By: Jack Rose
Being a Syracuse basketball fan this season was not always easy. The first 25 games saw nothing but wins and a ton of fun, but the last four weeks have not been pleasant. Two road losses to highly ranked conference foes? Sure, not so bad. But the two home losses to some of the worst teams in the ACC brought a lot of pain.
The fourth loss, to Georgia Tech in the Carrier Dome, was especially tough for us students. And with only two wins in our last six games, it would be ambitious to say we're confident heading into the ACC Tournament, which begins tomorrow for the Orange when they play NC State at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.
The first matchup with NC State wasn't pretty. Syracuse was at home and still unbeaten, but a vastly inferior NC State team led by leading scorer T.J. Warren took the Orange down to the wire. Standing in the Carrier Dome late in the second half as the Wolfpack continued to lead, I was ready to chalk up my school's first loss, and so was everyone else around me. But, the winning streak's magic endured another day, as Rakeem Christmas made a miraculous steal with less than 15 seconds remaining, and C.J. Fair finished on the other end with a game-winning layup.
Since then, however, the Orange have not played up to par, and the Wolfpack already knew how to challenge Syracuse. Warren was nearly unstoppable in the regular season game, torching the Orange all over the court for a game-high 23 points. Granted, Syracuse played only a mediocre game offensively, but had to rely on the home crowd boost to win. They won't have that luxury this time, playing in North Carolina. And just like last time, a possible matchup with Duke looms on Saturday. The players must keep that out of their heads to win.
Syracuse should win tomorrow, but few people on campus feel entirely confident that it will. The team has been up and down for a month now, and it's hard to look at this game as a throwaway, even though it probably should be. Syracuse always likes to make the fans sweat it out 'till the very end.