If you haven’t noticed, there’s been a little bit of anxiety and paranoia seeping into the wondrous columns of Giving 111 Percent.
Well, we may be somewhat naturally aggressive people, but the restless tone is fueled from something other than our normal opinionated convictions. It’s the fact that the schools at which we both reside, Syracuse and Maryland, sport two college basketball squads floating around the NCAA tournament bubblesphere.
Maryland has dropped two straight games to ACC foes Virginia Tech and Miami. Syracuse has done the same, to better competition on the road at Louisville and Notre Dame. Each team finds themselves at 17-11, with Maryland boasting a 7-6 record in a down ACC conference, and the Orange with a 7-8 mark in the brutal Big East. Pretty similar records. Why did we start this blog? This seems like a terrible omen.
Syracuse sits at No. 48 in the RPI rankings, with the eighth best strength of schedule in the nation. The Terps are at No. 67 and 18 respectively. There’s no beating around the bush, both these teams have a ton of work left to do if either wants to find itself being considered for the NCAA tournament. Both teams should try to at least get to 20 wins. If that’s the case, I (Pat) would have to opt for Syracuse over the Terps – because the team has better numbers and overcame great odds stacked against them in a much better conference. But right now, it’s foolish to assume that either of these teams will be dancing. Unfortunately.
The parallels continue. Maryland has missed the NCAA tournament twice in the past three years. Syracuse missed it last year (albeit questionably), and has been on the bubble the two years before that. Maryland was coming off a championship title earlier this decade in 2002. Syracuse won in 2003. The titles obviously affected our school choices, and well, they haven’t exactly paid off. Year after year the fingernails disintegrate and selection Sunday is either doomsday or an unpleasant nerve racking two hours spent staring at Greg Gumbel.
Hopefully both teams can make runs, or this blog could become quite bitter until baseball season starts. Of course, we’ll keep up with the posting and observations as well as we can, but I’d like to avoid the disappointment. And Andrew can at least still bask in the Giants glory – so if it comes down to these two, I’m not going to feel bad for him if the Cuse makes it.
Andrew gave you some Maryland insight yesterday.
Here are some thoughts on the Orange after a tough 94-87 loss at Notre Dame:
- With the loss sending the Orange to 17-11 (7-8 Big East), I believe SU must win out. Winning a game in the Big East tournament would likely shore up a bid. That would equal four more wins. That total is likely the magic number. If the Orange struggles in the upcoming games against Pitt, Seton Hall and Marquette, it will have to make serious noise in the Big East Tournament.
- If Syracuse is hoping to make the run I just mentioned, the team is going to need Donte Greene to show up. I cannot believe what I am seeing out of this guy. I don’t like to be too critical of college players, but he is really driving me insane. The 6’10 Greene came into SU as a great recruit, likely one-and-done. He showed off a nice jump shot early in the year and skyrocketed to the top of the Big East scoring leaders list. But once conference play started, Greene has disappeared. Going into Sunday’s game, the Orange was shooting 29 percent from three-point range in conference play. Greene is not helping that as the team’s main shooter. He’s been very cold, scoring in double figures in only two of the last five games. He looks lost in SU’s offensive sets, and actually has been removed from NBA Draft.net's 2008 mock draft– which previously had him as a top-10 pick. It looks as if the site administrators think Donte will stay another year.
Regardless, this kind of thing happens. Big East play has been tougher than Greene expected, he’s playing a ton of minutes with a thin frame, and he’s not getting a lot of open looks. That’s all fine. He needs more time in the Big East and needs to learn how to cut, drive and do something other than pop three pointers. But what I find unacceptable and infuriating is his effort and intensity. Greene showed zero emotion during the game and when he was picking up several fouls. He was torched by Notre Dame forwards on the perimeter when the team switched to man-to-man defense. He seems very, very out of it. Someone needs to light a fire under him. If SU isn’t going to get offensive numbers out of him, the team needs rebounding and defense. Right now, Greene is offering pretty much none of the above.
- Paul Harris is a man-child who hopefully won’t even think about moving to the NBA this season. Right now, he’s by far our best player, and is even sinking his jump shots consistently. Harris is starting to shine and become more dependable. Sure, he still has his lapses. But if he stays another year or two, he can be scary good, as can Syracuse as a team. Onuaku, too, was an absolute beast as well. He can outmuscle just about anyone in the Big East, and seems to actually know that after a mid-season slump.
- I think Scoop Jardine has to see even more time. He played well against Notre Dame, and appears to be fully recovered from his suspension. Yet again, he of course has his lapses, but he’s a healthy body and someone who can penetrate and finish on a team with six other healthy players.
- The team still scored 87 points with only five from their leading scorer (Greene). This was encouraging, especially because of all the layups that somehow rimmed out. The problem is there were so many opportunities that a win could have been possible. If SU can play well at both sides of the court like they have shown on separate occasions, the team might be able to make a late push.
Woa. A few thoughts turned into a thorough therapy session. Here’s to hoping the improbable seven man team can make a late run. And if that happens, well, good luck to Maryland as well.
Life on the bubble. You can’t beat it.
Photo credits: roanoke.com, sportsnetwork.com