#17 SYRACUSE BRINGS RIVALRY REVENGE TO BIG EAST FINALE AT #5 GEORGETOWN
The last time we wrote up a Georgetown/Syracuse preview...the Orange were getting a ton of respect in the computers and in Las Vegas, while Georgetown was still battling for respectability because few in the media were taking them seriously. Georgetown WON on the ROAD at the Carrierdome...putting themselves in the discussion for a #1 seed...while casting doubt on whether or not Syracuse really has what it takes to make a dent in the Dance this year.
A couple of weeks later, it's now Syracuse trying to win back support in an early Saturday tipoff while Georgetown has a chance to win at least a co-championship in the Big East if they can earn this series sweep. The Hoyas are 13-4. A victory would put them at 14-4...something Louisville and Marquette can only match if they win this weekend's games (vs. Notre Dame and at St. John's respectively). Syracuse is in the next tier of Big East teams battling for the 4-5-6 seeds in the conference tournament with Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
As we run through our indicator stats in this special early-bird report...you'll note an interesting dichotomy. The computers STILL see Syracuse as the better team even though they lost straight up at home...and trail in the Big East standings. The media and the Bracketology pundits see Georgetown as superior...and as pulling away. HUGE GAME!
Let's run the indicator gauntlet...
Syracuse: 23-7 (11-6 in the Big East)
Georgetown: 23-5 (13-4 in the Big East)
The tiers are locked in. What's left is to determine who's names go up on a banner...and which second tier teams will line up with the big three in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Syracuse had expected to be battling for a conference championship back when they won at Louisville several weeks ago. It's been a disappointing finish...one that's put a cloud over the program as they get ready to transition to the ACC. They were supposed to be sending a message. Georgetown has come from way off the radar to become a truly big story. The loss at Villanova the other night (who enjoyed a massive free throw edge on their home floor) prevents the Hoyas from an outright title. It would be a shame if another loss here kept them from even a partial title. Hey...there's no sympathy in rivalry games!
Syracuse: #11 with Sagarin, #10 with Pomeroy
Georgetown: #13 with Sagarin, #18 with Pomeroy
As we said above, Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy both still have Syracuse as the better team based on their overall seasonal resume. That gives Orange fans hope that they can close strong and make a run at the Elite Eight. To us, it's a sign that the computers need to weigh recent basketball more heavily. Maybe Georgetown peaked too early. Maybe they're going to flame out in the Dance. Right now, they've proven they were the better team in Big East play...and that's a significant enough sample size to draw conclusions from.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Syracuse: #38 with Sagarin, #36 with Pomeroy
Georgetown: #29 with Sagarin, #41 with Pomeroy
Disagreement here regarding the strength of schedule. But, not enough to matter. Syracuse averages out at 37, while Georgetown hits 35. Similar schedules...with Syracuse performing more impressively in scoring margins while Georgetown performed more impressively in won-lost record.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN'S TOP 50
Not sure why Sagarin would still have Syracuse as the better team given that! The Hoyas are a very impressive .667 vs. quality. Yes, there were some grinders that could have gone either way. They play great defense in crunch time...and have shown maturity when trying to get the ball in the hoop. That's going to matter at least once in the Big Dance unless they run into a three-point buzzsaw in an early game. Coach Boeheim expected better from his Orange.
JOE LUNARDI'S BRACKETOLOGY
Syracuse: projected #4 seed
Georgetown: projected #1 seed
There hadn't been an adjustment for the Villanova loss by the time we went to press. It's possible that Georgetown has fallen down to a #2 by the time you read this. Syracuse may be in danger of drifting back to a #5 if they don't close strong. There are a lot of quality teams this year who would normally be placed in that #4 slot. Way too many to fit! Conference tournaments will go a long way to settling who gets slotted where. A win here would surely help make Syracuse's case for a better number.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Moving now to the chess match. Even though Georgetown has shown well in crunch time, they've had way too many lapses this year to fully trust them on this side of the ball. They want to win grinders. If you can get them out of that style then you can beat them. Syracuse fell into the trap of playing a grinder in the first meeting...and the game got away from them. We would suggest that Georgetown is playing better offensively right now than those rankings would indicate. But, it will likely be an issue in the Dance...probably the deciding issue in the game that ultimately knocks them out.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Great stuff from both teams. Though Syracuse is vulnerable against teams who have seen the zone before. Georgetown just saw it recently and didn't play scared. They didn't set the world on fire either! But, they scored enough against it to pull away as a road dog in a rivalry game. That's worth something. Edge here to Georgetown because they have the better ranking...and aren't benefitting from a gimmicky schematic.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Very important here...as it was Georgetown's ability to force its preferred style on the ROAD that led them to the upset victory the first time around. Usually it's the home team who imposes its will. Clearly, if they do that again...it's a series sweep. Syracuse must figure out how to push the pace on offense so they can get the Hoyas out of their comfort zone.
A fun game to handicap because of the contrasting styles and what's at stake. Syracuse has rivalry revenge on its minds...and that usually matters. Georgetown is playing to win a piece of the Big East championship, something few figured they had a chance of doing. JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his league sources to try to get a good read on the Syracuse mindset. If they come in confident, mad, and anxious to push the pace...they can cover this spread with some room to spare. If they're lacking confidence when they match up with quality given their recent losses...then the Hoyas will be cutting down the nets afterward to celebrate a fantastic run.
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College Tournament Action
Atlanta at Boston in the NBA
Utah at Chicago (Jazz struggling of late)
Toronto at the LA Lakers (Kobe must keep winning!)
Houston at Golden State (more playoff ramifications)
COMING SATURDAY ALONG WITH SYRACUSE/GEORGETOWN
#3 Duke at North Carolina
#4 Kansas at Baylor
#24 Notre Dame at #8 Louisville
#9 Kansas State at #13 Oklahoma State
#11 Florida at Kentucky
Brooklyn at Atlanta in the NBA
Utah at New York
This is going to be a great weekend. Don't miss a single winner!
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Back with you tomorrow to run some key numbers for those major college matchups we just listed. Saturdays are always a blast...and now we're talking about MARCH Saturdays! For the mania...and the MADNESS...and the MONEY...link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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