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Boardwalk Orange Empire: Syracuse Set To Conquer Atlantic City

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I know I grew up in New Jersey and, since Atlantic City is in New Jersey, you'd think I would have all these recommendations and advice for you. The truth is, Atlantic City is far. It's like a two hour drive from where I grew up, and I grew up in the center of NJ. If you lived in Northern NJ, forget it. AC was almost always a special trip because you knew a jaunt there was going to eat up a massive chunk of travel time.

Remember all of this when someone bemoans Syracuse's lack of travel this weekend and claims playing in Atlantic City, which is a good seven hours away from Syracuse, NY, is basically a home game. And then punch that person in the groin if possible.

Want some advice for AC? Here's my advice. STAY INDOORS. The casinos are nice and all, and if I had to recommend one I guess I'll go with The Borgota. That's where we went anytime we were in town. It's nice. It has gambling, food and hotel rooms. Was there something else you needed?

But seriously, once you're in there, don't leave. Do not decide "Hey, it would be cool to go see the real-life versions of all the streets from Monopoly." No it would not. If ten of you leave, only three of you will return. And there will be disfigurement. And one of you will be addicted to meth. Another will have contracted malaria.

I've seen it a hundred times.

As for the games themselves, they're the backdrop for the ultimate road trip. Or at least the first road trip of the year for three of the teams...

Georgia Tech is the only team in the Legends Classic that has played away from home. No. 9 Syracuse, Michigan and UTEP will get their first road games this weekend at the Legends Classic at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

"I think we have been a good road team. I'm looking forward to getting out on the road," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "One of the keys to success last year is we were a good road team. Hopefully, we'll be a good one this year."

First up for the Orange this Friday at 8pm, the 3-0 Michigan Wolverines. If this was 1991, this might be the game of the year. As it is, it's a showcase for the Wolverines to prove their on their way back while the Orange want to prove the Wolves aren't quite on their level yet.

UM is coming off a win over Gardner-Webb, which was John Beilein's 600th as a head coach. Beilein better rack up those wins wherever he can because he's certainly not getting them against the Orange. The former Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia coach has seen SU plenty of times and has yet to beat them, going 0-8 versus Boeheim all-time.

"We’ve had better players. That’s all," Boeheim said by way of explanation.

"First of all," he said, "I don’t think I’m the Lone Ranger in our teams not being able to beat Syracuse. There’s a lot of programs in that category."

The Wolverines are young, one of the youngest in 1-A.  The starting five include three freshmen a sophomore and a junior. One of then is freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr., who is second on the team averaging 14.3 points a game and is shooting 51.6 percent from the field. And yes, he's the son of you-know-who.

Sophomore Darius Morris leads the team with 14.7 PPG and is coming off a 21-point performance in his last game.

Don't dismiss Stu Douglass, however. The junior guard might be coming off the bench but he's the kind of guy who can kill the Orange with a hot hand from downtown. He’s averaging 7.7 points a game and has shot 5 of 11 from the 3-point line.

As for the Orange, they're ready for their first road trip (yes, it is a road trip!) of the year. This is all old hat for Kris Joseph, who had made sure to warn the freshmen about the plane pecking order.

"The first road trip is always good, just for the travel part of it," said Joseph, the SU junior forward. "From getting on the plane for the first time to getting the new guys ready. They’re already excited. I was just talking to Dion (Waiters) and I told him I have already picked my spot on the plane. I told him he has to wait until the spots fill up. And then he can choose."

Some of the SU players are using the Doug Marrone Excuse for why they might play better on the road than in the Dome:

"We can get away from what’s going on on campus," said SU forward James Southerland, "and just focus on the game. I feel like I have more focus on away games."

I suppose Boeheim chimed in to mention that he truly regrets that DaShonte Riley was unable to play this season. His age and experience would have benefited the Orange. He also says he thinks Dion Waiters is making progress defensively and likes what he's doing on offense.

Let's hope he keeps it up. And stays indoors in Atlantic City at all times...