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Pittsburgh and Villanova Pose Roadblocks for Syracuse in Big East 1

Posted on January 25, 2011 by Chris Kent

Pennsylvania was once known as The Coal State when coal mining was one of its’ leading industries. Regardless of where that stands in the state’s economy today, the Syracuse University men’s basketball team has to wonder if the mines have been rejuvenated over the past decade or so in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. If they were to investigate, the Orange would probably find Panthers and Wildcats mining the coal.

Big East foes Pittsburgh and Villanova have left Syracuse feeling like one who wakes up Christmas morning and finds just that – coal – in their stocking more times than not. Despite a stellar run of success by the Orange since the 2000-01 season, which peaked with their first and only national championship in 2003, Pittsburgh and Villanova have been a thorn in their side. Syracuse is only 10-23 against the Pennsylvania duo since the 2000-01 season commenced.

Rick Jackson of Syracuse battles against Mouphtaou Yarou of Villanova on Jan. 22 in the Carrier Dome. Villanova won 83-72. (Richard Mackson/US Presswire)

The coal was evident twice last week for the No. 3 Orange whose undefeated season of 18-0 ended with back-to-back losses to two of their toughest conference foes, both nationally ranked. First came a trip to the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh where Syracuse lost to the fifth-ranked Panthers, 74-66 on Jan. 17. Pittsburgh jumped on the Orange early en route to a 19-0 lead. Although Syracuse scored the next 17 points to pull within two, they would never lead in the game which featured just one tie, that coming in the second half.

Five days later on Jan. 22, the Orange hosted No. 7 Villanova in the Carrier Dome before a crowd of 33,736, the second largest on-campus crowd in NCAA college basketball history. Villanova prevailed 83-72 behind a timely shooting display that busted the fabled 2-3 zone of Syracuse. It was Villanova’s 13th win over the Orange in the Dome, the most of any Syracuse opponent all-time.

Two games against ranked opponents in less than six full days and the Orange had been humbled with a pair of defeats, knocking them not only from the ranks of the undefeated and from atop the Big East standings, but causing them to drop in the national rankings. Syracuse had to feel as though a lump of coal had been handed to them not once, but twice. The Orange, ranked third in both the Associated Press and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Polls on Jan. 17, fell to 10th and ninth in the polls respectively on Jan. 24.

Thus, Pittsburgh and Villanova have been the Achilles heel of Syracuse which has otherwise dominated most of their Big East foes. Since the 2000-01 season, the Orange sports a winning record against 11 of the other 13 teams that currently make up the Big East which expanded to 16 teams for the 2005-06 season. Read the rest of this entry →

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