Friday, December 29, 2006

Statistics I'd Like to See

One of my pet peeves is to hear someone state that statistics are meaningless. Anyone familiar with this blog or my website, would easily deduce that I do place value into the numbers of the game. I do not think that statistics tell the whole story, but you can certainly tell a heck of a lot about a player from his statistics, and given the right statistical information you can predict a lot of future performances.

Let’s say you have two college players. Player A scores 25 points a game with 10 rebounds, 7 blocked shots, and 5 assists a game, while shooting 60% from the floor and 85% from the free throw line. Player B scores 9 points a game, with 2 rebounds, 0.5 blocked shots, 1 assist a game, while shooting 35% from the floor and 50% from the free throw line. Assuming no injury is impacting Player B’s statistics, I don’t think anyone would argue that Player B is better than Player A, even though you had not seen either player perform. Clearly, the statistics have some meaning.

Similarly, if Player C scores 17.9 points a game, and player D scores 17.1 points a game, there’s no conclusion at all that can be reached about the value of those two players, other than the fact they both average roughly 17 points a game. In this case, they have little meaning.

I think there are three reasons why a segment of fans disregard statistical evidence. First, is what I would call the Jeter Effect. I plan to write more about this concept at some other time, but suffice it to say it is when you place extreme value on the intangibles of a player and credit him with every good thing that ever happened, and throwing out all statistical evidence because it doesn't measure the intangibles.

The second is a segment of our population is poor at math, and anything to do with numbers to them is inherently bad. There’s really no way to convince these individuals that numbers can be good (there’s probably some of them who would argue that I can’t tell that Player A is better than Player B given my scenario above).

The third reason is that we are often given the wrong set of numbers, or incomplete information. And basketball is full of false numbers. If you don’t look at statistics in the proper context, they give a false impressions. I’m amazed when fans are impressed by a NBA player scoring 40 points in a given game when he’s shot 18 for 48 for the night. Heck, you take 48 shots, you had better score 40 points! Now 40 points on a 20 for 26 shooting effort is quite impressive. Extremely impressive.

When Wilt Chamberlain scored his record 100 points, the overlooked statistic is that The Stilt shot 28-32 from the free throw line that night. That's absolutely amazing, for any player, much less a guy who shot 51% from the line for his career. He was also 36 of 63 from the floor that night, a solid 57%. His 100 point night was a truly amazing night, even for him. Anyhow, I am sidetracked at the moment.

Cuse Country did an excellent job a week ago showing how offensive rebounding can be quite misleading, so I won’t go too much into it here. But simply put, the number of rebounds in a game are a combination of an individual’s ability to get a rebound combined with the number of missed shots. If there were no missed shots in a game, there would be no rebounds. So if a team shots 60% from the floor there will be less opportunity for rebounds than if a team shoots 30% from the floor. And you do need to factor that in, somehow. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, nobody tracks that information in college basketball.

There are other statistics that I think could be useful in providing us all with a clearer picture of what a player has accomplished. And as such, here are the five statistics I would like to see in college basketball.

Earned Rebound Average (ERA): I figure there are roughly 25 missed baskets a game, by each team [We could use any number, but 25 will do; it is all relative]. So in a given game, there are approximately 50 opportunities for a rebound. The ERA would be [number of rebounds] / [missed baskets by both teams] * 50. So if Player A had 10 rebounds in a game where both teams missed a combined 42 shots, then he would have an ERA of 11.90.

Assists In the Paint (AIP): Assists were designed to help show how another player, especially a point guard, has helped set up his teammates for baskets. I would like to see assists broken down a few ways. One way would be to show Assists in the Paint. This is the number of assists a player has to players who have scored while they were inside lane (‘the paint’). I think an assist to a player taking a perimeter jumper is valuable, especially if the point guard has driven into the lane and pulled defenders off the perimeter shooter, but sometimes that feels ‘cheap’ to me. AIP would at least allow us to quantify the different types of assists a player gets.

Free Throw Assists (FTA): We have all seen the spectacular pass to the inside player who goes up for the basket and is fouled hard by the opposition, missing what would have been a sure basket. The player gets to the free throw line, but the player who passed him the ball gets no credit. I think the purpose of the Assist is to measure how well a player sets up his teammates; and clearly, in these situations, he set them up well, and he should be given some credit. I would not tie the statistic to whether or not the player makes the free throws [why penalize a guy because his teammate is poor free throw shooter?]; if the guy gets fouled in the act of shooting, the player passing the ball should bet an FTA. Can you imagine how many FTA Sherman Douglas would have had?

Defensive Plus / Minus (+/-): I’m stealing a concept from hockey here. Defense is extremely difficult to measure statistically. Guys who block a lot of shots often are well out of position and actually playing poor defense, while other guys are holding their ground and preventing the other team from scoring by playing smart defense. That never gets measured. You cannot really look at how a guy does statistically against the guy he is ‘matched up against’. First of all, that has no value in a zone defense… the defender is guarding an area, not a specific player. Second of all, double teams occur, players switch off, etc. A +/- would be the difference in points scored by a team against points given up by a team during the time the player is on the court. Sure, a player would be hurt by being on the court with bad defensive players, but it would give us an additional measurement of how he is doing. A basketball player is 1/5 of the defense when he is on the court, so he’s going to have some impact, plus or minus.

Free Throw Percent broken down by First & Second Effort: We know a guy shoots 70% from the free throw line. But what we do not know is does he usually make the front end of a one and one, or does he miss it. There’s a big difference between shooting 60% on the front end, and 80% on the back end, versus 80% on the front end and 60% on the back end.

Assume two players; both are fouled 100 times in one and on situations. Player E shoots 65% on first effort, 80% on second. He would make 65 free throws out of 100 first attempts (65% of 100), and then 52 out of 65 (80% of 60 second attempts). He would score 117 points and shoot 117 of 165, or 71%.

Player F shoots 80% on the first effort, and 60% on the second. He would make 80 free throws out of 100 first attempts (80% of 100), and then 48 out of 80 (60% of 80 second attempts). He would score 128 points and shoot 128 out of 180, or 71 %.

Both players shoot 71% from the line, but Player F scored 11 more points for his team, which his clearly more valuable.

Now I do not know what the difference between shooting the front end and back end of a one and one are. But I think I would believe there is a difference. The second free throw attempt the player has the confidence of making the first one, less pressure since a second shot is not dependent upon it, and the player is more relaxed since more time has passed since he was actively playing.

I’m sure there are more statistics we could come up with. Let me know if you have any. I would love to have access to these five. With today’s technology, I could go throw line by line of every Syracuse game and derive these numbers myself. But frankly, I don’t have the time. I think it would be revealing. These aren't the answers to everything, but sure do help to answer some questions.

At the least, it would help paint a better picture of what the player was actually doing on the court. Who knows, we may actually find out if Craig Forth was indeed a better player than Jeremy McNeil? Or if Paul Harris or Eric Devendorf is a better two-guard.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and Santa Claus is kind to you this season!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Devo's Okay

A lot of rumors have been floating around about Eric Devendorf regarding the lack of playing time he's had, his performance while on the court, and his demeanor off the court. Jim Boeheim respect's the privacy of his players, and is usually mum about their personal business, leaving it up to the player to decide if he wants it to be public knowledge or not. In absence of real information, this fuels the rumor mill for the Orange Fan Nation.

Well, Devo played well last night against Hofstra, and opened up to WTVH News on what's been going on.


To Zone or Not

The Orangemen’s free throw shooting was outstanding tonight; what’s in the water on the Hill these days? 33 of 40 for the team (it did help that my whipping boy Terrence Roberts was out of the game, though even he went 3-4 the other day). 21 of 24 versus Drexel the other evening. But I recently wrote about good free throw shooting (prior to the Orangemen’s recent improvement), so I thought I’d mention a few things about zone defense (in general). Just to be different. And perhaps there's a correlation to the Orangemen's improvement and the topics I choose (Isn't that every fan's dream?).

Syracuse’s zone defense was a big key in the win over Hofstra tonight, 85-60. "Syracuse's size and length when they are in that zone and their ability to come out and contest shots made it very difficult," Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. "They did a very good job of extending their zone, and we weren't able to make plays on the baseline." (AP).

So for the holiday weekend, here are five reasons why I would use a zone defense, and then six more reasons why and when I would not.

First the reasons for the zone.

Reason 1: Teams are unfamiliar with running an offense against it, and any defense that is unfamiliar, is too tough for another team to quickly adjust to it. It is also tough for them to mimic it during practice during the week. I am a huge fan of running an offensive / defensive scheme in any sport that other teams are unfamiliar with. I think in addition to the strategic advantage, it gives you a big recruiting advantage (I was a huge fan of the Orangemen’s pass option offense for that reason, and I think for close to a decade the Steelers had a huge advantage in the NFL being one of the only teams to run a 3-4 defense).

There are types of players that are well suited for the zone defense that don’t necessarily work well in a man-on-man. Players like Kueth Duany and Hakim Warrick are perfect for zone defense work; less suited for man-on-man where they could get muscled around. They are slender and long limbed; they reach into a lot of space, and quickly move to areas on the court. Similarly, big bodied slow players with a good court IQ are perfect for the center position on the zone (guys like Craig Forth). They don’t have to put up a lot of stats, but they take up a lot of space, preventing opposing teams from running players through the middle of the court. Demetris Nichols has the prototype body to excel at playing forward in a zone defense.

