The curtain was closed on SU Basketball practice on Friday afternoon, as is always the case heading into the first weekend games of the NCAA Tournament, but no doubt there was lots to sort through as the Orange prepare for Kansas State on Saturday. The # 1 seed had to fight right to the end to beat UNC-Asheville, one of the toughest 16th seeds we've seen in a while, and without Fab Melo they also have their work cut out for them against the Wildcats.
"They're a tough team," says Orange Senior Scoop Jardine, "We know that. We know it's going to be a tough game. This is what you want at this time of year. It's March Madness, may the best team win, or whoever playing the best at that time. So it's going to be a great game tomorrow, and we just have to play Syracuse basketball and we should be fine."
The SU zone has certainly been altered without the 7-foot presence of Fab Melo in the paint, creating an even greater challenge when you're playing against a guy like Rodney McGruder. The K-State junior guard scored 30 points with an array of athletic moves against Souther n Miss, and is sure to be determined to do some damage against Syracuse.
"He's a very, very good player," says SU Head Coach Jim Boeheim, "He can shoot it. He can drive. He's a terrific player. He really is. Tremendous player. Those kind of guys are always difficult to play against."
Besides James Southerland impressing Orange fans with 15 points and 8 rebounds off the bench, another possitive is the fact that seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine stepped it up in the second half of Thusday's game. Jardine scored all 11 of his points in the 2nd frame, including going 4 for 4 from the charity stripe, while Joseph finished with 12 points.
"Us being the senior leaders on the team, the team goes as we go," Joseph said , " W e definitely have to get off to faster starts. We both had a slow first half, and we kind of picked it up in th second. We can't allow that to happen as we advance in the tournament. "
Kansas State leads the Big 12 Conference in rebounding, averaging 37.3 boards per game. Rebounding is a category the Orange have already struggled with over the season, but without Melo will have to pay extra attention too.
Tip off against Kansas State is tomorrow at 12:15 on CBS-5.