Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Year Ago Today

Coach Boeheim, thank you for the memory.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Another Winning Season

The Syracuse win over Boston College was an enjoyable game, and different than what Orange fans have become accustomed to.  Syracuse has not had too many walk-away wins this year, and this game really was never in doubt over the last 6-7 minutes with the Orange winning 70-56.

The game did have a historical perspective to it.  The win moves the Orange record to 16-8 for the year, and with only seven games left on the schedule because of the post-season ban, it guarantees the Orange another winning season.  

We take winning for granted in Syracuse, as the Orange have not had a losing season since 1968-1969 when the team went 8-16.   That is 46 seasons of winning basketball.  The school has only had sixteen losing seasons ever, and the program started in 1900-1901.  I am not sure which basketball program has the longest streak right now for consecutive winning seasons, but 46 is very impressive. 

For perspective, remember that Duke, one of the best programs out there, had a losing season in 1994-1995.  Mike Krzyzewski also had losing seasons in 1981-1982 and 1982-1983 with Duke.  Kansas was 13-16 in 1982-1983.  North Carolina was 8-20 in 2001-2002.  Georgetown was 13-15 in 2003-2004.  UConn was 9-19 in 1986-1987. Kentucky was 13-19 in 1988-1989.  

Kaleb Joseph had a coming out party tonight!  He was aggressive to the hoop, and went 7 for 7 from the floor for 14 points.  Welcome Kaleb!

B.J. Johnson also got some significant playing time and made some three point shots. He hit four of twelve, on his way for 12 points for the night.  That shooting is not going to break any records, but considering how poorly he has been shooting, that was very nice to see.

Michael Gbinije continues to play at a very high level.  8 of 11 from the floor for 21 points, coupled with 7 rebounds and 4 assists.  Gbinije has been extremely impressive as of late.

Rak Christmas was handcuffed tonight by several double and triple teams, and he ended up with only 7 points, though he did get 10 rebounds and 3 nice blocks.

Let’s go Orange!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Syracuse Self Imposes Ban for 2015 Post Season

Syracuse University announced today that it is self-imposing a ban on all post season activity for its men's basketball program for this year.  The ban includes the NCAA, NIT and the ACC tournament.

It is a shame that the current roster of players has to suffer for the misdeeds done in the past.  I do not know all the details of this particular investigation, though I have been flustered by what I already know.  Syracuse self-reported academic violations by Feb Melo and James Southerland at the time they occurred.  Melo was suspended first by the university and then later in the season by the NCAA.  The Melo suspension in 2012 was extremely impactful on the Orange as the team was ranked #2 in the country, and one of the top favorites to win the tourney. Without Melo they were talented enough to make a run to the Elite Eight.

Part of me feels like there is double jeopardy in this situation. The punishment was handed out, and the program suffered at the time.

Again, there are probably more issues at hand than what I am aware of.  I will be curious to see what those may be.

The self-imposed ban from the ACC tournament seems excessive.  When Syracuse was banned in 1993 by the NCAA, it was still permitted to play in the Big East Tournament.  So the Syracuse administration is dolling out a very stiff penalty on itself.

The move is definitely self-serving by the university; I am not naive to that. This year's team was not going to have a strong post season, and they are hoping that sacrificing this year will allow the team not to be impacted for next year, nor have any lingering impact on recruiting.   The 1992-1993 ban took a couple of years to get announced, and there were recruits the Orangemen lost as a result.

I do find the NCAA to be a capricious and inconsistent organization.  There does not seem to be any predictable pattern to penalties they dole out, nor which institutions get investigated in the first place.  It seems clear that some programs are cheating academically because practically it seems illogical that they types of players that revolve through their program could not possible maintain proper academic standing, yet they do. 

Anyhow, good luck to the Orange on their remaining nine games this year.  Particularly sad is the relevance to Rakeem Christmas, who is having a tremendous senior season, and will have no opportunity to showcase his talents.  The greatest irony being that Christmas is one of the best student athletes Syracuse has ever had, completing his four year degree in only three years (no redshirt year).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Free Throws Do Matter (Again)

It was a shame to watch the Orange fight back gallantly against the Hurricanes yesterday, and see them fall up short.   The Orange played hard, and they never gave up despite two prolonged scoreless stretches in each half that let Miami pull out ahead.

The shame was the poor free throw shooting by the Syracuse players. This issue has been a thorn in the Orange side for years; it seems the Orange are having a collective freeze on their free throw shooting right now.  The Orange hit only 8 of 19 free throws against the Hurricanes, missing the front end of some crucial one-and-ones, and missing some critical free throws in the last couple of minutes that would have allowed them to win the game.  The Orange made some clutch jump shots, some clutch rebounding (thanks Tyler Roberson!), and some nice defensive stops.  But they have to make some of their free throws.

Michael Gbinije is the worst culprit. Yesterday's loss dropped his season average to 48.9% (23 for 47).  Gbinije was not terrific before this year, but 64.6% last season was bearable.  He is now 11-23 in conference play.  For a player that Jim Boeheim wants to be running the offense in clutch moments, that is just not tolerable.  You can see that Gbinije is a total mess right now, with different forms on his free throw attempts each time to the line.

Trevor Cooney is a terrific free throw shooter.  Yet, he is in a funk in conference play making only 21 of 34 free throws for 61.8%.  Several of his misses over the past few games have been in crunch time.

Rakeem Christmas had been a rock and clutch player at the charity stripe. Yesterday, he bombed making only 5 of 11 attempts. 

Ron Patterson has not shot much in his career. He does not give much glimmer of hope as he has made only 2 of 8 attempts for the season.  At least Patterson does have the humorous quote of the season mentioning earlier in the year that his free throws were 'close'.

