Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Syracuse has done itself a big favor and virtually guaranteed itself a berth in the NCAA tournament this year, barring a complete collapse by the team. It’s only November, but the wins over top 20 teams Kansas and Florida can not be underestimated in their importance for the total value of the season. These are two neutral court wins (though Kansas was hardly on a neutral court) against ranked teams from major conferences. Add in the win against Richmond, and that is three wins that look good on the ledger come selection time.

More importantly, Syracuse has shown that they have the ability to both hold a lead and to come from behind, a missing element from last season. Florida made a strong run for the lead in Tuesday’s game, and Syracuse withstood that storm. Kansas had Syracuse on the ropes, down by 12, in front of a hostile crowd, and Syracuse came back and won that game. I believe these will go a long way in building confidence for the team.

Here’s three things I really liked about last night’s game:

1) The Orange played some inspired man-to-man defense to get back into the game. They hustled, they stayed focused, and they did not give up. I’d like the players to be less resistant to the zone, so they could be more versatile of a team, but as long as they are playing some defense, it’s an improvement.

2) Arinze Onuaku showed me some defensive hustle last night in the critical moments of the game. I think Onuaku is often too quiet on the court, but his two lightning quick blocks on the Kansas shot and the put back really sent a strong message to Kansas. And 12 rebounds to go along with it.

3) Andy Rautins seems to have found his shooting groove. I believe he can be a 40% shooter from three, and a few more nights like the games he had against Florida and Kansas, and he’ll be set. He also played some inspired defense.

4) Jonnny Flynn has elevated his game to the next level. He still tries to do too much at times, but when the game is on the line, he does have that knack for making the basket.

Now for the bad:
1) Far too many stupid turnovers. Many of these are unforced, and we’re seeing them from everyone. The Orange have got to take better care of the ball.

2) Paul Harris, I love his hustle (when it’s one of those nights he decides to hustle), and there’s nobody I would prefer to have get a crucial rebound than him. His man-to-man defense is spectacular at times. But on the offense, he’s a liability. Harris seems to be a turnover waiting to happen, a bull in a china shop. And Harris has to learn that he is not ‘the guy’ when it comes to crunch time in the game. Syracuse is blessed to have both Eric Devendorf and Jonny Flynn, and Harris is going to have to learn to defer to them. There’s a reason the opposing defenses are leaving Harris open for three during crunch time.

3) Free throws. Yeah, this is Syracuse basketball. No lead is too safe to protect from the Orange woes at the charity stripe. Even our good shooters Flynn and Devendorf are missing the clutch free throws (perhaps they should take a lesson from Onuaku who went 3-3 last night!). Flynn and Devo are good free throw shooters, so make the shots and ice the game

4) The bench looked weak. Rick Jackson looked lost in both the Florida and Kansas games. Kris Joseph looked good against Florida, but like a newbie in the Kansas game. Rautins is playing well, and that’s about it. Nobody else off the bench is getting any real playing time.

And one last thing. Flynn is playing very well right now, and I’m glad to see him step it up. I would feel happier if he wasn’t the leading scorer for each of Syracuse’s first 5 games. He is the point guard, and a few more assists, a few less points, would probably be beneficial to Syracuse in the long run. Flynn needs to make sure his teammates are always involved, and he needs to sacrifice a point here and there to get an easy assist. He’s the floor general and he needs to run that offense and make sure all the parts are running well.

Now, we are 5-0. A much better start than probably most Syracuse fans expected (I must admit I thought the team would need to develop more). It feels very good to be 5-0 at this point, with two very good wins under the belt. 5-0 starts aren’t as easy in recent times as you may think. In the six previous seasons Syracuse has gone 5-0 only twice (see list below). Four times they had lost a game by the fifth game, including the 2002-03 championship season, where they lost the season opener.

The recent trend of an early season loss is rare for Syracuse. From the 1984-85 season to the 2001-02 season, Syracuse went 5-0 14 times; only four times in that 18 year span did they fail to reach that mark. They had matched that failure rate four times in the past six years. And it is not like they played all easy early season games during that 18 year span. They beat teams such as Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Southern California and Boston College, among others, in those first five games. Syracuse used to bring home a lot of trophies in the early season from the pre-season NIT, the Great Alaska Shootout, and the Maui Invitiational. So it is refreshing to see the Orange settle back into familiar country.

Here’s how Syracuse started the first five games for each season from 1984-85 through this year:

1984-85 5-0
1985-86 5-0
1986-87 5-0
1987-88 3-2
1988-89 5-0
1989-90 5-0
1990-91 5-0
1991-92 5-0
1992-93 5-0
1993-94 4-1
1994-95 4-1
1995-96 5-0
1996-97 3-2
1997-98 5-0
1998-99 5-0
1999-00 5-0
2000-01 5-0
2001-02 5-0
2002-03 4-1
2003-04 4-1
2004-05 5-0
2005-06 3-2
2006-07 5-0
2007-08 4-1
2008-09 5-0

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being a Sport, In College

The following article is courtesy of a guest writer for OrangeHoops.

Being a Sport, in College

I enjoyed my four years at college, and it’s not because of the parties and unlimited fun that most of my peers took great pleasure in. No, I was kind of a misfit in this crowd because of my love for sports; both the kind on TV and that takes place on the field. Yeah, I was a jock, and I was not ashamed of the fact. The fact that my best friend was a cheerleader was proof that opposites do attract, but then, I digress. The point of this essay is to detail the advantages that are open to a woman who loves sports and is raring to try out for most of the teams in college:

· You’re in great shape: You don’t have to force yourself to diet or go anorexic like some of your friends because your natural instinct is to hit the gym to keep in shape for that basketball match next week. And when you enjoy working out and running around on court, exercise becomes something that’s a part and parcel of your life, which means there’s no need to follow that strict diet in order to get into that fabulous dress you and your friends have been eyeing.

· You can hang out with the guys: I don’t know if anyone else would consider this a plus, but I’ve always been the kind of girl who gets along like a house on fire with the opposite sex. My closest friends are guys – I find that I can be myself with them and that they understand me a lot better. And the best part is, when they’re your friends, you don’t get unwanted sexual attention from people you’re not interested in romantically.

· You can skip classes: One aspect I loved about sports in college was that we had legitimate reasons to skip class and hang out on the court. Yeah, I did miss a bunch of lessons, but I’m lucky enough to have been blessed with brains as well as muscles, so I did manage to catch up by cramming during exams.

· You get that adrenaline rush: Say what you will, but playing a sport is the best way to fuel your need to feel high. No amount of drugs (not that I’ve experimented) or alcohol gives you the same kind of rush that a well-fought win in a game brings. And since it’s the good kind of high, you can’t get enough of it.

· Your future husband’s gonna love you: Every guy dreams of the perfect girl, the one who not only lets him spend all of a Sunday on the couch with an unlimited supply of beer and chips and a string of wonderful games on the idiot box, but also joins him and cheers along. Well, I just happen to be that perfect girl, so I can safely assume that I won’t be getting a divorce because I nag too much!

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of online university. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2-0, Many to Go

The Orangemen are off to a 2-0 start. Manhandling LeMoyne was expected, and Richmond was a good early season challenge. I think like a lot of fans, I would have hoped for an easier win; partly because it would have been easier to watch, but also because it would have been an indicator of how much better Syracuse was this season than last.

The expectation clearly would be that the Orange would be better this year. The team lost only one player from last year, 1st round pick Donte’ Greene. Losing the talent of a first round pick can hurt a team. But look at what the Orangemen gained for this season: an extra year of experience and maturity for Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, Kris Ongenaet, Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson ; the healthy return of Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf; the arrival of highly tauted freshmen Kris Joseph and Mookie Jones. That’s a lot of significant plusses versus the one minus. So without even playing a game, we could feel confident they were better than last year.
The team is better, but the schedule this year is significantly tougher too. The conference schedule is absurdly difficult, and the non-conference schedule is one that Dick Vitale would not complain about. So Syracuse is going to lose some games this year, and likely some non-conference games.

That is what made the win over Richmond so crucial. Syracuse cannot afford the bad losses this year, and a loss to Richmond, at home, would have been a bad loss . That does not mean that Richmond was not a difficult team to play; they were. Their motion offense can be difficult to handle defensively, and they had some guys who can shoot threes, and Atlantic 10 teams had beaten Syracuse three times in a row.

