First of all, yes I am still alive. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been present on the board here but I hope to be back to my regularly scheduled mayhem soon.
Second of all, that enormous breeze you felt up in Syracuse around 8:55pm last night was not just Dome air blowing people out the double doors. It was the massive exhalation of the Cuse collective.
Losing to Providence — undermanned as we may have been — was a serious blow to the Orange psyche, both the team and the fans. Until that game, the attitude among both groups was “Well, these are top ten teams we’re losing to, it’s too bad we didn’t beat them but it’s not that terrible of an outcome. We’ve still got a great record, we’re over .500 in conference, hey how ’bout them Arizona Cardinals?” The PC game was a bucket of icy water smack in our faces. Suddenly it was “crisis of confidence” this and “overrated” that. Our ranking plummeted almost as fast as our belief in the team’s ability.
So, last night’s win was seriously, seriously needed. Boeheim scoffed at the thought that it was a “must-win”, and in one sense he’s right. If SU had lost last night it wouldn’t have eliminated them from the NCAA tournament or anything like that. WVU is a very good team, with wins over Georgetown and Ohio State; they’ve spent some time in the top 25 this year; their only loss to an unranked team is to Kentucky, who are not great this year but are still Kentucky. So a loss would not have been the end of everything. But it would have been the beginning of the end.
Nearly all the projections of a successful conference season contained the base assumption that we had to go 5-0 against the bottom of the league (Rutgers x2, St Johns, USF, DePaul) and probably 3-1 or better against the middle of the pack (Seton Hall, PC, WVU, Cincinnati). If that were achieved, then pulling out just two wins against the top seven teams in the league — that is, the ones who started the year in the top 25 — would mean a winning conference record. We all felt that was within reach. But the past couple of weeks we’ve proved unable to run with the true Colossuses (Colossi?) of the conference (Pitt & Louisville), cementing our reputation as a member of the Big East’s 2nd tier, at best. But really the only “quality” conference win we had is that Dome victory over Notre Dame, who, with 6 straight losses, have been dropping faster than the pants on a porn star. (Huge game for them coming Saturday at UCLA.)
Had we lost to West Virginia, the murmurs of mediocrity would have grown into hollers. (Or at least “holla”s.) The conventional wisdom would be barreling in the direction of SU not even being a 2nd-tier squad. To put it plainly, we needed to beat someone decent. The players needed it for their own confidence, with four more quality opponents coming up — and they said as much in the postgame interviews. They get the “losing-streak monkey” off their broad shoulders and can get focused on Saturday. The fans needed this just as much, to “bring us in off the ledge” as was put in this space last night, and to quell our previously unthinkable but now very real and growing fears of a return to The Bubble. With this win, SU remains on track for that “8-1 vs. the bottom 9″ goal, a winning conference record, and a return to the tournament. That’s all we ask. We all thought it was reasonable, two weeks ago. I think we’re all back on board now.
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Programming note: The Cuse Country staff will be descending on Philadelphia next weekend in full throat. Ethan, Tom, Tim, Jer and I (along with various wives and girlfriends - yes some of us do have them!) have secured spots among the throng at the Spectrum, or whatever its equivalent is now. So, expect lots of shitty pitcures from our cameraphones sometime on Sunday or Monday, and if you’re planning to go, look us up.