Orange squeeze win out of Storrs
Great teams in college basketball have a will to win. We have seen that often recently. They figure out a way, despite adversity or tough moments, to get to the winner's circle.
I saw that in person on Saturday night in Storrs, Connecticut. There is a reason that Syracuse is 29-1, its best record in school history. This is a team that has won a number of close games this season. They got past Stanford at Madison Square Garden early on. They won at Louisville, edged West Virginia. That helped prepare for the dogfight against a Huskies team in need of a signature win.
After hitting over 50 percent in the first half against UConn, Jim Boeheim's team did not shoot well in the second half. Give some credit to improved defense by the home team.
The Orange was beaten on the boards in the second half after posting a stunning plus-10 on the glass in the first half.
Syracuse still found a way to get that W over the defending national champions. Connecticut rallied and the crowd got behind its team, getting very loud. In the end, the Orange did a great job defending Jeremy Lamb on a last-second attempt and then got out of Gampel Pavilion with that big victory, the first time they won there.
It helps that Syracuse has the strongest bench in America. Boeheim has more depth that he has ever enjoyed during his illustrious career. He is a guy who bleeds Orange.
The Orange is so dangerous in transition. They run the floor so well and get easy baskets when they run baby run! They have so much balance, so many weapons.
They have experienced players like Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine. Fab Melo has become a force in the middle, blocking shots and making key plays like the late rebound hoop against the Huskies. Then you have Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair coming in off the bench; they will be stars next season if they return to college.
There is no way that Fair is a bench player. He accepts his role and often provides a big-time spark. Eventually he will be a star on the college landscape.
The bottom line is Syracuse had that will to win and found a way to escape with yet another victory.
We have seen a lot of super teams show that will to win lately. Kentucky did at Vanderbilt, and then again at Mississippi State, where John Calipari's team was down 13 at half. Even Saturday's game at home with the Commodores was a challenge.
Duke did it against North Carolina and again in a near-upset against stubborn Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels did it at Virginia, a tough place to play and against a team which controls tempo. A road win is a good win.
The best example was Kansas. The Jayhawks were down 19 to Missouri but showed that will to win and got it done in overtime. It is amazing that Bill Self's club has won eight straight Big 12 regular season titles.
My friends, I would love to see Syracuse and Kentucky hook up in the big dance. That would be a monster matchup. I believe that would be special if they met down in New Orleans.
This is a great time of year for college hoops, baby!