Cuse Country

Home Away From Dome for Syracuse Orange Fans

Meet the Jaguars

Posted by Tim on March 14, 2007

I was waiting for my flight at the airport in Syracuse when I got the word that SU had been snubbed by the selection committee. The NIT is in some ways like purgatory, a place you stop on the way up or down, but not somewhere you want to get stuck. And being passed over for the NCAA Tournament is kind of like death in that it represents the untimely and tragic end of a team’s season. So it’s not surprising that my first reaction was seeing the last six months passing before my eyes, replaying in my mind as the familiar faces of long-departed friends beckoned me toward the light. There’s Carmelo, reminding me not to snitch. And there’s Etan Thomas laying it all out in verse. And there’s DeShaun Williams dogging it in the 2002 NIT.

SU’s last trip to the college basketball world’s consolation prize began five years ago yesterday with a solid 10-point win over St. Bonaventure and ended two weeks later with a defeat at the hands of South Carolina. (Check out Orangehoops.org — no relation — for more on the 2002 season.) Here are the salient points: A lanky sharp-shooting senior forward led SU’s offensive attack, a raw but promising freshman elevated his game, and an infuriating guard with attitude problems played some seriously sloppy ball.

Wait, what year is it again? Hopefully Demetris Nichols and Paul Harris can follow in Preston Shumpert and Hakim Warrick’s footsteps. And hopefully Eric Devendorf can avoid becoming the next DeShaun Williams. With a little luck, we’re avoid the third-place game this time around.

But enough about the past. We have a game tonight! Read more about South Alabama below the fold:

The Jaguars will play by far the toughest game of their season tonight against SU. Although they won 12 games in a row during a six-week hot stretch in January and February, they lost four straight to end the season. As you might have guessed, the level of competition in the Sun Belt Conference could be generously described as spotty: South Alabama’s best win probably came at Houston in a late-season non-conference game, and all four losses in their March swoon were to teams with sub-150 RPIs. It’s highly unlikely they have the toughness necessary to come to the Dome and steal one from the Orange.

Demetric Bennett, a 6-5 guard, is South Alabama’s main scoring threat. Averaging just over 15 points in 32 minutes per game, Bennett was a 42 percent shooter from long range this year. Complimenting him inside is Ernest Little, a 6-9, 230-pound bruiser who scored 12 points per game while grabbing nine boards. Six other players see more than 15 minutes per game.

Here’s the bottom line. This is not a great team. There’s no excuse to lose this game in the Dome. But as in 2002, so much rests on how invested the team feels. Demetris Nichols has said he’s playing to win. Let’s hope that rubs off on everyone else.

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