Even though it’s only December, this is no ordinary early season basketball game for Syracuse. With the media circus surrounding this team in recent weeks, and planned protests outside the Dome tonight, there are precious few patches of normalcy for a program that’s been thrown into chaos. The showdown with #10 Florida is an opportunity to focus only on the game itself.
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Yes the Orange played a game Tuesday, but the story ended up being far more about Jim Boeheim’s wild postgame press conference than the 36-point win over Eastern Michigan. But the Gators are a legitimate upper echelon team, who will provide the Orange a stiff test. SU can’t afford a sluggish first half like it suffered twice at MSG.
A matchup like this is always a big game for the Orange, but it holds extra significance tonight. For at least a few hours, Syracuse can remind everyone of national title aspirations and not the Bernie Fine scandal. A loss would mean The Per’fesser’s club would be subjected to the whispers its distracted by the recent news blitz.
A bad performance tonight and concerns about SU’s focus would grow louder. Kris Joseph and company claim the Fine saga isn’t a distraction, and stand behind coach Boeheim completely. A win would go a long way toward convincing everyone of that.
The Orange will also continue to answer some basketball questions. How will Boeheim use his rotation in the first huge home game of the season? Will Dion Waiters continue to get crunch time minutes? Can Fab Melo continue his stellar play against a strong opponent?
Syracuse must capitalize on a rare opportunity to take the focus off the scandal, and place it back on basketball. A big performance under the microscope tonight would make a statement that this team can handle the adversity. Let’s see what Boeheim’s squad is made of.
Posted: Alex Plavin