Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What About 27-1?

The Orange are 27-1, reaching lofty heights that no other Syracuse team has ever reached during the regular season, in the post season era.  There are other teams that had fantastic regular seasons, most notably and recently the 2009-2010 squad that went 28-3 before post season action.

For perspective the 2002-2003 National Championship team went ‘only’ 23-4 during the regular season, and did not win either the Big East Season title or Big East Tournament.  The 1999-2000 team went 24-4 winning the Big East Season title behind Jason Hart and Etan Thomas.

Syracuse went 26-4 in 1990-1991 behind Billy Owens winning the Big East Regular season title. The 1988-1989 Orangemen, perhaps the most talented team Syracuse ever had with Sherman Douglas, Stephen Thompson, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman went a mere 25-6 in the regular season.  The 1986-1987 squad that came within a shot of the National Title was 24-5 winning the Big East Season title.

The Pearl and Raf Addison lead the Orangemen to 23-4 in 1985-1986 earning the Big East Season Title.  In the first year of the Big East, Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr led Syracuse to a 24-2 record and the first Big East Season Title.  They were 25-3 in 1978-1979, and 25-3 in 1976-1977.

You would then have to go to the post-War team of 1945-1946 that went 23-3 and got the Orangemen their first post season action in NIT, to find a squad with an impressive in-season record.  Those Orangemen were led by Billy Gabor, Royce Newell and Ed Stickel.

The question becomes how important is the regular season accomplishments compared to the post season? I may find myself in the minority, but the regular season means a lot to me.  I find that I enjoy sports in the day-to-day; each game has meaning, each has potential moments that I may remember forever.  You play to win the games; accolades and titles are just outputs of winning. 

Regardless of how the season plays out, this is a successful year for me. I am enjoying the team, they are winning beyond my expectations. They have been ranked #1 or #2 for most of the year, and along the way gotten ‘some monkeys off their back’ with wins over Pitt and Louisville, and rivalry wins against the Hoyas and Huskies.  The Orange make the nightly highlights with every game they play.  Jim Boeheim is now the #3 winningest coach in NCAA history, and Kris Joseph is the winningest player in SU history.  They are positioning themselves for nice seeds in both post season tournaments. 

Assuming the Orange don’t lose five straight games, this is a very successful season.  I have no need to for them to reach the Final Four for this to be a success.  I want the Final Four, I dream for the Final Four, but there are a lot of hurdles in getting there. Many great teams from many schools have failed to get there.  The NCAA tournament is is a one-and-done deal, and the wrong match up, a cold shooting hand or a hot shooting opponent, a few bad calls or bounces, a key injury or two… all of these things come into play in the post season.  It does not disqualify how well the team did that year, nor how good they were.

Post season action is the gravy to the meal; it makes everything better and it is exciting as heck.  My thanks to Jim Boeheim and the Orange for a great season so far.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What a View at 25-1

I hope the Syracuse fans keep enjoying this season. It has been far above my expectations at this point, with a 25-1 Orange team to cheer for.  The Orange are in first place in the Big East, and have beaten the teams Syracuse fans love to hate: Georgetown, UConn and Pitt.  

Coach Jim Boeheim has reached the impressive milestone of having more wins at one Division I school than any other coach in NCAA men’s basketball, with 881 and growing. He is the #3 winningest coach in NCAA history.  The Syracuse basketball program, and Boeheim, remain the winningest program in Big East history with 350 wins, and counting.  Including Big East Tournament games, Syracuse has won 396 Big East games; number two on the list is Georgetown with 370. Think about that number; when the Orange leave the Big East, it will take roughly two full seasons for another Big East team to potentially break SU’s Big East record for most wins. 

Syracuse fan Bob Stone did some research and Boeheim is 193-116 in basketball games decided by 1-5 points, including 82-49 in games decided by 1-2 points.  Thanks Bob for that info!

Syracuse had its first 30k crowd yesterday in its 85-67 win over UConn.  The Orange are now 47-23 in those 70 games. That was the seventh time the Orange faced UConn in a 30k game; Georgetown leads the way with 16 appearances.

For those that think the game has passed Boeheim by, consider that Syracuse is 82-14 that past three seasons, including an 18-7 record against top 25 teams, a very impressive 9-2 record against top 10 teams, and a 6-1 record against teams ranked higher than Syracuse.

For his career, Boeheim is 69-79 in games against teams ranked higher.  That means that in games where the national experts think Syracuse is the underdog, he wins 47% of the time. That is a lot of upsets. When Syracuse is the higher ranked team, they win 79% of the time.  For his career Boeheim is 53-63 against Top 10 teams.

I do have to laugh at the national pundits who seem to want to punish Syracuse in the rankings using the argument they have not played anyone.  We need to consider that before the basketball season began, the AP voters had Syracuse ranked as the #5 team in the country; that is without playing anyone!  The Orange then go 20-0, and some voters suddenly want to cheapen the Orange season because the ranked teams were not on their schedule.  The AP voters thought they were the fifth best team in the country, they go out there and prove to everyone they can beat everyone put in front of them, and somehow that is not good enough to warrant additional consideration? Should the Orange go out and lose to some other teams just to show they have tough opponents? 

I often think a loss to an unranked team is less costly than a loss to a ranked opponent; people recognize  a loss to an unranked team as a ‘fluke’ whereas a loss to a ranked team is considered more a barometer of how good you really are.  A loss to Georgetown last week would have allowed pundits to say that something like ‘look what happens when Syracuse finally plays a ranked team’, whereas if Syracuse lost to DePaul, it clearly would be recognized as an upset.

You cannot blame, nor punish, Syracuse for the down year for the Big East.  Furthermore, while several of the Big East teams are struggling to get wins, they are still dangerous teams, with tremendous talent, and the ability to have a game where they put it all together. I would not want to face Pitt or UConn in the Big East tournament. Neither is likely to make it to the NCAA, and neither is really capable of putting a long string of wins, I would not want to face them in the post season in a one-and-done scenario.  The rankings may not show it, but Syracuse is still going through a tough gauntlet of games.

Syracuse’s rebounding problems this season are well documented.  The Georgetown game is a good example of that problem. I am not sure how to really evaluate this team as a result of the rebounding problem.  On one hand, the team was slaughtered on the boards 48 to 30, including giving up 20 offensive rebounds.  Some like to point at that stat, and use it as an indicator on how a team like Kentucky might kill Syracuse. 

One the other hand, how can Syracuse rebound any worse than that? Kentucky or North Carolina could not rebound any better; domination on the boards is domination on the boards.  And Syracuse shot only 35% from the floor, and 33% from three point range.

And they won the game, 64-61.  They shot poorly, they got killed on the boards, and they won.  How many teams could do that and win the game?  If Syracuse had shot well in that game, they would have won by double digits against a ranked team that killed them in rebounding. This team has something special about it.

Syracuse has its weaknesses, and rebounding is the most noticeable.  All teams have their weaknesses, and all teams can lose come tournament time.  Syracuse needs to improve the rebounding to improve their chances, and Boeheim is rightful to be concerned.  They also can win a lot of games against very good teams even with that problem.

Regardless, I am just going to continue to enjoy this season.

Let’s Go Orange!