I was never so relieved about the result of a basketball game as I was when SU was up by 18 or so with under 3 minutes left. I didn’t watch the game live, I had a prior commitment (thanks a pantload, schedulers, for holding the SU game during the only time slot in all of Thursday and Friday that I would’t be able to watch live) and I tried to avoid all communications until I was able to come home and watch the DVR. But before I was able to turn it on I had already received numerous text messages; even though I avoided reading them, I feared they contained the worst. Every time ISU hit another perfect-looking three, I would wonder, “Is this the point where ISU goes on a ridiculous run and takes the lead?” Having witnessed their shooting prowess, I remained in fear of a game-changing hot streak until well after it was reasonable to be so.
In the end, the game played out just as it ought to have done. Rick Jackson absolutely dominated. ISU did hit their share of deep shots but couldn’t sustain it through the whole game. Syracuse controlled the paint and the glass, and generally imposed their will on the game. I was particularly pleased — once the cloud of dread had dissipated — that SU was able to remain focused on getting the ball into the paint. Many games this season they have gone long stretches during which Rick didn’t even touch the ball on offense. It was almost as if the rest of the team got bored with him posting up, and so they decided to try something different for their own entertainment. But in this game they looked for Rick constantly and consistently. All game long.
I am hopeful that they will maintain that focus on offense when facing Marquette tomorrow. The Eagles have more size than the Sycamores, but Rick will once again be the best post player on the floor and SU should play through him as much as possible. You don’t need a Marquette scouting report, you know who they are. You know that they beat SU a couple months ago, and that it was a close game. My fervent hope is that SU remembers it too, and comes out lean, mean, and focused. Let’s not dribble the ball out of bounds twice under no pressure this time.
Let me also say that it is complete bullpuckey that the NCAA selection committee set up two Big East matchups in the 2nd round. It’s their fault for giving the league two 3 seeds, three 6 seeds, and an 11 seed. You are telling me that St Johns, Georgetown, and Cincinnati (the three 6s) were all equally good? None of them was deserving of a 5? Or even a 7? They have said in the past that they might bump a team up or down one seed line for logistical reasons. Avoiding conference foes facing off in the 2nd round seems to me like a good reason to shift a seed here or there.
One of the real reasons this upsets me is that it deprives SU of one of its major tournament advantages this weekend. As inconsistent as the zone can be during the season, you and I both know that it’s hard to prepare for, particularly on short notice. I’m sure part of Boeheim’s motivation for using the zone is to give the team an advantage in this situation. If the committee had properly done its job, we would be sitting here talking about how, say, Gonzaga would be facing the difficult task of trying to solve the zone with only one day of practice. This gets completely neutralized by the fact of facing a team that we’ve already played, an in-conference opponent that has been playing against SU for years. I’d so rather be facing Xavier, for this reason. Nothing to do about it, of course, you have to play the hand you’re dealt. But I feel within my rights to rant about it, and call shenanigans, or something.