There were things I was happy to see in the Richmond game. Eric Devendorf played like the Devo we knew pre-injury. He played with emotion, he took and made some crucial shots, and he took over the game at the right moment and time. He also showed the typical Devo careless turnover (seven of them) and some shaky defense at times. His contributions on the court greatly exceeded his errors.

Jonny Flynn showed he can still score and drive the lane. He made some impressive three point shots early on. And 27 points is a good night, no matter who you play. Arinze Onuaku was a stud inside, making every shot with ease in the first half, and most in the second (though missing a few gimmes). Kris Joseph showed some flashes of talent in his time on the court, and Ongenaet provided his usual quiet but necessary rebounding.

However, as nice as all those positives were, there was nothing new… no signs of growth for the team. We’ve seen Devo, Flynn and Onuaku play that way before, routinely. This was a game the team likely would have lost last year, but with Devo and Rautins on the court, we had expected (at least I did) that the meltdowns so prevalent last year would be less likely this year. Now, it is only two games into the year, so there is not a lot to look at for growth; I am just saying that we have not seen any yet.

Syracuse settled for playing on the perimeter far too much, shades of last year. Onuaku was unstoppable inside, and yet Flynn stopped feeding him the ball with about seven minutes to go in the first half. Why?

Devo wore his emotions on his sleeve as he always has, and rose his level of intensity in the second half. But I did not feel it was that contagious to his teammates. I would like to see Onuaku get fired up some time. I realize he could serious injure someone if he were out of control, but how about a scowl or a shout now and then? Paul Harris decided to be ‘no show’ Paul for the Richmond game. He played Jekyll and Hyde last year with his intensity vacillating game to game, and he just wasn’t there that night.

All summer we kept wondering how coach Jim Boeheim was going to spread the playing time at the guard position. We all knew that Jonny Flynn was too tired last year having to play every minute of every game down the stretch. With Rautins and Devo back, Harris able to play the guard, and freshman Mookie Jones also able to play time there, Flynn was clearly going to get his break. Instead, Flynn played 39 of the 40 minutes. Now historically, Boeheim has always ridden his point guards; Sherman Douglas and Pearl Washington almost never left the game. But the constant theme last year was how tired Flynn was, so I expected a change.

Rautins and Devo both got their playing time, with 26 and 31 minutes respectively. Syracuse played a lot of three guard offense, with Rautins taking the forward defensive position. I’m sure we will see a lot of that this season.

Jonny Flynn is a decent free throw shooter, making 78% of his shots last season. But also similar to last season, Flynn missed the crucial free throws down the stretch. Not enough to cost Syracuse the game, but enough to allow Richmond to hang around and have a shot at it. The ball is going to be in Devo, Flynn and Rautin’s hands down the stretch; Flynn’s going to have to starting making those.

Rautins was very cold from the perimeter, going 0-5 from three point range. He was taking the three point shots from long distance, and his shots were consistently long. I’m confident he’ll start making them, but it would have been nice to have seen him make them now.
Syracuse has a very deep bench, and Boeheim only went eight players deep. Freshman Mookie Jones did not even play, and Rick Jackson played only nine minutes. Again, Boeheim almost always goes to a short bench in close games; I am just surprised the Jones did not get into the game in the first half.

Syracuse is lacking a strong scoring presence from the forward position. Harris can score, but he prefers to do it by having the ball in his possession and driving from the perimeter like a guard; Syracuse does not need another guy who can drive from the perimeter. Ongenaet only gets garbage shots. They need a guy who can slash to the hoop without the ball and get the feed, and I have not seen that yet. I’m hoping Kris Joseph will be that guy.

But hey, it is only two games. Syracuse is 2-0; they’ve done what they need to do at this point. The positives we expected were there. There is a lot to build upon and still a lot of potential for the team. I’m very confident the NCAA tournament is in their future, and the team will be a lot of fun to watch.

