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).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Single Season Leaps

Demetris Nichols is having a great season, and his scoring is up significantly from last season. He’s scored 511 points this year, as opposed to 466 points last season. If the Orangemen play about 8 more games, he’ll get to 662 points, which would be a 196 point increase from last season. It begged the question to me, what is the record at Syracuse for the biggest point increase from one season to another?

There have been fifteen players in Syracuse history to have increased their scoring by 300 or more points from one season to another. Five of those were guys in their senior seasons:

Ernie Austin 348 point increase (445 senior year, 97 points junior year)
Greg Monroe 344 (490, 146)
John Wallace 341 (845, 504)
Danny Schayes 318 (496, 178)
Bob Kouwe 302 (349, 47)

Of that fivesome, John Wallace stands out as very impressive. Think about it: he scored 16.8 ppg as a junior, was a possible first round NBA draft choice, and came back to school and increased his scoring by 341 points (not to mention taking the team to the brink of a national championship). His increased scoring (5.4 ppg) and 8 additional games (that’s what you get for making a deep tournament run) accounted for the difference. Austin and Kouwe both had injuries their junior year, and Monroe and Schayes were on the bench behind seniors.

Four guys made huge scoring transitions from their sophomore year to their junior year:

Greg Kohls 536 point increase (574 points junior year, 38 points sophomore year)
Dave Johnson 418 (621, 203)
Demetris Nichols 360 (466, 106)
Preston Shumpert 333 (662, 329)
Otis Hill (482, 195)

Kohls has the record for the biggest single season increase; 536 points would be a great season by itself, and he increased his scoring by that amount.

Six guys made the big jump their freshman to sophomore seasons:

Sherman Douglas 513 point increase (659 points sophomore year, 146 points freshman year)
Marty Byrnes 359 (377, 18)
Todd Burgan 350 (459, 109)
Rafael Addison 304 (565, 261)
Hakim Warrick 304 (518, 214)
Stephen Thompson 300 (492, 192)

As much as all these Orangemen made huge strides, no player in Syracuse history made as big a leap as Nick Paul. Paul increased his scoring by 209 points from his junior season to his senior season. That doesn’t seem so amazing does it?

Consider that Nick Paul played from 1918-1920. The typical scoring leader averaged 150 points in a season in about 15 games or so. Paul scored 216 points his senior season (1919-20) to lead the team in scoring; he had scored only 7 points his junior season. He had scored only 1 point his sophomore season. Paul scored 216 points his senior season, after scoring a total of 8 points in his college career up to that point. And while I haven’t been able to confirm it yet, I believe 216 points was a Syracuse single season scoring mark at that point in time. That is an amazing transformation.

That would be about as remarkable as Matt Gorman suddenly scoring 28 points a game his senior season.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Debunking the Myth

I see many references on the message boards that coach Jim Boeheim hates to play freshman. Well, quite simply, I’d like to quickly debunk that myth.

Coach Boeheim has consistently played the best players on the court, regardless of their class. Keep in mind, by “best”, I mean the player who is the most talented and positive impact on the team today. Many fans get that confused with “potential”, meaning how good the player could be. One thing Boeheim has not done much with, is the “would of, could of, should of” scenarios.

Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse for 31 years. During that time, he has started 22 freshman. Sixteen of them were starters for virtually their entire freshman seasons, and six split time with other teammates.

Roosevelt Bouie
Erich Santifer (16 gs)
Andre Hawkins
Pearl Washington
Michael Brown
Rony Seikaly
Derrick Coleman
Billy Owens
Michael Edwards (18 gs)
Adrian Autry
Lawrence Moten
John Wallace
Otis Hill
Jason Hart
Etan Thomas (12 gs)
Jeremy McNeil (21 gs)
Hakim Warrick (19 gs)
Craig Forth
Gerry McNamara
Carmelo Anthony
Demetris Nichols (15 gs)
Eric Devendorf

That was the list of the starters. That does not even account for the freshman who has significant playing time from the bench, which would include players such as:

Stephen Thompson
Dave Johnson
Gene Waldron
Tony Bland
Rafael Addison
Wendell Alexis
DeShaun Williams
Louie Orr
Eddie Moss
Billy Edelin
Ron Payton
Richie Manning

Does Jim Boeheim start seniors and juniors over freshman more often? Sure he does. It would be foolish to think he would do otherwise. Seniors are more experienced, typically bigger and stronger, smarter on the court, and therefore, you would hope, better players. Do you think Derrick Coleman as a freshman was equal to Derrick Coleman as a senior? If you had Derrick Coleman (senior) on your team, would you take him out of the starting lineup so Derrick Coleman (freshman) could start? Of course not.

