My Orange from SU finally pulled off a decent win by knocking off West Virginia last night. There have been entirely too many embarrassments in the Orange's season (88-80 [not that close] and 73-50 losses to UConn, 80-65 loss to 'Nova, 80-67 loss to Pitt, 82-65 loss at home to Cincy) and they stem from an inability to defend consistently, erratic play from the forwards and an over-reliance on McNamara. Those factors go hand-in-glove -- because the defense has been soft and the forwards unreliable, G-Mac places the onus on himself to shoot the team into the game. It hasn't happened this season and when G-Mac shoots too much without rhythm, SU loses (one word: Vermont).
I cannot overstate G-Mac's importance to SU's 2003 title run, nor its Sweet 16 run in 2004 after losing Billy Edelin and having to revamp the team's approach in midseason. This year, the team looks to him almost too much. If it cannot play defense and keep opponents' FG% down, this won't be a dangerous team (as Coach Boeheim believes it can), but just another one-and-done if it reaches the NCAA Tourney at all.
On the other side, West Virginia is slumping but that team is very dangerous in the NCAAs. Why? The Mountaineers can shoot three-pointers very well, their outside gunners have quick releases and their ball-movement is pure Euro-style -- cross-court swing passes, drive-and-kick, rapid passing, etc. That style gives teams absolute fits on defense -- just ask WVU's victims in last year's NCAA and its vanquisher, Louisville.