Two Big East powers suffered losses yesterday. One mediocre Big East team is going to town on the behind of #3 Duke today.
Syracuse has hit some tough times of late, dropping their fourth straight game, at Marquette, 76-70. Marquette broke the 2-3 zone and shot 6 of 13 from beyond the arc. The difference was their inside game and ability to draw contact in the lane. Syracuse shot 8-14 at the free throw line - Marquette was 24-33 from the stripe. They really should have blown out the Orange but missed 9 free throws. Still, a 6-point win over a Top 10 team (not for much longer). My guess is that Syracuse will drop into the 20's in the rankings. Most teams that suffer four game skids fall out of the Top 25, but their schedule will keep them there, namely their wins over Michigan St., Notre Dame, Cincinnati and St. John's.
UConn had a chance but I sounded off on that yesterday after a freshman thought he was the leader of that team. Wrong. Tough loss for the Huskies. 2 OT's. I remember when me and Lindsay went to the Garden to see the Syracuse-UConn 7 overtime game a few years back - that was the best college basketball game I've ever seen. UConn is still 17-3 and will probably fall to 10th or so. Like Syracuse, their wins over Michigan St., Kentucky, Texas, Villanova, Tennessee and Marquette will help them maintain Top 10 status.
We'll see who's hungrier on Wednesday as UConn hosts Syracuse at 7:00pm at the XL Center in Hartford, CT. It'll be a game worth watching, I can guarantee that. I am guessing it'll be on ESPN. I hope, for everyone else's sake, they put it on national TV.
And finally, before I pass out for a few hours, I get to the last story I want to touch on - St. John's kicking the snot out of #3 Duke. I've come to grips with the reality that Duke is a pretender without Kyrie Irving. They've been mediocre at best since he's gone down and have only held on to their Top 5 ranking because others have stumbled along the way. They are not a Top 5 team. No way. Down 22 points at Madison Square Garden to a St. John's team that itself is a pretender. 11-8 overall. 4-5 and in 11th place in the Big East standings. I guess this is why Duke is the only team from the mighty ACC in the Top 25. One thing I'll say about the Johnnies is they're battle tested - this is the final game in an 8-game stretch against Top 25 teams. They've lost five of them with their wins coming against Georgetown (overrated) and Cincinnati (pretender). Their third will be against Duke (pretender). It's a sad state of affairs and it's tough to watch.
All three teams we root for here in our Bronx apartment are struggling. We're not the type to rest on the past either - sure Duke won the National Championship last season, but they've done nothing this year. Sure Syracuse was a high pre-season Big East picks, but they've underachieved thus far - especially of late. UConn is overachieving - they were not picked to make any noise in the Big East. It'll all get sorted out once March Madness comes around. One thing's almost for certain - all three teams will be in the Field of 68 (or whatever the number is).
Practice was good today - our defense looked a little better and the pitchers who were live today threw strikes. Velocity was down once again, like the first day, but they located, which is a good sign. It's still early and I know the velocity will come around. I also know that it's easy to pitch well against the guys you are comfortable being around. The true test comes on February 25th at 4:00 pm down in Cullowhee, NC against Western Carolina. For now, I'll continue to keep you updated as to our progress leading up to the first game.
OK, I'm done (just like Duke).