Ask a casual college basketball fan who Syracuse plays this week. Chances are, you'll get this answer: Villanova. And with Syracuse just coming out of Washington with a huge win over Georgetown, it's really easy for this game at Providence to be overlooked. But make no mistake: this is a big game for Syracuse. Not in the sense that it's necessary to secure a 1-seed in the NCAA Tourney or anything of significant importance, but more so to keep the high intensity going into that Nova game. Providence is a shell of its former self this year, somehow finding itself near the bottom of the Big East Conference, with lowly Rutgers and DePaul. Still, at 12-14 overall and 4-10 in the conference, the Friars can still steal games. And let's not forget, they beat Syracuse at the Dunk last year with both teams putting up a crapload of points.
That all said, though, I don't see this as a shootout. This should be an opportunity for Syracuse to once again show its toughness on the road, dominate on defense, and work on playing a consistent 40 minutes. If there's anything that scares me about the Orangemen, it's their inability to play 40 minutes. Sometimes they disappear at the beginning, sometimes at the middle, and sometimes at the end. Luckily they've usually found some way to win, no matter when they disappear. But I think if they make an honest effort to try to play an entire 40 minutes, that effort will pay off as we near the end of the regular season and enter conference and NCAA tournament time.
Key players to watch in this game
For Syracuse, I think it's Wes Johnson. Originally getting banged up against Providence in the Dome a few weeks ago, he hasn't truly been the same player since. He really stepped things up against the Hoyas and seems to be either on the mend or able to maintain despite the pain. I think if he has a solid game, Syracuse comes away with an easy victory.
For Providence, Jamine Peterson dominated the Groundhog Day game, so he makes an easy choice here. However, also look out for Sharaud Curry, who may be just as good for the Friars as Peterson. The Orange held him mostly in check at the Dome, and I think if that trend repeats, another Syracuse victory will follow.
Big question for the game
How will the absence of Mookie Jones affect the team? Not at all. Next question.
Who will win
Brian says Syracuse by 13. I say Syracuse by 10.
Do you want a free shirt?
Brian tells me that he has one more Beat Nova shirt looking for a nice home. If you would be interested in winning the shirt (size XL, so I'm sorry, Big John, you'll have to wear an old ragged Georgetown shirt), please leave a comment on this post with your answer to this question: How many minutes will Kris Joseph log against Providence? In keeping with Orange::44 Price Is Right style tradition, the guess that is closest without going over will win. In the event of a tie, please also list the number of minutes you believe DaShonte Riley will log against the Friars. If there's still a tie after that, stop cheating off other peoples' answers. As always, make sure you identify yourself in your post, and the winner needs to email Brian at the address at the right of the page. Please note that this shirt will not get to you in time for the Nova game itself, shipping no earlier than Friday. If you'll actually be at the game, we may be able to make arrangements for you. But otherwise, why take that chance? Go ahead and support the good people at Holy Shirt! and buy a shirt here.
To Come on Orange::44 in the Coming Days
Check back after the Providence game for my recap and shout out to the shirt winner. Brian will be back on Thursday for his first installment of the 2010 Lacrosse Weekly report. And I'm assuming we'll come up with something crazy leading up to the College Gameday matchup Saturday against Villanova.