Reason 2: When played well, the zone defense is highly successful at reducing shooting percentage. The zone defense invites teams to take the low percentage shot (which is what you want to happen); the opponent thinks they have an open shot, but it’s one the defender can quickly close on and force the opponent to shoot. When guys stay focused on defense, and don’t wander from their zone duties, it reduces the impact of offenses running picks and screens (because a defender is guarding a space, not a player, and a pick works because you are preventing a defender from following the player as he moves from one space to another).

Plus, you can very effectively trap from a zone, particularly in the corners of the court. The zone defense invites the offensive to swing the ball around the perimeter, and you can draw them into swinging it into the corner for a designed trap.

Reason 3: It slows down the opposition’s offense and the clock is your friend. You have to work the ball around the zone to break it down. Many teams are impatient of offense, looking for the quick strike. This causes turnovers and frustration for the opposition.

Reason 4: It can help protect a guard who is in foul trouble. Since he doesn’t have individual player responsibility he can lay off the opponents in his area a little bit, and reduce his risk of a foul.

Reason 5: You can run a fast break well off a well played zone defense. Since the guards don’t have a man responsibility, it’s easier for one of them to break out down court during the defensive rebounding phase (the other guard needs to stay ‘home’ and rotate into a block out).

Now there are definite reasons why I would stay away from the zone at times in a game.

Reason 1: You can not hide a big man in a zone, and if he’s in foul trouble he can quickly draw more. If Darryl Watkins has 4 fouls, the opposing team just needs to attack the center of the zone. If Watkins shies from the player, that player gets an easier basket. And if he challenges him, he’s increasing the risk of the foul.

Reason 2: If the opposing team is having a very hot night of shooting, they may be stretching your zone defense out too far, opening up the low entry pass too much. Sometimes the other team is playing well, no matter how well your zone is doing, and you’ve got to switch out of it.

Reason 3: If you’re trailing in the game and need to make up points with time running short, the zone defense eats up too much time. At this point the clock is your enemy, and you need to make the opposing team’s offense act quickly.

Reason 4: You’re players are too physically or mentally tired. Contrary to what many people think, playing an effective zone is very tiring and requires a lot of movement. Zone defensives fail when players start to stand around, or get lost in the scheme. Man-to-man defense, while also tiring, is more intuitive for a player to keep moving… the nature of following one man on defense motivates the defender to keep moving.

Reason 5: You have the wrong personnel to play the zone. Small players like Josh Wright are not the ideal players for the top of a zone; he’s more effective in a man defense situation where he can get up close to an opponent and hound him around the court; if the opposition has a big shooting guard, they could overload to Wright’s side of the court and create mismatches.

Great shot blocking centers can often be a detriment to your zone defense. While they clean up the mistakes of their teammates, they often leave their position to do so; one of the biggest sins in a zone defense is leaving your space unguarded. If the shot blocker leaves his space, someone else needs to rotate into the position. So if your defensive players don’t know what they are doing, they will leave openings everywhere on the court that smart opponents will take apart.

Reason 6: It’s tough to block opponents out in the zone defense. The defender is responsible for a space, not a player, and when the ball goes up for a shot, he’s got to block out a space anticipating an opponent being there, while looking for the rebound. In man defense, he likely already has a position next to his opponent, and can feel where he is while looking for the rebound.

One of the biggest reasons I think coaches don’t play zone defense is that you look bad when the opposition beats it, and it makes it look like you’re not coaching. It’s very easy for a fan to second guess the zone. When the opposition is making its shots, it looks like you’re not defending at all. And when they are missing their shots, you often don’t get credit; people just credit the poor shooting to poor shooting, not your defense.

Whereas if you are playing man-to-man defense, your players are moving around constantly. If you get beat, the fans will blame the players, because its easy to see which players got beat by their individual man.

It’s akin to coaches playing ‘prevent defense’ in the NFL. Most coaches will do it, even though it’s been proven over and over again, that all the prevent defense really does is prevent the defensive team from winning. But if an NFL coach were to play his normal defense and one of his defensive backs gets beat deep, it’s the coach’s fault for playing a defense that allowed that. Whereas if you play a ‘prevent defense’, it’s the greatness of the opposing team’s quarterback moving the ball down the field (even though your defense is inviting him to do that!).

There are situations for all types of defense in college hoops. I’m an advocate for a healthy mix of them, particularly switching the zone and man-to-man during the regular flow of the game. It requires discipline on the court and a good court leader to get that message across.

Bottom line, no matter what defense you play, if you execute it well, you will win more often than not. And likewise, when you play your defense poorly you will likely lose.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Orange vs. Drexel

Just a few comments out of the disappointing loss to Drexel tonight:

Last time Syracuse had 3 losses in a season by December 19th was in the 1998-1999 season. That team started out 7-3, and had its 3rd loss by December 12th. That was an experienced team too, with juniors Jason Hart, Ryan Blackwell, Etan Thomas, and sophomores Allen Griffin and Damone Brown in the starting lineup. They would make the NCAA tournament but lose in the first round to Oklahoma State.

Glad to see Demetris Nichols finally get over 30 points, totaling 31 on a decent effort. He’s the first SU player to score 30 since Gerry McNamara scored 30 versus Louisville last February 18th, and the most points scored since GMac had 38 versus Davidson almost one year ago today (12/18/2005). Last small forward to score 30+ for Syracuse was some obscure guy named Carmelo Anthony, with 30 versus Texas in the Final Four, March 18, 2003. Nichols has been on a scoring tear averaging 27.8 ppg his last four games.

Unfortunately this team is looking a lot like last year regarding the offense. A bunch of guys standing around letting a senior take on the whole burden and carrying the offense. Take last years’ team, replace GMac with DNic, and it looks very similar (on offense).

I’ve been bashing Terrence Roberts all year with friends. I think he’s a lousy shooter, clearly a horrendous free throw shooter, has terrible hands, and is a turnover waiting to happen. He does make occasional defensive plays, but not consistently, and while leading the team in rebounding, he again is inconsistent there. He’s one of those guys who looks like he should be a much better player than he is. Having said all that, SU needs him on the court. With the loss of Onuaku, the Orange have no alternative at power forward, and even with his shortcomings Roberts is the best they have. Without him on the court in the second half tonight, it was obvious the damage other teams could do to the Orangemen.

Also regarding the Terrence Roberts free throw watch: Roberts was on fire from the line tonight, going a blistering 3-4 from the line, raising his season average to 43.3% on 22-52, and his career average is now at 136-291, 46.7%. Don't worry... he's still got the career record in the bag.

The Orangemen shot 87.5% (21-24) from the free throw line? Unbelievable. Not only was Roberts hot from the line, but Darryl Watkins goes 4 for 4? Wow. And they still lost?

Andy Rautins started again; not a bad game but not a great one either. Jim Boeheim sees these guys in practice everyday, and he knows the team’s strengths and weaknesses better than any of us. That and 30 years of coaching give him a huge edge on any of us; so I trust he knows what he’s doing. I know Rautins has tremendous court IQ. I just wish I knew what was up with Eric Devondorf… he’s clearly a shell of his former self. Paul Harris has his weaknesses, but is still getting the playing time and impact off the bench. But Devo has completely fallen apart.

SportsCenter No More

I used to be a faithful watcher of ESPN’s SportsCenter. In the early 90s a friend asked me why I enjoyed it so much, and after thinking about it for a while, the answer was simple:

The rest of the world news was depressing, about violence, things gone bad, things gone wrong. But sports news, and specifically ESPN, was always good stuff. It was about who won this, who won that; what adversities people had overcome. Generally good stuff. Occasionally you'd have bad news (Magic's HIV; Steve Olin & Tim Crews death; cheating in sports, etc); but the bad news was rare, and when it occurred, it helped ground you into reality (a little). And if there was truly significant world news that needed to be covered, ESPN would cover it.

So watching SportsCenter each night was a pleasure.

Mid 90s I stopped watching it religiously, and now I almost never watch. Partly because my children were born, and the reality of what was truly important came along. But also the sports news started to take a nasty turn. Now it was no longer about who was winning, but it was about the corruption in sports, the endless cheating, the drug use, the Pete Rose betting scandal, etc. It seems to me it’s now all about tearing people down, rather than building them up.

Today, no matter how small the incident, it gets blown up into huge proportions and gets endless play over the internet, radio and television. Perhaps the media is just a reflection of our society; people only want to tear down others, and so the media panders to them. I know I’ve talked to a lot of fans who seem to behave that way. I’ve known many past co-workers whose joy in life seemed to be tearing down all aspects of management around them.

You know, if you look hard enough, there’s bad in everything. But there’s a lot of happiness and joy out there, good things going on. Paul Harris was over hyped beyond belief this year; it was almost impossible for him to meet the expectations of fans. But if you sit back and watch him play, you’ll see a young man playing with a lot of intensity and hard work, a real joy to watch play. He’s having a heck of a freshman season, making a difference out there.

Dick Vitale used to be great for college basketball. He over hyped everything, but he was a ball of positive energy. Every player was great! Everyone on his all-Windex team, everyone a diaper dandy, everyone an all-American. Now days, it appears that Vitale is like so many others on television; he takes advantage of his airtime, gets on his soapbox and preaches, instead of doing what truly was gifted at doing… making others feel good.

And now, I realize, I’ve been on my soapbox too long… so I’ll step down. Good day.


Free Throw Update

We could spend time debating who should be in the starting rotation for the Orange, or the obvious flaws in this years squad, or the clear potential for growth they have. But history is upon us, and feel a duty to keep all Orange fans updated.

At this point, it seems clear that Terrrence Roberts is going to get the Syracuse career record for worst free throw shooting, ever. After his 0-1 performance against Baylor last Saturday, Roberts is now 19-48 for this season, a 39.6% clip, dropping his career performance to 133-287, 46.3%. He's clearly putting up the strong effort to keep his numbers well below Stephen Thompson's career mark. So now the question for Roberts is how low of a bar can he set? I have enough confidence in Roberts to believe he can set a mark that no future Orangemen would ever reach (nor would we ever want to see).

