of all people should be able to formulaicly calculate that with your huge Microsoft Excel skillz) Second, when you think a team has no business beating you (Notre Dame) they end up beating you. (Screw you Cooper!) From the games I’ve seen, Syracuse is deep and talented, but aren’t dominating teams like the Anthony-McNamara era. (I know it was only a year, but it seemed longer)

Worst case scenario for us resulting in high chance of Huskie victory:

  • Melo gets in early foul trouble trying to contain that beast of a Drummond, or worse, the NCAA finds that the Brazillian can’t read, spell, or add and permanantly bans him from participation in collegiate sports due to his failing second grade intelligence level.
  • The crowd experiences the Silence of the Lamb effect, as Jeremy catches fire along with the Shabaz and we fall behind by 10 at the half.
  • Waiters tries to do too much, clanks trey after trey with that silly fade away jump shot, and the Orange starts to play one on one ball in desperation.
  • The refs try to award Joseph with three points and the foul on a last second shot to tie the game, when his foot was clearly on the line. Instant replay comes through for truth, justice, and all that is un-holy to Central NY, and we lose by one.

CJ:

Good point on the officiating, though they could take the tack the officials took in last year’s Big East tournament and just walk off the court.

2 closing points:

  1. Cuse is going to roll tomorrow.
  2. An important point that hasn’t been made (and since you bring up Rashad Anderson): UConn has been completely inept against zones since about 2006. Aside from beating Cuse and Lville in the BET, UConn faced zero zone teams on their run to Houston. That was HUGE for them.

The whole UConn not being able to play against zones thing, is really interesting because they used to DESTROY them. Case-in-point, 2003. G-Mac and Melo were national champions, but they lost in the regular season and the Big East Tourney to UConn, as Taliek Brown shredded the zone. He dumped down low to Emeka Okafor, kicked out to Ben Gordon and Rashad. They even had Jim Calhoun on the Final Four telecasts talking about how to break down a 2-3 zone. Weird.

About: Esteban

Esteban is the Editor in Chief of RantingEsteban.com. Check out his page on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @RantingEsteban, or send him an email.

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