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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
FEB. 7, PHILADELPHIA
Big crowds, big cities
"I been hearing about the big, bad Big East my whole life," says Flynn, who comes from Niagara Falls. "My pops [Reverend William Flynn] used to go on and on about it. Chris Mullin. Patrick Ewing. Derrick Coleman. I got it from a young age."
Flynn, a Niagara Falls High teammate of Harris's, remembers the first time he came to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on a rec-league trip. "Seeing that many people in one place," he says, "is something that never left me. Coming to school here was a no-brainer."
It's hard to overestimate the effect that Syracuse's domed facility (capacity of 49,000, which essentially translates to endless for basketball) had on the growth of the Big East after it opened in 1980. Architecturally a white elephant to some, it had one overarching factor in its favor: Recruits loved the idea of routinely performing in front of 30,000 sets of eyes. Couple that with a season-ending appearance at Madison Square Garden, where the conference tournament has been held since '83, and the combination can be irresistible. "No matter what kind of year you've had," says Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who is retiring at the end of the season, "you get the chance to redeem yourself in New York City in prime time. Recruits love that."
The problem for Syracuse on this day, however, lies in Philadelphia, where the 21,000-seat Wachovia Center is filled to capacity. Boeheim warns that Villanova is undersized but scrappy, qualities that become evident from the tip-off. Syracuse, particularly shooting guard Devendorf (seven turnovers), can't handle the Wildcats' relentlessly aggressive trapping and ball hawking, and loses 102--85.
Afterward Boeheim is asked whether he was surprised by the number of fouls—29 on Villanova and 24 on the 'Cuse. "No," says Boeheim, "I was more surprised by the 25 that weren't called."
FEB. 9, SYRACUSE
Hard play, no whining allowed
Boeheim detects a lackadaisical bent to practice at the Dome on this Monday afternoon. With Thabeet in mind, the coach comes down hard on Harris for flipping up a layup rather than going strong. "The big guy blocked 10 last year," Boeheim shouts. "You want him to get 12 on Wednesday?" (Actually, Thabeet blocked seven shots in UConn's 63--61 win last February.) Then the coach turns his attention to Flynn. "When you put your hand under the ball, that is a carry," he says after his sophomore leader is called for traveling, a rarity in practice. "Do you want to learn or not?"