Syracuse-Rutgers Preview

After Syracuse ended a frustrating skid against a Big East

rival, Jim Boeheim isn’t being shy about his team’s chances of

winning the national title.

His second-ranked Orange will be heavily favored on the road

Sunday as they try to extend win streaks of six straight overall

and 11 in a row over stumbling Rutgers.

Syracuse (26-1, 13-1) had dropped seven in a row to Louisville

before rallying for the game’s final six points in Monday’s 52-51

road win over Rick Pitino’s 19th-ranked squad.

“You lose seven straight times, I like Rick a lot, but I don’t

like losing to him seven straight times,” Boeheim said.

The coach, who has moved into third place on the all-time

victories list by passing Dean Smith this season, believes he has a

good enough team to match Smith with his second national title.

“Well I think there’s about 10 teams that think they’re going to

win the national championship this year and I think that all 10 of

those coaches have probably a good shot at it,” Boeheim said. “And

that means you’ve got a 1-in-10 chance. … We’re definitely one of

those 10.”

A balanced attack has made the Orange difficult to guard and

resulted in an offense that leads the Big East in points per game

(76.9) and field-goal percentage (47.5).

“We always find a way to win,” guard Brandon Triche said.

“That’s one of the biggest attributes to this team, we got a lot of

heart. A lot of people say we don’t have one go-to guy but somebody

always steps up and makes a play.”

Rutgers (12-14, 4-9) hasn’t beaten Syracuse since a 68-65

victory Jan. 29, 2003. The Scarlet Knights enter on a four-game

slide, including three double-digit losses.

The latest lopsided defeat was Wednesday’s 71-53 loss at No. 23

Notre Dame. Rutgers never led after the game’s first five minutes

and matched its third-lowest point total of the season.

“You need someone to step up that is sick of what is taking

place on the floor,” coach Mike Rice said. “Right now we do not

have that. Right now we have people putting their heads down and

bad body language.”

Dane Miller had team highs of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Miller

is the only Scarlet Knights player to grab at least seven boards in

any of the last three games.

“Coming into the season we thought we would rebound more with so

many athletic bigs and everyone is not really doing their part

really rebounding and playing defense,” Miller said. “I think

that’s the big difference.”

Syracuse has won its last four visits to Rutgers, taking the

last three by an average of 14.0 points. The Scarlet Knights’

11-game skid in the series included five straight double-digit

defeats until the most recent one, falling 84-80 in overtime at the

Carrier Dome last season.

The Orange, however, appear to be a deeper and stronger group

this season.

“I think we’re getting better,” Boeheim said. “I think we’re a

young team, I think we’ve got a lot of young guys who are still

getting better. I like this team, I think we do have a chance.”