Syracuse is off to Miami this week for a Friday showdown with something called Stephen F. Austin. Many a Syracuse fan will flock to the sandy beaches of Miami in the coming days and I thought it might be a good idea to get some inside info on what they can expect and how they should spend the time between games.
One such person who could shed some light on the situation is Damon Amendolara. Those in the Miami area know him better as D.A., host of The DA Show on 560 AM WQAM from 8-11pm each weekday. A 2001 grad of SU, Damon is a former Sports Director at WAER Radio amongst other things and he even has an SU blog you probably know called The Orange Fizz.
I asked DA to fill us in on the Miami scene and what SU fans can expect down there for the tourney:
First off, how bout that three-seed!?!?
How about the Orange karmic payback? After years of being undervalued by the committee and two straight seasons of getting screwed on Selection Sunday, the committee actually OVER-seeded the 'Cuse. After the B.E.T. run, I was thinking four (or five-seed if the annual screw job reared its ugly head), but damn, three-seed sounds really, really good right now. Take that Gottlieb!
As a Syracuse fan with his pulse on the Miami sports scene (I hope), how big is the Miami-based SU fan faction?
It's surprisingly solid. Being in the media, you can't throw a microphone without hitting Newhouse grads (Adam Beasley - Miami Herald, Adam Kuperstein - NBC-6, Greg Alexander - Clear Channel, myself, Jared Schwartz (Fizz weekend editor) and Greg Likens at WQAM alone). But South Florida is transplant central anyway for New Yorkers and Northeasterners, so the alumni is very strong. We always brought tons of fans to UM-SU hoops games in the Big East days and USF was overrun earlier this season by Orange. They're will be a VERY good SU turnout for these games (let's just hope we just don't end up throwing water bottles at the Stephen F. Austin student-section).
How excited is Miami to be hosting the 1st and 2nd round match-ups? Should we expect huge crowds all weekend?
Miami's sports scene routinely does a collective, "What? We're hosting THAT event? Wow. Yeah, maybe I'll go and text my buddies during the game." When the first two matchups were announced (Wake Forest - Cleveland State, Utah - Arizona), I said, "Uh oh. This is gonna be dead." They're not sexy programs or matchups and this is a "needs to be sexy" sports town. Tickets sales have been as slow down here as anywhere in the country. College hoops is an afterthought because of the NBA. But organizers probably sent a box of stone crabs to the committee for the Syracuse pull. My guess is the 'Cuse will bring more fans then anyone else. Wake-Utah? Better luck selling out a Denny's for early-bird dinner time.
Since SU plays on Friday, Syracuse fans will probably be arriving by Thursday night. Where should they be the night before the game?
South Beach or Bayfront. The American Airlines Arena is in downtown Miami, ten minutes from South Beach. Assuming most of Orange Nation will get hotels around there, downtown Ft. Lauderdale is a little far. Here's the Nate Trout (i.e. the kicker): It's spring break down here. This city is teeming with college kids, reeking of cheap booze, bad sun burns and vomit. It means, everywhere you go will be crazy on South Beach (as I wrote Friday morning, I watched the fifth and sixth OTs from a bar called "Brick" in downtown Lauderdale. I might as well have been in Cancun for MTV Spring Bling. All that was missing was a super soaker and wet t-shirt contest. Not that I'm complaining about 21-year-old college girls with very little clothing). If SoBe sounds a little too much, there's a development called Bayfront right next door to the arena. Restaurants, bars, open air seating for dining, shops, frozen drinks. More family-friendly and less chaotic. Downtown bar district is called Brickell, it's also very cool (and lots of silicone) if either A or B doesn't interest you.
IMPORTANT: Avoid straying too far away from the arena. Downtown Miami is pretty sketchy. Less than three blocks from AAA is a few homeless shelters with many of the less fortunate strewn about the sidewalks. It's not so much dangerous, but it smells a lot like the Carrier Dome urinal after the West Virginia game.
The game is set for 12:15 pm local time. Assuming SU wins, where's the post-game celebration?
I was suggest Bayfront again. Everyone can walk there, it's right next door and we can all chant "Let's Go Orange" and "Nunes is a Magician" together with a pina colada.
Cuse fans gotta eat! Can you recommend some tasty spots in town?
If you're willing to drop a note, Joe's Stone Crab is outstanding. Take-out is a little cheaper as a side option. Prime 112 is celebrity-central, although they might not seat you in an Onuaku jersey. Cheaper fare (but always open) is Big Pink (diner-style, although no "Doc's Little Gem"), Sushi Samba and Fatburger. All of these options are on South Beach, again because I'm assuming most fans will stay around downtown. If you're looking for authentic Cuban, you can't go wrong in Little Havana (Mi Tierra, Padrino's, etc), but you'll need a car to get there (Ed. Note: GREAT Mojitos). Also, if you grab a cab to Brickell, there's a ton of restaurants to choose from within walking distance). I can only wish there was a Dinosaur, Miami location.
Miami Beach...overrated or must-see?
I think everyone's gotta see it once in their lives. If the arena was farther north and it was a hassle getting down to South Beach, I might tell people to avoid it because of the lunacy of Spring Break. But it's a ten minute cab ride from the arena. It's bizarre, it's frenetic, it's on the beach, it's filled with hot women. And there's about 200 bars/clubs within a three-mile radius.
As an SU fan, what are your hopes for this tournament and how far do you think SU can go?
I don't buy the argument this extended Big East run took too much out of them. That Seton Hall semi-fracus was the best thing that could've happened to the Orange. It lit a fire and woke SU up out of the sleep-walking it had done for stretches this season. Plus, they have a week off and can stand around in the zone every possession. Tired? Come on. The UConn game showed the heart and the West Virginia win solidified the confidence. I like the Orange to the Sweet 16, but I fear an OU matchup in the third round. Blake Griffin's brute size and post-play is a terrible matchup for Syracuse's inconsistent interior. But hell, if Jonny Flynn wants to just go G-Mac on people, I'm cool with that and as Kevin Garnett once memorably yelled, "Anything's possible!"
One final note: First, without NunesMagician there would be no Fizz. You guys helped inspire so many other Orange blogs and continue spread the wealth to others like us via links and Q&As. Thanks. (Ed. Note: Word.) You could be a total dick, like a UConn fan or something, but you're not. (Ed. Note: Word.) That rocks. Also, if any Orange Fans have any questions about Miami, here's my email address: thedashow at yahoo dot com. The Fizz will also be info central for Orange Nation in Miami this week.
I'm on the air filling in for the morning show this week, so you can catch me 6a-10a Thursday and Friday on Sportsradio 560 WQAM. Call in with some SU questions, run some smack on Steven F. Austin and we'll color this baby orange.
Now, let me warm up my pipes... "The Cuse, the Cuse, the Cuse is in da house..."
Thanks, DA. SU fans heading to or already in the Miami area, you have your marching papers. Go forth and do Cuse-y things. And check in with in the morning on WQAM between 6-10am or during The DA Show between 8-11pm.