Darryl Watkins had a chance to challenge Roberts, but Mookie ruined his opportunity last weekend with a stellar 7-10 performance from the line, raising his season to 14-24, 58%. More importantly for Watkins at this point is that magical 50% career free throw mark. Currently he sits at 80-161, 49.7%. One more made free throw, and he's at an even 50%. I have no doubt Watkins will surpass that mark; if not for a 3-18 performance as a freshman, he would already be above 50% for this career.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Former Orangemen

If you're curious what former Orangemen are still playing professional basketball and where, I would recommend visiting Cuse Country. They've been doing an excellent job of providing updates on how former Syracuse players are doing not only in the NBA (Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Jason Hart and Etan Thomas), but also how they are doing in the US minor leagues (CBA, ABA and NBDL) and how they are doing overseas (Italy, Belgium, Finland, Japan, and Bahrain).
They have their blog conveniently set so you can check the archive of the former players if you want to catch up on past updates.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sometimes They Do Make The Easy Ones

As previously mentioned, Syracuse has a history of poor free throw shooting. But to be fair to the boys on the Hill, there have been some squads that have been down right decent from the charity stripe. It just never seems that way.

When evaluating a team’s effort, I decided it was more appropriate to look at how many of the primary players (i.e. in most cases starters) were good free throw shooters that season, using a 70% standard as a break mark. 70% isn’t great, but it's okay… and if you have four starters shooting 70% or more, I think you’re in pretty good shape; that is limiting the free throw shooting liability to just one guy on the court, and you can probably hide him. 70% is not Gerry McNamara numbers… but then again, no other player in Syracuse history has had GMac free throw numbers (some are close, but he’s the tops).

So going backwards from this year, here are the good shooting squads from the Hill. And surprisingly, one wasn’t too long ago.

The 2000-2001 team had four starters shooting better than 70% from the charity stripe, with Damone Brown leading the way at 79.1%. Included in that group was Allen Griffin 71%, DeShaun Williams 76%, and Preston Shumpert 76%. That’s a pretty decent group when you have three starters shooting better than 75% from the line. They had the black hole of Jeremy McNeil / Billy Celluck in the middle, neither of whom could buy a free basket; but neither were significant scorers in the first place, and the two combined only went to the free throw line 56 times that year.

1993-1994 had four starters over 70%, with Adrian Autry leading the charge at 78.4%. John Wallace 76%, Luke Jackson 76%, and Lawrence Moten 70% rounded out the foursome. Again, a hole at center with Otis Hill (58.5%) and J.B. Reafsnyder (60%). The center duo did take 105 free throws between them, so it did hurt the Orangemen a little. And truth be told, Moten’s actual number was a smidge under 70% if we included the decimal (69.8%).

1991-1992 wasn’t too bad. Lawrence Moten led the way at 75% and made the most. Adrian Autry shot 70%, as did Conrad McRae (surprise!); Dave Johnson was a hair better at 71%. The weak link on that starting five? SU’s venerable assistant coach Mike Hopkins at a lowly 63%. Ironically, he was one of the perimeter shooters!

1985-1986 had some shooters. Wendell Alexis, in his first season as a starter led the way at 81%. Raf Addison was just behind at 79%. The Pearl, a clutch free throw shooter, was 73%, and Howard Triche was at 70%. Rony Seikaly held up his end in the reputation for centers, as he shot a lowly 56%.

1984-1985 also could shoot. The Pearl was probably the best that season, at 78%. Michael Brown had the highest percent at 87%, but with only 23 free throw attempts on the season, he hardly counts. Raf Addison came in at 73% and Andre Hawkins was a pleasant surprise at 76%. Rony Seikaly was again the hole in the middle at 56%. Wendell Alexis came off the bench with significant playing time and free throw attempts at 77%.

1983-1984 had Raf Addison leading the way at 84%. Sean Kerins 79%, Andre Hawkins 74%, and Gene Waldron 74% rounded out the four. The Pearl was the weak link at 66% that season. Wendell Alexis was a deadly free throw shooter as the top reserve at 82%.

I think it’s noteworthy that those three consecutive seasons previously mentioned were pretty good from the line. They were teams that were playing in the hey day of the Big East, and didn’t have quite as much talent as the monster Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova squads. Yet, the Orange had some of their best fundamental players (Addison and Alexis), decent free throw shooting to keep them in games, and of course, one of the greatest clutch players in Orange history, the Pearl.

1980-1981 SU had Marty Headd at 88% leading the way, until he broke his wrist (Tony Bruin was a big drop off at 69% when he entered the starting lineup as a result of the injury). Danny Schayes took the bulk of the free throw attempts at 82%; Erich Santifer was 73% and Leo Rautins 79%. Eddie Moss was the low man at 69%, which isn’t too bad for the worst of the starting five.

And finally, 1971-1972 needs a special note. Of the top eight players in terms of playing time, only two had free throw shooting that was even half way decent. However, those two shot the lights out, and they had 55% of the total attempts for the team that season. Greg Kohls shot a blistering 86% on a huge 222-257, while Mike Lee was 142-171 for 83%. So while you couldn’t say the team was very good, when over 55% of your free throw attempts are by an 83% or better shooter, that’s pretty good. Kohls was a master perimeter shooter, and was very adept at drawing fouls (as the free throw attempts suggest).

I have limited stats prior to the late 60’s on free throw shooting, so evaluating team efforts earlier than that is difficult. There were some outstanding individual free throw shooters in the 60s (Dave Bing, John Suder, Richie Cornwall, and Rick Dean).

As a side note, prior to 1924, the NCAA rule regarding free throws was that any player on the court could take a free throw when a foul was committed. So teams had designated free throw shooters (there were rarely substitutions in games). Obviously, in this setup, a team with one excellent free throw shooter, would be an outstanding free throw shooting ‘team’ (albeit a team of one). Joe Schwarzer and Wilbur Crisp were noted to be outstanding during their era, so one could suppose those teams were excellent free throw shooting squads.

So while many Orangemen have broken our hearts by missing the easy ones, there were clearly some squads who brought us some joy from there… it just seems so hard to remember them!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Roberts Followup

Perhaps inspired by the opportunity to set the school career mark, Terrence Roberts went 0-5 from the charity stripe on Saturday against Colgate, making him 19-47 on the season. He's now at 40.4%. Roberts may be getting greedy here, going for both the career AND season free throw shooting records (the latter he already holds).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Roberts Shoots for the Record

Poor free throw shooting is identified with the Orangemen as much as snow is identified with Syracuse. It seems every season free throw woes are a curse, in one form or another. Most fans can recall freshman Derrick Coleman missing the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds remaining in the 1987 title game; if DC makes one or both, the outcome of the game could very well have changed. Hakim Warrick missed on towards the end of the 2003 title game, though his block erased that error.

This season is no exception, as Terrence Roberts is continuing his effort to prove he is the worst of the worst in Orange basketball history. Roberts started this season with a career percentage of 47.7% (114 for 239), and is moving along at a 45.2% clip this season (currently at 19 of 42 after 9 games). If he keeps up his pace, he will finish his career with the worst free throw shooting percentage for any player with 200 or more attempts. That’s a dubious way to get into the SU record books!

Roberts already has the distinction for the worst free throw shooting percentage in a season with 100+ attempts, which he set last year in his junior campaign. He shot a blistering 56 of 133, for 42.1% accuracy, breaking the season mark previously held by the legendary Stephen Thompson (83-167, 49.7% in 1988-89).

And whose career mark is Roberts challenging (using the 200 attempt standard)? That too would be Mr. Thompson’s, who clearly was the most prolific bad free throw shooter the Orangemen ever had, making 328 of 622 career attempts for a 52.7% accuracy.

Roberts will probably end up with around 160 or so attempts again this season (he’s averaging 4.7 per game), so he has about 120 attempts left. So in order to get his career mark above Thompson’s, Roberts will need to do shoot something like 57 of 78 (73%) down the stretch; not bad for an average player but Herculean by Robert’s standards. I think Roberts may have this one in the bank. Except, there is a challenger out there... more later.

Who are the worst free throw shooters in Syracuse history? There are several candidates.

Roberts would statistically be the worst. There are other candidates.

Stevie Thompson, as mentioned, was not only very bad, but also very prolific. Coach Jim Boeheim used to comment on how much Thompson practiced every day at free throw shooting, and he often was very accurate in practice, but just could not translate it into the game. Thompson as a junior, shot 49.7% from the free throw line, and an amazing 64% from the floor. He was virtually defensively unstoppable when he got the ball near the hoop, which is why he was fouled so often.

Rony Seikaly was another prolific horrible free throw shooter. He hit at 57.6%, which by the standards of many players I’ll comment on here, is actually nosebleed territory. Unfortunately he did it on 412 of 715 free throw attempts. That’s a lot of misses (nine more the Thompson!), for a school career record.

Herman ‘The Helicopter’ Harried would be the worst ever if we lowered the standard to 100 attempts. He shot 45 of 119 for this career, at a 37.8% clip. Harried had no form at all, and just clanged the ball off the hoops.

Other horrible free throw shooters in Syracuse history included Louie McCroskey (51 of 108, 47.2%), Jeremy McNeil (57 for 116, 49.1%), and Josh Pace (88 for 174, 50.6%).