Historically speaking, when the freshman is deserving of playing time over his teammates, he has received it.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Guards... be the playmakers

I may have more to write tomorrow on the Syracuse / South Florida game. Here's my quick observation. With 9 minutes left in the game, Demetris Nichols has taken only 6 shots in the game. He scored 57 points the past two games combined, and he's only taken six shots this game. Yes, he is cold... but let me repeat he's taken only 6 six shots this game.

Eric Devondorf and Josh Wright, who've been cold for a month or so (or so it seems), have taken upon themselves to heave up 18 shots so far (making only six). Only four assists between them.

All I know is if a guy has been carrying you lately, ride him. Rautins was 4-7 early in the second half from three point range. Hasn't taken a shot in the last 10 minutes. Devo and Wright... you've got to make an smart effort to get the ball to Rautins, or to get Demetris free... or get the ball to Watkins down low.

Again, guards... make the play. Get the rest of the guys into the game.

We may very well win this game... we've been leading most of it, though close. Our guards aren't playing it smart though.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Nichols Nets 37

Syracuse held of a last minute surge from St. Johns to win 76-74 in a “must win” scenario for the Orange. Having gone 1-3 the four games prior to today’s game, I think they need to finish the regular season 6-0 (short of having to run the Big East tournament… again!). That would make the Orange 7-3 in their last 10 regular season games. They dug themselves a deep hole, and need to climb out of it.

Demetris Nichols was the hero of the day, putting up a career high 37 points on some outstanding shooting. 14 of 24 from the floor, and 7 of 13 from three point range. Probably more impressive for Nichols was that he pulled down 10 rebounds.

Nichols effort was the best for an Orangemen since Gerry McNamara torched Davidson for 38 in December of 2005. It was the most points ever for an Orangeman in a Big East game, breaking the previous team record held by Hakim Warrick. And the 37 point effort is tied (with many) for 17th place on the all-time Syracuse single game scoring list.

An interesting side note was that Nichols only made two free throws. The last Syracuse player to score 37+ points with two or less free throws was Dennis DuVal, who scored 37 against Bucknell on January 23, 1974 on 18-30 shooting, with 1 free throw.

Andy Rautins had a big day too, scoring 14 points on 4-5 shooting from three point range (5-7 from the field overall).

This years team has been one of the better Syracuse free throw shooting squads. Yet today, they went cold, 12-23, missing 11 free throws. The culprits? It was not the usual suspects. Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts shot a combined 7 of 11 from the free throw line.

Nope, the culprits were the free throw sharpshooters. Rautins, Eric Devendorf, and Josh Wright shot a combined 3 of 10 from the free throw line. Ouch. I do not think we will see that often.

Devo had a poor shooting day, but kept his finger off the trigger, going one for four, and a total of four points. I was concerned that he was shooting poorly and had four turnovers at the half… but he turned it around in the second half, played solid with his ball handling and ended up with 9 assists.

St. John’s is a team Syracuse should have buried. But it was good to see that they were able to come back from being down in the second half, and then hold off a late Red Storm charge. It’s also good to see that Nichols kept shooting down the stretch, and that Devo and Wright recognized that Nichols was the man to give the ball to.

It’s a win. A big one at this point.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stats Updated - Milestones revisited

The season is well into fold, so I thought I'd do a brief recap of where the players are in terms of career milestones.

Demetris Nichols has 1,127 career points, putting him #41 on the all-time Syracuse scoring list. Next in his sights is DeShaun Williams at 1,136, and the Martys (Headd and Byrnes) at 1,159. Terrence Roberts is at 898 career points, putting him at #56. He should make 1,000 by season end, unless he underperforms and the team tanks terribly in the post season.

Nichols is up to #7 on the all time three point shooting list with 167. For his career he is 167-473, for 35.3%. Next on his list is DeShaun Williams (again) at 175, and Todd Burgan at 178.

Eric Devendorf is climbing the three point shooting chart rapidly. He is now 90-233 for his career, 38.7%, putting him tied at #15 with Michael Edwards. Next on this list for Devo is Kueth Duany and Luke Jackson, both at 98.

Andy Rautins is 49-152 from the three point range for his career, or 32.2%. He is #23 on the all-time list, one behind Billy Owens and current assistant coach Mike Hopkins.

Darryl Watkins has 226 career blocks, putting him 6th all-time. Jeremy McNeil is next on the list at 260. Watkins recently passed Craig Forth who had 215.

Nichols has 912 points scored his junior and senior seasons. 22 previous Orangemen have scored 1,000 points their junior and senior season combined. The record is 1,406 points. You may be surprised who holds that record… I’ll save the answer for a little bit.

