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Nunes::44 - 1/21/09

Troy could have been guarded by DeJuan Blair and still scored 46 points against Pitt.
It's Wednesday, so that means that I asked Sean over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician some questions and he sends me the answers. Seeing as we are neck deep in Big East Basketball action we focus on that and the roller coaster that this stretch of games have been.

1. Orange::44: This team is a roller coaster between home and away games these days. Is this a problem, or does it just go with the territory in this league.

Nunes: It's so tough to say if:

A) We're THAT team that plays well at home but can't win on the road.
B) Everyone in the conference is going to have a very tough time on the road.
C) We just got caught napping twice.

If we played Pitt and Georgetown in Syracuse, they would have been very different games. But as much as enjoyed an overwhelming home-court advantage against Notre Dame, so did they. That's the nature of the Big East. Everyone plays in a smothering arena with loud fans and a crazy atmosphere (except St. John's). And especially now that we're good again, people get up to see their team beat us. There's no fighting it. Whether or not this team can eventually break through to win a tough Big East road game...I don't know.

2. Orange::44: How great was that Notre Dame game?

Nunes: What a ridiculous atmosphere. I know that a recruit or two were at the game...and how could they possibly not want to come here after that? Major kudos to all the SU fans who showed up and showed up with energy and excitement. Of course, the bar is set high now for every Big East home game. I expect to see 25K+ for Louisville and pretty much every home game from here on out. Look at what happened at G'town and Pitt...the fans made an impact. And so did we against Notre Dame. So we need to keep it up.

Big thumbs up to Otto's Army for making it look like I was watching the most important game in SU history every time the camera did a close-up on the student section. Gold star for the day. Or, should I say Orange star?

No, I'll stick with Gold star.

3. Orange::44: We lost to both Georgetown and Pittsburgh on the road. What caused this? Were they just in a tough stretch and on minimal rest, or is there some deeper issue going on here?

Nunes: First...both of those teams are really good. That should always be kept in mind here. Losing on the road to two of the best teams in the conference isn't the end of the world.

But the way the team lost is a concern. They got out-played and man-handled in both instances. That swagger from the earlier part of the year seemed to disappear. Maybe that's what it comes down to. This team needs to feel like they deserve to win those games. It didn't feel that way, especially towards the end.

We can't let ourselves be pushed around and we're better than that. Flynn, Devo, Harris and AO are as tough as any other combo in the conference. They've all shown it at times and in these instances they need to put the team on their backs. And once they've softened the underbelly, kick it out to Andy and let him take care of the rest.

4. Orange::44: Free throws have been a point of contention this year. What are your thoughts? Do you think we should just lay off the criticism, or will they cost us a game at some point?

Nunes: Really, it's all on Arinze. We're not horrible otherwise, just not great. Fine, I can live with that. But Arinze is atrocious from the line. And if there's any one guy who needs to be good, it's him. Because, and I know this is a broken record, he's going to cost us a game in the future with his poor free throw shooting. Yes, other factors will be involved, but there will come a time when we need AO to make a shot...and he won't.

I don't know what you can say other than practice, practice, practice. I'm sure he is. I'm sure AO isn't going home thinking he's a great free-throw shooter. He knows he stinks. So he's working on it. Not much else we can ask for at this point, except to see improvement soon.
5. Orange::44: DeJuan Blair manhandled Syracuse Monday night. Is he the best big man in the league right now or is it someone else? Also, how much of a poor sport was he after that game?

Nunes: I haven't seen all of them but of the ones I have seen, he's the best one. I put him above Harangody because I feel like Blair can single-handedly win a game for Pitt if he needs to and I don't think Luke is that guy. Blair absolutely dominated AO last night, a recurring theme for our big man, and I don't know if there's any adjustments we can make for next time to stop him other than Hack-A-Blair.

I don't know if it's them or us but people love to stick it to us. Seemed that way in the Georgetown game (for more obvious reasons) and it seemed so with Blair. Are we big trash-talkers or something?

6. Orange::44: was #1 until Louisville beat them. Marquette is undefeated in league play. UConn has only lost one game and is ranked #3. Who is the team to beat right now in the Big East?

Nunes: I still think it's Pitt. You'll see Marquette and UConn and everyone else start to even out in the W-L column soon and I expect to see Pitt remain near the top followed by UConn, Louisville and Georgetown. Right now you have to put us in the "2nd tier" of SU, Notre Dame, Villanova and Marquette. But all of this could change within the next couple days. Such is the Big East. By the time you say who you think is better than the others, they've lost and someone else has taken their place.

7. Orange::44: Finally, after we have played a bunch of Big East games, go out on a limb and predict how they will finish in the league and how they will do in the Big East Tournament (you will not be held accountable for wrong answers come March)

Nunes: I'm going to say that the Orange are looking at an 11-7 Big East season and they'll end up as the #6 seed in the BET. They'll make it to the Quarterfinals before losing and find themselves in the NCAA Tournament as a #4 seed based on the toughness of their schedule and their quality wins. Mark it down. NOW.

Of course, if they do better than 11-7, forget I said anything.

Editor’s Note: This is another installment in the ongoing collaboration between Orange::44 and Nunes/Magician. Usually every other Wednesday Nunes::44 will appear here, while the following week Orange::44/Magician will appear on his site. Until then, enjoy Nunes/Magician articles and stay tuned to Orange::44 for complete postgame coverage from every Syracuse game.

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