Back into the Dome they go tonight at 7. The Syracuse Orange, facing their second NIT test before what’s expected to be a record-setting crowd for this second-tier tournament. Tickets sold over the weekend, plus an expected turnout of 3,000 or so students, bring the number very close to the 23,522 set by a Kentucky-Clemson contest back in 1979.
So what about the real facts of this matchup? You’ve often heard coaches give a so-so opponent a big buildup to motivate their players, but neither of these teams is so-so, and the compliments/warnings, this time around, are most sincere.
Who can win it? Canadian oddsmakers like the Aztecs of San Diego State, without dissing SU all that much…
Bettors now have to wonder about how focused Syracuse is on the NIT. The Orange’s opening-round performance against the South Alabama Jaguars did little to calm these fears. Syracuse looked disinterested early in game and trailed 22-10 eight minutes in. Then the Orange were down 59-50 early in the second half
before storming back to win 79-73, but their sloppy play early cost bettors who had them as 13 ½-point favorites.
Cost the bettors? Too bad. They did, after all, win the game. We’ve been looking north, and now, to the west, to see what San Diego State’s own campus paper has been saying about tonight’s game. Their coach sees reason for concern in the skills of the Orange, and the SU squad’s need to prove itself.
Every year, Syracuse is a team that not only looks like, but could be a potential Final Four team,” (Head Coach Steve) Fisher said in a press conference. “They’re good. That being said, you focus on where you are and they are in the NIT just like we are. They want to win the NIT and prove the fact, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were the team left out (of the NCAA Tournament).”
The Daily Aztec
That fact remains a powerful motivator for the Orange, heading into tonight’s contest. But the Aztecs aren’t flying all the way out here just to lose. And if their star player is “on” tonight, as he so often is, the Dome crowd will be watching sophomore point guard Richie Williams with a mixture of worry and amazement. Check out a few brief clips from his highlight reel, as you get ready for the game: