"Syracuse never leaves the country of the United States before January and that will hurt them in March."
Okay, Dick Vitale didn't actually say that...but you wouldn't be too shocked if he did...right? For one night, at least, the Orange will play a game outside of New York state and you would think that would quell the naysayers. But in fact, we all know it's just the perfect reason for them to keep harping on the travel thing even more.
(The good news? No Dick Vitale tonight! Brad Nessler & Jimmy Dykes instead)
The No. 7 Syracuse Orange (8-0) will take on the No. 10 Florida Gators (8-0) tonight in Tampa as part of the Big East/SEC Invitational. With Cal outside the Top 25 and North Carolina down, this game all of a sudden has immediate consequence for the Orange. Win, and you justify the hype, high ranking and Hoops Weiss' first-place vote. Lose and doubts begin to creep in about whether or not SU can beat a truly good team or win away from New York.
In a way, it's a showdown of two teams on a very similar path.
Neither of these teams were ranked prior to the start of the season, but each program has pushed its way into the Top 10 following similar 8-0 starts. The Orange's most noticeable wins have come over California and North Carolina, while the Gators have earned respect with triumphs over Florida State and Michigan State.
Also, much like the Orange, the Gators lost a lot of talent over the off-season but has retooled with the help of a transfer player:
Like Syracuse, the Gators lost their best player to the NBA draft, and both teams look much better this year with the help of a transfer. In Florida’s case, that transfer is former Hoya Vernon Macklin. Macklin is averaging 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game after sitting out last year due to NCAA eligibility rules. He’s been a big help so far in providing size down low, as Chandler Parsons, despite being a junior, is still somewhat lanky. Macklin got marginal playing time backing up Roy Hibbert, so there’s not much to glean from his 26 minutes played against Syracuse over three games.
The Orange will be counting on folks like Kris Joseph to step up and make an impact in the game:
With increased playing time this season, Joseph has had plenty of chances to connect to his friends at home - and is making the most of the opportunity...Joseph is averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season.
"We think that both Scoop (Jardine) and Kris are good enough to be out there all the time," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said about his top two reserves following Syracuse's 101-55 win over Maine Saturday. "And we think they are starters, and we expect them to play like starters."
Lots of intriguing storylines in this one. Florida is trying to reclaim it's place atop the college basketball heap. This could be the game that determines where highly-coveted recruit Brandon Knight goes to school. Billy Donovan could very well break out the short-shorts as a throwback. Brian Harrison will be ON HAND! It's almost too much.
Break out the scouting report and make sure you're ready. For the game and the back-handed compliments about SU traveling...