Friday, November 20, 2009

Orange Win 2k Sports Classic

Wow. I would be lying if I told you I thought the Orange would be 4-0 at this point of this season. I would have been pleased with 3-1. The team lost its top three scorers from last season, including Jonny Flynn who basically controlled every aspect of the offense last year.

Syracuse easily beat Robert Morris and Albany. I had hope and optimism from those two games because the Orange not only beat those teams, but they beat them easily, something that Syracuse really has not done for the past decade. Even in the famous 2002-2003 season, the Orange won a lot of close games, and really never blew too many teams out of the building.

But this year’s Orangemen have taken this a step even further. The not only beat easily the teams they should beat, they took on #12 California and #4 North Carolina, and easily dismantled those teams. That’s the North Carolina Tar Heels, the defending national champion. Yes, the Tar Heels lost four starters from last year, but they still have a ton of talent, a Hall of Fame coach, and they were ranked #4. That was Syracuse 87, North Carolina 71.

I have no idea how good this Syracuse team is, but it is clearly not the #6 team in the Big East. Wesley Johnson is one of those rare situations where he is better than advertised. Johnson had 25 points and 8 rebounds against a big Tar Heel front line. He was 10-17 from the floor and 4-8 from three point range.

Andy Rautins has clearly grabbed the leadership of this team, and his teammates are behind him. Rautins defense in the zone has been simply superb this year. He had seven steals this evening, to go along with his seven rebounds and seven assists. Oh yeah, he did make a few threes going 3-8. Rautins is showing all the poise, guile and maturity of a fifth year senior, and that time on the Canadian National Team is surely helping him. And those passes Rautins is throwing? I hope his teammates are icing down their hands because he is blistering them.

Scoop Jardine is making us almost want to say “Johnny who?”. Jardine is not the scorer Flynn was, but he surely is showing he can run an offense. And he is backing up Brandon Triche. I’ll be really excited to see what happens when these two actually learn how to run this team.

Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku are just eating up the inside. And unlike the past two seasons, their teammates are getting the ball inside to them.

Of course the real success to this team is their defense, which has been outstanding. Extremely active, very active. They have long bodies on the court, but it’s the mental attitude that is making the difference. These guys really buy into the Jim Boeheim defense, and are giving a clinic on how to run it.

We can temper our expectations with a few realities. The team is flat awful at free throw shooting. If another team can get them into a close game, it will be tough for the Orange to pull it out. It some aspects it reminds me of the Orangemen in the Coleman-Douglas-Owens era. Those guys would run most opponents off the court; when they lost a game it was a close one where the free throws did matter.

The Orangemen are also making a lot of turnovers, though they did well against California. Part of that is being overly aggressive, and part is being youthful at some positions. Those types of turnovers can hurt you down the road. This is something that can be corrected (unlike the free throws which will be an albatross this year).

It is going to be a long season. One with many ups and downs as the team learns. But right now they are definitely on an up. Hard to believe this is the same squad who played LeMoyne a few weeks ago. Time for the Orange fans to really enjoy this.

I know I am eager to see what this team can do over the long haul. Let’s go Orange!


ChazR said...

It is certainly surprising to see them playing this well having lost three starters themselves.
The other Big East teams will have to study Syracuse well, particularly Wesley Johnson. Having sat out a year, and coming from a different conference, the other teams may not be ready for him. He will play a huge factor in Syracuse's season.

Steve said...

our free throw shooting has been fantastic these last two game...nice to see. I hope we keep up the great play. Florida just won a big game and we'll be there before long.