It’s Wednesday, which means Sean from Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and I trade questions and answers. Today we talk about what the heck is wrong with this team that cannot seem to win any games, what Marrone has done this off season, and just how good those lacrosse gentlemen are. Enjoy.
1. Orange::44: The Villanova game was a sting but not terribly shocking. What do you see is the main reason Syracuse cannot seem to beat teams that are ranked above them in the conference slate?
Nunes: At this point, I think you have to admit that this team is good but not great. The proof is all there. If we were a semi-great team, we would have beaten one or two of those top-ranked Big East teams. But we didn't. To paraphrase Dennis Green, we are who we didn't realize we were but have to accept that we are.
Yes, we have wins over Memphis and Kansas but I think if you honestly look at those games you can see we caught both of them early in the season before they had a chance to gel. If we play them now, maybe we win, maybe we don't, but I think we benefited from the timing of both games.
The silver lining is in what Jim Boeheim said after the St. John's game...we lost to a lot of teams in the Top 12, so all that means is we're not one of the top 12 teams in the nation.
2. Orange::44: Syracuse is now unranked. Same question you asked me last week. Is this about right, or do you see them somewhere else?
Nunes: For the moment, I think it's okay. Possibly even a good thing to give this team a little kick in the ass. You can't point to a ranked Syracuse team and call them underrated. But you can certainly do that to an unranked one. And if Boeheim can get it into their heads now that no one expects them to win in the BET and beyond, maybe that will kick the team into that next gear that's been lacking so often.
I think the Orange will finish the year in the 20's when it's all said and done. And that's probably exactly where they should be.
3. Orange::44: If you had to put blame somewhere on the poor performance of the team as of late, who would you give it to and why?
Nunes: DOCTOR Gross. Well...maybe not, but I tried.
I blame the trio of guards (Devo, Flynn, Rautins) who still have yet to work out some sort of understanding of protocol when the team is in need of a jump-start. The poop hits the fan and all of a sudden the three of them start playing like the Harlem Globetrotters, trying to put the team unnecessarily on their shoulders and attempted ill-advised shots from weird angles.
I blame Arinze Onuaku a little as well. He's a bad free-throw shooter, whatever. But there's certain things we demand of AO on the court (controlling the paint, grabbing tons of boards, dominating when he needs to) and he just doesn't do that stuff a lot of the time. I know he's been injured and that factors in but even last year he had a habit of disappearing in big games against other tough big men and he hasn't shaken that MO for the most part.
4. Orange::44: Who do you think will end up the top four teams in the conference?
Nunes: I think the four teams in the lead right now we'll probably stay the same. UConn, Pitt, Louisville and Marquette. Between them you might just see two #1 seeds and two #2 seeds. Is that unprecedented for a conference? Get on that.
Marquette has a ridiculously tough end of the season schedule that may put them at a disadvantage. They play UConn, Louisville and Pittsburgh in their next three games and then they get us as the "cupcake." And of course, Pitt and UConn finish the season against each other in what may just end up having huge implications on the Big East Tourney and NCAA Tourney seedings.
5. Orange::44: What off season move since Marrone took over has been the most encouraging and/or surprising to you?
Nunes: It's weird to look at a recruiting class ranked in the triple-digits as a positive step but it really felt like one. Couple that with the fact that David Oku even sniffed in our direction and it all tells you one very important thing...he done good with the coaches he hired. Imagine what these recruiters are going to accomplish once they have a season under their belt? Assuming SU at least matches their win total from last season, expect to see a surprisingly strong recruiting class next year for the Orange. And it will only build from there.
Marrone seems to get the most important part of being a leader. Surround yourself with good people you can trust. If he hired his offensive and defensive coordinators as well as he hired his recruiters, we're in good hands.
6. Orange::44: Finally, that lacrosse team is pretty good again huh?
Nunes: You're God damn right they are. I LOVE having at least one athletic team that you can expect to at least go to the Final Four every year. It's so refreshing to have a team you can root for and trust that they'll live up to or very close to expectations. This is what being a USC football fan is like, huh?
And it's such a great time to be a lacrosse fan in general. The sport is growing up with the addition of the Big East and other conferences. It's expanding to new schools and those schools are in turn becoming very competitive (Ohio State, Notre Dame, etc.). It's even starting to gain traction out here in LA. I drive by a youth lacrosse field every day on my way home from work and see tons of kids playing (I swear, I'm not hanging out there). It's only a matter of time before the NCAA Tournament features teams from all four time zones. And as much as that will make it harder for SU, I'm excited for the sport.
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.