Observations from Wednesday in Boston

It has become the norm for fans and media watching Syracuse's open practices throughout the NCAA Tournament, that the team is feeling good and letting it all hang out. It was more of the same on Wednesday, capped by some big-time throw downs with the Badgers on the horizon.

"The hottest team in this regional…besides us?" Kris Joseph replied when asked which team was playing its best ball in the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday. "I feel pretty good with us, the way we've been playing.

"I think we're on of the hottest teams, especially coming in with so much doubt, the way the media was doubting us, and I'm sure other teams were as well."

The laid-back feeling Syracuse's senior leader shared with the media was echoed by Scoop Jardine soon after, and then the entire team reflected the thought throughout an open practice at the TD Northbank Garden in Boston, site of Thursday's Sweet 16 battle between the Orange and the Wisconsin Badgers.

It began with a shot from Dion Waiters (pictured above) who's conversion hit assistant coach Mike Hopkins in the head to break out the smiles at the practice's outset.

The usual "loose" practice was as fun to keep up with as ever, wrapping-up with a ferocious dunking display from both Waiters and James Southerland, who put the ball between his legs and slammed it home soon after throwing one down with two forceful hands to the tune of oohs and ahhs from the crow.

Despite the nature of the practices he conducts, Coach Jim Boeheim admitted on Wednesday that his job isn't fun if things aren't done the right way.

"This is not fun," he said. "If I wasn't getting paid, I wouldn't be doing this…You get satisfaction out of doing something right, just like everybody does, and I get a lot of satisfaction when we do things right and play right."

Of course, Boeheim is eluding to Thursday's game instead of Wednesday's practice session but the message remains the same heading into the Sweet 16 tilt. The opponent – Wisconsin – held a similar stance to that of Syracuse's head man especially when answering questions concerning the Orange's 2-3 zone.

"You're going to get shots. You're going to make shots," said Badgers Coach Bo Ryan before conducting a very slow-paced and methodical practice session with heavy influence on three-point shooting. "You've got to make them have to do some things in that zone to maybe open up something else.

"So ball and body movement, if you don't have it, then you're really going to struggle."

The Wisconsin players were perhaps even more focused than their coach in front of the media, led by senior standout and point guard Jordan Taylor.

"It's nothing we haven't seen," he said of the zone. "We've all been playing basketball years now. I know the 2-3 zone is a little different with the length that they throw at you, but it's really no different."

As for the chances of the Badgers deploying a zone to fluster Syracuse like Cincinnati and UNC-Asheville did successfully over the last two weeks, don't count on it.

"I've never played a second of zone defense since I've been at Wisconsin," said Taylor. "I've heard coach say one time he played it one possession and he got scored on I think he said, so he won't go back to it.

"I don't think you're going to see that tomorrow."

What we will see is a battle of contrasting teams, Syracuse with its desire to run an Wisconsin with a powerful slow-down style, Duke it out in primetime for a chance to play in Saturday's East regional final.

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