After the six overtime marathon, I wrote that Syracuse had little to no chance to win in the semifinal against West Virginia. Actually, I wrote that the Orange had a 0.6% chance of winning. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.
Syracuse survived another OT game against the Mountaineers, but luckily this one ended after just one extra session. Syracuse played very well in the first half, and when Eric Devendorf hit that 60 footer as the buzzer sounded, I thought they were going to come out guns blazing in the second half. West Virginia seemed to have other ideas, as they quickly erased their 7 point halftime deficit and forced Jim Boeheim to call a quick timeout to regroup his exhausted squad.
The second half was a battle, with each team going back and forth and nobody jumping too far ahead. Jonny Flynn looked completely gassed, and that might be the least shocking statement I’ve ever made. Dude played 67 of 70 minutes in the UConn game, and followed it up with a nice easy 45 minutes against WVU. That is ridiculous.
Luckily the Orange were able to somehow get it done again in the extra frame, setting up tonight’s final against number one seed Louisville. I don’t want to again predict that Syracuse is too exhausted to compete against the Cardinals, but how can they not be? I don’t think Jim Boeheim is going to change his strategy and suddenly give Kris Joseph more minutes to counter the fatigue of some of the other regulars. If he wanted to do that, last night was the game to do it in. So I guess I’d have to double our chances of winning tonight to 1.2% after this performance. I’ll keep it low since I don’t want to jink us.
Other random thoughts on the West Virginia victory:
-The Waffle was outstanding. 6 points on 3-4 shooting, 10 boards-including 7 off the offensive glass, as well as 4 steals. Not to mention a number of passes he got his hands on. The guy is instant energy off the bench and he seems to have responded well to Boeheim’s challenging of him earlier in the year.
-Interesting quote from Jonny Flynn in Dana O’Neil’s post game story:
“We knew nobody was giving us a chance,” Flynn said. “We like that. We’re all underdogs. None of us were really highly recruited. We’re all guys people have counted out and we like that feeling. We like when things are stacked against us.”
I like the sentiment, Jonny, and I’m sure the coaching staff is playing it up. But the fact is this is one of the most highly touted group of recruits that has worn the Orange in recent memory. Flynn wasn’t that heavily recruited, but he committed to the Orange before his junior season, the same time Paul Harris had committed (although it was Harris’ senior year). Flynn went on to be a McDonald’s All-American and surely had plenty of coaches from around the country trying to get him to renege on the Orange and go to their school.
And if you look at the other players on the roster, most of them were highly recruited as well:
- Eric Devendorf was a McDonald’s All-American, so he had offers from a number of big-name schools, including Florida, Louisville and Michigan State.
- Rick Jackson wasn’t as highly touted as hist 2007 classmates of Flynn, Donte Green and Scoop Jardine, but he was recruited by Villanova, Virginia, Virginia Tech and St. Joe’s amoung others.
- Freshmen Kris Joseph and Mookie Jones (who, by the way, looks like an alien) were both recruited by big name schools. Joseph by Georgetown and Maryland and Jones by Marquette and Kansas.
So while I like the idea of the Orange thinking they are the forgotten ones, and granted, they were underdogs against WVU (although that had to do with the fact that they played 1.8 basketball games 24 hours earlier), they are hardly castoffs and rejects and Syracuse is far from The Island of Misfit Toys.
– Some interesting tidbits from the great website StatSheet.com:
- Syracuse won while doing worse than it’s season averages for points, FG percentage, free throw percentage and rebounds (although West Virginia was noticeably worse in this category as well).
- West Virginia (54.7) had a better effective FG percentage than Syracuse (50.0), which doesn’t happen often to the Orange. Syracuse ranks 1st in the Big East and 18th nationally in eFG% (more on that here).