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!