Hustle Belt (HB)- Undefeated? Ranked 2nd in the nation? Cruised passed #8 Villanova? Gee whiz, what's your guys' secret?
Sean Keeley from Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician (NM)- What's really crazy is that Jim Boeheim is nearing the end of his career and he's arguably in the midst of the best stretch he's coached his entire career.
We knew this team was going to be good but I don't think anyone was ready to anoint them No. 1-worthy before the season. For that to happen, the backcourt of Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney would have to evolve into one of the nation's best, C.J. Fair would have to live up to his claim as the team's leader and Jerami Grant would have to grow as well.
And so far, it's all happened. Can't say enough about Ennis and his ascension. Cooney has finally found his touch after a rough year. Grant has joined Fair as a go-to asset on offense and defense. Now we just need the big men to get some consistency and a bit of a mean streak and we might just have this basketball thing figured out...
HB- Trevor Cooney went from a guy who around 32% from the floor in 11.2 minutes per game a year ago to one of the better 3-point shooters in the nation this year. Was this to be expected?
NM- Well, yes and no. Cooney is the latest in a long-line of white guys with iffy facial hair who hit clutch three-pointers for the Orange (see: Gerry McNamara, Eric Devendorf, Andy Rautins). Cooney went through a particularly-rough redshirt freshman year in which he probably wouldn't have played much at all if not for a sever lack of guard depth. We knew he was going to come around but he was going to have to work through it for a while. He still has his off nights but it's pretty impressive to see how far he's come already.
HB- Last year, Eastern Michigan came to Syracuse early December and lost by... a lot. This year, even though they are coming off a bad win at Duke, it's a much improved team, which makes me think we can expect a much better game this time around to end the calendar year. Do you agree with me or am I just giving the Eagles way too much credit here?
NM- As a Syracuse fan, I've been doing this long enough to know that when you least expect it, a team that has no business coming into the Dome and pushing the Orange around, will. If EMU gets a hot-hand from three and their bigs can hold their own against ours (very possible), then there's no reason they can't turn this into a game. Rob Murphy is a Boeheim disciple so he probably knows a few tendencies Jimmy B has, one of these days he might be able to exploit them.
HB- Da'Shonte Riley. Yeah, the really tall guy on Eastern Michigan's roster that was with Syracuse for a couple of years (sat out a year for medical treatment). Last year against 'Cuse, he had a whopping three points, shooting 1-for-8 from the floor. This year, he's a little bit better offensively, but he's a better defender than he was last year (and he wasn't bad then, either). Who's going to give him trouble?
NM- We wish Da'Shonte well and we're glad he's thriving with the Eagles. He's going to see a three-pronged attack from SU. Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman will start and the duo have been…iffy. They routinely get out-rebounded and many teams have been able to push them around. Plus, neither are much of an offensive threat on a given night. Baye Moussa Keita, who was on an SU roster with Riley, will sub in and give the Orange some senior experience and energy. We really want to see more growth out of Christmas and Coleman, but, we haven't seen too much of it yet.
HB- Game is at 3 p.m. EST, which means it'll be over around 5-5:30. How do you plan on spending New Year's when this is over with?
NM- The theory is, Syracuse wins (84-48 if history is any judge), and I spend New Year's basking in a post-Texas Bowl victory & 13-0 basketball start haze.
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