Saturday, February 24, 2007

When You're Hot You're Hot

When you’re hot your hot. Over the last four games, Andy Rautins has been on fire from three point range. The lanky sophomore is 17 of 28 from three point range (60.7%). That’s an amazing four game clip. And he’s been consistent… it’s not like one or two big games in that four game stretch. Rautins has gone 4-5, 5-8, 3-6 and 5-9 from outside the arc in that stretch.

It does beg the question, though, what is going to happen to the Orange when Rautins has an average night? It’s unreasonable to expect him to continue at a 60% clip (though I’m sure his few remaining critics will bash him next time he goes 1-4). During this four game losing stretch the Orange would likely have lost to St. Johns and Providence if Rautins had made one less three in each game, and both the South Florida and UConn games were close until about 3 minutes to go. In both those cases, if Rautins hadn’t been hot, Syracuse could have been trailing with about 3 minutes to go, and that changes the entire complexion of the team.

Over the same four game period, Eric Devendorf has shot a horrendous 14 of 50 from the floor (28% !!). Demetris Nichols has made some big shots, but he’s mired in a 16 for 48 slump (33%). I guess hope is there is Rautins starts to shoot more human, that Devo and Nichols might both pick up their scoring.

Cuse Country points out that the current configuration of Devondorf, Rautins, Nichols, Harris and Watkins is likely the best Syracuse combination on the court. I agree with that, and I do think it has the best chemistry. Boeheim has struggled all year with how to get Harris on the court, and the key really is that the 6’3” Harris (there’s no way he’s his listed 6’5”) is a much better power forward than any other position, and the loss of Roberts is opening opportunities for Harris, in many ways.

First of all, Harris is only effective if he can drive to the hoop. With Harris, Roberts and Watkins all on the court at the same time, that’s three Syracuse players and three defenders all hovering around the hoop. Far too much congestion. So if you take Roberts off the court, there’s some space beneath the hoop for Harris.

Second, when you have three shooters on the court like Rautins, Devo, and Nichols, the defense has to spread to cover them. That opens up the interior even more for Harris to operate. It also allows players like Rautins to make a nice cut to the hoop through a clear lane (and he made a beautiful move today that Harris promptly rewarded him for). So Harris as a ‘point forward’ seems to work well.

Third, with three perimeter players already on the floor, you need to have some inside guys, which means Josh Wright is off the court, allowing Harris to play 'point forward' and handle the ball more, something he is comfortable with.

As Orange fans we’ll have to be very concerned about the six man rotation Syracuse currently has, especially since Harris and Rautins aren’t used to playing more than 25 minutes a game. But it is an exciting unit, and right now, I’d rather watch them lose with this unit, then win ugly games with the old configuration (well… maybe I won't go that far).


OrangeRay said...

Addendum: If you go back to the January 30th game vs. Notre Dame, a span of 7 games, Rautins is 25 of 46 from three point range, or 54.3%. Still amazing. And that includes an 0-4 effort against UConn.

Adam Gerard said...

(though I’m sure his few remaining critics will bash him next time he goes 1-4)

Rautins has been hot. But you say this as if Syracuse fans haven't had reason to question Rautins's minutes before this hot streak. He definitely was not making 3s nor serving much of a purpose on either end of the floor before the last 7 games.

Obviously, that's all different now and it makes me excited to see a) how he finishes the season and b) what he can do for the team next season.

OrangeRay said...

I did not mean to imply criticism of Rautins prior to this streak was unwarranted... much of it was; I was referring to those who were critics of Rautins before he ever stepped on the court and have taken every the opportunity to pick on him relentlessly.

I may however, slightly disagree with your point that he had no value on the court prior to his shooting streak. I would contend that he plays the zone defense better than most the Syracuse players, and he doesn't make too many stupid mistakes. So while he may not have had too many plusses, he was not a negative.

I'm not suggesting this is your perspective, but I did get tired in January with the number of fans screaming for Paul Harris to get more minutes while acknowledging that he was a mess on offense, their theory being we should let Harris play through it and grow. Yet, these same fans don't want to let Rautins stay on the court and find his shot. Why Harris, but not Rautins?

Anyhow, thanks for the comment; it helped me clean up my position!

Adam Gerard said...

That an excellent point on the difference between complaints on Rautins and Harris.

Why Harris, but not Rautins?
Probably because most of us were frustrated with everything related to the team, but kept thinking about how Harris could be such a bright spot. Rautins, on the other hand, was just a guy that was supposed to have a sweet jumper that we hadn't seen. There was nothing to convince us that he could eventually find his shot. If he hits another slump next season, hopefully people will be more patient now that we've seen some consistency and skills.

I think you're right on Rautins not being much of a negative up to this point. And now he's clearly a positive, looking more confident on the floor, actually handling the ball, playing D and making shots.

I'm just glad to see that both Rautins and Harris seem to have found some kind of niche on the team. Harris clearly has talent, it's just a matter of finding out how to use it. Hopefully it's all up from here.

Adam Gerard said...

Also want to say, "thank you" for the blog. It's hard being a Syracuse fan down in DC but you and the rest of the Orange blog crew keep me informed and thinking Orange all the time.