Robert’s teammate Darryl Watkins is also on this list, and he's the contender mentioned earlier. Entering this season Watkins was 66 of 137 for his career, a 48.2% average. He would have been on pace to break Thompson’s record if not for Roberts. Watkins still has a shot at it; he’s 7 of 14 so far this season (50%), raising his career average to 48.3%. A hot streak by Roberts or a cold streak by Watkins could give him the edge (if you want to call it that).

However, numbers don’t always tell the whole story. While it’s true that statistically Roberts, Watkins, and Thompson are the worst ever seen on the Hill, another man truly set the standard: Derek Brower. Brower made 42.1% of his free throws in his career, on 67 of 159. Most players improve over the course of their career through a combination of practice and more playing time. Not Brower. He shot 61% his freshman year, entered his senior season with a career average of 43.9%, and proceeded to shoot 20 of 52 (38.5%) to lower it. Brower frequently shot air balls to the dismay of Syracuse fans; there were times the fans cheered when he merely hit the rim. Brower was a large hustling player whose job on the court was to play defense and rebound; shooting was not his forte.

But the reason that Brower makes the top of this list (or should I say bottom?) is the impact his free throw shooting had on the college basketball game. In the 1987 2nd round NCAA tournament game against Western Kentucky, Syracuse had a lead in the second half. The Hilltoppers decided their best effort to get back in the game was to deliberately foul Brower (when he did not have the ball) and make him shoot free throws. This led to the comical effect of Brower running around the court (without the ball) trying to avoid being fouled by the chasing Western Kentucky players. The strategy was effective as Brower would go 0-6 from the free throw line, though not enough as Syracuse still won by a large margin. However, the following summer, the NCAA would change its rules stating that if a player was deliberately fouled by the other team, he would get two free throws and his team would get the ball back afterwards.
So Derek, a tip of the hat to you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

One Fan's Enjoyment of Non-Conference Play

So, as part of the annual rites of the passage of autumn, the bashing of the Syracuse non-conference schedule has occurred by the national media. Most of those comments are knee jerk reactions by analysts who have far too many teams to follow and too little time to really know the nuances of what each team is actually doing.

And there are elements of hypocrisy in it. Most big schools have the same form of non-conference games.

UConn won’t play a single road game prior to their Big East kick off on 12/30 versus West Virginia. That’s 11 home games, none away from home.

UCLA, current #1 team in the country, has twelve games prior to the start of the Pac-10. 9 are at home; 3 are away from home at the Maui Classic. Course, those are neutral games, not road games.

North Carolina will have fourteen non-conference games; two on the road, with a trip to Tennessee and a trip to Saint Louis.

And then there is Duke, the program beloved by so many announcers. These announcers would never criticize Duke. That’s not the Blue Devils problem, and I don’t begrudge Duke for it. It is a class program. However, let’s be fair. Duke has played 8 games so far this season, all at home. Three more home games until they play Gonzaga on 12/21. Then two more home games before the ACC schedule starts.

And it’s not just this season. In 2005-06, Duke went out on a limb and played three road games in their first thirteen out-of-conference schedule, against Indiana, Texas, and UNC-Greensboro.

In 2004-05, Duke played 11 non-conference games to start the season, all at home except for road game to Valparaiso.

Again, I’m not knocking Duke on this. They’re just doing what everyone else does. But its times for the national announcers to stop singling out Syracuse for its schedule. They are one of many.

I think that the big schools should play the smaller schools in their area every season. These games are extremely important to the small schools, and help the big schools in the process.

The college basketball analysts scream about teams not playing enough big games; but that’s entirely self serving. They want more big games to cover. They’re more fun, and frankly require less homework. How tough is it for Dick Vitale to prepare for a Duke / Georgetown pre-season game? The average fan knows quite a few players on both teams. Preparing for a Duke / Sacred Heart game, however, is much tougher. And of course, announcing a close game is easy… the action speaks for itself. A lopsided game requires the announcer to actually bring something to the table, and stay interested into the game.

There is hypocrisy in who you play. If you schedule a mid-major team (a Bucknell or a Butler), you risk a lot with little in return. When you win the game, announcers will say it was just another win against a creampuff non-conference team. But… you have a chance of losing to those mid-major schools, because as we are now all aware, they are dangerous to play. And losing to those schools will hurt you (any loss should hurt).

I think the big schools not only should play the small local schools, but have an obligation to do so.

By local, I don’t mean just those in your city. But play those small Division I schools in your state. In Syracuse’s case that includes schools such as Colgate, Cornell, Niagara, St.Bonaventure, Canisius, and Siena, among others. It’s a win/win in these games. Usually it’s an easier game for Syracuse, a chance to prep the team and get some revenue for another home town game. The small schools win because they get an opportunity to play a big time school (good for fans and recruiting), and they get a big boost in revenue with their piece of the revenue. And it helps build tradition; and I think tradition is greatly under appreciated by many in college athletics today.

Syracuse has played Colgate 159 times, and the Orangemen lead the series 114-45. They’ve played the Red Raiders more than any other team, and they should keep that going. Canisius 67 times, Cornell 114 times, Niagara 81 times. Surprisingly, they’ve played St. Bonaventure only 24 times prior to this year. Siena only 6 times.

I think it might be nice to see SU play LeMoyne regularly. Amazingly, they’ve only faced 5 times. It would be lopsided, but I think its good sportsmanship to have them play. Where I now live, Pitt plays Division III Carnegie Mellon. It’s a slaughter (though CMU put a scare into Pitt a couple years back with a close halftime score), but it’s a shame if they did not play. The two schools' campuses touch each other, and isn’t a part of collegiate sports the intercollegiate camaraderie? While its mostly about money, its should not be ALL about money.

I do find it offensive when teams scour the nation looking for a creampuff. North Carolina played Sacred Heart (CT) this year. Why? In the past Syracuse has had Coppin State or Bethune-Cookman come up. Again, why? Those games I would agree should not be scheduled. The obligation is only regional.

But I also find it offensive to reward a team for just scheduling tough games. It’s always been my position, you’ve got to prove yourself on the court (or on the field, depending on the sport). Go ahead and schedule the tough games. But you’ve got to win them for it to matter; scheduling them and then going out and losing does not show anything.

Michigan State, in 2003-2004 played a brutal non-conference schedule to start the season with road games at #14 Kansas, UCLA, and #24 Syracuse, and home games against #6 Duke, # 4 Kentucky, and Oklahoma among the eleven first games. They started the season 5-6, ended up 18-12. The NCAA rewarded the Spartans for playing the tough non-conference schedule. Reward teams that play a tough schedule and win the games. It’s a great tie breaker when you are evaluating two close teams. But, in my book, you’ve got to win the games; just scheduling them shouldn’t be enough.

Hey, I enjoy the November and December games. Maybe in part, because when I was growing up those were the games that we could get easily get tickets to. They weren’t in high demand, and crowds weren’t huge. But they were enjoyable. And occasionally you got to see a 40 point effort from Gene Waldron, or 31 points from Howard Triche, or rare collegiate triple double by Derrick Coleman.

But to me, its all part of the college game. The national media is just blind to it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


The Syracuse Orange are off to a fast start, currently at 5-0. How far can they go before they get their first loss for the season? They have thirty scheduled regular season games, with the first Big East game being the 15th game, January 4th vs Pittsburgh.

Realistically, the Orange are not going to go the season undefeated. That would require them to go 39-0 (thirty regular season, three Big East, and six NCAA games). No NCAA team has gone undefeated since the Indiana Hoosier in 1976. UNLV was the last school to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated, going 34-0 in 1991 before losing in the national semi-finals. A team could go undefeated, but this Syracuse squad isn’t that team.

So, how far can the Orange go undefeated this season? Wichita State (game 8) and Oklahoma State (game 9) are the likeliest teams to beat the Orange prior to Big East play. Any team could do it; upsets occur, which is another reason why going 39-0 isn’t going to happen.

In the history of Syracuse basketball, 15 different squads have started off their season 10-0 or better:

The 1999-2000 squad started off the season 19-0, a school record for most wins to start a season; they are also the last team to start out 10-0 or better. This wasn’t the best team in Syracuse history, but definitely one of the best defensive teams the Hill has ever seen. Etan Thomas, two time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, anchored the middle of the defense. Jason Hart was a defensive dynamo at the point, and Ryan Blackwell was a solid defender of the big forwards. The team would end up 26-6, winning the Big East regular season championship, and losing in the Sweet Sixteen.

The 1997-1998 team started off 11-0 led by senior Todd Burgan, and finished 26-9.

1995-1996 started 11-0, and finished 29-9. Led by senior John Wallace, the team would lose to the Kentucky Wildcats in the National Championship game.

From the 1985-1986 season to the 1991-1992 season, the Orangemen had six seasons out of seven where they started out 10-0 or better. An amazing run.

1991-1992 started 10-0 led by Dave Johnson and Lawrence Moten, finished 22-10, and were the Big East Tournament Champions.

1990-1991 started 13-0 led by Billy Owens, finished 26-6 as the Big East regular season champions, before bowing out very quickly in the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

1989-1990 started 10-0 with Stevie Thompson, Derek Coleman and Owens, finished 26-7.

1988-1989 started 13-0 with Sherman Douglas, Thompson, Coleman and Owens, finished 30-8.

1986-1987 started 15-0, finished 31-7, as the Big East regular season champions. Led by Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, and Derek Coleman, they would make an impressive run through the NCAA tournament, only to lose to in the National Championship game to the Indiana Hoosiers.

The 1985-1986 squad behind the Pearl started 13-0, finished 26-6 as the Big East regular season champions.

The 1982-1983 squad with the senior tri-captains of Leo Rautins, Tony Bruin and Erich Santifer started 11-0, finished 21-10.

