NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange reacts against Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
And so, the Syracuse Orange (5-0) can fulfill the first part of their destiny tonight when they take on the Stanford Cardinal (5-0) for the right to be crowned Preseason NIT Tip-Off Champion at Madison Square Garden.
But who the hell are these Cardinal? We have absolutely no history to draw on as it's the first time we've ever played them in basketball.
Johnny Dawkins' Stanford squad has posted double-digit wins over all five foes thus far, including an 82-67 win over Oklahoma State on Wednesday in semifinal action. Their list of opponents isn't terribly impressive, but then again, neither is ours.
Stanford has played well at both ends of the floor this season and boasts a +20.6 scoring margin as a result. The team is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (.494), while holding foes under 40 percent (.394). The scoring depth is primarily three deep, led by Josh Owens and Aaron Bright at 14.0 ppg each. Owens is shooting a team-best .698 from the floor in the first five games, while Bright is the team's resident sniper, hitting 51.9 percent from behind the arc (14-of-27). Chasson Randle chips in with 10.4 ppg. In the win over Oklahoma State, it was the big three again leading the way. Owens poured in 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field. Randle added 17 points and Bright had 15.
If he keeps it up, this tournament might end up being remembered as Dion Waiters' coming out party to the nation. The sophomore guard stole the show in the win over Virginia Tech and left Hokies' coach Seth Greenberg stunned.
"The guy is a beast," Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said late Wednesday about Waiters, who rallied from an anemic first half to finish with 11 points, four assists and three steals. "He attacks in transition, he attacks off ball screens. He’s shooting the ball now, which makes it that much more difficult to guard. … To have that ability to have a guy like that come off the bench, he can single-handedly change a game. He’s kind of an Energizer Bunny on the offensive side of the floor."
Waiters and fellow sophs C.J. Fair and Fabricio Melo seem to have grown by leaps and bounds this season and have the chance to go from being cogs in the machine to legitimate team leaders on the court way sooner than expected.
Check out Stanford blog Rule of Tree for more insight before the game.
Orange Scouting Report: Stanford vs. Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off title game...Mike Waters
Syracuse Scouting Report: Stanford...The Juice
Syracuse Vs. Stanford 2011: Orange Play Cardinals In Finale At Madison Square Garden...SB Nation NY
Dion Balls, Gains Support From Teammates To Play More In Crunchtime...Orange Fizz
Syracuse vs Virginia Tech: Players Locker room...Syracuse.com