Georgetown-Syracuse Preview

Syracuse featured the conference’s player of the year and coach
of the year in winning an unexpected Big East regular-season title.
That doesn’t mean that the Orange expect to roll through the
tournament, especially with their first game against
Georgetown.

The No. 3 Orange and No. 22 Hoyas renew their rivalry Thursday
when they meet in the quarterfinals of the most-played series in
the Big East tournament.

Unranked at the start of the season, Syracuse (28-3) lost to
Division II LeMoyne in an exhibition game that caused coach Jim
Boeheim to say that his team needed to “grow up mentally and
physically.” That’s exactly what happened in a big way as the
Orange finished two games ahead of the pack in the powerful Big
East.

“When you start out in the Big East, you want to do well enough
that you can make the NCAA tournament,” said Boeheim, who earned
coach of the year honors for the fourth time. “If you can finish in
the top four or five that is pretty good, but if you win the thing,
I don’t think it can get any better than that.”

Syracuse has five players who average in double figures led by
Wesley Johnson, who averages 15.7. Johnson came to the Orange after
two years at Iowa State and became the first transfer to win
conference player of the year honors.

“It wouldn’t be possible without my teammates,” Johnson said.
“We have a team full of MVPs not just me. So a piece of this trophy
goes out to all of them.”

Syracuse won three games en route to the final in last year’s
tournament, needing six overtimes to get past Connecticut and one
to beat West Virginia. The Orange, who fell 78-68 at Louisville on
Saturday to lose the No. 1 ranking, are expecting more tight games
this week.

“Every game will be tough,” Boeheim said. “It’s a nightmare.
It’ll be a great tournament with great games. We have a lot of good
teams so any team can win.”

Syracuse swept both meetings with Georgetown (21-9) this season
by doing a solid job of defending Hoyas star Greg Monroe, who had a
total of 28 points and 13 rebounds while also committing 11
turnovers. The Orange also did a good job of getting to the line
for 58 attempts.

“They’re a good team, they can beat you so many ways,” coach
John Thompson III said. “They’re long, they have a terrific
defense, so we just need to come out and execute at both ends of
the floor.”

Monroe and Jason Clark each scored 16 points as Georgetown
advanced with a 69-49 victory over South Florida on Wednesday.

The Orange and Hoyas have split 12 tournament meetings, with
Syracuse winning 58-57 four years ago in the last one in the
semifinals en route to its most recent title.

“We’ve played them twice already,” Thompson said. “It’s
Georgetown-Syracuse. We know what they’re going to do. They know
what we’re going to do.”

The winner of this game will face either Villanova or Marquette
in the tournament semifinals.