The 1979-1980 edition of the Bouie N’ Louie Show started 14-0, and finished 26-4.

Then we have to go back 54 years to find the last Orangemen team to start out so well, and a special squad it would be.

The 1925-1926 team behind junior All-American Vic Hanson, and fellow classmates Charlie Lee and Gotch Carr would start out 15-0. They would lose their first (and only game) on February 24th at Penn State 37-31. A few weeks later they would play the Nittany Lions again, easily beating them 29-12 to revenge the victory. The squad was awarded the National Championship by the Helms Foundation for their 19-1 season.

The 1924-1925 squad, also lead by Hanson, Lee & Carr, started off 11-0, and finished 14-2, their only two losses by a combined 5 points.

The 1917-1918 team started off 16-0 behind All-Americans Joe Schwarzer and Bob Marcus. The team was a dominant defensive presence, and would enter the last game of the season undefeated. In a very physical game, Penn would beat the Orangemen 17-16. All of Penn’s points but two were from the free throw line, as Penn’s Sweeney went 15-16 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Syracuse’s Schwarzer, normally an excellent free throw shooter, went 5-13 from the charity stripe. The Orangemen were still awarded the National Championship for their outstanding 16-1 record.

Which brings us to the first Syracuse team to start the season 10-0. The 1913-1914 squad was led by All-American Lew Castle at center. Fellow senior Dutch Notman was a good scoring forward to compliment Castle. Sophomore Elmer Keib and freshman Wilbur Crisp would join the starting the lineup; both would eventually be significant scorers for Syracuse, and in this particular season they would be excellent supporting cast. And junior Dick Seymour, returned at guard to run the offense and lead the defensive efforts. They had a schedule that would make Dick Vitale scream, as they played 10 of their 12 games at home.

The Orangemen would win their first two games handily, before playing Pittsburgh. And luck would shine the Orangemen’s way that day. As time was expiring, Pitt was leading 28-27. Pitt’s Coach Flint would attempt to substitute a player with sixteen seconds left in the game, without calling a timeout (which they could not do having used up all their time outs). This resulted in a technical foul and a free throw for the Orangemen. Castle would miss the free throw! But a Pitt player had stepped into the free throw lane for a violation, so Castle got another opportunity. This time he did not miss, and the game ended in a tie. In the overtime period, the Orangemen would dominate the play, outscoring the Panthers 8-1 to win the game.

Two games later the Orangemen would travel to Hamilton NY to play the Colgate Maroons. The game was tied 26-26 at the end of regulation. The teams played an overtime period, and neither team scored, leaving the score at 26-26. In the second overtime period, the two teams traded baskets making it 28-28. Syracuse then was fouled and made a free throw to lead 29-28. As time was expiring, there was frantic action under the Syracuse basket, and a Maroon player put up a shot and made the basket. However, the Hamilton based official ruled that time had expired before the shot was taken, and Syracuse won.

The Orangemen would not have another serious challenge that season. On March 11, 1914, they would beat the Dartmouth Green 29-18 to finish the season 12-0, thus completing the first (and only) undefeated season in Syracuse basketball history. They did not win the National Championship, as there was no post season action, and Wisconsin’s 15-0 squad was deemed to be a better team.

So perfection is possible, but not probable. You need talent, decent scheduling, and some good luck. And until the team loses, you can always dream. So let’s see how far Paul Harris, Eric Devendorf, Terrence Roberts, Mookie Watkins and Demetris Nichols can take us this year.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Syracuse Beats Charlotte

Syracuse beat Charlotte 79-67 in a game that looks like a blow out on paper. But if not for a hot night of shooting by the Orange, and a cold night by Charlotte, this game would have gone the other way.

Syracuse was outrebounded by 6 by a smaller team, had 17 turnovers (vs 12 for Charlotte), gave Charlotte 14 offensive rebounds as opposed to only 5 by the Orange (though to be fair, when you make as many shots as SU made, there aren’t a lot of offensive rebounds to get), and Charlotte had 20 more opportunities to score from the floor than Syracuse. That’s typically a recipe for disaster!

Fortunately, the Orange found their shooting grove. 11-22 from three point range, a 50% clip. You’re not going to lose too many games when you shoot like that. Charlotte shot 11-37 from the arc, at 29.7%, and its tough to win when you shoot that poorly (I’ll give SU’s defense some credit on that).

The free throw line was surely the biggest difference. The Orange went a blistering 24 of 28 from the charity stripe, or 85.6%! Paul Harris and Josh Wright both went 9-10. That’s something you love to see: your primary ball handlers shooting the lights out on the free throw line. It definitely helped the free throw percentage that Terrence Roberts saw a lot of bench time for poor play, and Darryl Watkins missed the game because of his broken nose.

Meanwhile, Charlotte made only 12 of 22 free throws, or 54.5%. If Syracuse had its typical poor free throw shooting night and went 14 for 28, and if Charlotte had made a mere 72% of its free throws, a 14 point swing would have occurred, and the Orange would have been trailing by 2 instead of winning by 12. It can never be stressed how important those free shots are, and as Orange fans, we’re all quite aware of how painful this misses can be.

Bad Sign from the Game: Terrence Roberts showed signs of the inconsistency that has plagued his career; he failed to show up for this game. Even worse, this was a game we needed him to be prepared for as Watkins was going to be unable to play. Roberts also apparently reverted to his old form of always putting the ball on the floor before going to the hoop, a frustrating habit for a guy who doesn’t handle the ball well anyhow, and it puts the ball within reach of all the defenders around him. The one thing I know, as a short guy, is I love it when the big guys put the ball within my reach.

SU’s perimeter game was outstanding, as previously noted. But the team shot only 11-26 from inside the arc, or 42%. That’s not a terrible percentage, but it’s not good either. Those are your ‘easy’ shots. The Orange are going to need more of an inside presence.

Anyhow, Syracuse is 5-0. We all have plenty to be thankful for in our daily lives, basketball games being such a small part of it. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, and Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 20, 2006

BCS Rankings and the Computer

There is debate every year about the BCS system, and rightfully there should be, as it is a flawed system. However, having computers involved in the ranking process is not the flaw.

Let’s remember what it was like before computers were involved in the process. We had two sets of polls: the AP where the writers votes and the USA Today poll where the coaches voted. Every year there were complaints that the writers and the coaches were getting it wrong, they weren’t getting the right two teams identified. People complained that coaches were too biased for their own conferences and too self serving in their voting (both are legitimate concerns, whether or not they occur or not; perception is reality).

People complained that the sportswriters did not pay attention to all the games either, and they too had their own personal biases. There was near consensus that an objective third party had to be incorporated into the system.

And so the computers were brought into the mix. And of course, by the end of the first year, there was article upon article about how the computers had it all wrong. Everyone kept saying, “look at how bad the computers are. They have State University ranked #2 while the Sportstwriters and Coaches have them ranked #5.”

Think about that statement for a second, and think about why the computers were used in the first place. Wasn’t the consensus that the sportswriters and coaches had the polls wrong? And we’re using them as the litmus test to show that the computer selections are wrong? Isn’t the fact that the computer selection differs from the Sportwriters and Coaches the whole point? It should be a good thing.

That’s like saying your friend Jay says a car is ‘Blue’. You don’t believe Jay, so you ask your friend Joe. Joe says the car is ‘Red’, and then immediately concluding that Joe is wrong because Joe’s answer doesn’t equal Jay's. Hey, Joe’s answer better NOT equal Jay’s. You thought Jay’s was wrong; if Joe’s answer equaled Jay’s, then Joe’s answer would also be wrong.

That’s not saying Joe’s answer IS correct… it could also be wrong. But comparing it to Jay’s answer to come to that conclusion is erroneous.

Keep in mind there are two groups of people who have the loudest opinions when it comes to the BCS computer rankings: the coaches and the sportswriters. The sportwriters because they are the ones doing the writing, and coaches because they are the ones being asked the question.

Both groups have a vested interest in the computers being wrong, because it challenges their own opinion. Now just because the coaches and sportswriters have a conflicted point of view doesn’t mean they are wrong; but you do need to keep it in mind when you read article after article condemning the computer programs.

Remember that computers are only tools, and they only do what they are programmed to do. No more, no less. The computers aren’t wrong; they only do exactly what they were told to do. The people who wrote the programs may have been wrong, and in fact, probably are. I have no doubt that the computer rankings are somewhat flawed. They are a ‘black box’, proprietary to each computer ranking service, so we don’t know what is really being used to evaluate the teams. And evaluating a football team for pure statistical data is never going to be 100% correct.

However, at least the computers do look at every single football team, and try to rank them together. The computers throw out any personal bias and look objectively. Coaches and sportswriters, by their own human nature, are not able to do so. And since you aren’t going to use a playoff system, and millions of dollars are at stake, you really should have an objective criteria.

Remember, you can program the computers to do anything. I could write a simple computer program today that would rank all the college football teams based on an average of the AP and USA Today polls. That folks, would be a computer program, and it would give results that many of you would probably find comfortable. In part, because it is very transparent… you know exactly what is going on. And also because the results would be very familiar to what you already see in the polls, so it’s within your comfort zone.

Moving forward (assuming no playoff system… which I’ve addressed elsewhere), I think you have to keep the computers in the process, to balance off the biases and limitations of the human vote. But it should only be a component, not the overall deciding factor. And those programs should also become transparent to the public; let people see how the programs work. And keep on improving them… they’ll never be perfect (because the people writing them aren’t) but they can keep getting better and better.
Remember my opening remark. "Having computers involved in the ranking process is not the flaw". That's not saying the programs themselves aren't flawed. They are. But its better than not having them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Season Milestones

The new basketball season is upon us, and because of the BCA, its already 4 games old. The Orange have an impressive collection of talent this season, a lot of question marks, and an lot of upside potential. This season will play out, and we’ll find out how good they really can be as a team.

