Syracuse-Villanova nears crowd record

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The crowd for Saturday's game between No. 7 Villanova and third-ranked Syracuse could break the NCAA attendance record the teams set last year.

Syracuse officials said Wednesday that more than 33,000 tickets had been sold for the game, and coach Jim Boeheim was featured in a video on the university's athletic website encouraging fans to buy the few nosebleed seats still available.

Last February's game between the teams drew 34,616, an NCAA record for the largest on-campus crowd to see a college basketball game. Seating was capped at that figure, making it the first basketball sellout in Carrier Dome history, but the university has added seats for Saturday's game.

Villanova also was the opponent on March 5, 2006, when a then-record crowd of 33,633 turned out to see the final home game for former Orange star Gerry McNamara.

Syracuse (18-1, 5-1 Big East), coming off a loss at Pittsburgh (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) , hopes to have leading scorer Kris Joseph back for Villanova (16-2, 4-1). Joseph, who sustained a head injury in the first half of last Saturday's home game against Cincinnati when he fell backward on a drive and his head caromed violently off the hardwood, did not make the trip for Monday night's game at the Petersen Events Center.

Wearing flip-flops instead of sneakers and smiling often at his teammates, Joseph shot balls at practice on Wednesday after an off day but did not take part in drills.

"I know I feel a lot better, and every day I get better," said Joseph, who averaged 19.5 points in the Orange's first four Big East games before getting hurt. "Today, I'm just going to get some shots up and see how that feels. Tomorrow, I'll do a little bit more. Every day I have to do a little bit more to see how I feel. Hopefully, I'll be back."

Joseph was well aware that the attendance record might fall and said that was on his mind.

"We're trying to break that 34,616," he said. "I heard there was already students camping out, which is amazing. You've got to love Syracuse fans. It's going to be a great game, and I definitely want to be a part of it, be able to play and not just watch from the sidelines."