Trying to figure out the 2010-11 edition of Syracuse basketball is harder than learning how to speak Polish. Well unless you are Jim Boeheim. The Orange closed November with an undefeated 7-0 record and the No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25. But Boeheim isn’t buying the record or the ranking. His postgame press conferences couldn’t be spoken harsher, even in Polish.
After a 20-point win at home against Cornell University, it was hard to tell if Boeheim was more annoyed with his team or the questions that were being asked. It seems he is the only one who believes his team is more lost on the court than Chris Webber in the final seconds of the 1993 NCAA Championship Game.
But for anyone who has actually endured the pain of watching this year’s team, it is easy to see that they are certainly not a top 10 team, maybe not even a top 20 team, but that could change. The Orange enter December’s door step with an opportunity first to face an ACC team that could see March’s deepest days. This Saturday, the North Carolina State Wolfpack will enter the Carrier Dome as the first true test for the Orange this season. North Carolina State bring with them a freshman guard in Lorenzo Brown, who leads the team in points per game (12.6) and assists per game (4.2). The Wolfpack lack size without Tracy Smith (Second- Team All-ACC in 2010) though and it should be easy for Rick Jackson to maneuver in the paint.
Prediction: Syracuse 77 North Carolina State 62
The Orange’s size proves too much for the Wolfpack. Rick Jackson will be instrumental once again on the glass and put up his seventh straight double-double. The key to the game though will be the bench play. Dion Waiters looked good against Cornell and will need to continue his development for the Orange.
On December 7 the Orange take their show to the big stage, in a top 10 showdown with Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Spartans have lost a pair of tough contests to Connecticut and Duke but, make no mistake, they are a very talented team. If the tradition of Tom Izzo’s late blooming squads continues, the Spartans will be dancing long into March. But in basketball, December is early and Michigan State, like Syracuse, is not where either program wants to be production-wise. The Spartans turn the ball over 17 times a game and the Orange offense is lackluster to say the least.
Prediction: Syracuse 74 Michigan State 70
In a game full of turnovers, the Orange 2-3 zone will determine the game. Look for them to limit the quick Spartan guard Kalin Lucas and get out in transition for a few easy baskets. Jackson and Baye Moussa Keita will need to clean the glass like the city sanitation department.
The Orange can escape Boeheim’s wrath with a couple of signature wins this week. At least we would assume so. Major adjustments will be needed to erase the image of the island of misfit toys, however, as the Orange desperately try to find their identity.