The entire make up of this game smells bad for Syracuse fans.
Syracuse, whose head coach has already shown his displeasure with the Big East scheduling so far this season, will head to Philadelphia to take on the Villanova Wildcats. This Saturday morning will be the second time the two teams match up in two weeks, with Villanova coming off of a huge win over fifth ranked Louisville.
Yes, I said Saturday morning.
An 11:00 am tip off is a very awkward and bizarre time to start a basketball game. This team went from playing a game in Kentucky on a Saturday, to a game in Syracuse on a Monday afternoon two days later. If that wasn’t strange enough, the Orange are on their second of four days off before heading to Pennsylvania to play a game on a Saturday morning. I’ve seen teams play early in the morning (Niagara University once played at 8 am during ESPN’s 24 hours of college basketball special), but I have never seen a marquee team like Syracuse playing this early before during the regular season. The Big East Tournament is one thing, but a regular season Big East match up is another.
If the timing wasn’t awkward enough, the team’s familiarity with each other made this game even stranger. The Orange beat the Wildcats on the 12th 72-61, with Villanova hanging in the game in to the second half. Syracuse struggled mightily offensively in the first half of that contest, but found a way to get things going in the final 20 minutes. This is a Villanova team that is playing great basketball, and is coming off of a win against a top five team at home. If Syracuse comes out lethargic in this game, Villanova absolutely has the capabilities to jump ahead early, and Syracuse could find themselves playing from behind. Fortunately for the Orange, their defense has been spectacular, and has kept them in games when their offense has struggled.
Finally, this game could be a trap game for Syracuse because of what this game means for Villanova. The Wildcats are without a doubt in the midst of their most crucial stretch of the season, playing Louisville, Syracuse, and Notre Dame within eight days of each other. The ‘Cats already have momentum with their win over Louisville, and they can definitely start to build a tournament resume with a win over Syracuse. Jay Wright and company need to get every quality win they have an opportunity to grab right now, with seven losses on the the season already including setbacks to Columbia, La Salle, and Providence. With only three games left against teams in the top 25, this game is very critical for Villanova if they want to even give themselves a chance at making the NCAA Tournament.
Is this a “trap game”? I don’t know. I think that the conditions for this game couldn’t be worse for a heavy favorite in a basketball game, and the circumstances around this game could definitely be better for Syracuse. Jay Wright will have his guys hungry to play, and will without a doubt get through to his team the importance of this game for the Wildcats to win. I’m by no means calling for the upset this weekend, but everything about this game gives me that feeling in my gut that Syracuse could be in for a third straight “grind it out” type of victory.
What do you think? Is this game a “trap game” for the Orange?