Friday, December 11, 2009

A Win over Florida

The Orange are now 9-0, having knocked off their third top 15 team of the season. The Orange should go to 12-0 before the start of the Big East season on December 29th, but of course, upsets do happen. It was only a year ago that a 9-0 Syracuse team did lose to Cleveland State, at home.

I had mentioned three years ago that there were fifteen teams in Syracuse history to start a season 10-0. A win over St. Francis will make this year’s squad the 16th to accomplish that feat. Brandon Triche’s cousin Jason Hart was the starting point guard on the last Syracuse squad to win its first ten games, the 1999-2000 squad. That team would eventually go 19-0 before losing its first game.

Brandon Triche’s uncle, Howard, would help the Orangemen start out 15-0 in the 1986-1987 season. Only a jump shot by Keith Smart in the final seconds prevented the Orangemen from winning the National Championship that year. And Andy Rautins' father, Leo, help lead the 1982-1983 Orangemen to an 11-0 start.

Speaking of Andy Rautins, he is simply putting up some amazing statistics early in this season, despite playing only about 24 minutes a game. Rautins now has 49 assists and 19 turnovers after the first nine games of the season. Now keep in mind that Andy Rautins is a shooting guard, a guy who many thought was too slow and too weak to play major Division I basketball. He is on pace for roughly 200 assists for the season, with 80 turnovers, a 2.6 assist to turnover ratio. If Rautins were playing 39-40 minutes a game, he would be averaging about 9 assists a game. Jonny Flynn last season, playing 39-40 minutes a game, had 6.7 assists per game, and a turnover/assist ratio around 2.0.

Rautins is shooting 48% from three point range, 25-52, after having an off-night going 2-7 against Florida. He had no steals, which was unusual for this season for him; Rautins has 30 steals for the season. Jonny Flynn led the Orange last season with 54 steals, for the entire 38 game season. Rautins current pace puts him at around 120 steals for the year. The Syracuse record is 101 by James Thues in 2001-02. And keep in mind, that Rautins is only playing 24 minutes a game right now.

I don’t anticipate those numbers to hold up all season, but it really points out how well Rautins has been doing.

Rick Jackson had an outstanding first half last night. I love the fact that Syracuse is feeding the ball inside to Jackson and Onuaku this year. Good things happen when you offensively get the ball near the hoop. Offensive rebounds happen (Syracuse had 16 last night), opposing defensive players get in foul trouble, and the perimeter shooters get open looks. I like how Kris Joseph is defining his own role as the fast wing player who plays when the Orange need speed over size (Onuaku, sit down). Another stellar night by Wes Johnson (17 pts, 10 rebounds).

The Orange are fun to watch this year. They are playing a good brand of team basketball right now, and I hope that attitude stays with the squad all season long.

By the way, the Florida game is a neutral court game as it was part of the SEC/Big East Challenge, and was played on neither school’s home court. It’s not like the University of Florida is anywhere near Tampa; it’s a massive 132 miles away, a 2 hour 6 minute drive. Syracuse is 1144 miles away (an 18 hour 30 minute drive). Then again, I’m sure Dick Vitale and company would point out that Florida had to drive the whole 132 miles, while Syracuse simply had to drive about 12 minutes to the Hancock Airport, then fly to Tampa, and then drive a few miles to the Tampa arena. Definitely no home court advantage for Florida in this one, unlike Syracuse which has Madison Square Garden in its back yard (it’s very big back yard). All sarcasm aside, I don't mind this game being a neutral court game; it was on a 'neutral' court. Just remember to give Syracuse the same respect about its other two 'neutral' court games at Madison Square Garden.

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