With double-bye locked up, Syracuse takes time to prepare for Big East tournament

first_imgIn the locker room before Syracuse’s season finale against Louisville, head coach Quentin Hillsman only needed to write one thing on the board to motivate his team: “Win.”With a victory, the Orange would take the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament and lock up a double-bye. A loss would leave SU fifth in the conference, playing on Saturday instead of Sunday.“Obviously, we knew coming into this game what this meant,” Hillsman said. “This meant third place, and our kids really played with some urgency and we were extremely tired coming out of that last game that we just played.”The Louisville win gave the No. 24 Orange (23-6, 11-5 Big East) a bye into the BigEast tournament quarterfinals Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. Villanova will face the winner of Friday’s Georgetown-Providence game on Saturday, and the winner of Saturday’s game will move on to face SU.Health hasn’t been an issue for Syracuse – something that continues to surprise Hillsman – but exhaustion has. The Orange’s last four games featured a pair of tests against ranked teams and another pair of matchups with likely NCAA Tournament teams, including a triple-overtime tilt with Villanova.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSU players agreed with the importance of the double-bye. The past weeks have been more than just physically exhausting.“Physically, mentally, emotionally,” SU guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas said, listing the types of exhaustion that have set in. “Got some schoolwork to catch up on.”The only other time Hillsman has had a team this healthy, he said, was the last time he guided the Orange to the NCAA Tournament. In 2008, Hillsman’s second season with the Orange, Syracuse capped off a 22-9 season with a trip to the tourney. That year, only five players started games for SU, and all five started 31 games.But this year’s extra rest could help SU make a deeper run. Syracuse ended the 2007-08 season with back-to-back losses, first in the opening round of the Big East tournament, then in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But the extra day of rest should make a difference.“To earn a double-bye is tremendous for our program, and we need rest,” Hillsman said, “so it’s good to not have to play until Sunday.”No matter what happens in the Big East tournament, the Orange appears poised to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. Even Hillsman was willing to admit it after SU’s win over then-No. 13 Louisville.Though the goal is finally in sight and almost tangible, center Kayla Alexander is still reluctant to look that far ahead and admit her team is heading toward its goal of a tournament berth. It’s a mindset that could help Syracuse as postseason play kicks off on Sunday.“It’s good to have in sights, but when we’re there playing, then I’ll be like, ‘We’re there,’” Alexander said. “That’s when I’ll be like, ‘We accomplished our goal.’ Until then? One game at a time.”With six days off before the Orange’s next game action, Syracuse has time to prepare —there’s no need to rush. SU is likely to face Villanova for a third time in the Big East tournament.Last time, it was a marathon. The time before, an upset. So it’s time to prepare. Time for Syracuse to get ready for “grind time,” as Tyson-Thomas puts it. This year’s team may not have the injuries of past seasons, but that doesn’t mean the next weeks will be easy.“We’re off the next four days,” Hillsman said before an extended pause. “I’m just kidding.”Laughter ensued. Even during a stressful part of the season, Hillsman and the Orange stay loose.“Definitely going to take some time off tomorrow and start preparing some things for the tournament,” Hillsman said, “but we need the rest. We really do.” Comments Related Stories Syracuse’s seniors get win of careers against No. 13 Louisville in final home gameSyracuse rides 2nd-half run past No. 13 Louisville in season finale Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on March 7, 2013 at 1:14 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *