College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Arinze Onuaku, the 6'9" center for the Syracuse Orangemen, probably doesn't get enough credit for his work in the lane because of SU's reliance on Jim Boehiem's remarkably-effective 2-3 zone defense, but the big man in the middle does have a way of taking up space and discouraging traffic near the hoop.
In Tuesday's encounter with Providence, Onuaku delivered on both ends of the floor, scoring a season-high 20 points on 10-for-12 shooting, while keeping the Friars out of the lane defensively with 4 blocks and 7 rebounds, 3 offensive. Consequently, the #3 Orangemen turned a 3-point half time advantage into an 85-68 home win, improving to 22-1 overall and 9-1 in the conference, 1/2 game behind Villanova (9-0). Syracuse suffered its only loss of the season at home against Pitt, but that was a month ago, and the Orange have run off 9 straight wins while the Panthers have gone just 4-3 over the same span.
Syracuse will likely enter the NCAA's March Madness as a #1 or #2 seed, as their only remaining stiff challenges are at Georgetown (Feb. 18) and on February 27, when they host Villanova, a game that may decide the regular season Big East champion.
Notable: The selection committee for the NCAA tournament may have an easy time picking #1 seeds for this year's field of 65. Four teams: Kansas (20-1), Villanova (20-1), Syracuse (22-1) and Kentucky (20-1) have pulled away from the pack and are ranked 1-4 in the AP Poll. After them, only two teams in division 1 have two losses - BYU and Northern Iowa - though their conferences are not nearly the caliber of the Big 12, SEC or the Big East.