It was a stress-free night for coach Jim Boeheim, his No. 1-ranked Syracuse Orangemen and the 26,081 fans who came to the Carrier Dome to watch them dismantle St. John's, 85-66, and clinch the Big East title Tuesday night. The Orange improved to 28-2 overall and 15-2 in the conference with just the regular-season finale left Saturday afternoon at Louisville.
The competitive portion of the game lasted barely 11 minutes before a 17-4 Syracuse run created a 16-point lead that never would shrink below 11 points the rest of the way. The crowd entertained itself by giving seniors Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins standing ovations, by doing the wave in the second half and by chanting for a taco giveaway that occurs every time the Orange score 75 points.
After accepting the conference trophy, Boeheim stood in the press room and ticked off some of his team's accomplishments:
- -- Going 7-0 against ranked teams and beating them by an average of 12.9 points.
- -- Leading the nation in field goal percentage (51.8 percent going into the game).
- -- Ranking second nationally in assists (19.6)
- -- Ranking fourth nationally in steals (10.2)
- -- Ranking 5th nationally in margin of victory (16.0)
- -- Ranking seventh nationally in blocked shots (6.8)
"You look at those categories, and we should win," Boeheim said matter of factly. "We've got great balance; we can score inside and outside; we have good ballhandling and rebounding."
There's one thing Boeheim would like to accomplish before the Big East tournament. Both of Syracuse's losses came at home to Pittsburgh and to Louisville. The Orange not only can avenge that loss to the Cardinals, but a victory at Freedom Hall would leave them 12-0 on the road and at neutral sites.
"We've never had a team go undefeated on the road," Boeheim said. "It will be a big test to go down there. They beat us here, so, they'll have a lot of confidence."
Win that game, and it will be hard not to seed Syracuse No. 1 in the NCAA tourney no matter what happens in the Big East tournament.