When SU stepped onto the floor against George Washington Saturday night, it seemed like half the battle was already won. When news broke of #1 ranked Kentucky’s crippling loss to Indiana just before the end of the first half of Syracuse’s 85-50 beat down of the Colonels, the nearly 24,000 inside the Dome erupted. Coupling that with the fact that #2 Ohio State fell as well earlier in the day, it’s seemed like a matter of time before the Orange claimed the top spot in the polls. It’ll be nice to see those orange and white colors on SportsCenter for all the right reasons.
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With Bernie Fine controversy swirling around campus the last few weeks, it’s somewhat amazing we can even have this conversation. The play of the Orange has been sharp, and the team continues to downplay the possibility of distractions. Give The Per’fesser credit. He has not allowed the outside circus to swallow his team, and it’s evident SU is taking the right approach when hearing the athletes speak. The Fizz talked with players after the game, and everyone seemed to have the right mindset heading forward. Brandon Triche says the rankings don’t matter, it’s still just business as usual.
“It doesn’t really mean anything. We’re just trying to get better every game, and being #1 doesn’t really mean nothing. [In 09-10] we were #1, and then lost two games in a row. We just want to play our best basketball, and we know we need to get better.”
This is the best SU has played as one cohesive unit for quite some time, but the challenges continue this weekend. Expect an even more physical and aggressive team Saturday when it heads down to face NC State. How will this team play with big red X on its back? Kris Joseph told The Fizz their place in the polls won’t affect this team.
“It won’t change the way we play basketball. We won’t do anything differently. Why change what we’ve been doing? We are just going to have to improve on the things we have been doing, and get sharper on a few things, and we’ll be fine.”
This squad tapered off down the stretch of the ’09-’10 season after elevating to the #1 spot in the nation. But this year’s edition has been laser focused on the task at hand, maybe because of the national media crush that rocked the campus. Dion Waiters echoed to The Fizz, rankings don’t mean much.
“It’s great just to know all the hard work we put in, but it’s just a number aside our name. We’re playing great and we’re still undefeated. We still got ways to get better and more mature as a team also.”
When Dion is espousing maturation, you know its a special season. This is the mindset that will work best for this team. Don’t focus on the number, just win games. Syracuse is on the verge of owning the top spot in America, and appears perfectly prepared to handle the bullseye that comes with it.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: Kevin Rivoli/AP