Sunday, March 18, 2012
You Cannot Play Them All
Jim Boeheim cannot win praise from his detractors, regardless of what he does. You would think Syracuse was mired in an underperforming season with a record of 20-10 instead of being 33-2, ranked #2 in the country with a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Fans love to second guess head coaches, and Syracuse fans are no different.
Historically Boeheim has gone only 7-8 players deep on his roster, preferring to keep his top talent on the court as much as possible. This season, he has gone 10 players deep most of the season and yet he still gets criticized for not giving some players more playing time.
I like Brandon Triche’s game a lot. He is likely the team’s best three point shooter and clearly their best free throw shooter. He is the best rebounding guard on the team, and while not flashy, he is a solid point guard, and he is a three year starter with tons of experience. Yet he sits a lot, and that is quite reasonable considering the best offensive talent on this team is the backcourt players. You have to find time for Scoop Jardine and for Dion Waiters; Boeheim does an excellent job of getting them all playing time.
A faction of the fan base criticize Boeheim because he does not play Michael Carter-Williams more. MCW plays in most games, about 3-7 minutes of time. Considering there are three talented guards ahead of him in terms of experience, and current talent level, I think it says a world about how good Boeheim thinks he is by getting him that time. He is getting some seasoning and experience, and being handled well by being put into situations he can succeed, and being held from situations where he can fail. I think it will be invaluable for him come next season; and if the need arose this season, he would play more. My guess is MCW will be a start for Syracuse and in the NBA someday. Right now, that is not his role.
Other fans question why Boeheim doesn’t play to his strength and run a three guard offense. That is looking at only half the picture. A three guard offense would definitely help the offense; there is no doubt about it. However, what is the greatest strength of this team? It’s zone defense, a defense so good that a lot of fans in forums call it the best Syracuse defense they have ever seen. Syracuse cannot play that zone with three guards; that would require Triche or Waiters to play the wing and guard a forward, which could be disastrous. Do you really want to take away the best asset of the team, their zone defense, in order to get more playing time for a guard? And going to man-to-man is not the solution; the team does not practice that well enough to effectively use it and Boeheim and his staff recruit players ideal for zone defense, not for man-to-man.
I have seen many fans question why Trevor Cooney was redshirted, when the team could clearly use his three point shooting. Boeheim cannot currently find enough time for a talented Michael Carter-Williams on the court, and you want him to find time for Cooney? Furthermore, we do not even know how good Cooney is with defense or ball handling at this point in his career. I do not know how you would find reasonable playing time for him, and having him lose a season as the fifth guard makes no sense.
Rakeem Christmas is the interesting player in the mix. I know some fans are looking at Christmas’ Kansas State effort of 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots as evidence that Boeheim should have played him a lot more. Those numbers are huge, and should not be taken lightly. I do think Christmas is far more comfortable at center than forward. I also think Christmas is a better rebounder than Melo, in fact, much better, and likely a better offensive player. Christmas has been playing organized basketball for years, where as Melo only a few season, and I think Christmas is more comfortable with the ball in his hands. He is by no means an offensive juggernaut. Christmas is okay at defense in the center position, but does not have the dominating shot blocking, the body size, nor the zone understanding that Melo does. So there is a loss of defense without Melo, which would be expected as Melo was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
I think Boeheim and his staff want Christmas to develop into a power forward, a role Christmas is not comfortable with now. I think Christmas is likely failing his defensive assignments as a forward, and is not the offensive threat that Joseph, Fair or Southerland is, so he is the fourth forward behind three other veteran forwards. I would like to see a couple more minutes out of Christmas each game, and he does have a very quick hook from Boeheim. However, in a best case scenario, Christmas was not going to get too many more playing minutes at the forward position.
Southerland needed the playing time to open up the Syracuse perimeter game, and he has developed his rebounding and defensive skills. Fans love C.J. Fair, and Fair usually brings that spark to the table, along with adding in all the statistics stuffing needing to help the team. Kris Joseph is the best scoring forward on the team, and the most experienced player on the team.
You could have played Christmas instead of Baye Keita at center, but remember they want to develop Christmas a forward which will help him in his pursuit of a professional career, and Keita can only play center. Keita needs to develop too, and Syracuse needed Melo on the court as much as they could.
I think minor changes could have been made at various points in the season, but they would have been minor, and with no impact on the season results. Remember, Syracuse is 33-2.
Some tidbits of information:
Rakeem Christmas has now started five games at center, and he has had rebound totals of 9, 1, 7, 7 and 11. Fab Melo averages only 5.8 rebounds a game. Of course, shot blockers are often out of rebounding position, so you trade off one ability for another.
James Southerland has scored 43 points in the four post season games, shooting 8 of 17 from three point range, and chipping in 24 rebounds, and 8 blocks.
Where as C.J. Fair disappeared to? The man was a stat sheet stuffer all season. In the postseason run, Fair is 2-17 from the field, including misses from point blank range, and open 10 foot jumpers. He has 17 rebounds, but 11 came against UNC Asheville; only 6 in the other three games combined. This has coincided with him starting, but that cannot be the reason as he did not suffer when he started three games during Melo’s first suspension.
Triche found his shooting touch as the regular season ended, but he has struggled in the post season. He is 1 of 10 from three point range, and surprisingly 4 of 10 from the free throw line.
Dion Waiters struggled for much of the season at the free throw line, but has shot 16 of 18 from the charity stripe in the post season. He has also made 25 of 45 shots during that time frame, and has had only three turnovers.
Scoop Jardine has made seven of his eight free throw attempts in the post season, and has 17 assists the past three games. However, he has also had 14 turnovers the past three games, which has to stop.
Kris Joseph, who has logged more playing time than any other Syracuse player this post season, has continued his month long shooting problems. Joseph is 8 for 31 in the post season from the field, including 2 for 13 from three point range. He was held reboundless against Cincinnati and had only one rebound against Kansas State yesterday.