Sure, the Orange have played on the road already this season (Seton Hall). And although we're not supposed to even entertain the notion that Syracuse playing the University of Florida in Tampa, FLORIDA could be construed as a road game of some kind, there's that too.
But now, finally, the Orange will hit the road for an extended period. Three games to be exact (Rutgers, West Virginia & Notre Dame). The road might not start out looking entirely too rigorous but it gets dicey real quick. After the warm-up tonight against The Fred Hill Experience (more on that in a bit), the Orange will be heading into extremely tough atmospheres. And even though this Notre Dame team might be down, any SU fan knows that the Orange always have issues in South Bend.
"We like being away, actually, " said SU forward Kris Joseph. "We get tired of Syracuse sometimes. It's fun to be away sometimes, to play in adversity. It's one thing for a team to come in here and (for us to) play well, but it's another thing for us to go in their home and beat them, put up a good fight."
"I like it, " SU guard Scoop Jardine said. "We get to bond as a team. We get to come together. We got nobody out there but ourselves. And that's a great thing."
First things first though and that's Rutgers tonight. We've discussed how bad things have been for Rutgers off the court recently. (And if you haven't read Jeff Inman's "steak of turmoil" rant yet, you absolutely must). After a 9-2 start, the Knights have gone into a free-fall in their last four games. Losing at North Carolina, home to Cincy, at West Virginia and at Providence. They're now 9-6 overall and 0-3 in the Big East, which is all-too-familiar terriotory for Hill and the Scarlets.
Now in his fourth year, Hill, 50, has compiled a 41-66 overall record, including an 8-47 mark in the Big East. Rutgers has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991, and a recent story in the Wall Street Journal revealed that Rutgers leads all BCS schools in number of weeks not being ranked in the Top 25. The last time Rutgers was ranked was 1979.
Hill is openly fighting for job at this point and recent comments about the plan he has his place immediately bring Greg Robinson to mind. Not a good sign, Rutgers.
You have a plan," Hill said when asked if he ever worries that he won’t have enough time to see his plan through. "You have a vision. You never worry about it. I’m very fortunate to have implemented the plan. It’s something that I love to do. I come to work every day with a passion and that’s what I love doing — coaching. So we come out every day and we coach.
"There’s a plan in place, there’s a vision in place. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll succeed and meet that plan and that vision. I never set a timetable from Day One and I haven’t changed — I’ll never set a timetable. But I was real excited — and still am — about this core group of guys as we move forward."
He still thinks he can. As for the Orange, they don't have any such distractions. All they need to worry about is putting their head down and winning.
Given the storm, the best possible thing for SU to do is to get to the RAC, win by 20 or 30, and get the hell out with everyone healthy for West Virginia and the rest of the season. A close win over a bad team could shake SU’s confidence. An unforeseen loss on the road against a coach with a major chip on his shoulder would be an unspeakably huge black mark for the Orange and their chase for a Big East crown and high tournament seed.
Expect the crowd to be very orange-y and expect both sides to be openly rooting for Fred Hill to fail. Mike Waters has the scouting report breakdowns. Hopefully the fellas kept the noise down and the team finally got some sleep last night so they can be in tip-top shape for the game today.