By comparison, Tyler Roberson is shooting well from the line. In conference play, he has made 71.4% of his shots, hitting 10 of 14 attempts.

A dilemma for Boeheim could be what to do with Kaleb Joseph.  His play has improved during the game, and his turnovers have cut down, but he was very rocky earlier this year when under pressure.  Joseph, however, has made 16 of 19 free throw attempts in conference play, for 84.2%.   He  has not shown the ability to shoot from the perimeter, and defenses are leaving him wide open.  He still makes big mistakes on defensive positioning.  But he has been making his free throws.  

I have got to imagine that Boeheim rides Cooney and Christmas down the stretch of games, hoping they can revert to form, and he keeps the ball out of Gbinije's hands during obvious fouling situations.  I'm not sure he wants to give up all the positives that Gbinije brings during crunch time to give some time to Joseph, but it will be something he is surely evaluating.

Also noteworthy in the game was that Syracuse played only six players during the contest.  Four of those players (Christmas, Roberson, Cooney and Gbinije) played the entire game.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Elusive Triple Double

Triple Doubles are a rare commodity in college basketball.  There have only been nine triple doubles recorded in Syracuse Orange history; the last one occurred 14 seasons ago when Allen Griffin accomplished it against Pitt with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.  Lazarus Sims, Derrick Coleman, Leo Rautins (3 times) and Dave Bing (3 times) are the only other Orangemen to accomplish the feat.  

Michael Carter-Williams was the perfect type of player to get a triple double.  A tall point guard who liked to drive the lane, and was strong at offensive rebounding.  It seemed destined he would complete the feat after some near misses, but he never did.  The other style of player to get a triple double is a forward who is adept at passing  (ala Leo Rautins), but the Orange have not had a player of that style for a while.

Michael Gbinije
Michael Gbinije
Michael Gbinije might be able to get the triple double, if the stars align correctly.  Gbinije is Syracuse's starting small forward, but he spends a lot of time running the offense at the point.  In two of the last three games, Gbinije has had double digit rebounding efforts.  The Wake Forest game is the closest he has come to a triple double when he had 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 17 points.  

Gbinije's career high in assists is 8, which he did against Long Beach State earlier this year. He had 6 rebounds and 24 points in that game.

10 assists will be tough for Gbinije to get. Syracuse is not a high scoring team, and therefore there is a smaller potential for assists to begin with.   If he had a good night of feeding Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas, and they both had big scoring nights, that could help him a lot. But right now there really are only three scoring threats on the Orange: Cooney, Christmas, and Gbinije, and Gbinije cannot get an assist to himself.  A big game by Tyler Roberson or another Orange player would help.

Gbinije is more likely to get 5-6 rebounds in a game than 10, but he does have that potential.

I do not think he will accomplish the feat.  He does get the playing time, but I think the assists will be out of his reach.  But I will be rooting for him to do it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bill Smith Nets 47

44 years ago today, on January 14th, 1971, Bill Smith set the Syracuse single game scoring record with 47 points against Lafayette.  The closest any Orangeman has come to breaking that record was when Gerry McNamara lit up Brigham Young for 43 points in the 2004 NCAA tournament.

Bill Smith Syracuse Orangemen
Bill Smith
Smith was a fiery tempered center who once punched a referee.  He was an excellent rebounder and a terrific inside scorer. At 6'11" he was the biggest center Syracuse had up to that point in time.  Smith would average 20.9 points and 14.5 rebounds per game for his career.  

On January 12th, 1971 he had 28 points and 30 rebounds in a victory over American University. That was only the appetizer to his big night.  Two days later, Smith would score 47 points in a 106-92 win over Lafayette.  

It was a shootout of the big scorers for both teams. Tracy Tripucka, brother of NBA star Kelly Tripucka, would score 41 points for Lafayette.  Smith would have 27 points at halftime; Tripucka 26.

But the spoils would go to Smith who shot 17 of 23 from the floor, and 13 of 19 from the free throw line.  Smith would also have 19 rebounds in the contest.  

Greg Kohls also had a big night for the Orangemen with 24 points, but all accolades on that evening go to Mr. Smith.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Christmas Comes Up Big

Rakeem Christmas had a career night against Wake Forest, leading Syracuse to a 86-83 overtime win over the Demon Deacons.  Christmas scored 35 points and had 9 rebounds for the game.

Christmas simply overwhelmed Wake Forest for most of the game, on both sides of the court. Though he ended up with only one blocked shot, he altered several other shots by Wake Forest.  Offensively, the Demon Deacons just could not match up to Christmas as he made 12 of 23 shots.

Rakeem Christmas - Syracuse Orange
Rakeem Christmas
Christmas' 35 points were the most points by an Syracuse player since James Southerland scored 35 against Arkansas in November 2012.  This was the best scoring effort by a Syracuse inside big man since Hakim Warrick scored 36 points back in 2005.  The last Syracuse center to score over 30 points in a game was Otis Hill back in 1997 with 34 points against Alabama.  The last Syracuse center to score 35 or more points in a game was Bill Smith, back in 1971, when he set the school record with 47 points in a game.

Christmas had four fouls with about six minutes to go in regulation, and he managed to stay in the remainder of the game and all of the overtime period.  He gave up the defensive baskets rather than foul out, and that was crucial as he was the Orange's best scoring threat from the field and from the free throw line.  

It will be interesting to see how this season plays out for Christmas.  He continues to amaze me each night with the immense improvement in his game. He is so much more fluid offensively than in the past, and is extremely aggressive around the hoop.  The fact that he consistently faces a double team just makes it more amazing.