Seton Hall-Syracuse Preview
Syracuse didn't close out its final regular season as a member of the Big East the way it would have liked, though a strong showing in its last conference tournament at Madison Square Garden would be a nice way to end its 34-year run in the league.
The 19th-ranked and fifth-seeded Orange begin their quest for their first Big East tournament crown in seven years when they face No. 12 seed Seton Hall in the second round Wednesday.
Syracuse was a charter member of the conference in 1979, but its decision to bolt for the ACC beginning next season is part of the league's constant change.
"It's a sad time. I've seen it from beginning to end," said Jim Boeheim, who has coached Syracuse for 37 seasons. "There's been great memories and great heartbreaks. That's what makes it so great.
"We've won more than our fair share of games in the league, and we've had more than our fair share of success."
The Orange (23-8, 11-7) didn't end their final Big East regular season on a high note, though. They lost four of their last five, falling to each of the three teams - No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 Georgetown and No. 12 Marquette - that shared the conference championship.
That slump was bookended with losses to the Hoyas, with Syracuse having one of its worst offensive performances in years in Saturday's 61-39 road defeat. The Orange hit only 31.9 percent from the field - their worst since shooting 31.7 percent in a loss at Connecticut on Feb. 11, 2009 - and scored their fewest points since a 36-35 win over Kent State on Dec. 1, 1962.
Boeheim, though, didn't seem concerned that performance would carry over to the conference tournament.
"It is a blip on the radar," said Boeheim, whose team finished second in the Big East in scoring at 72.3 points per game.
Syracuse has won five Big East tournaments with the last coming in 2006, when it won four games in four days. It will have to do the same to claim this year's title, beginning against a Seton Hall team coming off a 46-42 overtime win over 13th-seeded South Florida on Tuesday.
Junior Fuquan Edwin, the team's leading scorer at 16.6 points per game, scored a game-high 17 and hit the tying layup in the closing seconds of regulation for the Pirates (15-17), who went 3-15 in conference play after beginning the season winning 11 of 13.
"These guys have battled all year long," said coach Kevin Willard, whose team overcame a late eight-point deficit. "Offensively, we were struggling a little bit, but I was proud the way they gave themselves opportunities to stay in the game."
Edwin hit 7 of 13 from the field and scored 21 points versus Syracuse on Feb. 16, but senior guard Brandon Triche scored a career-high 29 to lead the then-No. 6 Orange to a 76-65 road victory.
"We played Syracuse a month ago, so we know their players. We know they're going to play zone," Willard said. "We have to go over our offense and then just kind of figure out what we did wrong in the first game, see if we can correct that."
Syracuse has won 13 of the last 16 meetings with Seton Hall, including a victory in the 2009 conference tournament.
The winner of this matchup faces fourth-seeded Pittsburgh in Thursday's quarterfinals.