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Behind Enemy Lines: The Syracuse Oranje (Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician Edition)

Wildcats vs Orange coverage

Time for round 2 in our preparations for the monster showdown at The Carrier Dome between the Villanova Wildcats and the Syracuse Orange. We first talked with Brian Harrison of Orange::44, and now we turn our sights to Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

Sean was instrumental in bringing be on board to SB Nation, and for my money he has the best blog on the entire network. Enjoy the conversation! And make sure to head over to Nunes to check the other half of this Q&A!


Even though we both lost, Monday may have been my favorite day for BIG EAST basketball in the last few years for pure entertainment. Nothing like watching the Top 4 teams duke it out. Your thoughts on both games?

Regardless of outcome, it's always great to have an evening entirely dedicated to Big East basketball, especially when all four of the teams involved are ranked near the top. After suffering through another miserable Big East football season, it's nice to know we can always look to basketball as the one sport we own and dominate at.

By the way it really is insane that the ACC only has one ranked team. Could you ever imagine that happening in the Big East? It just seems impossible. So much talent, so many great coaches and so many good programs.

More Q&A after The Jump.

I was very impressed with C.J. Fair against Pitt - what has he brought to the team this season?

C.J.'s is becoming more and more of a spark for this team. He didn't come in with the hype of Dion Waiters but his athleticism did not go unnoticed. If he's going to spend the rest of the season as "the guy who steps it up when Kris Joseph or James Southerland can't," we'll take that no problem. His performance against Pitt kinda came out of nowhere but he keeps playing smart, he'll continue to see a lot of playing time.

How has Fab Melo progressed? I missed the start of your game vs. Pittsburgh - did he get hurt?

Progressed would not be the word I'd use. Early on they dropped the hint that he was being hampered by a calf muscle injury and that was to blame for his poor start. But it became evident that Fab is much more of a project than we were led to believe. He can become a really great center, but it's going to take a couple years. Right now he's just not built to handle a Big East season. In the Pitt game, two minutes was all Boeheim needed to see to decide that Melo couldn't handle the Panthers on defense.

I would say the biggest issue for Orange fans is this frontcourt. When Fab doesn't play (which is often) and when Baye Moussa Keita doesn't contribute (also often), the pressure falls to Rick Jackson. Thankfully he's been up to the challenge but what happens when Rick gets into foul trouble? We severely miss the presence of DaShonte Riley, who is out for the season. If nothing else, it would be nice to have another non-freshman body available for the big men.

How important is Kris Joseph to this team? It seems like he came out of nowhere last year and is now your best player. And will he play this weekend?

Kris made "The Leap" last year but was largely overshadowed by Wes Johnson. The problem for Kris is, now that Wes is gone, everyone is keying on him. It took him a while to adjust to that rather than being the sixth man who snuck by. Joseph is critical for the Orange, though I wouldn't quite call him the MVP (Rick Jackson so far). Still, Kris brings with him a lot of athleticism, an ability to slash to the hoop and draw fouls and some decent defense. We need him out there.

Word on the street is that he will play but the question is really "Will he be 100%?"

A lot of Villanova fans consider Syracuse to be our biggest game of the year - I know we're behind Georgetown and UConn in your mind, but where does this game rank on the common Syracuse fan's scale?

There was a while there when UConn was the biggest rival but Georgetown has reclaimed its rightful place atop that list. The Huskies remain a close second. As far as third on that list, it's probably Villanova. Pitt might be neck-and-neck with you guys just because they seem to have our number lately but historically I would think you guys are up there. We'll call you 3A and Pitt will be 3B.

Don't worry, we don't like you guys and want to beat you very much. I know that makes you feel better.

What are your thoughts on Villanova potentially joining the conference in football?

To me, it just seems like a no-brainer. The future of college athletics will be funded by football and TV Networks and why wouldn't Nova want a piece of that action? I get it, there are a lot of cost barriers and stadium issues, but lesser schools have figured it out.

That said, I don't know how much you guys really do for the Big East. We need to fix this conference ASAP and you guys won't be able to join until at least 2015 at this point. That does nothing for us. We've got TCU coming in, which is good, but I feel like we need another team regardless of whether or not Villanova joins as well. UCF, perhaps.

Either way, I will be surprised if Villanova decides not to at least move up to the FBS, let alone join the Big East.

Who is the most annoying member of the Georgetown Hoyas?

All of them? How can you ask me to decide? I despise them all in equal value. Can I still say John Thompson? Is that still allowed? Cause I'll go with him. Always.

How do you see Saturday's game shaking out?

For some reason I see the Wildcats jumping out early. I feel like Nova is going to come into the Dome with a lot to prove and vengeance on their mind for last year. The Orange might need some time to wake up, especially Kris Joseph. Eventually they'll settle in and I imagine this time it will be a back-and-forth roller-coaster. The kind of game that puts knots in your stomach the whole time you're watching but is actually pretty fun. Obviously I think Syracuse prevails. I just can't imagine them losing in front of this crowd, in the Dome, coming off the loss. But hey, it's Syracuse-Villanova. Crazier things have happened.


Many thanks to Sean! Make sure to drop by Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician!