The wait is over, the brackets are set and we are just a few days away from the best time of year in sports, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse all were given number one seeds in their prospective brackets but Syracuse is the team that is limping into the tournament. After capturing the regular season Big East title, Syracuse lost to Louisville in the regular season finale and then lost in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament to Georgetown. To make things worse, a right quadriceps injury to their starting center, Arinze Onuaku, may keep him from playing in the opening round of the tournament.
Syracuse is set to open the tournament against a familiar foe, the Vermont Catamounts, Friday in Buffalo. While they are playing in their home state, this game may not be as easy as expected. Vermont, the America East Conference Champions, beat Syracuse 60-57 in overtime in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. I am sure all eyes will be on the Orange come tournament time. Although no team has lost its first game in a conference tournament and gone on to win the national title, this year’s Syracuse team is definitely capable. It is just a matter of how bad they want it. Jim Boeheim will have his team primed and ready to go. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the last team standing.
Jim Boeheim joined 790 The Zone in Atlanta to talk about whether he had any doubt about getting a top seed in the tournament, whether he winced when he saw they are going to play Vermont, and how proud he is of the evolution of the Big East as a conference.
Whether he had any doubt about getting a top seed in the tournament:
“Well I thought that we would be based on the year and what we done for the year. We won the Big East by two games. I think we had the best conference in the country again, tied with the Big Twelve maybe, but I thought that we had a great year and we deserved the one seed.”
Whether being a number two seed and choosing where you want to be is better than getting a number one seed in a bracket where you don’t want to be:
“I don’t know, I think a one seed is pretty good, but I think the difference in today’s tournament when you are a one seed, before you had an easy game, no longer. Vermont is a very good team. I have watched them play over the weekend. They are a good basketball team and there is just no easy games anymore. I think the fact that we can play close to home in Buffalo helps a little bit but it is still a tough game and the second game that you can have, whoever wins our game, Gonzaga has been in the top ten for a lot of the year and Florida State is a very good team so that is the NCAA Tournament. When you get in, you better be prepared to play well and that I think we are. We have been very consistent this year. We played good basketball even in our losses. The last two losses that we had Georgetown shot 70% in the second half against us to beat us. We played good basketball and I expect that we will play well in the tournament.”
Whether losses were just losses earlier in his career:
“Well I don’t know. I think losses are always tough, but I think you do have to put things into perspective. When I look at a loss, if we just play terribly and had a lot of turnovers or didn’t rebound or didn’t shoot well or something. We shot well. We shot 54% for the game. We played pretty well. Our defense wasn’t quite as good as it needs to be and that is the one thing that slipped over our last two losses, our defense was not as good as it has been… We have worked really hard getting out of the Big East Tournament early gives you two extra days of practice. So I think from that point of view, I think we have been able to work on our defense a little bit and that is really our priority going into the tournament. Let’s get playing a little bit better on the defensive end and our offense has been good all year and I expect our offense to continue to be good.”
Whether he winced when he saw they are going to play Vermont:
“Fortunately, my memory is not too good anymore. I cant remember back five years ago, but Vermont is a good team and we just have to get ready to play and make sure that we’re ready to play good Syracuse basketball. But Vermont is a good team and that we do have history with them.”
How proud he is of the evolution of the Big East as a conference:
“Well it is about as tough as you would ever want it to be as far as a conference. We really played well this year to get through the conference and to win the conference. We played really, probably the best that we have played here in a long time. We led the country in field-goal percentage. We were one of the better defensive teams in the country all year. Really the conference is very, very tough. We got eight teams in, some really good teams like Cincinnati and Seton Hall and South Florida, all in the NIT, are a few really good teams and St. John’s played well at the end of the year. It is a difficult conference and you really have to play well to get through it and I think our teams will be prepared for the NCAA Tournament.”
Tags: 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Big East Champions, Boeheim's zone defense, Jim Boeheim should be concnerned with his team's poor play as of late, lost to Louisville and Georgetown, open up the tournament in Buffal against Vermont, regualr season Big East Champions, Syracuse basketball, Vermont beat Syracuse back in the 2005 Tournament, Zone defense