Written for your enjoyment by: Ray Curren
No one is happy to lose. In fact, I may be the worst loser in world history (for those who believe in such things, I think that's why God sent me to coach girls).
But, while extremely disappointing, there were signs that pointed to something like Syracuse's loss to Louisville happening today, like:
1) It's a bad matchup - Louisville likes to shoot 3s (30 of their 56 shots today were 3s) and more importantly, likes to put pressure on people. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine (and Andy Rautins, for that matter) have not shown they can deal with pressure, and it showed today. The boxscore on ESPN shows only 12, but I thought during the game they had close to 20. The way to deal with that kind of pressure is to get to the rim, and Syracuse was unable to do that today, only 11 free throw attempts, 5 coming from Kris Joseph.
2) Every team hits a rut at some point in the season - The energy we're used to seeing on defense just hasn't been there the last couple of games. Today, only four steals and only one from a guard, meaning that those 8-10 cheap points that push us on runs wasn't there. Unfortunately, the rut may last a while longer, but you hope that by March, when we really need to be hot, it will have passed.
3) Wes Johnson may be hurt - Johnson hasn't been the same since his injury, and it's most obvious in the fact that he's not getting to the rim (see #1). He is 10-for-35 from the field in his last three games, and was forced to the lack of confidence that others have to take a season-high 20 points today. They need someone else to take the pressure of him, but who?
4) They are playing desperate teams - If you're ranked #3 in the nation, you're going to see everyone's best. And when you're playing in front of 30,000 people, you're going to see everyone's best. Oh, and when you're UConn and Louisville, and you need something to point to on your tournament resume, you are going to most certainly give your best. Probably the worst thing to happen to Syracuse was Louisville just not showing up against St. John's on Thursday. Rick Pitino is a good coach, and you know they would be ready today. Louisville has a lot of talent, I have no idea what they've done in some of their games this season, but they have talent. And we still have to go down there.
5) Over-rated? - We may be a little high for the talent we actually have. Am I overjoyed that we're 24-2 and don't have to sweat out a bubble for once? Absolutely. But to put us in the class of a Kansas, or even a Villanova at this point? I don't know.
One final point: Syracuse always does better against people that don't see them often. So a lot of what the Orange will do may depend on matchups. Do they still have the chance to go to the Final Four? Absolutely. And if they do, this loss may have been the best thing that's happened to them.