I exchanged some questions with him via email.
Friarblog.com: Let’s get the most important question out of the way — Who is your favorite “Zooperstar“ character?
TNIAAM: I was immediately drawn to Iciroach Suzuki. The name was creative and feels like it should be horribly racist but I can’t put my finger on why. And then I start to wonder if it’s just me that’s racist and then things get really dark. So…
Friarblog.com: What is your level of confidence heading into the game tomorrow?
TNIAAM: Completely shot. I don’t know what to think of this team now. The wheels are coming off, figuratively and literally. We’ll be lucky to show up with 7 active players the way injuries have been popping up. And even if we were healthy, I’d still be concerned given the recent struggles. I feel like the team is losing it’s identity and almost everyone is going into a rut at the same time. The last thing we need is a road Big East game where we’re disliked. As we’ve seen this season so far, we don’t play well under those conditions.
Friarblog.com: Syracause has had a lot of success against PC over the past decade basically. Do you throw that out the window given Providence’s new coach and veteran team?
TNIAAM: Well, I never give much credence to yearly streaks and results. What does what happened in 2002 have to do with these two teams? And in this conference, anyone can beat anyone else on any given night. Except DePaul. They can’t beat anyone.
What the series has lacked in national appeal it always makes up for in old school hate. We don’t like you guys and you don’t like us. And that’s rare to come by these days in the expanded Big East. Playing Marquette and Cincy are important games but I don’t get emotionally wrapped up in them. I do for Providence, it’s a classic Big East match-up. You gotta take advantage of those things these days to maintain what makes the Big East truly great.
Friarblog.com: If you could have only one of the following, what would it be?
- Andy Rautins in the lineup
- Paul Harris rocking the FRO in the lineup.
TNIAAM: DAMN YOU, that’s a hard choice. Sub-question…can Andy rock the FRO instead AND play? If not, then I have to go with Andy Rautins playing. He’s a sparkplug and, quite frankly, our best scoring threat. No other player on the team consistently changes the game like he can with his threes. Paul Harris will still be there, ‘fro or not, doing Paul Harris things. The ‘fro would be nice, and I do think it’s time to pull it out again (that’s what she said), but I can live without it for another game.
Friarblog.com: If Rautins does not play (he’s doubtful), what does that do to the offense (aside from jacking up 10 less threes)? Who needs to step up?
TNIAAM: Where’s Jonny Flynn been? That’s what I want to know. We need Jonny to put us on his back for this one. We need him to put together a 24-point, 12-assist, 7-steal game. We need a nasty posterizing dunk like the one from the Rutgers game. We need some swagger out of him.
If not Jonny, then it’s gotta be Devo. He’s got an outside shot as well and, when he’s on, he can take over a game. The problem is, when he’s off, he’s doesn’t know not to keep trying. So it’s a double-edged sword.
Friarblog.com: Jonny Flynn hasn’t been shooting too well in BIG EAST play. Do you think its a) his 35 mins / game is starting to wear on him b) increased competition in the league coupled with a tough schedule c) just a coincidental poor stretch.
TNIAAM: I think he’s been in a poor stretch and he’s dealing with a team dynamic that is set up for different players to score on different nights. I wouldn’t say I expect any one player to lead the team in scoring every night. Sometimes it’s Rautins. Sometimes it’s Flynn. Other nights it’s Devo. And Arinze and Paul always have their contributions as well.
As for Flynn, I think he’s gotta flip that internal switch. Earlier this year it seemed like it was on all the time. These days it seems like it’s hit-or-miss. But at the end of the day, he’s the leader out there, whether he’s scoring 25 or 5. He needs to set the tone and get back that old form.
Friarblog.com: I don’t know if you saw any of the PC-Marquette highlights (well, the basketball ones), but Providence lead for most of the game until the three Marquette seniors basically willed the team to victory in a great comeback at the end. Have you seen any of that “no quit” mentality from Syracuse this season?
TNIAAM: Earlier this season, I saw Syracuse win some basketball games that many previous Syracuse teams would have lost. Namely the Kansas win where the JayHawks just wouldn’t go away and the Richmond game where SU held off a frisky underdog. Last year, we lose both those games. So early on, our expectations were re-calibrated. But since they got into the Big East gauntlet, it’s like that old team mentality has creeped back in. They’re getting pushed around and out-played. It’s extremely worrisome, especially since we know for a fact this team is better than that.
Friarblog.com: Final Predictions
TNIAAM: I’m very scared but that won’t stop me from predicting a 76-73 Syracuse win in an extremely well-contested match-up. Good luck!