Saturday, January 05, 2008

Fast Start

The Orange are off to a nice 2-0 start in the Big East with wins over St. Johns and South Florida. These were games that Syracuse was expected to win, but no win is easy within conference play.

A solid effort from all five starters today, and a good mix of zone defense and man-to-man defense from the team. Free throw shooting as a unit continues to scare me, though the primary ball handlers Flynn and Greene have been doing well. Some balanced scoring with 8 guys in double digit scoring in two games is another positive sign, though with a shallow bench and a high scoring style of play, the starters are going to get plenty of opportunities to score.

Donte’ Greene is off to a fast start scoring in conference play with 43 points. 8 fouls in 66 minutes of play has me concerned (a 12 fouls in his last 94 minutes), along with 7 turnovers. On a team short on reserves, Syracuse needs Greene on the court as much as possible.

Arinze Onuaku has been a very pleasant surprise in the early going of conference play. 18 of 25 from the floor for 39 points, and 25 rebounds. Very nice start big guy. Syracuse has not had a dominant big center since Etan Thomas in 1999-2000.

Paul Harris has shown a nice mix of skills, with 7 assists in the St. Johns game, and 13 rebounds and 20 points in the South Florida game.

Jonny Flynn has 13 assists and 5 turnovers in the first two games. A very strong start for the freshman point guard. His backcourt mate Scoops Jardine looks like he is getting adjusted to his starting role and is providing some excellent support. 12 assists and 1 turnover in his first two Big East games; that is outstanding. Throw in nine rebounds and five steals, and Jardine is becoming a huge asset to the Orange.

The bench, all two of them, are struggling. Rick Jackson is struggling to get into the offensive flow. He showed tremendous ability earlier in the season, so a little more seasoning here should help. Kris Ongenet seems overwhelmed at his point by the more rugged play in the Big East. In his first 18 minutes of conference play he has picked up 8 personal fouls (earning a disqualification in the South Florida game with 5 fouls in 12 minutes), and he has only 1 rebound.

There is going to become a moment in the Big East season where Jackson and Ongenet are going to be counted on for some valuable productive minutes, so it is important for Syracuse to get these two guys going. Greene is walking a fine line with his foul trouble right now, and sooner or later, every player gets into some foul trouble.

It is only two games, and games against opponents that Syracuse should have beaten. It is however pleasing to see the Orange have done what they should have done; that does not always happen. Their first conference road game is at Cincinnati this Wednesday. This is another game the Orange should win, but you can ask Louisville how that goes. The Cardinals lost at home to Cincinnati in the Big East opener on January 1st, 58-57. So this will be another good test for the young Orangemen.

Go Orange!

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