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Sunday, February 10, 2013
W2W4: St. John's at Syracuse

By Kieran Darcy

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (15-8, 7-4 Big East) plays No. 9 Syracuse (19-3, 7-2 Big East) on Sunday at the Carrier Dome.

Tip-off is at 3 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN.

HELL WEEK: St. John's faces as tough a back-to-back as there is in the Big East this week -- facing the No. 9-ranked Orange in Syracuse, followed by a game at No. 11 Louisville on Thursday. Villanova beat these two teams consecutively late last month, but the Wildcats played both games at home.

St. John's is a heavy underdog in both games -- but this is also a big opportunity. A win in either game would be the Red Storm's signature victory of the season, and a huge feather in their cap come Selection Sunday. St. John's is currently the second-to-last team in the NCAA Tournament field, according to the latest edition of Bracketology. Frankly, just being competitive in these two games is important, even if St. John's doesn't pull out a victory in either one.

Syracuse has won 36 games in a row at the Carrier Dome -- the longest home winning streak in Division I.

BIG ADDITION: Syracuse swingman James Southerland has missed the team's past six games after being declared academically ineligible. However, Southerland had an appeals hearing on Friday, and will return for Sunday's game.

This is big for the Orange. The 6-foot-8 senior swingman -- a Queens native -- is third on the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game, and is the team's leading 3-point shooter.

THE ORANGE: Syracuse is coming off a 63-47 win versus Notre Dame at home on Monday. Before that, the Orange had lost consecutive games, at Villanova (in overtime) and at Pittsburgh.

Three other players average in double figures, besides Southerland -- 6-foot-4 senior guard Brandon Triche (14.5 ppg), 6-foot-8 junior forward C.J. Fair (13.9 ppg) and 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams (12.2 ppg). Carter-Williams is also the leading assist man in the country, at 8.5 per contest. And he's fifth in the country in steals, with 2.95 per game.

As a team, Syracuse is fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (36.3 percent), playing its trademark 2-3 zone. St. John's will need its two perimeter threats, D'Angelo Harrison and Marco Bourgault, to be on top of their games.