Syracuse vs. West Virginia: Valentine's Day Musketacre

I don't want to put too much pressure on the Orange to win tonight against West Virginia. So I'll let Scoop do it for me:

"That’s our season Monday," Jardine said. "If guys don’t get up for this game, they don’t need to be playing Syracuse basketball. I think we’re ready. I know we’re going to match their toughness. But it’s not about West Virginia, it’s about us.’’

The idea of a must-win doesn't really apply to Syracuse anymore. We've moved past that into a different zone. We're in the must-get-our-s**t-together zone. Five games left. Five chances to right the ship. Five chances to play a full 40-minute game. Five chances to play great defense. Five chances to keep our opponent under 40% from three-point range. Five chances to prove to ourselves we're not only worthy of an NCAA bid but that we have a legitimate chance to make it to the 2nd weekend.

If the Orange can just figure most of this out come tournament time, then, who knows...

"Don’t matter how many games you lose once the post-season goes on. Once March Madness sets in, it don’t matter whether you’re fifth seed, sixth seed, as long as you get there," SU guard Brandon Triche said. "We just have to win a few more games. And moreso, as a team get better. It’s not about always winning. As a team, you just want to play better."

Kris Joseph echos the sentiment:

"It shows we can fight," junior forward Kris Joseph said. "If we play like that for 40 minutes, we can win a lot more games in this league and going forward this season.

"Going forward, we want to focus on specifically playing the way we did (during that comeback attempt)."

Donna Ditota reported today that Fab Melo practiced on Sunday. Whether or not that means he'll play tonight remains to be seen. Whether or not he has any impact on the game, well, that's a whole nother story.

Bud Poliquin is asking for patience with Fab and lining up a list of excuses for the young center. This misses the point as the problem isn't so much what Fab is doing. It's that we don't understand why Boeheim keeps throwing him to the wolves when he's clearly not ready. We accept by now that he's not the player he was hyped up to be, we just don't understand why he has to start and then only play three minutes a game.

Winning tonight at home important for team morale and to get another win under out belt. It's also critical to avoid a dubious honor in SU basketball history:

Syracuse has lost three straight home games for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Syracuse has not lost four straight home games since the 1961-62 season. The Orange went 2-22 that year, including an 0-9 home record. Syracuse moved into Manley Field House the following year.

The Mountaineers might only be 1-8 versus the Orange in the Dome but they're probably a little more comfortable here than they were a year ago.West Virginia's on a two-game winning streak inside the Dome, the site of last year's East Regional. The Mountaineers celebrated on our court and cut down our nets after beating Kentucky to advance to the Final Four.

"I’m sure when we go to shoot-around we will talk about it and bring it up," Guard Joe Mazzulla said. "I’m sure we’ll feel it in the air."

The Mountaineers are currently No. 25 in the nation, though that may change by gametime. They're  16-8 and 7-5 in the conference. Like most teams, they've been on both sides of wacky upsets. They upset Georgetown on the road and stormed the court at home after beating Purdue (yucky). They also lost to Marshall and St. John's. They recently escaped the state of Pennsylvania with two losses to Villanova and Pitt but rebounded with a win over crappy DePaul, their second of the season. Must be nice.

The Mountaineers lead the Big East in three-point field goal percentage defense. They also have a few weapons at their disposal on offense.

Senior Casey Mitchell leads the Mountaineers in scoring, averaging 15.0 points per game. Juniors Kevin Jones and Daryl "Truck" Bryant also are in double figures in scoring, averaging 13.0 and 10.6 points per game, respectively. Senior John Flowers leads the BIG EAST in blocked shots with 2.5 blocked shots per game.

The good-ish news for us, the Mountaineers don't have anyone who shoots the three-pointer lights out. Their best shooter is Dalton Pepper (37%), who only averages 4 points a game. Casey Mitchell shoot 36% and is likely the biggest threat.

The other good news for us? West Virginia fans are going to attempt to pile on the Chipotle Curse. The last two times an opponent did that, we won. Bodes well.

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