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Is This A Must-Win Game?

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The photo of Huggins and his suit (and his shoes) aren't related to anything specific.  Just need to be noted.

It's February 4th, far too early to order up ultimatums.  That said, given that the Orange has lost three in a row and four of the last five and are looking at another four-game brutal stretch over the next 2 weeks to follow...is tonight's game against West Virginia a must-win?

We're not in any danger of missing the tournament.  We shoudn't worry about BET seeding just yet either.  17-5 and 5-4 in this Big East is nothing to sneeze at.  We don't need to panic...yet.  But the Orange are officially 1-4 in "the gauntlet" and the potential is there to finish it in the 3-7 or 2-8 range if they can't get it together.  Regardless of how the rest of the season turns out, that's what everyone is going to point to when it comes time to seed and decide who's for real and who's not.

If it's not a must-win, surely it's a "we gotta have this" game.

First up, the injury report.  As far as we know, Andy Rautins will play (kinda) and signs point to Arinze sitting this one out.  As much as we need him in there, it might be for the best so he's fresh and ready for the upcoming slate.

The good news, according to Mike Water's scouting report, is that the Orange are the best in the conference at shooting the three.  The bad news...West Virginia is the best at defending it.  On the flip side, while the Orange have been turning the ball over a ton, West Virginia's been doing it more than anyone else.

Jonny Flynn will be looking for earn his wings against a West Virginia defense that shut down the passing lanes last year:

"One thing that definitely stood out from that game was they denied the wings so well," Flynn said. "I know I got a five-second violation just up there dribbling, waiting for someone to get open. That's one thing Bob Huggins brought to that team - defense and intensity. Before then, they weren't really a team known for their defense. But if you look at them now, they're ranked at the top of the conference in defense."

The Orange Segment says look out for Da'Sean Butler who has been lighting it up lately:

Da'Sean Butler has five consecutive 20 point games and is averaging 23.8 over that span. The junior forward is shooting 53.1 percent from field, and 51.6 percent from beyond the arc in those contests. Butler is 4th in scoring in Big East games, averaging 20.8 per contest.

And the Daily Orange confirms what none of us want to admit to...Paul Harris is slumping and he needs to snap out of it:

No way around it. Paul Harris is in a bonafide slump. And it's probably not too much of a coincidence that Syracuse has gone into its biggest slide of the season at the same time.

So now the Orange is looking for Harris to step up when it needs him most. There's no doubt tonight's game against West Virginia is as important as any game Syracuse has played all season. SU has to deal with Villanova twice, Connecticut and Georgetown in the next 10 days.

Harris is still averaging 13 points per game. Time to get back there.

GameThread will go live tonight here if you want to chat.  In the meantime check out Axe's interview with Bob Huggins here.  As a reminder, you can check out some live-feed footage from the game over at FingerLakes1.com.