Marrone’s Marauders can’t catch a break. Despite the first Big East win of the season over Rutgers yesterday, all anyone wants to talk about is the crazy impressive weekend for Jimmy Boeheim’s crew.
The Big Apple turned into the Big Orange (even the Empire State Building lit up in the Cuse’s colors).
The ‘Cuse is champion of the ’09 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by playing with a chip on their shoulder.
Annually the Orange is underrated entering the season and “surprisingly” jump into the Top-20 within the first couple of weeks.
But this time, it feels like SU could be staying in the national spotlight for good. After two impressive wins over Top-15 teams on national television, Syracuse is no longer a secret. Wes Johnson is for real and the 2-3 zone is tight.
Why is this edition different from years past? DEFENSE. This season’s team is full of players who have had to earn their spot in the lineup. Devendorf, Greene, Flynn and Harris all came into SU as highly touted recruits. They expected to contribute right away. Compare those players to Andy Rautins (only used as a spark plug his freshman and sophomore years), Scoop (sat behind Flynn), Johnson (sat out a year after transferring), Rick Jackson (struggled his freshman year), and Onuaku (late bloomer, sat behind Watkins early on).
These former role players have been given the opportunity to succeed and – early on – are making the most of it. No more lazy defense without sliding to contest an open three-pointer. Instead, hands are up, defensive rotation has been crisp, and the Orange seem to have bought into making defense the focal point of the game plan.
I sat next to a Syracuse alum, decked out in Orange, from thirty years ago. Midway through the second-half he said, “This is the best defense I have ever seen us play. Ever. And I can tell you it’s not Boeheim because he hasn’t changed at all over my time watching this team. It’s the players, they are hungry.”
Obviously, the optimism was overflowing from an energetic NYC crowd and the ESPN attention. The real test is if the ‘Cuse can keep up the intensity against weaker teams such as Cornell, Columbia, and Colgate. But early returns suggest the ’09-’10 Orange may become one of the best defensive teams in the program’s history.