Syracuse steps it up early in season Print
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Wednesday, 10 December 2008 14:35
NCAAB Headline News


 SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -Syracuse already has a couple of good wins on its NCAA tournament resume. Coach Jim Boeheim is upset about one of them.
Two weeks ago, the exhausted Orange rallied from a deep deficit to beat Virginia. It was their sixth game in 12 days, a stretch that included two against top 25 opponents played halfway across the country.
Boeheim was angry at himself for the close call.
``There's just no way I should have ever scheduled this game to be the sixth game in 12 days,'' Boeheim said. ``You shouldn't play six games in 12 days, period, let alone go on the road and play Florida and Kansas and come home to play Virginia.
``This is my fault. It was a tremendous mistake, but the players overcame it.''
Syracuse (8-0) already has done its share of overcoming adversity, rallying to win after trailing four times at halftime.
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Virginia led for all but the first two minutes of the opening half, with nine steals and 11 turnovers on the way to a 13-point lead. It was the third game that week for the Orange, who also defeated then-No. 17 Florida 89-83 in the CBE Classic semifinals.
The early season success has boosted the collective psyche of the team, not to mention its stature across the country after failing to be selected for the previous two NCAA tournaments.
``Being ranked is always nice, but it doesn't mean anything because it's a long season,'' assistant coach Mike Hopkins said Wednesday. ``Hopefully, you're ranked high at the end of the year. Obviously, for what we've done, it shows the guys that we are doing good things and that we have a respectable team and that we have a chance to be very good.
``The thing that Coach keeps talking about, which is so important, is we've got a lot of room for improvement,'' Hopkins said. ``That's what's exciting about this team - more room to grow.''
The Syracuse media guide takes dead aim at the team's failure to make the NCAA tournament the past two seasons despite being close both times. The word ``Showtime'' is printed in bold letters across the top of the cover, and ``It's Time to Dance'' is written along the bottom.
rom behind in four games in the second half. That's a step in the right direction. But we still need to put together better first halves and come out stronger. Improvement needs to show.''
The start is the program's best since the 2001-02 squad won its first nine. And it has Boeheim well on the way to his 31st 20-win season, which would break a tie he shares with Dean Smith for tops in Division I.
``It definitely feels good. I'm not going to lie,'' sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn said. ``After that week everybody was wondering that Monday when the rankings were coming out so we could look at it. It does something good for the team. It shows that you have been improving.''
Boeheim has been repeatedly criticized over the years for soft nonconference schedules, but nobody can say anything about this season as the grueling 18-game Big East slate looms. The conference has a record eight teams in the Top 25 this week, and the Orange are excited to be in the mix.
``It's hard not to focus on it,'' said Flynn, who leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points. ``It really shows that coaches and writers across the country see the improvement we have made as a team from last year to this year. It really says a lot about us. You kind of really don't want to get caught up in it. You don't want to get complacent.''
Still, Flynn admitted he's already dreaming of springtime.
``Playing the way we've been playing, you're automatically going to be thinking about March already,'' he said. ``It's human nature to think about what we could do in the NCAA tournament, barring that we don't have a drastic fall or anything like that.''
 

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