by Craig Dimitri
Here is a preview for Saturday's showdown between the Wildcats and Orangemen...
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Len Elmore), 6:00 PM tip-off
The Viewpoint on the Syracuse Orangemen
#20 in both AP and ESPN/USA Today
How They've Done So Far
15-3 overall, 3-1 Big East (tied for 3rd place, with Villanova and Connecticut, out of 16)
What's Gone Well
Victories over major-conference opposition (@ Texas Tech) as well as a surprisingly easy, 19-point victory @ #25 Cincinnati.
What's Gone Badly
Home loss to Bucknell, narrow loss @ Florida, eight-point home loss to #4 Connecticut (don't be fooled by the 88-80 score; the Huskies led 45-25 by halftime, at the Carrier Dome, beating the Orangemen for the sixth time in eight tries).
PG Gerry McNamara - senior, 17.6 pts/6.3 assists/2.1 steals/36 min per game
SG Eric Devendorf - freshman, 10.5 pts/2.2 rebs/23 min per game
SF Demetris Nichols - junior, 16.2 pts/6.4 rebs/33 min per game
PF Terrence Roberts - junior, 11.2 pts/8.6 rebs/32 min per game
C Darryl Watkins - junior, 6.0 pts/6.9 rebs/28 min per game
Off the Bench Contributors
Junior Louie McCroskey (16 min/game) started the first five games, before being replaced in the starting lineup by Devendorf, a freshman. Josh Wright, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, and Matt Gorman all average between 9 and 13 minutes a game, completing Jim Boeheim's nine-man rotation.
McCroskey was a teammate of Allan Ray's, at St. Raymond's HS in the Bronx, NY.
Keep McNamara off the line - he's at 86.4% for the season.
McNamara has started 118 consecutive games, the longest active streak in Division I.
McNamara is the 10th all-time leading scorer in Syracuse's illustrious history, with 1,856 points; he'll easily clear 2,000 by the end of the season.
Lawrence Moten holds the SU record for most points against VU in a single game, scoring 36 to help beat VU on St. Valentine's Day, 1995. It was an apt day for a heartbreaking loss, as the Orangemen triumphed 89-87 in overtime at the old Spectrum.Villanova/Syracuse Series History
Syracuse leads the series all-time, 32-23. The schools had played only four times (all won by Syracuse), prior to the formation of the Big East in the 1979-80 season and Villanova's entry the following year. As members of the Big East, during the regular season, Syracuse leads 21-19, but has owned VU in the conference tournament, knocking 'Nova out of it eight times in eleven meetings.
Syracuse has visited the Wachovia Center (under three different names), five times. It has won on four of those occasions, including last season's 90-75 victory (VU's only lopsided loss). The Wildcats' only Wachovia Center victory was on February 27, 2002, when they triumphed 67-61.
Syracuse is the fifth nationally-ranked opponent for the Wildcats this season, who enter the game with a record of 12-2 overall, 3-1 Big East, and ranked #7/#8. Villanova has lost two of its last four games, after winning the first 10. Its most recent contest was an unpleasantly close Pavilion victory over Seton Hall on Tuesday night.
What to Expect
Boeheim sticks to the tried-and-true, mundane 2-3 zone, that has gotten him a national championship and membership in the Hall of Fame. McCroskey may play more than usual, in order to counteract Villanova's unusual four-guard lineup. He also has played well of late, recording a double-double against UConn in the Orangemen's most recent game, including 14 rebounds, a career-high, and logging 32 minutes. The Orangemen, by playing passive zone all the time, are uniquely vulnerable to Villanova's three-point barrages. So if Ray, Foye, Nardi, and Lowry bring their A game, Villanova should emerge with a victory.
There will be a full recap after the game.Go Wildcats!