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!

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