Let’s go Orange!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day 2008

On this Veterans day, I would like to once again 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 has been tradition at OrangeHoops, 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 (each year I add a few more). I imagine more Orangemen were in the service that I am omitting; if so, please post a recognition here! Also please feel free to recognize any other veterans in the comments.In World War I, the following served:

Albert Ackley
Bradley Barnard
Ed Cronauer
John Cronauer
Charles Fasce
Russ Finsterwald
Ted Huntley
Ken Lavin
Nathan Malefski
Danny Martin
Walter ‘Dutch’ Notman
Elias Raff
Billy Rafter
Courtland Sanney

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

In Vietnam, the following served:
Rick Dean

The following were veterans who served but were fortunate to miss a war era:
Art Barr
Roy Danforth
Ronnie Kilpatrick
George Koesters
Jack Malone

Four 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.

John Cronauer was killed in World War I in 1918.

Joe Minsavage was killed in World War II on June 19, 1943 when his ship was attacked and he was lost at sea.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

2007-2008 Milestone Opportunities

Syracuse has a veteran team on the court this season and thus they have some players who are moving up the all-time lists at Syracuse. Three players have realistic chances of breaking the 1,000 point club at Syracuse.

Junior Eric Devendorf is currently 43rd all time with 1,115 points. He should pass Dave Johnson at #14 on the all-time list, and possibly Rony Seikaly at #13. If Devo has a great scoring year, he should position himself to break Syracuse’s all-time scoring record in his senior season, currently held by Lawrence Moten with 2,334 points. He has a good shot to break the 400 career assist level and should finish the season between #7 and #11 all-time in assists. Devo is currently 11th on the all time 3-point field goal list. He should finish the season somewhere between 3rd and 7th on the all-time list.

Junior Andy Rautins is currently 18th all time on Syracuse’s 3 point field goal list. He should finish the season somewhere around 8th all-time, surpassing Matt Roe, and if a strong season of shooting threes, he would end up at 5th. He should break into the top 100 scorers for Syracuse, and finish the season around 83rd all-time. Both Rautins and Devendorf, as well as Jonny Flynn, can take a shot at Gerry McNamara’s single season three point record of 107.

Junior Paul Harris has 808 points, 534 rebounds, and 174 assists entering his junior season. He needs only 192 points to become the 50th Syracuse player to score 1,000 points. He should finish the season somewhere around #31 all-time in scoring. Harris should finish the season somewhere around #13 all-time in rebounding, and could finish as high as #10th if he averaged double digit rebounds. As phenomenal a rebounder as Harris is at times, he won’t be able to challenge Derrick Coleman’s career record of 1,537. With another solid season of assists, Harris could break SU’s top twenty in assists, needing 121 assists this season to do it.

Junior Arinze Onuaku has 503 career points. He needs 497 points to become the 50th player to score 1,000 career points for Syracuse. He would need to average about 14.2 ppg to do that. He should finish the season around #22 in all-time rebounds, and needs 319 rebounds to get to #20 on the list.

As I mentioned last year, Onuaku is breaking Terrence Roberts' Syracuse free throw record for worst shooter ever (he needs nine more attempt to get to 200 attempts making it ‘official’). Onuaku is now 85-191 for his career or 44.5%; Roberts was 176-367 for his career for 48%. Onuak likely has two seasons to get his career average above Roberts 48%. I'm hoping he can exceed that.

Sophomore Jonny Flynn enters his sophomore season with 548 career points. He needs only 452 points to be the 50th player to score 1,000 points, or about 12.9 ppg. Flynn should finish the season around #42 all-time in scoring for Syracuse. Flynn needs 83 three point field goals to make the top 10 for Syracuse (though with Devo and Rautins also likely moving into the top ten, that standard will change).

Head Coach Jim Boeheim needs 29 wins to reach the 800 win plateau. He reached his 300th Big East win last season.

Trivia Notes: the last four players to lead Syracuse in scoring for the season left school after the season: Donte' Greene in 2008, Demetris Nichols in 2007, Gerry McNamara in 2006 and Hakim Warrick in 2005.

No Syracuse player scored 30+ points in a game last season. The last to do it was Eric Devendorf on March 14, 2007 vs South Alabama in the NIT. The last Orangeman to average double digit rebound was Carmelo Anthony with 10.0 in 2002-2003. The last Orangeman to average 20+ ppg was Hakim Warrick in 2004-2005 with 21.4 ppg.