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Shock To The System

It used to be, everyone would become a college basketball pundit around the beginning of March. All of sudden they'd name-check teams like Valparaiso, South Carolina State and Gonzaga and tell you to watch out for them come tourney time. Spending all season with the likes of the power conferences, Dick Vitale and 50,000-seat arena excitement, these teams were genuine surprises when they came out of nowhere to beat a 3-seed. Well no more.

A lot of people will call it the post-George Mason era or make some kind of reference to last year's Cinderella run but in truth its been evident for a few years now that the gap has closed and teams like Butler and Wichita State are no longer One Month Wonders but legitimate year-long contenders.

And so goes our segue into Sunday's game at the Dome between the Shockers of Wichita and the Orange of Syracuse. The Shock already has an impressive month under their belt, with wins over that Mason team and highly-ranked LSU. Cuse meanwhile has been picking its teeth with the best that Upstate New York and New England has to offer in the form of Colgate and Holy Cross.

Wichita returned six of its top seven scorers from last season while the Orange lost their leader and are still gelling as a unit, one that has a senior leadership still working out their own kinks. Still, the 2-3 zone causes problems for most teams and it will be to their advantage again, even if they are without forwards Matt Gorman (food poisoning) and Daryl Watkins (broken nose).

I don't know if the folks up in Cuse are as excited for this one as they should be. The bigger the Dome crowd, the better, but those early season crowds have looked sparse to say the least. Me thinks it will come down to the perimeter. If the Shocker shooters can force the Orange to come out of the zone, it'll be a long night.

I will say, it is nice to have a meaningful game at the Carrier Dome this early in the season.