How about the personal accolades? Let’s take a look at the numbers, and see what guys may achieve this year regarding the SU record books.

How likely is it that Paul Harris or Mike Jones might reach some freshman milestones? The single season scoring record for a Syracuse freshman is 778 points by Carmelo Anthony in 2003; that’s unlikely to be challenged as neither Harris nor Jones will be counted on to lead this team in scoring. But could they make the top 10 freshman efforts?

Here’s the top ten freshman scorers for Syracuse:

Carmelo Anthony 778 points
Lawrence Moten 583 points
Billy Owens 494 points
Gerry McNamara 467 points
Pearl Washington 460 points
Derrick Coleman 453 points
Eric Devendorf 428 points
Dale Shackleford 331 points
Roosevelt Bouie 326 points
John Wallace 321 points

Based on his reputation, and some of the early season efforts, Harris could make a run towards the top of the freshman rebounding list. He won’t be a prolific as big men Anthony and Coleman, but Harris could have a serious shot at #3 Owens.

Carmelo Anthony 349 rebounds
Derrick Coleman 333 rebounds
Billy Owens 263 rebounds
Dale Shackleford 256 rebounds
Roosevelt Bouie 242 rebounds
John Wallace 221 rebounds
Rony Seikaly 198 rebounds
Louie Orr 194 rebounds
Lawrence Moten 192 rebounds
Hakim Warrick 168 rebounds
Otis Hill 168 rebounds

As for the assists, I would expect Harris to crack that top ten, though Pearl should be secure at #1. Kindel and Monroe both make the top ten even though they weren’t starters, and Devendorf was a shooting guard; if you’re a freshman guard with significant playing time, the assists will come.

Pearl Washington 199 assists
Jason Hart 184 assists
Michael Edwards 168 assists
Adrian Autry 164 assists
Gerry McNamara 155 assists
Billy Owens 119 assists
Eric Devendorf 82 assists
Ross Kindel 79 assists
Carmelo Anthony 77 assists
Greg Monroe 71 assists

Eric Devendorf had the 7th best scoring season for a freshman. How could he stack up to the other sophomores in terms of their career stats after two years? Lawrence Moten, the schools all time leading scorer would have 1,101 points after his sophomore season. Devo would need 673 points this season to catch up to Moten; very unlikely to occur. However, 572 points to reach 1,000 is plausible; Billy Owens and Sherman Douglas both exceeded that total their sophomore season (Douglas leading the way with 659). To crack the top 10 career efforts after his sophomore season, Devo would have to score 342 points; that amount would be disappointing for him and would surely be a certainty. If Devo duplicated his freshman season, he would have 852 career points, good enough for 6th on this list.

Career scoring totals after the sophomore season:

Lawrence Moten 1,101 points
Billy Owens 1,096 points
Gerry McNamara 1,001 points
Pearl Washington 930 points
Derrick Coleman 927 points
Rafael Addison 826 points
Sherman Douglas 805 points
Erich Santifer 798 points
Carmelo Anthony 778 points
John Wallace 770 points

As for assists, Devo would need 93 assists to crack the top 10; he had 82 last season. Devo had 50 3 point baskets last year, 3rd best for a freshman. He’s already the 20th most three point shots at SU. If he simply repeats his frosh season, he’ll be #13 all-time. Likely he’ll improve upon last year, and will break the top 10.

In terms of the senior class, Demetris Nichols has 681 career points, Terrence Roberts has 669 points, and Mookie Watkins has 366 points. Nichols and Roberts will surely make 1,000 points, needing 319 and 331 points respectively; they both should do it. Watkins needs 634 points… he won’t make it.

Roberts has 450 career rebounds; he’ll need 331 to catch Louis Orr for #10. TRob could make that top 10, but it would require a solid season from him. Watkins has 365 career rebounds; he won’t make the top 10.

Only five Orangemen have had a natural triple double (10+ points, rebounds and assists in a game). Paul Harris has show the ability to score and rebound… he could get a big assist game and get that rarity.

Coach Jim Boeheim will add to his Syracuse record 729 wins. He already has 4 this year, getting him to 733… he needs 21 to get to 750, almost a surety with his routine habit of winning 20+ a year.
The last Syracuse basketball player to win Big East Player of the Year was Hakim Warrick, only two seasons ago. The last Orangeman to win Big East Rookie of the Year was Melo in his fabulous freshman season. The last Orangeman to win Big East Defensive Player was Etan Thomas in 2000. And in 2003, Hakim Warrick became the last Orange player to win Most Improved Player of the Year.
If I were a betting man, I'd say Harris has a good chance at the Rookie of the Year, and possibly the defensive player of the year.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thanks to all the Veterans on this Special Day

The Paul Harris / Mike Jones era has officially begun, with the Orange winning easily (if not sometimes sloppily) over St. Francis 83-51. Harris had 11 rebounds and 10 points in his varsity debut, and the Orangemen displayed some balanced scoring (though perimeter shooting was suspect).

On this Veterans day, I would like to thank all those who have served our country, putting their lives on the line to do those tasks that need to be done.

The Orange basketball team has had its share of veterans over the decades. And I would like to recognize those former basketball Orangemen who did serve. I acknowledge this is not a complete list; only those I know of. I image more Orangemen around World War II were in the service that I am omitting; if so, please post a recognition here!

In World War I, the following served:
Courtland Sanney
Billy Rafter
Ed Cronauer
Russ Finsterwald
Ken Lavin

In World War II, the following served:
Andy Mogish
Charles Taggart
Dan DiPace
Billy Gabor
Larry Crandall
Roy Peters
Joe Glacken
Ed Glacken
Bob Shaddock
Saul Mariaschin
Tom McTiernan
Jim Ackerson
Jim Emerich
Dick Casey
Red Stanton
Paul Ferris
Mike Stark
George Jarvis
Bob Felasco
Wilbur Crisp
John Schroeder
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Jim Konstanty
Hank Piro
Les Dye
John Balinsky
Marc Guley
Lew Hayman
Phil Rakov

In Vietnam, the following served:
Rick Dean

Two of the aforementioned players deserve special note, as they sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was a member of the Tuskegee Airman, and was killed in a training accident when his plane crashed into Lake Michigan in 1943.

Charles Taggart was a member of the US Navy serving aboard the USS Frederick C. Davis, and was killed when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on April 24, 1945. Taggart and 115 crew members perished.

Please remember to honor these veterans and all other veterans who have done more than just their duty for us. My thanks to you all.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

One Man's BCS Solution

Basketball season will begin for the Orange this Friday night. Before the action begins, I’d like to throw in my two cents (make it a buck fifty) on the college football, and particularly the BCS.

I think it is absurd that Division I football does not have a playoff system. Division II and III both have playoffs involving 16 teams. In theory, at those levels the student athletes are more concerned about their education than the game, and yet they somehow manage to squeeze in all those additional games for the playoff teams, all within the month of December. The administrations of those schools don’t seem overly concerned about the educational impact on their student athletes; that’s because there really isn’t an impact. Yet, that is the most common response Division I administrations will give for not having a playoff system. Poppycock! It’s all about the money that the university’s get from the Bowl Games. Plain and simple.

However, I think a Division I playoff system would work, and would ultimately bring more revenue to all involved. It’s purely near-sighted to not see the potential. Look how big March Madness is for the revenue dollar.

Here’s my plan. You have a playoff of 8 teams. Starting with the second weekend in December, you have 4 games; that narrows you down to your Final Four. Then the third week in December you have your Final Four competition… that narrows you down to your National Championship pairing. You then have two weeks until New Years… and schedule the game anytime you want around then… I’ll let the network execs decide when it best suits them.

Now here’s the thing about the bowl games: you can still have all 25 or so bowl games. They currently are all meaningless anyways; the BCS already determines that only one bowl game has any meaning, so the rest are just exhibition games, opportunities for fans, alumni and boosters to travel to commercialized locations, spend their money and have a good time watching their teams play. You still have the bowl games; you just reserve the New Years day bowls for the six teams that don’t make the championship game… thus those games are a little more special.

Now I’ve thrown this idea out to friends and colleagues over the past five or six years, and the consensus response is that 8 teams isn’t enough. I disagree. I think its more than enough. It’s pretty safe to say that if we take the eight top teams, the best team in the country is in that group.

And, I’m going to make this even simpler for everyone. I’m a big fan of earning the championship on the field. And one thing that makes college football enjoyable, is that every game means something over the course of the season. They are all important. And they should be treated that way. And so my proposal is that only the conference champions are permitted to going to the NCAA playoffs. That means if you come in second in your conference, and you’re ranked #2 in the country, you’re out of the playoffs.

Why can’t you do that? Hey, if you did not win your own conference, why do you deserve a chance at the national championship? You had your chance on the field. You could have won the necessary games, but failed to do so. The opportunity was there. College football doesn’t allow for too many mistakes; but that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable. Remember, every game is important! And we can leave it up to the individual conferences on how their champions are determined. If you want a playoff like the SEC to determine your champion go ahead. If you want to use the regular season standings paired with your BCS rank (like the Big East) then go ahead. Whatever the individual conferences want.

I’m also a big fan of making sure this system works for ALL Division I college teams. So NO conference is guaranteed one of the eight positions. But before the SEC, Big 10 or ACC gets all riled up, they’ll most certainly have a representative if they are even close to deserving.

Here’s how you determine which conferences get representatives in post season: You start with the BCS rankings. Starting with #1, you go down the list until you find eight conferences that are represented. And to be fair to Notre Dame (and their fan base and their big $$$), we’ll allow the Independent schools to be classified as a “Conference”.

So here’s the BCS standings as of November 8th, 2006:

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. Louisville
4. Florida
5. Texas
6. Auburn
7. USC
8. California
9. Notre Dame
10. West Virginia
11. Arkansas
12. LSU
13. Rutgers
14. Boise State
15. Wisconsin
16. Tennessee
17. Oklahoma
18.Georgia Tech
19. Wake Forest
20. Oregon

The qualifying conferences would be Big 10 (Ohio St at #1), Big East (Louisville #3), SEC (Florida #4), Big 12 (Texas #5), Pac 10 (USC #7), Independents (Notre Dame #9), WAC (Boise State #14), ACC (Georgia Tech #18).
Now obviously, there are games left to be played, and conference championships to be earned. But I’m using this as an illustration of how it would work based on today’s standings.

We’ve now identified the eight post season conferences. Now we identify the champions of each:

Big 10: Winner of the Ohio State / Michigan
Big East: Rutgers (big win tonight for them!)
SEC: Winner for Florida/Arkansas
Big 12: Winner of Nebraska/Texas
Pac 10: California
Independents: Notre Dame
WAC: Boise State
ACC: Winner of Wake Forest / Georgia Tech
You could then have an NCAA selection committee seed the eight teams, and have a "Seeding Selection Show". Pump it up like March Madness. You'll know who the participants are prior to the show, but you won't know who's playing who, when or where until the show.

USC fans would immediately scream because their team currently is on the outside looking in, even though they are ranked higher than Cal. But hey, the Trojans had a chance on the field. So far, Cal has been better in the conference. Obviously the loser of Michigan / Ohio State will gripe. But you know what? If you can’t win your big game, THE rivalry game on your schedule, when it’s for all the marbles, why do you deserve a chance at a National Championship at the expense of another school. You had your shot and blew it.

Here’s what is great about the plan. A school like Rutgers, who may run the table this year in the Big East, would actually get a chance to earn the national championship, on the field. Right now, because people don’t “think” they can earn it, they won’t be given the opportunity. That’s a shame. The players go out, beat every team you throw in front of them, and then you say, they’re not good enough to get a chance.
It irks me when a team is discounted because they play in a weak conference. If you put Ohio State in the MAC, and they went undefeated, would that make OSU any less of a team? They'd still be the same talented team; just waiting for the opportunity to prove themselves. Right now mid majors have it tough because the top teams won't play them; beating a mid major does nothing to improve your image, and you have a legitmate chance of losing to one.

Second, since conference standings become very important, and individual team rankings become less important, it becomes easier for a team to schedule tough out of conference games. Those games don’t hurt your conference standings, and help to strengthen your team’s respective game.

Third, the schools from the mid majors have a legit chance to make the post season, if they can prove it on the field. This year, the ACC’s bid would depend on there not being 8 other conferences with at least one team ranked higher than 18th. They are lucky that’s not the case, so the ACC gets in. The MAC could have squeezed team in at #17, and then they get a berth.

Fourth, the concept of ‘super conferences’ for football will become archaic. When conferences start to realize that their teams have only a 1:12 chance of getting into the post season tournament as opposed to a 1:8 chance in a reasonable sized football conference, teams will want to restructure and get into more reasonably sized conferences.

You would have to put guidelines in saying that a conference doesn’t qualify if it has less than 8 teams (or perhaps, it qualifies, but only as an independent, of which there is one possible berth).

Anyhow, this is one man’s thoughts.

I know the NCAA will never move this direction. It puts the actual competition on the field, and removes control of the dollars from the big schools to all the schools. Currently the big conferences have absolute control over the bowl dollars; this plan would give them significant control, but not absolute.

Plus, in a strange and perverse way, the current method using rankings to determine a champion does keep the water cooler conversations and fan interest rampant all the time. There’s no absolutes with rankings, so everyone can debate all the time.

And finally, it won’t work because it makes too much sense.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stability at the Top

The Syracuse University basketball program has had amazing success over its 105 year history, and consistently has been a strong basketball program. The start and end of the 60’s was a down time for the program, but overall winning has been a trademark of the Orange basketball program.

The top 10 winningest basketball programs in NCAA history (from the NCAA 2006 media guide) are:

Kentucky 1,926 wins
North Carolina 1,883 wins
Kansas 1,873 wins
Duke 1,796 wins
St. Johns 1,689 wins
Syracuse 1,680 wins
Temple 1,656 wins
Penn 1,612 wins
Indiana 1,589 wins
Utah 1,584 wins

Note that UCLA & Notre Dame are tied at #11 and each has 1,581 wins, both within striking distance of the top 10. Of particular note for Syracuse fans, is the Orange are only 9 wins behind St. Johns; that would put them in the top 5. The top 4 are college basketball's elite and most prestigious programs: Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, and Duke. And Syracuse is a long way from catching them in total wins.

What is of particular note is that Syracuse University has won those 1,680 wins with only 7 basketball coaches. Think about that number: seven coaches in 105 years. Fred Lewis had the shortest tenure at 6 years, while current head coach Jim Boeheim has the longest at 30 years and growing.

The coaches are, in order:

Dr. John A.R. Scott 64-54
Ed Dollard 149-56
Lew Andreas 358-134
Marc Guley 136-129
Dr. Fred Lewis 91-57
Roy Danforth 148-70
Jim Boeheim 726-253

I have not been able to check all 300+ division 1 programs to check out their coaching history (perhaps if someone else wants to do it, I would be more than happy to post their results and give them their credit). I would be surprised if any program in the top 20 has fewer coaches. Kansas, a model of stability, has had only 8 coaches: James Naismith, Phog Allen, W.O. Hamilton, Dick Harp, Ted Owens, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self.

Kentucky had Adolph Rupp for 42 years. But 17 other men join Rupp as a head coach of the Wildcats.

Duke has had 19 head coaches. Mike Krzyzewski has been there since the 1980-81 season. Georgetown has had 18 head coaches. Rutgers has had 5 head coaches since 1984: Tom Young, Craig Littlepage, Bob Wentzel, Kevin Bannon and Gary Waters.

Pitt, which has been a fairly successful basketball program during its stay in the Big East, has had 5 head coaches since entering the conference: Dr. Roy Chipman, Paul Evans, Ralph Willard, Ben Howland, and Jamie Dixon.

Continuity of coaching is a big plus, as long as you have the right coaches in place. It builds stability, and allows coaches to recruit for the present AND for the future. Syracuse has had a bit of luck. All seven coaches have had winning records. Marc Guley came the closest to being sub .500, but that took going 2-22 in his last season (the worst season in Syracuse basketball history) to bring his record down to 136-129.

Dr. John A. R. Scott was Syracuse’s first basketball coach. He was the school’s athletic director, and voluntarily coached the team after its third season to help the program stabilize.

Ed Dollard was a star player for Scott, and became the school’s first paid head coach in 1911. Dollard would lead the Orangemen to their only undefeated season in 1914 (12-0) and their first national championship in 1918, going 16-1.

Lew Andreas would succeed Dollard. Andreas was a Syracuse alumni and letterman, but did not play basketball; he lettered in football and baseball. At many schools, Andreas would be considered their greatest coach ever: 358-134 record, a national championship in 1926, 27 total seasons. Andreas integrated the Syracuse basketball team with the presence of Wilmeth Sidat-Singh way back in the 1936-1937 season. Andreas would be a long time athletic director at Syracuse from 1937-1964, and would in part play in the success of integrating the Syracuse football teams.

Marc Guley followed Andreas. Guley had played for Andreas, and would lead Syracuse to its first NCAA bid in 1956-1957. Unfortunately, later in his coaching career, Guley would have problems relating to the minority players on the team, and would have problems recruiting. The 1961-1962 Syracuse team set the NCAA record for most consecutive losses (since broken), prompting Guley to resign.

Andreas would then hire Fred Lewis to coach the Orangemen. Lewis was a masterful recruiter, and coached a high pace game. He turned the Orangemen around in only a couple of seasons and had the coup in recruiting Syracuse’s all time great Dave Bing. Unhappy with what he perceived the University’s commitment to the basketball program, Lewis resigned in 1968.

His assistant Roy Danforth was then hired as the new Syracuse coach. Danforth had played for Lewis at Southern Mississippi, and later followed Lewis to Syracuse. Danforth was quite a showman, and brought a lot of flair to the Syracuse program. More importantly, he brought them to new heights, as he led them to their first NCAA Final Four in 1975. Danforth would take advantage of his fame and in 1976 he would move to become the athletic director at Tulane.

Danforth’s assistant, Jim Boeheim then became the head coach. Boeheim had played under Lewis, and after a short professional basketball career, returned to Syracuse as an assistant. The rest has been history, as Boeheim now enters his 31st season, with a record of 726-253, 1 National Championship (in 2003), and 3 Final Fours.

Of Syracuse’s 7 head coaches, five were alumni of Syracuse, and four had played for a previous Syracuse coach. Six were rookie head coaches when they started at Syracuse; Lewis was the only exception.

Who will be the next Syracuse basketball coach? I think that may be premature, as I think Boeheim is likely to be around for several more years. However, many fans think that current assistant coach Mike Hopkins would be perfect for the job. A former letterman at Syracuse, and 10+ years as an assistant under Boeheim would surely cast him in the mold of previous SU coaches.

