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Behold, The Big East Approaches. And Hell Follows With It.

Your current Big East standings leader? 6-7 Cincinnati.

Okay maybe its a little early to panic (unless you're Louisville, who lost at home to the Bearcats) since they've only played one conference game so far. Still, there's something in the air about this season as we prepare for the conference slate. Pittsburgh is coming off a loss to Dayton, Marquette is quietly moved into the top ten, the West Virginia Fightin' Huggins already have ten wins, Louisville is 9-4 but in shambles. Not exactly "cat and dogs living together" but

The Orange answered a few questions in their non-conference slate (Who will lead us? Flynn. Will the freshman step up? Yes. Did the Orange make up for last year's schedule? You bet. Will Jim Boeheim let it go now? No friggin' way.) but posed many many more in the process (What will we do without Devo? Can the freshmen keep it up in conference play? Can we play defense for a sustainable period of time?)

The worry is that we've been lulled into a false sense of security recently with a slew of decent and poor opponents. It's been easy to forget about the defensive lapses and inexperience of the previous games while we're watching folks like Scoop Jardine and Kristof! fill in and allow us to believe this team mat actually have a little depth. The Big East schedule starts tonight but by no means will we know everything we need to know about the Orange after playing St. John's. Conference game or not, there's only so much you can learn when playing the 6-5 Johnnies.

Off the court, the Orange sound ready. Axeman spoke with some of the players about the impending Big East schedule and when asked if they're ready to go for Big East play, they all sounded ready to go
. Especially Scoop Jardine:

"Yeah, I'm ready. What kind of question is that? You ready?"

On paper, the Orange should win this one. The Red Storm average 67.8 PPG and shoot 44.3 percent from the field,. Justin Burrell and Anthony Mason Jr. are tied for the team-leading in scoring at 11.2 PPG while Eugene Lawrence follows closely with 10.8 PPG. ,St. John's is coming off an abysmal performance against Virginia Tech where they shot 28.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over 20 times.

But in practice, the Orange always seem to have problems with the Storm, albeit more so at MSG. There's no reason to doubt if the Orange SHOULD win this game, but as the freshman are about the learn, in Big East play you never know. Just ask Louisville.

Prediction:
Syracuse 81, St John's 73

Perhaps its a little early but already the question is being posed...what will the Orange have to do to make the tournament? OrangeHoops shares their assessment:

So what do they need to do to lock themselves into a NCAA bid? I’
ve run through the conference schedule and I’m showing the Orange are going to need to be 11-7 in conference play, 21-10 entering the Big East tournament, plus go at least two rounds in the BET… so 22-11 by seasons end. I do not think 20 or 21 wins is going to do it for them, unless it’s the right 20 wins.

Personally, I think the Orange can repeat last year's 10-win performance in-conference plus at least one win in the BR tourney and make it in. If the Orange truly were one of the last teams out because of their schedule last year, then they should be able to get in no problem with the RPI they will have this year. But of course, as we learned, take nothing for granted when it comes to the tourney.


(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)