Item: We’ve never understood the logic of it being a good result by losing a game, especially for a No. 1 ranked SU team that always prepares to win all of its contests, and, in fact, has done exactly that so far against all 23 of its opponents.
Whenever a college basketball team opens its season with a winning streak that approaches 20 plus victories, inevitably there will be sports media talk show and fan fodder that it might be best for such a team to get a loss out of the way, lest finish unbeaten before embarking on post-season play with its conference tournament as if that’s a bad result.
It doesn’t make sense in the business of competition, with results kept on a scoreboard, not to win. Period.
The same ludicrous talk occurred in 2004 when Saint Joseph’s (Philadelphia) went 27-0 entering the Atlantic 10 tournament before losing in its tourny opener against Xavier by 20 points, after not playing for the previous nine days at the end of the regular season, and the Hawks still earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Regional falling a victory short of the Final Four.
Rest assured the Saint Joseph’s players, and head coach Phil Martelli, never once thought it would be a “good idea” to drop a game before they eventually did against Xavier in game number 28, one of just two defeats SJU suffered the entire season.
This past weekend No. 4 Wichita State (25-0) remained unbeaten, and SU’s 57-44 victory versus Clemson Sunday night set-up another week of questions as to if and/or when either will absorb its first defeat. WSU, who’s players have publicly embraced the possibility of an unblemished regular season, has six games left in Missouri Valley play and host Southern Illinois Tuesday evening; Syracuse (23-0, 10-0) has eight ACC matchups remaining including road games against Virginia, Duke, and Pittsburgh, the three teams that currently sit right behind the Orange in the conference standings.
The injury and uncertain status of ‘Cuse backup big man Baye Moussa Keita has potentially made Wednesday night’s challenge at No. 25 Pitt (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN) in its cozy and raucous Petersen Events Center that much more difficult, and could quickly make any more talk of an Orange unbeaten streak a moot point.
With Pittsburgh (20-4, 8-3) one of SU’s two permanent hoops home and away partners (B.C. is the other), the former intense Big East rivalry is guaranteed to continue in this ACC debut season and beyond, in fact Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is probably still smarting from the Jan. 18 game in the Dome in which SU rallied in the final two minutes to win 59-54.
The Panthers, with two starters of their own fighting injuries, eye their sixth win over the Orange in seven all-time meetings at “The Pete” (SU’s only victory was a wacky 49-46 OT game on Feb. 29, 2004, no less.), but all that will matter to Jim Boeheim and the team come Wednesday night is if they are sitting at an incredible 24-0 or not.Brad Bierman