‘Nova looks to hold off avenging No. 7 Syracuse

James Evans

Two big games took place Monday night. Obviously, one was the “Holy War” in which the ‘Cats took out some revenge on the Hawks for the last two seasons. But the other big game was UConn defeating Syracuse, at Syracuse. The exact thing that the ‘Cats did not want to have happen. Have one of the better teams in nation fired up to play you, a true recipe for disaster.

One might think, hey we knocked out Kansas and they were ranked No. two in the nation, however, Kansas wasn’t coming in off a loss at its’ home court. For instance, look at what Kansas did in their following game against Baylor, a 20-point blow out and they haven’t lost since. It is not a coincidence that of the top 12 teams in the nation, no team has lost back-to-back games and of the top 25 teams in the nation only seven have lost back-to-back games. Good teams just don’t loose two games in a row. Especially good teams that have great coaches and Jim Boeheim is definitely one of the best in the nation.

Villanova, which of late has seemed to have caught fire from behind the arc, will face a challenge to get good looks against Syracuse’s tough zone. In the Notre Dame game last Saturday, Syracuse was able to shut down Notre Dame’s perimeter trio, of Chris Thomas, Colin Falls and Matt Quinn. So with the tough zone, the ‘Cats might have to go inside and use their big man, and if that is the case Jason Fraser seems ready. Fraser is coming off his biggest game of the season with 14 points and 14 boards in 29 minutes against St. Joes. If Fraser can become a strong presence down low, he could help to loosen up the zone, allowing ‘Nova’s outside shooters to bomb away from deep.

Syracuse, who can be a dominating defensive team, can be just as deadly on the offensive side of the ball. The lanky forward Hakim Warrick has held up to his pre-season top billing this year, averaging 20.2 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per-game. Point guard Gerry McNamara is the best point guard in the Big East, arguably the best in the country and is a pure shooter from outside the arc. His ability to pull up on the break and knock down the three or his ability to drive, draw defenders and dish make him a very dangerous offensive threat. And if these two are not hitting their shots, the third option in Josh Pace is not bad. Pace, though not a threat from the outside (he hasn’t taken a three all season) is a tough guard who can rebound with the forwards and also find the open man when he needs to and take the big shot.

A win at the WAC on Saturday would give the ‘Cats 15 wins, one more than their total number of regular season wins last year. The win would boost them into the upper tier of the Big East conference, but more importantly a win would keep the momentum of this team going, which they will need, as done the stretch they have to play Pittsburgh, Boston College and will travel to Washington to play Georgetown.

Furthermore, a win in the WAC could officially exhume any thoughts that demons follow ‘Nova when they play there. Since the ‘Cats started playing at the WAC in 2000-2001 season, they had struggled, going 5-7 in games played there leading many to believe that the WAC did not provide the type of home-court advantage that the Pavilion would have. However, ‘Nova has grabbed the first two games at the WAC this year, with wins over Kansas and Notre Dame, and a win over Syracuse could make it a clean sweep for the season.

The ‘Cats are battle-game tested, there quick and fast, and excel when playing in front of the home crowd (10-1 at home). If they can run on the Orangemen, they should win. ‘Cats 77-71.