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Orange::44 Is An Absolute Magician 6.0

The latest installment of Q&A sessions between myself and Brian from Orange44 begins.......NOW!

TNIAAM: The Orange are riding a three-game winning streak. The UConn Huskies are on a five-game winning streak. As they say, when the two teams meet this Wednesday, something's gotta give. Who gives?

BRIAN: This is, without a doubt, the most important game of the season. Syracuse is in desperate need of a win against a Top 25 team. UConn is rolling after a God awful season in which they failed to even make the NIT Tournament. Thabeet is really coming out lately as a consistent scorer, AJ Price is a big surprise to me and finally playing like he should have so long ago when he should have been a freshman, and overall this team is playing very well.

That being said, Syracuse is hitting their stride as well, riding a three game win streak, almost a four win streak against the #6 team at the time, and generally finds a way to win lately by any means necessary. They can beat you inside, or do it shooting. This team continually puts out gutsy performances and that seem to defy conventional logic. Also, Syracuse is playing at home.

I think, despite the five game win streak, Syracuse can pull off the upset in front of the home crowd. Arinze Onuaku has continually shut down excellent centers, specifically Roy Hibbert, and Thabeet is no Hibbert. If we see the defense of Syracuse of the second half of the Villanova game I like the Orange to pull the upset off at home. If they get down early like a Villanova, I do not necessarily buy the 15 point swing that we saw in Philly.

Syracuse averages about 80 points a game, and UConn is averaging about 79, so one thing is for sure, it should be a fantastic game to watch. I will be bold and daring and predict Syracuse 83 to UConn 76.

TNIAAM: The Orange are currently 6-4 in the conference with 8 games remaining. Is 11 wins out of the question?

BRIAN: 11 wins are definitely not out of the question. That is five out of the remaining eight. We play on the road at South Florida, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall. We should be able to beat South Florida and Seton Hall on the road no questions asked. Louisville will be a tougher game on the road, as will the ranked Notre Dame. Traditionally Notre Dame is beaten easily if their three point shooting is off, and Louisville will be beaten if we can manage the ball inside and prevent them from doing the same. At home we take on UConn, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Marquette. None of these games are gimmies by any sense of the word. Connecticut is reachable, Pittsburgh is on a downward slide, Louisville handed Marquette a big loss yesterday, and Georgetown was almost beat on their court in overtime. All of these games, depending on the Syracuse team we see, could be a potential win.

It is possible we could win 11 games. I think nine or ten is a more realistic number, but eleven is certainly within reach for this team if they play great basketball as they have recently.

I also think, depending on if some of the wins are against ranked teams, that if Syracuse gets ten wins in the Big East, they will most definitely be dancing. It will most likely come down to winning an opening round game in the BET.

TNIAAM: Discounting G'town, who is the one team you do not want to see in the first round of the Big East Tournament? Discounting the "bottom three", who is the team you most want to see?

BRIAN: To me, the scariest team to face in the Big East Tournament the last ten years has been Pittsburgh. They are always a tough team, and you never really know what you are going to get. Ben Howland and now Jaime Dixon have always had that team primed to make a big run in New York City. They are ranked currently, but could be slipping. I mean, when you let Rutgers beat you at "The Pete" you have got some problems. However, this team is always ready for a run in March in either tournament, and generally I always feel the most dread and hopelessness when playing this team. Also, I think Carl Krauser is one of the worst human beings on this earth, and when he was on the team it was even worse.

Discounting the "bottom three" you have to want to take on Villanova right now. They are vulnerable in the worst way, dropping the last five. They lost to their rival, they cannot defend their home court, and chances are they will not do well in MSG. While Providence is below them in the standings, they played Syracuse too close at home for my taste in the last meeting, despite the win. Right this second, you would think that Paul Harris, I, and a "Blogger All Star" team would have a change to beat Villanova.

TNIAAM: If you could highlight one intangible that doesn't show up in the box score at the end of the game for the men's team, what is it?

BRIAN: I think it is two factors that will never end up on a box score. First, as we saw at Villanova, Syracuse, when not turning the ball over, makes great decisions on passes. The one that comes most to mind was the pass from Onuaku down low after a rebound to a running Jonny Flynn for an easy two points and a foul shot. While this is not as impressive as the next intangible because of the volume of turnovers lately, it is still something of note.

The true highlight has got to be the scrappy play of the players, especially Kristof!. When our guys are diving on the floor for loose balls, aggressively boxing out, running hard screens, and diving into seats, your hard work is usually rewarded. Hustle and commitment equals results. Without a doubt, with the bench so shallow, Syracuse is playing like they have nothing to lose, and really, is there any better position to be in? For this team, apparently not. No Scoop, no problem. This team simply is not backing down from teams that could beat them. That is some of the best basketball to watch.

TNIAAM: The women's team was on the wrong end of an upset last weekend. Does this change the way you see their season?

BRIAN: Definitely not. The team is still ranked. Syracuse, for the first time in school history got ranked two weeks ago. No matter what happens, this team is the best women's team in the history of the school. There are a few games to go, and a more than likely NCAA Tournament Big to earn. This would be the first time since 2002, when the ladies played in Waco, Texas, that they would be making a tournament appearance. Even if they do not make it though, this is a great time and they should be proud of what they have accomplished in the season.

I do miss Julie McBride though. She was a few years ahead of her time.

TNIAAM: The men's lax team won both scrimmages this weekend. Great sign or doesn't really prove anything?

BRIAN: It does and it does not. Clearly, it proves that Syracuse can compete. You have to assume that Desko, especially after last season, is playing these games full throttle, even if they do not count. He seems like that Bill Belichick-type; surly bastards that do not even want to lose a scrimmage. So you have to assume that you saw a good bit of the talent on this team, and clearly it is competent and able to go out there and take on the season's schedule.

That being said, Hofstra and LeMoyne (or "LeMo" as I refer to them as) are not Virginia and Johns Hopkins. Is this any gauge on how they would do against an elite team that they will face? Probably not. For that, we will have to merely wait until March 1st for the murder's row of Virginia, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins. That March 1st game against Virginia will be a great indication of how the team is. That is, assuming they do not lose the couple before that.

TNIAAM: Which Big East team is going to be the "Last One Sitting?"

BRIAN: It very well could be decided on March 8th with Villanova playing Providence. At that point they could be tied and the loser could be relegated to the bottom four. 'Nova could earn it outright if they keep playing like they are though. DePaul has nine games remaining and, other than USF, it is full of teams that I think are better than them. DePaul could be the team that could lose seven or eight out of those last nine games. So right now I think you have to say it is Villanova that will freefall out of Big East contention. But I think they are better and will recover somewhat, so look for it to be DePaul or Providence to be hanging out in their hometown, while everyone else is enjoying the electricity of the Big East Tournament.

Well, minus those other three of course.