And congrats to the Syracuse football team for its 7th win, making the team bowl eligible for the first time since 2004, and guaranteeing their first winning season since 2001. All of this with two games left on the schedule.
Syracuse basketball is 2-0, and the team is starting to show its character for the year, with a solid win over a good mid-major program (Northern Iowa) and a win over one of its easier local teams (Canisius). Both games involved a tight first half, with a solid defensive effort throughout the game, and a explosive run to start the second half.
Rick Jackson showed us today the reminder of how well he can play when focused with a 17 point, 13 rebound effort againt Canisius. We do have to remember that he has shown that ability before and then disappeared, but it is a good early sign. Brandon Triche seems to be fitting in comfortable with his shooting guard role, hitting 4 of 9 three point shots. And I always like having a shooting guard who can also play the point.
Scoop Jardine had 8 assists today which puts a smile on my face; I wish he had taken less than 19 shots from the field in the first two games. I always like the point guard to pass first, shoot later, particularly early in the game as to involve his teammates. 12 assists and only three turnovers so far is excellent news.
C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters are showing signs they will be pushing for their share of playing time, and Mookie Jones and James Southerland look like they want to both earn the title as designated three point shooter off the bench. So there may be some good depth, though I think it may be situational.
The Orange have also shown that they are staying committed to executing the Syracuse zone defense. I think that may be the most positive of all the good news so far.
The center position is going to be interesting. Fab Melo is having a ton of foul problems early in this season, having fouled out of both games after a combined playing time of 31 minutes. Fouling out in 13 minutes against a much smaller Canisius is something that I hope is a good learning experience for the freshman. It is tough to tell really how good he may be with the limited playing time.
Baye Moussa Keita has played rather impressively in his reserve role. The freshman pulled down 15 rebounds against the Griffins earlier today, in only 17 minutes of play. That is the most rebounds by an Orangeman since Paul Harris had 16 rebounds against Stephen F. Austin in the 2009 NCAA tournament. Keita did manage to foul out of the Northern Iowa opener in 18 minutes of play, a rather impressive feat for both SU centers to pull in the same game. But I am impressed with the early showing of Keita, and having some early signs of strong potential for him is excellent news as it looks like Melo will definitely be getting some bench time this season due to his foul troubles. Bernie Fine is definitely going to have his work cut out for him. I had hoped to find an early career parallel with Rony Seikaly. But Seikaly, even as foul prone has he was as a freshman, managed to not foul out of either of his first two games, against two quality opponents, Georgia Tech and DePaul. Seikaly played 32 minutes with 3 fouls in his first game, and 29 minutes with 4 fouls in his second.
This is the type of season where the non-conference schedule becomes vitally important for the Syracuse freshman to learn how to play the college game, make the adjustments to the officiating and to the speed of the game.