Focus On The Present
From 900 Irving HQ in Kansas City, all I heard about last week was the acrimony between Missouri and Kansas leading up to Saturday’s win by the Tigers in Columbia. Missouri, as you probably know, announced it was bolting to the SEC so it wouldn’t be caught without a seat in the game of Conference Musical Chairs. Until the Big 12 secured commitments from West Virginia and later TCU, the league was left twisting in the wind, and partially because of that, Kansas has all but vowed to not schedule the Tigers for the foreseeable future. By their rationale, Kansas can survive as one of the top five programs in college basketball and doesn’t need to throw its soon-to-be-former conference rival a bone to stay at its current status.
I’d like to think that the Syracuse-Georgetown relationship isn’t quite at that level, that when Syracuse leaves for the ACC, this series can continue on some level. That Georgetown doesn’t have a BCS football program to bolster its perception probably gives the school less leverage to turn down a surefire cash haul like a rotating date with Syracuse every season. In addition, while Georgetown is a proud and storied program, it doesn’t have nearly the cache that Kansas has that allows its brass to be so selective in its scheduling.
However, since it’s impossible to be certain, the best thing we can do as Orange fans is relish the latest chapter in the rivalry, a heart-stopping overtime win in front of 30,000-plus at the Loud House. It was a classic SU-Georgetown tilt filled with more generous contact, loose ball scrums, and blocked shots than finesse plays and huge runs. Syracuse was once again atrocious in the rebounding department, especially defensively. The Hoyas grabbed over half of their own misses, when the norm for most teams is about 30%. The Orange forced plenty of bad shots (the Hoyas shot 33% and rarely got open looks), but SU just couldn’t close out possessions by controlling the glass. This is by far the team’s Achilles heel and one thing that will have my attention Saturday against Connecticut is whether the guards help out rather than anticipating fast break opportunities from the three-point line.
With the guard play being unusually inefficient outside of Scoop Jardine, it was left to the frontcourt to get the job done. Fab Melo looked very comfortable in the paint on defense, taking down seven rebounds to go along with six blocks and one Mutombo finger-wag. The emotion he showed would probably have earned him a technical, but the referees didn’t impose their will on the game the way others would (more on that later). He also played well on offense, but Kris Joseph was the man who carried the Orange and seared his name into the memories of Syracuse and Georgetown fans alike. He set career highs with 29 points and six made threes, none more important than the go-ahead triple with 26 seconds left in overtime. We saw Joseph take the Cincinnati game over for a short stretch, but to see him do it against a better team like Georgetown when contributions from most of the team couldn’t be counted on was highly encouraging. Obviously, the aim will be for the balanced efforts we’re used to, but as the rest of the schedule reflects big tests, the odds are no worse than decent that another demand for a takeover presents itself.
Now, regarding the officiating style, there was nary a peep in my Twitter feed about the crew of Bob Donato, Joe Lindsay and Sean Corbin. Maybe they got the brief about how these teams like to push each other around within reason and aren’t hesitant to initiate contact, but I think a more significant cause for the consistent officiating was the relaxes workloads. Thanks to the inimitable StatSheet.com, we know that Donato, the head official, worked just his second game since January 28. Lindsay had three of four days away from games before calling Maryland’s game against Clemson Tuesday and traveling to Syracuse for last night’s game. Corbin, a relative newbie, hasn’t worked back-to-back days since February 1. It was a welcome break from the games played before the hotel point and airline mile-hoarding referees we’re used to seeing. If you don’t think fresh legs make a difference, I’ll be happy to point you back to the schedules.
We don’t know the long-term future of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry. In the short term, it’s possible we’ll see a rematch at Madison Square Garden. Unless you’re Arinze Onuaku or a member of the 2000 team that was erased by an underwhelming group of Hoyas, it’d be tough not to hope for it to happen. Until then, the best thing to do is relish the present and continue to enjoy the wild ride.