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Syracuse top seed in East; to face UNC Asheville
Question of the Day
“It’s a great feeling just seeing your name up there as a one seed,” said Syracuse’s leading scorer, senior forward Kris Joseph, who had two subpar games at Madison Square Garden while coping with a fever. “But that could also mean nothing if we just go out there (and don’t play well). It’s just about us going out there, executing on both ends of the floor, and playing good basketball.”
What has been just as remarkable as their performance on the floor has been the Orange’s ability to maintain focus on basketball during a season of turmoil away from the court.
Last week, school officials said the university had more than a year ago self-reported possible violations of its internal drug policy by former members of the team and that the NCAA was investigating. None of the current members of the team was involved.
That was the culmination of a season that began with the dismissal of associate head coach Bernie Fine after two former ball boys accused him of sexually molesting them in the 1980s. While charges have yet to be filed against Fine, he was fired in late November. Boeheim and the university also are facing a defamation suit filed by the ball boys _ Bobby Davis and stepbrother Mike Lang.
Through it all, the players have remained on an even keel, seemingly unfazed by anything. Don’t expect that mindset to change at this juncture. The school’s second national championship _ the Orange won the first in 2003 with star Carmelo Anthony _ is squarely in their sights.
“You only get one shot at this,” said sophomore guard Dion Waiters, who hit seven 3-pointers for a career-high 28 points against Cincinnati. “We just want to see them (Jardine and Joseph) leave on a great moment. It’ll be something you can tell your grandkids. We’re trying to become a part of history.”
Asheville will make just its third NCAA appearance. It received bids in 2006 and 2011, as well. The Bulldogs also were a No. 16 seed a year ago and took on a Big East team, losing to Pittsburgh.
Syracuse went 17-1 in the Big East to capture the regular-season title and has been ranked in the top five nationally all season.
“It’s another game,” Jardine said. “You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself. It doesn’t matter where you play. We just have to play better.”
If Syracuse wins, it will face either eighth-seeded Kansas State (21-10) or No. 9 Southern Mississippi (25-8).
“The success of this team in the regular season is probably a little bit underrated, underappreciated,” Boeheim said. “There’s a lot of games they could have lost and didn’t lose. I think they deserve an awful lot of credit for the year that they’ve had.
“It’s been an amazing year.”
On and off the court.
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