With the second round fast approaching, we have teamed up with SBN's Syracuse blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to help satiate our readers' hungry minds. We exchanged Q&A's, so enjoy my probing questions about 'Cuse on their site.
What did the 6 overtime game against Connecticut tell you about your team?
Well before we get to the UConn game, I don't think Syracuse is in the right mindset to win that one unless the Seton Hall game happens the day before. SU played what was supposed to be an easy win over Seton Hall in the 2nd round of the Big East Tournament. It was just that, an easy win. But the game was extremely chippy and very physical. It got heated and the Syracuse players did something I hadn't seen from them in months. They got angry. And it came out as a swagger I wasn't used to seeing out of these guys.
So the next night against UConn, I like to think some of that was still there. Not that Devendorf needs more swagger, but I think the rest of the guys were playing with a new-found confidence that was lacking the first time they played UConn. Ultimately, if there's anything the UConn game taught us it's that these guys aren't done proving themselves. They know they have underachieved as a group for the last couple years and they're sick of hearing about it. They've got chips on their shoulders but for the first time they're being motivated by that instead of being held back by it.
Plus we learned how to beat Hasheem Thabeet. Just play at least 4 OTs. Simple.
How does Syracuse match up against the zone?
Well, if there's any two teams out there that know the zone, its the two of us. So we're not going to be caught off guard by it, we've been practicing it all season. As I'm sure you guys have learned, sometimes all it takes to break the zone is a hot hand outside. We've got two guys, Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf, who can light it up from three-point range if they're feeling it. If they're not, we're going to have to rely more on the big men and Jonny Flynn's ability to get them the ball. That's a little trickier. All of our big guys are streaky and Paul Harris is a certifiable wild card on the offensive side of the ball some nights.
Did Syracuse exceed expectations this year?
It didn't feel like it at times, but yes they did. First, we came out of a tough OOC schedule with wins over Florida, Kansas and Memphis en route to a 12-1 record heading into Big East play. The Big East scheduling Gods decided to give us an easy start and an easy finish but the middle was a gauntlet unlike anything I've ever seen. We came out of a ten-game stretch that included games against Pitt, Louisville, UConn, Nova and West Virginia with a 3-7 record. It felt like we were taking a huge step back and there was nervous chatter about being on the bubble for brief period. But we finished the season strong and then the Big East Tournament happened. We were expecting a six seed before the BET so eventually getting a three seed was way ahead of expectations. Now, we have to make good on it. SU fans want to see this team go back to the Sweet Sixteen at least, and although they might not say it out loud, they expect the team to go even further.
How is part 2 of the Eric Devendorf experiment going?
You know, having Eric Devendorf on your team can be a little like having Terrell Owens or Jeremy Shockey on your team. As long as their making plays and scoring a lot, you can overlook all that other stuff. Lately, Devo has been making SU fans forget about the other stuff.
Hasn't always been that way. As you can imagine, he's got a bit of an ego and he lets that take control of his game sometimes. I can't tell you how many times I've watched him on a 2-on-1 fastbreak where he had an easy assist option and he passes it up to take, and miss, the shot. He doesn't like to admit that Jonny Flynn is the floor general, not him, and he's constantly trying to put the Orange on his back, with varying results.
There's rumors out there that he's going to leave after this season. Obviously he's not NBA material but he could have a lucrative career in Europe. If he does come back, I don't think SU fans will think that's a terrible thing. Assuming Jonny stays as well we will have the entire starting five back and we'll be even deeper with one of the top recruiting classes coming in. But if he does go, we will wish him well and move on just fine.
Jonny Flynn is dynamite. What kind of performance will he give against ASU?
Depends on what kind of performance ASU gives as well. Jonny is going to try and control the tempo of the game, pushing it up the floor and looking for Devo and Rautins on the wings or Paul Harris in the corners. If ASU puts Syracuse in a hole, expect Jonny to step up his one-on-one attack and try to create points himself. At the end of the day the one thing you can count on more than anything is that Jonny will be on the court. If he's out of the game for even a minute I will be shocked.
Paul Harris averages 12.6 points a game. If he is unable to go on Sunday due to his thumb injury, how would that affect the Syracuse game plan?
Paul is something of an enigma on offense. When left to his own devices, he is a mess. If he's not throwing up a crazy shot, he's missing a wide open dunk about as badly as someone can do it. But, if he's grabbing loose balls or rebounds and creating off of someone else's play, he's money. He's the ultimate garbage man. He'll put together a 17 point-12 rebound game and you almost won't even know how he did it.
So Paul would be missed greatly and mostly for reasons that don't show up in the stat columns. Add that to the fact that our sixth man Kristof Ongenaet was sick and missed today's game and Syracuse's already-thin bench could be getting razor-thin real quick. Not to mention the fact that it would deplete our inside game immensely, something that could bite us very quickly if we get into foul trouble.
I wish you guys luck now, because I won't be doing so come Sunday.
Keep yours eyes "peeled" on Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to find out even more about Syracuse. Go Devils!