Monday, February 28, 2011

Who the Orange Should Root for this Week

With one less game to play than the three teams Syracuse could pass in the standings, SU has a decent shot at moving into the top four in the Big East and grabbing the coveted double-bye in the Big East tournament. (That's a double-bye as in sitting out the first two rounds, not to be confused with the double-bye-pass procedure for Orange fans Derrick Coleman is hawking on TV ads for Upstate Hospital - also known as a "Heart Scoop.")

But first, don't forget last year's Big East tournament, when 3 of the 4 double-bye teams lost their first game, including 1-seed SU to 8-seed Georgetown and 2-seed Pitt to 7-seed Notre Dame. That said, it was the surviving 3-seed, West Virginia, who ended up taking the championship. I don't have the statistical evidence on hand, but I'm pretty sure it's easier to win 3 games in a row than 4 games in a row.

Here's how the final week of the regular season looks from SU's perspective:

Syracuse - SU's home finale is against the worst team in the Big East, DePaul. Syracuse is playing too well, and Boeheim is too paranoid to let the Orange get caught by surprise. The script says its a 12-6 finish in conference.

Pittsburgh - At 13-3, Syracuse can't catch them. The Panthers will ice the regular season championship Wednesday at USF before their regular season finale home against tailspinin' Villanova.

Notre Dame - Unfortunately, Syracuse needs a good game from that same Villanova team. 12-4 Notre Dame hosts the Wildcats before finishing the season at UConn. Those are two very losable games, and, if the Irish do lose both, Syracuse holds the tie-break thanks to their win over Notre Dame back in January.

Louisville - SU doesn't have the tie-break on the Cardinals, so their home OT win over Pitt on Sunday really hurt Syracuse's chances. They would need to lose out against Providence at home and at West Virginia. The Friars have lost six straight despite Marshon Brooks playing out of his gourd. At the very least, they'll give Louisville a tough game. A Providence upset would put me in the confusing position of rooting for Bobby Huggins on Saturday. (Speaking of the Friars, I would rather see a player like Brooks in the tournament then a crappy West Virginia team. I wish the committee factored in individual entertainment value. Ironically, Brooks is exactly the kind of player West Virginia lacks this year.)

St. John's - Again, thanks to a January win, the Orange have the tie-break over the 11-5 Red Storm. Unfortunately, St. John's will coast to the finish with games at Seton Hall and home against USF. USF is crap, and I can't think of any good teams Seton Hall has beaten this year, can you? What? What's that? I'm sorry, I can't hear you with these forks jabbed in my ears!!


So, the best bet for the Orange is probably a 2-game losing streak by the Irish. Failing that, St. John's would need one slip up. Louisville would need two.

If Syracuse stays at the 5-seed, they'll get the winner of the first round's 12-13 game. History demands that I remind you Connecticut LOST as the 12-seed last year. Hee hee hee... The last time Boeheim sniffed a "12-seed" it was in his stool after eating a bag of sunflower seeds! (Also, 2006 when 12-seed Texas A&M knocked out the Orange in the first round of the NCAAs...but that's not as funny.)

So even if Syracuse doesn't move into the top-4, they'll still be in a good position. As bubble watchers know, the drop from 11th to 12th is sharp in the Big East. Right now 9-7 Marquette is 11th, 5-11 Seton Hall is 12th, and 4-12 Rutgers is 13th.

Bottom line - for a week at least, and hopefully throughout the DePaul finale, Orange fans can relax and enjoy other teams going through early March Madness.

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