Whomever the next coach will be, whenever it will be, he better like the snow for if history holds form he will likely be in Syracuse for quite a while!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jonesing for a Place on the List

Would you believe that Mike Jones, frosh forward for the Orange this year, is the first basketball player surnamed Jones in the 107 year history of Syracuse basketball? That’s including scholarship, walk-ons, scrubs, etc. As far as my research shows, he's the first.
There was a Smith (Bill), a couple of Johnsons (Dave & Derrick), a Washington (Pearl), a Jackson (Luke), and a couple of Wrights (Josh & Dayshawn).

The leaders: 5 Lees, 5 Starks and 5 Browns. The Lees were definitely the best of the bunch. There were the brothers Lee of the 70’s: Mike & Jimmy. Matthew Lee who was the star of the team back in 1910. Charlie Lee was one of the Three Musketeers with Vic Hanson & Gotch Carr who won the 1926 National Championship. David Lee who was team manager and star forward back in 1907.

The Starks were most notable because of the Stark Brothers (Mike, Pat and Lou), two of who are in the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. Mike for his overall contributions to sports as a player and coach, and Pat because of his football prowess as a quarterback and later as a head coach. The other two Starks were Lou, a football player who played some hoops from 1934-1935, and John, a star player of the 1905-1906 teams.

The Browns had Damone Brown, a solid forward from 1998-2001 who played a little bit in the NBA. William Brown and Mel Brown played a little at Syracuse. Michael Brown was a smooth shooting guard who transferred from Syracuse in the mid 1990s. The fifth Brown? Some guy named Jim who apparently excelled at football and lacrosse.

There have been four Williams (DeShaun, Eric, Jimmy and some guy in 1945… first name unknown), four Scotts (Ollie, Tony, Walter, and H.D.), and four Katzs (Ev, Joel, Larry, Milton).

Even two guys name Suprunowicz (Dick and Bill), two name Baysinger, two named Glacken. Guys named Giusti, Konstanty, Jackimaiak, Simonaitis, Bartholomew and Sidat-Singh.

But never a guy named Jones. At least, not until the 2006-2007 season.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Beasts in the Front Court

The ability to score on high percentage shots near the basket and to pull down errant shots, and to prevent your opposition from doing the same, has long been a recipe for success in basketball. Teams that are very good offensively up front, pay dividends to the perimeter game as defenders must concentrate on stopping the big men freeing up that outside shot. Similarly, if you shut down an opponent’s inside game, then you can force them to take the lower percentage perimeter shots.

So which Syracuse Orangemen teams had the best frontlines? I’ll give you my top five, and one honorable mention.

Honorable Mention: 1956-1957. The front line had seniors Gary Clark (F, 6’4”), Vinnie Cohen (F, 6’1”), and sophomore Jon Cincebox (C, 6’7”, 235 lbs). Senior Jim Snyder (F/C, 6’5”) saw significant action. Cohen was an All American candidate, an explosive leaper and strong to the hoop, led the team in scoring with 24.2 ppg. Clark was a solid shooting forward and strong rebounder. Cincebox, a wide bodied center with a nice hook shot, had 10 ppg and 11.8 rebounds, while splitting time with Jim Snyder (10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg). This front line dominated team made Syracuse’s first serious NCAA tournament run, losing to eventual champion North Carolina in the elite eight. Honorable mention because this front line was from a different era, when the game was much different; dominant big men were just starting to become relevant in the college game.

Fifth Place: 1976-1977. The front line had sophomore Dale Shackleford (F, 6’6”), junior Marty Byrnes (F, 6’7”), and freshman Roosevelt Bouie (C, 6’11”). Freshman Louis Orr (F, 6’8”) was a significant contributor off the bench. This was a physically talented front line, though more raw than polished. Statistically, the three starting big men were almost indistinguishable, each averaging about 11 points per game and 8 rebounds. Ability, they were much different: Shack was a flamboyant player, great leaper and good ball handler. Byrnes a solid forward with a nice jump shot and moves around the basket. And Bouie was raw talent at that point, with strength and size to dominate inside, and a tremendous defensive presence. Orr would have another 9.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg, from the bench. The team would go 26-4. Despite all the talent up front, it was really a backcourt driven team with two seniors Jimmy Williams and Larry Kelley leading the way, and Ross Kindel providing support off the bench.

Fourth Place: 1977-1978. This was the next edition of my fifth place team, except now you have Louis Orr starting in place of Shackleford, who had move to guard. The front line was not as deep (obviously, no Orr on the bench). But you have a far more experienced Orr and Bouie up front, and Marty Byrnes was a dominating senior presence (and would be a first round draft pick that spring). Byrnes would lead the team in scoring with 16.3, and he would have 6.9 rpg. Orr would have 12.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and Bouie would match his freshman year with 10.5 ppg and 8.8 rpg. The Orangemen would go 22-6 that year, as the starting back court from the previous season was gone. The team won several games by sizeable margins, and was capable of dominating most teams. Behind a tremendous effort from Byrnes, they would beat Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the inaugural Carrier Classic.

Third Place: 1978-1979. Now you have the Bouie & Louie show in full force. Senior Dale Shackleford was back at forward, junior Orr at the power forward, and junior Bouie at the center. Sophomore Danny Schayes (C, 6’11”) was talented enough to start for most programs, but could not get enough time on the court. Bouie would lead the team in scoring and rebounding (15.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg), and would shoot a blistering 63% from the floor, all from close range. Defensively he was becoming one of the most dominating presences in college basketball. Orr was running the court well with 13.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Shackleford was doing a lot of everything leading the team in assists with 4.1 apg, 14.1 ppg, and 6.4 rpg He would also lead the team in steals. The Orangemen would go 26-4 on the strength of this frontline, winning 19 straight at one point, including a school record 144-92 victory over Sienna. The team could run the court well, big men included, and would score over 100 points nine times.

Second place: 1987-1988. This was a close call with my #1 pick. The forwards were sophomores Stevie Thompson (6’2”) and Derrick Coleman (6’10”), and senior Rony Seikaly (6’10”) was in the middle. Seikaly had matured into a consistent dominating defensive presence in the middle, and had developed into a well rounded offensive center able to score both with his back to the basket and facing it. He led the team in scoring with 16.1 ppg, and had 9.6 rpg. Coleman continued to develop as a tremendous rebounder, leading the team with 11 rpg, and adding 13.5 ppg. And Thompson continued to dazzle everyone with his aerobatics above the rim, scoring 14.1 ppg on a variety of dunks and alley oops, along with having tremendous defensive pressure on ball handlers. All three players would shoot 56% or better from the floor as the team had an excellent fast break, and strong inside game. The team would go 26-9 and win the Big East tournament; when they lost the score was close and when they won, it was big. This team ultimately falls to my #2 because of lack of depth up front (Derek Brower was the only other big man to see significant time, and that wasn’t much), and because of their overall record.

First place: 1988-1989. Thompson and Coleman both had aged one year, and both had improved. Seikaly was gone, but freshman phenom Billy Owens (6’8”, 230 lbs) joined the starting lineup, and Coleman moved over to center. How did this front line do? Coleman would average 16.9 ppg, and have 11.4 rpg; his scoring would only be third highest on the team. Owens would not disappoint anyone as he scored 13 ppg and added 6.9 rpg. Both he and Coleman were excellent ball handlers, and you could not full court press the Orangemen, as Sherman Douglas would just pass the ball over to one of his big men who would pass over the defenders for easy passes and layups. Stevie Thompson would scored 18.0 ppg, and shoot a phenomenal 64% from the floor; he had mastered scoring near the hoop, whether from grabbing loose balls for offensive rebounds or getting the alley-oop from Douglas, Thompson scored very close to the hoop. The bench had 6’11” freshman Richie Manning, 6’7” senior Herman Harried, and 6’5” freshman swingman Dave Johnson to provide significant depth up front. The Orangeman would have runs in each game, similar to the previous season where they would outscore an opponent 10-0, or 15-2, or 18-5, etc. Once or twice a game such a run could be expected, and as a result 12 times the Orangemen scored 100+ points. The athletic ability of the team would allow the big men to block a shot, run the court, and score with ease. The team would go 30-8, losing in the elite eight. As I've mentioned in a previous post, the best teams don't always win (OrangeHoops: Best Doesn't Always Win).

There are other front lines that were dominant, but many of those had a weaker link than the five I selected. Bill Smith and Mike Lee were a strong tandem, but Mark Wadach did not match the rest listed here. Same with Rudy Hackett and Chris Sease; no one would argue that Earnie Seibert was an all-star.

Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick in 2002-2003 deserve some serious consideration; and sophomore Craig Forth was greatly underrated for his efforts over the course of the season. The 2002-03 team did have depth up front with Jeremy McNeil as a reserve center, Josh Pace a reserve do-it-all type guy. But I think even if we combine the efforts of McNeil and Forth, they still come up short at the center position. Without a doubt Melo and Hak were a dominating duo up front.

One thing is definitely clear, when you look back at the dominant front lines Syracuse has had over the years… if you have a strong front court, your team will win. That’s the common thread between all five picks (plus the honorable mention and the 2002-03 teams).

The 2006-2007 team is intriguing. The experience of the team is the three seniors in the front court: Demetris Nichols, Terrence Roberts and Mookie Watkins. Matt Gorman, a fourth senior, provides depth at the forward and center position from the bench. And, depending how the season goes, super frosh Paul Harris could end up playing more forward than guard. This could be one of the dominating front lines in Syracuse history, based on their potential. They’ve all shown flashes before. But they’ve also been maddingly inconsistent. I could see all three starting seniors blossom into their full potential, or two of the three succeeding and Harris moving to small forward. I also could see there being little additional improvement from the group… and so we’ll see how it plays out.