Devo has 752 points scored so far in his freshman and sophomore seasons; the Syracuse record is 1,101 by Lawrence Moten. Only two other Orangemen had 1,000 points by the end of their sophomore season; Billy Owens with 1,096 and Gerry McNamara with 1,001. Devo’s 752 points makes him the 11th most prolific player by the end of his sophomore season; John Wallace is at #10 with 770 pts, and Carmelo Anthony at #9 with 778 pts (course, he did it in one season).

Devo’s 90 three point shots are the third most for a player after his first two seasons; Williams is next with 104. GMac is well ahead at 190.

The answer to the most prolific scoring player at Syracuse during his junior and senior seasons? Mr. Preston Shumpert. He average 20.5 ppg to get to his 1,406 points.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl XLI - Orangeman Style

Five former Syracuse Orangemen are part of this years Super Bowl Championship Indianapolis Colts. Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney are both starters, while Josh Thomas and Ryan Lacasse were reserves, and James Mungro was on the team, but on the IR all season. This is the most Syracuse football players in one Super Bowl, and bring the total to 27 former Orangemen on Super Bowl teams, 17 of which have won a Super Bowl Championship.

The list includes (alphabetically; asterisks indicate Super Bowl wins):

Dave Bavaro
Rob Burnett*
Mike Charles
Ken Clarke
Larry Csonka**
Paul Frase
Dwight Freeney*
Marvin Harrison*
Qadry Ismail*
Darryl Johnston***
Tebucky Jones*
Pat Kelly
Ryan Lacasse*
Dave Lapham
John Mackey*
Donavan McNabb
Kevin Mitchell*
Art Monk***
Keith Moody*
Joe Morris*
James Mungro*
Josh Thomas*
Stan Walters
Roland Williams*
Otis Williams*
Blaise Winters
Dave Wohlabaugh

Two of these players also played basketball for Syracuse university: Donavan McNabb and John Mackey. Also of note, the legendary Jim Brown played in three NFL Championship games (before the Super Bowl), winning one. And Brown also starred in basketball at Syracuse (along with several other sports).

As a side note, 19 former Syracuse basketball players have played in the NFL. Mike Waters had brought this up on his blog today, so I felt obliged to follow up on it.

Congratulations to all the Indianapolis Colts for their championship. Special note to Tony Dungy who was a class act in his post game interview, and to Peyton Manning for chasing away that terrible monkey that would’ve (unfairly) sat on his back.


Dr. Jeckle Shows Up

The Orange snapped their three game losing streak with a big win against DePaul, bringing their good brand of basketball instead of their poor. The heartening fact was they did it despite poor offensive nights from Demetris Nichols and Terrence Roberts. The disappointing fact was that they once again couldn’t finish out a game, this time nearly blowing a 20 point second half lead before winning down the stretch. I’m sure antacid sales have been very high in central New York this year, and it appears that the need will continue.

Eric Devendorf had his career best effort for the Orange, and Andy Rautins had his first big game for Syracuse.

Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician made a good point the other day about Syracuse struggling when the big guns (Devo, DNic, and TRob) aren’t making their points; nobody does appear to be stepping up in those down nights. Well last night, Rautins showed he may be part of the solution. I had meant to put together some numbers showing the impact of the lack of scoring from the big three, but haven’t quite finished it yet; not really sure if it really stands out statistically as well as we all can intuit.

Coach Jim Boeheim’s post game press conference had some comments relevant to the big nights for Devo and Rautins. When asked about starting Devendorf, Boeheim replied:

"I just though he had given us a lift coming off the bench and just thought it would help him. It helped him and it helped Andy (Rautins). They had something like 27 points in the first part of the game. Both guys adjusted well to it and I thought Eric and Andy just had big games. It was a huge game for them and us. (Demetris Nichols) struggled today. When we have a game like that and Demetris struggles, it’s a heck of a good sign. Terrence (Roberts) and Mookie (Daryl Watkins) struggled. It’s a pretty big win when those struggle and we win.”

When asked about Rautins shooting performance he replied:

“Well we have to work the ball and help get him open. I thought we did that today. Our patience was better and we didn’t turn the ball over and we passed the ball better. We had 18 assists. I thought all that was good. Andy needs help, he needs screens. I thought one thing we didn’t do was when they started switching late in the game, we should have tried to get the ball inside more and that’s something we’re going to have to do.”

I’ll be curious which Orange team shows up Monday versus UConn. This is a game Syracuse should take, and should be able to win big. But will it be Jeckle or Hyde that shows up?