Syracuse Basketball: When Being Wrong Feels So Right

-- SB Nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician posts reactions about Syracuse's surprise victory over Michigan State.

Don't tell me you saw Tuesday night's double-digit victory against Michigan State coming. You're not fooling anyone.

Seriously, the only person who could have predicted a double-digit or even a victory against Michigan State (No. 8 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the ESPN/USA-Today poll) was a fan so biased and optimistic that he/she just became a Orange supporter in the past year or less. If you've cheered for a Syracuse team longer than two years, you have no optimism left.

SU fans are smart basketball people. Entering the game against MSU (6-3), they had witnessed how poorly their undefeated team had been playing -- two close victories against unranked Michigan (6-2) and Georgia Tech (4-4); and a very shaky, home "W" against NC State (4-3).

The Orange (9-0 and No. 7/8 in the polls) survived those games and it seemed it was just a matter of time before the college basketball gods punished them. What better way to punish a, presumably, overachieving team then to do it in prime time during the Jimmy V Classic at the Orange's "second home", Madison Square Garden.

However, forward Rick Jackson (17 points and 16 rebounds) and guard Scoop Jardine (team-high 19 points) decided to prove nay-sayers -- mostly me -- wrong.

"We surprised y’all tonight, though,’’ Jardine said to the press after the game. "We did, didn’t we? We really surprised y’all. I know. I read it.’’

Umm. Yeah, Scoop. You surprised the heck out of us loud mouths with a keyboard.

Now, SU fans don't know what to think: Are the Orange really a Top 10 or 5 team? Maybe, MSU isn't that good? Is Jackson this season's Wesley Johnson? Should I actually start raising my expectations of this team? 

"...The shock wasn’t so much in the win itself, but in how the Orange won," wrote Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post Standard on Wednesday. "Syracuse, the high-flying, fast-breaking Orange, took the fight right at the blue-collar Spartans."

"Syracuse out-rebounded Michigan State (38-30), forced the Spartans into 24 attempts from 3-point range and scored 42 points in the paint. Michigan State, which had been making 43 percent of its 3-pointers for the season, made just seven of its 24 3-point attempts against the Orange."

Sean Keeley of SB Nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician had almost the same thoughts:

"Syracuse controlled the game for almost the entire evening and by the time it was late in the second half, a victory over Michigan State felt secure. Going back to the Dome with a 72-58 win over the highly-ranked Spartans is an enormous boost to this team's, and fanbase's, morale. All the problems aren't solved, many of the issues remain, but Syracuse is suddenly a legit 9-0 instead of a suspect 8-0."

Before Tuesday's nights victory, I tweeted to my 42 followers that if they were a betting man/woman they should take MSU, which was given four points. 

Oh man, I wasn't even close to being right and I enjoyed every second of it. 

This squad did an outstanding job of sticking it to my pessimistic attitude against its young players, who seem to enjoy playing defense and doing the small stuff.

I also gained more respect for SU's veterans not named Kris Joseph, who practically was a no-show Tuesday.

Which brings me to why I possibly didn't like this team coming into the game. There isn't a single star player on this team.

I've wanted Joseph to be the guy who gives a team a certain "we're winning this game tonight" confidence. Right now, the Orange don't have that.

"What's different about this team than Boeheim's previous editions is the balance," wrote ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "There is no star, be it an NBA lottery pick or a sensational college player like Carmelo Anthony, Gerry McNamara or Wesley Johnson."

"Kris Joseph may become one, but he's not yet. Jackson is a stud inside, but has had to worked hard to become a consistent rebounder and offensive put-back scorer. The freshmen -- Waiter, Fab Melo or C.J. Fair -- aren't close to being elite yet."

Truth is, I should really like watching this squad. Actually, I should like watching them more than I liked watching last year's team because they can't hope for an outstanding game from a Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Donte Greene, Gerry McNamara or Carmelo Anthony to pull out a victory. They need to do it together, like they did on Tuesday.

Maybe, it's the writer in me who enjoys when a player takes over a game. Honestly, it's boring to watch a bunch of scrappers grind out a low-scoring victory -- this is the Big East not the Big 10.

But that's how Syracuse is going to win games this season. I guess I better get used to that and get used to being wrong about this season.

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