Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

Country Road, Take Me Home

FIrst, Stewart Mandel does a story on how much Hakim Warrick means to Syracuse's chances to win the tournament. One point Mandel gets totally wrong is proclaiming SU as the unofficial home team of New York City. First of all I wonder if he's heard a program called St. John's. I'll give him a pass because the Johnnies arent there this year, but here are the distances from each Big East school(except St John's) to New York City.

Seton Hall 14 miles
Rutgers 36 miles
Villanova 94 miles
UConn 141 miles
Providence 179 miles
BC 214 miles
Georgetown 225 miles
Syracuse 247 miles
Pittsburgh 370 miles
West Virginia 378 miles
Notre Dame 701 miles

Mandel has to do a better job than that. Syracuse is 8th closest team to MSG in terms of distance. He has to know that just because Syracuse is in New York State doesnt mean that NYC is around the corner. Thats a popular misconception among so called "experts". Thats like saying Missouri would be the home team when they play Kansas in Kansas City, Missouri. No they wouldnt. Columbia, Mo (the campus of Missouri) is much further than Lawrence, Kansas. He needs to do some homework before publishing something like that.

Now on to the game tonight. Throw the only meeting between WVU and SU out the window. Both teams are using totally different rotations and WVU was struggling coming into the Dome and now they're white hot. Kevin Pittsnogle only played 11 minutes at the Dome and Billy Edelin scored 12 points and had 7 assists that meeting. Both of those players have gone in opposite directions since then. Edelin doesnt even play and Pittsnogle has become WVU's most valuable player. Lets look at some interesting things about West Virginia in this tournament.

Rebounding- WVU was 11th in the Big East in rebounding margin during the season and actually giving up 3.1 more rebounds than they got. Rutgers was the only team worse than them. They destroyed Villanova on the glass in the semis grabbing 30 to Nova's 18. The Orange should have an advantage on them tonight. Pittsnogle will play around the 3 point arc and it will leave D'or Fischer as the only rebounding threat if he's even on the floor. The one thing SU needs to look out for is the "tap back". WVU will tap it out to players and run their offense again. If SU brings the same intensity they did last night they shold dominate tonight.

Scoring and 3 point shooting- WVU is shooting a sizzling 48 prercent (35/74) from behind the Arc in the BET. WVU shot almost 150 more 3s than the next closest team in the BE and its just continued at the Garden. WVU only scored 78 or more points 3 times during the regular year but has done it in all 3 games they've played in the tournament. They are filling it up and SU is going to need to keep them to one shot tonight.

Mike Gansey- I named Gansey my midseason MVP for the Mountaineers (I also called WVU the team most likely to struggle the rest of the year, but thats not important)and he's played like it this tourney. He can slash, he's a good passer and he can finish at the rim. He will be the guy that breaks down the SU zone with his skills. He tends to get lost in games, but theres no need to think that will happen tonight.

What SU needs to do tonight

Make WVU shoot two point shot- If SU can extend the zone to take out the shooters it should be a good night for the Orange. Of course thats easier said than done. Everyone for WVU can shoot the three outside of Fischer. WVU was very reliant on the 3 during the regular season, but has shown they can slash to the basket in this tournament. If SU can force WVU to make two point shots they'll be in good shape.

Force WVU turnovers - West Virginia has the best assist/turnover ratio in the Big East and tend not to turn it over. That stat is a little inflated because of the type of offense West Virginia usually runs and everyone usually touching the ball at least once. If SU can speed up the game a little it will benefit them because West Virginia does not play well in transition.

Avoid the "Tap Back" - This is the West Virginia way of getting rebounds. SU cant be suckered into crashing the boards because guys like Fischer, Gansey and Jon Herber will just tap the ball back to the 3 point line on the offensive glass. When Gerry McNamara and Josh Pace start moving towards the basket on the defense end is the time the "tap back" will get them. SU must be careful not to let WVU get two and three looks at the basket per possession.

Dont get fooled- John Beilein is known for changing defenses. He'll throw out the customary WVU 1-3-1 defense but he might run out a triangle and two or box and one and he'll definetely mix in a 2-3 zone and man defense. Syracuse must realize what defense the Mounytaineers are in because if they dont they'll be turning it over for no reason.

Bottom Line

West Virginia is hot. Very Hot. They know they can win this game tonight. The only two Big East teams to play 4 games in 4 nights got absolutely blasted. Pittsburgh in 2001 lost by 22 and UConn in 2000 lost by 10 in a game that wasnt that close. Both teams got very tired in those games. I'm not sure this will be a factor tonight because in WVU's game against BC only Gansey (37 min) and Herber (32 min) played more than 30 minutes. Last night Gansey (33min), Herber (36min) and J.D. Collins (35 min) played the most minutes and for SU Warrick (33 min), GMac (36 min) and Josh Pace (40 min) played the most for SU. I think its pretty even. We'll see how it shakes out as far as endurance goes. Syracuse needs to start this game like they started the other two games. They need to put some doubt in West Virginia. In SU's two first halves in this tournament they've outcored their opponents 79-41, but WVU is just as good outscoring their 3 opponents 111-77. It should be a good matchup. West Virginia wont be able to run their motion offense against the SU zone so I think Syracuse has a little advantage there. This game is closer than some SU fans think. Syracuse has waited 13 years. Is this the year? Tune in tonight at 8.
Comments:
If you don't think Syracuse is the "unofficial" home team at Madison Square Garden, then you must have never been to the Garden when Syracuse plays. Syracuse University alumni pack MSG when the Orange come to play. Yes, St. John's is the "official" home team in NYC, but Syracuse will always have a second home in NYC because so many alumni like myself, leave Syracuse University and relocate to NYC. I encourage you to check out a Syracuse game at the Garden to see what I'm talking about. It's not like watching a game in the Dome, but it's far from a typical road game.
 
Thanks but Ive been to the Garden for a Syracuse game so I dont really appreciate you thinking that and I know the advantage Syracuse has with alumni in the city considering i live right by the city..that being said..UConn brings just as many fans as SU and if Rutgers and Seton Hall were good they would have more people there..dont believe me?..check out the 1994 Big East final when Seton hall destroyed Syracuse...you would have been hard pressed to find many SU fans in the building that day...
 
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