MBB : Syracuse ready for another test as No. 1 team against Providence

first_img Published on January 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm As Syracuse’s perfect start to the season continues through Big East play, a new challenge has popped up for the Orange.No matter whom it plays, every time SU takes the floor, its opponent has the added motivation of handing the top team in the nation its first loss of the year. It puts a bull’s-eye on Syracuse’s back and tends to draw the best out of foes.But for many of the Orange players, they wouldn’t have it any other way.‘That’s the thing we love,’ sophomore guard Dion Waiters said. ‘That’s what you come to college for — the competitiveness. We just want to go out there and play Syracuse basketball at the end of the day. We know everybody’s gunning for us. We just have to play our game, play defense and things like that to survive.’The No. 1 Orange (18-0, 5-0 Big East) has survived its first 18 tests of the season unscathed. With the hectic nature of college basketball, SU has become an anomaly this year as one of only three remaining unbeaten teams. Two more wins and this team will set the record for the best start in program history. And the players seem to understand that it will take a great deal of focus to keep the perfect season alive.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textProvidence (12-6, 1-4) will have the next shot at handing the Orange its first loss Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. It will be the first rematch of the year for SU, who knocked off the Friars 87-73 in Providence on Jan. 4. And just like in that game, Syracuse expects a battle.‘They played very well against us,’ head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘We played one of our best offensive games of the year against Providence. We shot (61) percent from the field and it was still a close game.’The Friars showed just how unpredictable the game can be in their last contest against Louisville Tuesday. For their first conference win, they whipped the No. 14 Cardinals 90-59 in one of the most stunning results of the season. In that game, Providence lit up the scoreboard by hitting nine 3s, going 25-of-29 at the free-throw line and shooting 52.8 percent from the field.SU has yet to allow an opponent to go off like that this year. And part of that comes from experience. The Orange veterans know that anybody in the Big East can pull out a win on a given night and they have tried to prepare the team accordingly.‘Anything can happen so for me, my biggest focus as a leader on this team is to always keep us ready and always let my teammates know it’s not about anybody else,’ senior guard Scoop Jardine said. ‘It’s about us and what we’re doing. And when we do the things we need to do as a team, we’re going to get a victory.’Syracuse has done those things 18 out of 18 times this season. But the target on its back gets bigger and bigger with each win.Sometimes, the hype of playing the top team in the country can knock opponents off their game, as it seemed to do to an inexperienced Villanova squad from the moment SU stepped on the court in the win Wednesday.But the Orange expects inspired performances from each of its opponents trying to deliver that first loss of the season. For Syracuse, however, that doesn’t matter.‘We know we can beat anybody and they know they can’t beat us, too,’ sophomore center Fab Melo said. ‘It’s just confidence in ourselves, confidence in my teammates. We’re going to go in and do our job.’SU has maintained that type of attitude through nearly two-thirds of the season to this point. And while it will likely get its opponents’ best shot for the rest of the year starting Saturday with Providence, the Orange’s focus is solely on itself and piling up wins, regardless of how much extra motivation its opponent has.‘At the end of the day, when the game starts, the best team wins,’ Boeheim said. ‘The best team that night wins. Not the team that wants to win or wants to pull an upset. The team that plays the best that night wins. … It doesn’t really matter who wants to win.’[email protected] Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more