Even at 15-0, No. 1 Syracuse says best is yet to come

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Here’s a scary thought: Kris Joseph says the No. 1 Orange haven’t “scratched the surface of our potential.”

How’s that possible for a team that’s 15-0 and who’s average win margin is more than 20 points a game? The latest victory – an 87-68 win over DePaul – was rarely close. The Orange used two big runs in the first half to open up a sizable lead and thrived when the Blue Demons tried pressing. They hit plenty of shots (58 percent), mostly off layups.

Still, Joseph has specific ideas for what Syracuse can do.

“We can sharpen offense in the half court. Defensively, we can be a lot better,” he told Marlen Garcia. “We can cut back on turnovers”

Both might be a stretch given the Orange’s résumé. They’re among the nation’s top teams in turnover percentage on offense and defense, and thanks to the intimidating frontline of Fab Melo (he’s been on a tear), James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas, teams rarely get off a shot, let alone a good one. ‘Cuse leads the nation in block % and even forces foes into turning the ball over every four possessions.

That’s just silly, and befitting of the nation’s top team.

But it seems Joseph’s been listening to coach Jim Boeheim. Thus far, everything’s been great. But now that Big East play’s begun, the pushover games are mostly gone. (Mostly.)

“We’ve got a lot of difficult games ahead, particularly at the end of the year and those are the teams you have to beat,” Boeheim said. “We haven’t proven anything yet. We’ve beaten people we probably should have beaten. That’s good. … But the tough part of our schedule is coming up.”

Well, they still have a little time. A trip to Providence won’t be tough until next year at the earliest, while they benefit by getting Marquette at home. ‘Nova, Providence again, then Pitt before going to Notre Dame and Cincinnati. All of ‘em are games Syracuse should win, but they are a little tougher than what the Orange have been playing.

It all points to what should be the best start of Boehem’s Syracuse tenure. Beating Pitt would be a 20-0 start, better than the 1999-2000 squad.

But I’m sure what they’re really shooting for is a better finish than the 2002-03 squad. You know, the one that ran off six straight wins to close the season?

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Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.