Welcome back to the Syracuse basketball roundtable! The Orange are currently still unbeaten, and that lends itself to a debate on the top spot in the rankings. It also has SU wondering what all the fuss was about in joining the ACC, since the conference has fallen short of lofty expectations thus far. Sure, it may be early for both conversations, but that's never stopped us before.
As is and will be the norm all season, we're chatting about Syracuse basketball, the ACC and anything else that might come up in the never-ending soap opera that is Jim Boeheim's Orange team. Join us below...
Should Syracuse be ranked No. 1 in the polls right now?
Chris Daughtrey: I'll answer a question with a question. Should Arizona be ranked #1 right now? I think the answer is the same for both teams. Both look pretty good right now. Both have had close calls but still remain undefeated. I mentioned in the Binghamton game thread, with 'Zona squeaking by UNLV this past weekend, if the Orange had beaten the Bearcats by, say, 60, I think there's a real chance they could have vaulted to the top spot. That didn't happen, so the normal "next in line" procession seems appropriate.
Lisa Nelson: No, but not because the Orange doesn't deserve it. With 'Zona's win over a temperamental Duke team, and 'Cuse beating a rising Baylor squad, it's really a toss up at this point. If given the choice, though, I'd rather not have the slightly larger target on our backs associated with a No. 1 ranking, thankyouverymuch.
Aaron Goldfarb: No. 2 seems about right at the moment. Arizona is going to lose to Michigan on Saturday any how.
Matt McClusky: I think Arizona has as much right to the top spot as does Syracuse. The Cats did beat Duke and have looked strong through the early season. Really, my biggest issue is with Ohio State leaping SU. How does that happen after the Orange won Maui and beat-down Indiana? Luckily for Orange fans that want the top spot, Arizona should or at least could trip up at Michigan on Saturday. (And as for the whole "Does it matter SU is ranked No. 1 in December?" debate: I'm all-in. Being the top team really only matters in April, but truth is, No. 1 is fun for everyone -- including the T-shirt companies.)
Jeremy Ryan: Listen, we all love talking about the polls, but we also know they're a load of crap. Could Syracuse be the #1 ranked team? Sure, why not? They're undefeated, they have the star power, and they've beaten some credible opponents. But does that make them the best TEAM? Probably not, at least not right now. There are still too many inconsistencies among the centers and point guard to declare this team the best in the land. That said, a game with Arizona would be fun as hell though, wouldn't it?
Jared Smith: Considering all things, nah. I think, so far, the pecking order is about right. I really like that Arizona team and as long as Syracuse continues to win it will have a chance to be the No. 1 team in the country.
Sean Keeley: Setting aside the fact that it doesn't matter, I understand why a lot of folks picked Arizona over us. That said, it's not like it's crystal clear they're that much better than us. Truth be told, I'd rather not be No. 1 and try to keep that target off our back for as long as possible, though it's not like being No. 2/3 makes us invisible either.
John Cassillo: Looking at resume alone, maybe not when compared to Arizona. But it's still so early. However, it's tough to legitimize placing Ohio State above us after they've faced a bunch of clown colleges, too. I don't know. Consensus No. 2 isn't an awful thing at this juncture.
What concerns you most about Sunday's matchup with St. John's?
CD: Nothing. If anything, the long layoff between games, but really nothing. Nothing concerned about the Johnnies when they were conference foes. Nothing concerns me about them now. I mean, they lost to Penn State, for crying out loud.
LN: I'm supposed to be concerned? (Ha! Sorry. Couldn't resist.) But really, I'd say rebounding. St. John's is doing well in that regard, and the game will be tight if they get a lot of second-chance shots by beating us on the boards. Oh, and it's a noon-er, so yea...
AG: That surely we can't continue humiliating them every single year like clockwork for the rest of time. The chickens will have to come home to roost one day. Then again, Malcolm X coined that term--and even he would probably recognize that St. John's basketball is a deserved laughingstock.
MM: St. John's is the perfect team to zone, what with its complete inability to knock down anything from 15 feet or beyond -- although the Johnnies did go 9 of 15 from deep against Fordham last week, which was probably more of a freak thing than anything else. So really, given the Red Storm's shooting woes and the perceived home court feel for Syracuse, the Orange should improve to 10-0. I do, however, worry about the Johnnies interior game. Between Jakarr Sampson and Chris Obekpa (who leads the nation in blocks), St. John's may be able to out-muscle Syracuse. Plus, leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison is as quick to the rim as any guard SU may play this season. The Red Storm aren't a typical beat-Syracuse-from-deep team, but it's still a talented enough team to turn Sunday into an ugly rock fight. SU should win, but don't look past SJU.
JR: Tempo. As much as SU likes to push it (real good), St. John's likes to push it even more. If Ennis gets in foul trouble like he did vs. Binghamton, they'll have a lot of inexperienced ballhandling against a team that will try to run you out of the gym. The Storm like to hit the glass too, good for 50th in the nation in rebounding. SU's centers will have to step up and grab some boards so they can choke off that St. John's break before it even starts.
JS: D'Angelo Harrison's scoring ability. Look, if there's one thing that over-matched teams can do to stay in the game it is have one guy get hot, knock down a bunch of 3s, and keep the momentum going. Harrison has been one of the best scorers in the nation the past few seasons and he can do some damage against the 2-3 zone, if Syracuse defenders get lazy.
SK: Chris Obekpa could cause some issues for us. I wonder about the ability of Rak Christmas to be aggressive against a guy like that. I know Baye Keita and DaJuan will hold their own, but regardless, Obekpa is the kind of guy who makes you change everything you do in the paint. I suppose we might keep it outside for threes and just cut away his value, but it's not always that easy.
JC: St. john's is anxious, which is never a good thing to hear about your underdog competition. While I do think this Syracuse team just has too many scorers for the Red Storm to keep up (not tough to argue against a team that's scoring short of 75 points per game), we could see a lot of trouble in the paint. No team has been able to exploit SU's weakness yet, but the Johnnies seem most equipped to.
Are we ever going to get used to these sorts of strong starts being the norm?
CD: I have been for awhile. As I've said before, I've long been in a place as a fan where I expect Ws every time out. I'm not so unrealistic as to expect undefeated seasons but in the non-conference against cupcakes and typically low threat major conference teams, I fully expect and am accustomed to double-digits in the win column before Syracuse suffers its first defeat. You all should be too.
LN: I hope not. It would mean we're taking it for granted, and that takes all the fun out of winning.
AG: We started 19-0 in 2000. This isn't even a last-five-years phenomenon. Get used to it--we dominate early
MM: I honestly feel like the past three decades starting out hot has been the way of the Boeheim. Sure, in the past SU would beat a lot of directional schools, but even with a more beefed-up schedule, the Orange still seem to cruise to 10 or 15 wins quick. It's like Groundhog Day, just now the hot starts include more wins over ranked teams than before.
JR: My initial reaction was to say that we should have already, but this year's start is different. The non-conference competition is so much better this year, and we haven't even seen Villanova yet. You'd think this year's schedule would quiet the digs about the cupcake opponents we used to see year after year, but it won't. There are some people who just aren't happy unless they're complaining about something.
JS: I think Syracuse fans are starting to. I can defiantly feel the tide turning, as people expect more good than bad when it comes to Syracuse basketball. Not saying fans wont panic if things start going a bit off track, but, it is expected now that the Orange should be good each season and that strong starts like this will happen.
SK: I think we're already at the point where our expectations are re-calibrated. I think, whether we admit it or even hate it, we expect to be a top ten team in November and December and we expect to make it pretty far with one or zero losses. Not saying it's right or what's best…but it's what we expect.
JC: Perhaps. I think many already are (take a look at the answers above). For me though, I think this fan base will always have one foot in the disasters of the past, or some of the disheartening post-title years (hi, 2006-07, 2007-08). Maybe that changes with another championship? I'm not complaining about hot starts, used to them or not.
Looking at the schedule, when are the Orange due for their first lost?
CD: Most people are saying Villanova. It's hard to disagree. Even when they've been on the down side, Jay Wright's squads always give the Orange trouble. After that, though, I think they could get all the way to Duke before they finally go down. UNC, though, goes concern me. The Tar Heels are mercurial, but their win over Michigan State shows they can beat really good teams. Like I said above, I expect Syracuse to win every game, so picking a loss is hard.
LN: Nova. NovaNovaNova. Like Jamie Dixon, Jay Wright has somehow figured out how to beat Syracuse with alarming consistency. As if that weren't enough, the Wildcats are playing incredibly well so far, too -- their wins over Kansas and Iowa were rather impressive. Great. And now I'm getting chest pains. Thanks.
AG: That Nova game is really making me anxious. I've watched far too many games where Jay Wright sends his frantic Smurfs out there and we somehow lose to them to feel good about the matchup. If we are able hold the legendary Ryan Arcidiacono to less than 50 points and amazingly manage to slip by the pesky Wildcats, I don't see us losing until at Pitt on February 12th.
MM: I assume Sunday against St. John's is a win, although it could be tricky, so I would imagine the first loss coming sometime in early to mid-January. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg could be a trap and the following game at home against a schizophrenic Carolina team could be an issue, too. No one is going to go undefeated, but SU at least has the look (for now) of one of the two or three teams that could go without a loss.
JR: The Orange always seem to have problems with 'Nova, either at home or on the road. Even though this year's game is in the Carrier Dome, the Wildcats know their way around the 2-3 zone and have enough shooting to make things uncomfortable. They're also very balanced - among the top 33 teams in the nation in scoring, rebounds, and assists. I still expect SU to win, but this might be the toughest test of the season thus far.
JS: The obvious answer is Villanova, who could be a Top 5 team by the time the two square-off on Dec. 28. The Wildcats proved last season they can beat a good Syracuse team and their head coach knows how to handle the 2-3 zone. That game feels like one of those games that gets a lot of hype that this young Orange squad will not be able to handle well.
SK: I've seen a lot of Syracuse fans preemptively talking themselves into a loss against Villanova and saying they feel good about that, which is just about the most Syracuse Fan Thing evah. Certainly it could come there and I don't think I'd be shocked. If it doesn't, I think I'm looking at North Carolina. The Heels seem to play to the level of their competition and, you know, we're pretty good.
JC: Villanova, because they've played us so well over the years and Jay Wright just seems to get how to dissect this zone. It's no sure thing, mind you. Just looks like the most likely shot at an early upset. If not, we're looking toward UNC or Pitt (another team that usually has our number), probably.
Overall thoughts on the other ACC basketball teams so far? Exceeding expectations? Meeting them? Falling short?
CD: I think Miami, UNC and Virginia are surprising in a bad way. Everyone expected all three of those squads to be better. I don't think people expected Wake Forest to be as good as they've been so far. And I think that Duke is a neutral surprise, if there is such a thing. The games they've lost have been against top tier teams, but those are also the types of games the Dookies usually win. So, surprising that they have two Ls already, but I don't think anyone if damning them quite yet.
LN: Most are meeting my expectations. The one that's not: Boston College. Losses at Providence and to UConn were really close, but some of their wins have been close, too. And they were against FAU and Sacred Heart! At home! This does not bode well for the little-sleeper-team-that-could narrative I was hoping for.
AG: I didn't expect this to be a great year for ACC basketball and indeed it hasn't been, with pretty much every team aside from Syracuse, Pitt, and maybe Wake playing worse than expected. It's gotten to the point that anything less than, say, a 15-3 conference year will mean we have an embarrassing upset on our resume.
MM: It's been a massive letdown. Too many bad, and at times inexplicable, losses. Outside of Syracuse, there's no other heavyweight out there right now. Duke will eventually be one, but not at the moment. I guess that's the case throughout college basketball, but to me, as I just watched Notre Dame lose to North Dakota State (at home) I'm thinking the new ACC has a lot of work to do.
JR: I expected the cream of the crop to be a little creamier. North Carolina is so bipolar they should be sponsored by Prozac, and Notre Dame has simply been an early disappointment. I think Duke may actually be underrated, if that's possible. I see a lot of people writing them off even though their only two losses were tight, entertaining games with Kansas and Arizona - not exactly chumps. The bottom half of the standings is a tire fire, threatening to get their toxic stink all over the rest of the league. Hell, the Boston College-Miami matchup on February 22 may be the worst major conference basketball game this year, outside of DePaul vs. anyone.
JS: One thing is for sure, this is not the "old" Big East. How many seasons in a row did the the Big East start the season with only a few losses in the first few weeks of the season? Looking at the ACC standings, there's a bunch of a teams with 3 losses already. I don't know how much that has to do with the ACC overall or just how college hoops is nowadays. Look, if a team is not on their game that day, it is safe to say, any team can be beaten by anyone. Luckily for Syracuse, it has been on its game early on and the hope is it can carry that into conference play, where the early slate of games, besides the UNC showdown, looks to be an easy one until we see Duke in Feb.
SK: Exceeding expectations? Certainly not. Though I think this season tells me that the conference is exactly what I've always thought it was. A couple great teams up top and a whole bunch of okay teams below them. Hey, the Big East was like that most of the time, too. We'll get our quality games with Duke, UNC, Pitt and a few others. I'm not worried about the league's perception…yet.
JC: Oof. Starting to get concerned about Syracuse's conference strength of schedule with how poorly some of the ACC's been playing. They're strong at the top with SU, Duke and Pitt, but beyond that? This conference is setting itself up to be dominated by the former Big East schools -- plus Duke and UNC -- for all of eternity.