Syracuse BET Fun Facts:
All-time winningest coach in BET history: Jim Boeheim (41 wins). Comments: 1) John Thompson and Jim Calhoun are second and third at 33 and 28 wins, respectively. 2) No other Big East coach (present or former) has more than 13 BET wins. 3) Excluding Jim Calhoun, Boeheim has more than twice the total number of BET victories than the rest of the league's coaches combined.
Syracuse Record in BET: 41-22. SU and Georgetown are currently tied for the most Big East tournament wins.
Syracuse BET Championships: 5 (2006, 2005, 1992, 1988, 1981). Only Connecticut and Georgetown have more (6 each).
Record in BET Championship games: 5-8. SU has made it to the championship game roughly 50% of the time since the inception of the Big East.
Syracuse BET MVPS: Leo Rautins (1981), Pearl Washington (1986), Sherman Douglas (1988), Hakim Warrick (2005), Gerry McNamara (2006). Alonzo Mourning was named MVP in 1992 despite SU's championship victory.
2007 BET: Syracuse enters Wednesday's game against UConn at 21-9/10-6. While the Orange would be in the NCAA tourney if it started today, a loss to UConn could prove costly for three reasons: 1) The Huskies are below average this year and it would constitute a "bad" loss, 2) it would mean that SU ended up the season on a two game losing streak, and 3) the Big East will likely get no more than 7 bids, so current bubble teams such as West Virginia, DePaul, and Providence would have an opportunity to make a final statement in the BET as to why they should be included over Syracuse. Simply put, if SU loses today, they may slip back on the NCAA tourney bubble.
Fortunately, Jim Calhoun has his weakest team in a decade, so if the Orange can use their experience to their advantage, they should be able to hold off the much younger Huskies. One major factor that may play against Syracuse is the fact that UConn usually draws a very loud and boisterous crowd at MSG, so this game may have a bit more of a "road game" feel than the neutral court feel that it would otherwise have.
Keys for Syracuse:
1) Perimeter Defense: The Huskies are not a good shooting team and have not shown the ability to make contested three pointers all season. Jerome Dyson is the only player on the team who has connected on more than 30 three pointers on the year. A.J. Price, Doug Wiggins, and Stanley Robinson can all make long range shots if left wide open, but none of them will be confused with Ray Allen or Richard Hamilton.
The Orange played lackadaisical perimeter defense in their last meeting with the Huskies. Jerome Dyson, a sub 30% three point shooter at the time, connected on 6 shots from beyond the arc, many of them uncontested. Syracuse had success containing Dyson when they switched into man-to-man defense, with Boeheim employing a rotation of Paul Harris, Demetris Nichols, and Andy Rautins on Dyson. Changing up the looks seemed to frustrate Dyson, and although he finished with 26 points on the afternoon, almost all of them came against the zone. If Dyson gets hot early, Boeheim may once again go man-to-man to try to contain him.
2) Control the Defensive Glass: In SU's earlier road loss to UConn, Jeff Adrien was an absolute beast on the offensive glass. Between Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet, the Huskies get 6 offensive boards per game. Watkins, Roberts, Nichols, and Harris must be up to the task of rebounding. One thing that hurt the 'Cuse in their season-ending loss to Villanova was that Nichols only got 3 rebounds. During SU's prior 5 game win streak, he was routinely hauling in 7 or 8 boards per game.
3) Take Smart Shots: There are really only two things that UConn does extremely well: rebound on the offensive glass, and block shots. The Huskies have 257 blocks on the season, with Thabeet recording 117 in his freshman campaign. Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf have proven to be highly susceptible to having their shots "returned to sender", so they will both need to realize when they are cut off from the basket.
4) Utilize Mismatches: Boeheim was masterful in mid-February when he ran much of the SU offense through Harris at Jeff Adrien. Harris presented a match-up nightmare for UConn because none of their guards are strong enough to defend him, and Adrien was not quick enough to contain his dribble penetration. Harris has 29 points and 20 rebounds against UConn this year and he seems to relish the physical style of play that naturally comes out of these games. However, expect Jim Calhoun to employ some new defensive wrinkles in this game.
First off, look for Calhoun to instruct Thabeet to rotate on Harris's drives. The SU center must make a concerted effort to draw Thabeet away from the basket when Devendorf or Harris are driving. On the other hand, if Thabeet rotates towards Harris or Devendorf, both ballhandlers must be ready and willing to give the ball up. It would be a good idea to go at Thabeet early in the game, and one way to accomplish this would be off dribble penetration and dishes to the SU big men.
Calhoun has played a lot of three-guard sets this year and that may open up another mismatch for SU on the perimeter. If Nichols is guarded by one of UConn's smaller guards, he will have the advantage of being able to shoot over the defense. Nichols has put up 20 ppg against the Huskies this year, and considering that he was shut out of the post season awards, he may be even more motivated to take charge this afternoon.
5) Syracuse Pride: The Orange have an opportunity to do something that's never been done - win three BET championships in a row. They enter the game with a stellar 7-game Big East Tournament winning streak. The last 4 weeks have seen a restoration of the swagger and pride of SU hoops. Syracuse will need to exude this kind of confidence again today. Furthermore, what better confidence boost than to send the Huskies packing three years in a row?
Prediction: Syracuse takes care of business in a somewhat sloppy, physical game. Late turnovers doom the Huskies and Thabeet is neutralized with foul troubles. Nichols goes for 17+ in a close victory. Syracuse 71 UConn 66.