Saturday, December 29, 2012

Syracuse Wins Pinstripe Bowl

Congratulations to the Syracuse Orange as they beat traditional rival West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl.  Syracuse overpowered West Virginia's defense with its running game, and shot down WVU's Geno Smith.
Syracuse had 378 yards of rushing, led by Prince-Tyson Gulley and his 219 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 receiving). Jerome Smith also had a big day with 158 yards rushing.
The Syracuse defense held WVU's high powered offense to only 14 points, and twice forced Smith into a safety.
The Orange get to keep the Schwarzewalder Trophy, which they may now have for a long time. It was fortunate the Orange got to meet the Mountaineers in the bowl this year, the 60th time the two teams have met.  With WVU now in the Big 12, and Syracuse moving to the ACC, it may be a long time until they can meet again, which is a terrible shame, and an indictment of the greed the colleges in the NCAA, and the lack of effort by the fans/alumni bases to care otherwise.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boeheim Wins 900

Congratulations to Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim on this 900th career win.  The coach will profess to not caring about the numbers, but 900 is quite an accomplishment.  Only two other coaches, Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, have accomplished that feat in Division I Men’s basketball.
Boeheim’s record now stands at 900-304; he has won 74.8% of the games he has coached. He was 52-24 as a player at Syracuse, and 139-65 as an assistant basketball coach.  Syracuse has won 1091 games that Boeheim has been associated with, against 393 losses. 
He is the winningnest coach in Big East History (by far), at 353-185.  He is 547-119 in non-Big East games. 
Boeheim has coached in 261 games against top 25 teams, and has a 130-131 record in those games.  Has has a 69-79 record when coaching against teams ranked higher than Syracuse in the polls (that would include games where Syracuse was not ranked).  He has a 615-158 record against teams ranked lower than Syracuse in the polls (that would include games where the opponent was not ranked).
Boeheim has a 53-64 record against teams ranked in the top 10, and a record of 17-41 against teams in the top 5.
Syracuse University basketball has an all-time record of 1854-821.  Boeheim has accounted for 48.5% of those wins as a coach, and 58.8% as a player/coach.
The worst season in Boeheim’s career was 1981-1982, when Syracuse went 16-13.  Even in that season he went .500 in the Big East, going 9-9. 
Over the past four seasons, Jim Boeheim is 101-16, winning 86.3% of his games. He is 44-10 in the Big East those same four years.
29 players for Jim Boeheim have played in the NBA.
Boeheim has won one National Championship (2003), and been to four Final Fours.  He has won 9 Big East Season Championships, and 5 Big East Tournament Championships.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Special Treatment? Not QuiteThe Benefit You Think

I have seen a lot of chatter about Michael Carter-Williams getting special treatment with the alleged shoplifting incident at Lord & Taylor's, as reported by Mike Waters of the Post-Standard.  Most of the negative chatter is about how Carter-Williams is getting preferential treatment because he is a high profiled Syracuse athlete, implying that the average person would be getting different treatment in this situation.
I would agree that he is indeed getting special treatment, but not to his benefit.  The policy, as reported by Waters is: 

"Lord & Taylor’s store policy dictates how to deal with shoplifters, according to one source. In most cases, the police are not called. Instead, a person who admits to shoplifting must pay a civil fine. The fine is five times the value of the merchandise with a cap at $500. When the fine is paid, the accused is released. Shoplifters are not allowed to keep the merchandise."

The article further states that in most cases the police are never involved, nor even is mall security.
If Carter-Williams was the average Syracuse citizen, he would have paid the fine, the issue would be resolved, and the issue would have no public attention.  Instead, because he is a star athlete, and people recognized him at the mall, he is being persecuted by members of the public.  How is Carter-Williams benefiting in this situation from his celebrity?

I do not condone this alleged shoplifting action.  However it does seem to me that based on the facts presented in the article, he was treated by Lord & Taylor's as if he was the typical Syracuse citizen caught up in the same circumstance.  And that is the way it should be, regarding how it was handled from their end.  No special treatment.

The special treatment he is getting is from the media and the public because of his celebrity.  Mike Waters has to report on this, because ignoring the story would be irresponsible journalism. There is a story that is floating around the community regarding something that impacts Syracuse basketball, and if he has done his diligence and gotten the facts, he should report on them.  

Goodbye to the Big East

It appears that in a couple of years, if not sooner, the Big East will no longer exist, at least in concept, if even in name. Most the major news sites are reporting it official that the seven Catholic schools, all non-football, will spin off to form their own new league. I applaud this move, and am very happy to see it.
I will be forthright with you.  When Syracuse announced it was leaving the Big East for the ACC, I have been secretly hoping the Big East conference would fold before next season began. The idea of a Big East conference without Syracuse sickens me.  I really just want the whole conference to go away.
In reality, the Big East I grew up loving, disappeared a long time ago.  The erosion started with the addition of football schools Miami and Virginia Tech, though that was something that was more of a nuisance.  Adding Notre Dame made some sense as it was a Catholic school, and its profile would match much of the Big East.  I was willing to overlook the geographic anomaly there, but the inclusion of Notre Dame without the inclusion of its football program never made any sense. If you are going to sell you soul to get some new members, you better make sure it is a win/win situation, and I never saw the ‘win’ for the Big East in that move.
Rutgers geographically made sense, though it brought nothing to the basketball table.  It would  have made far more sense to keep Temple in the Big East for football, instead of unceremoniously kicking them out, and then insist the rest of Temple join the Big East; they would have a been a nice addition to the basketball league (though I realize Villanova would not have been happy with that).
West Virginia is a natural rival of Pitt, and since Pitt was in the Big East, bringing in WVU with a solid basketball and football program made sense.   Plus schools like Syracuse had traditional rivalries with the Mountaineers. 
But the league started to get bloated.  Teams no longer had home-and-home games with all the teams in the league.  You start to lose your identity that way.  Boston College left… that was a team that the Eastern schools all had a relationship with, and now that was gone on both the gridiron and the hard court.
The Big East expanded westward, beyond the Ohio state line, and grabbed schools like Louisville and Cincinnati to help with the football league.  Marquette and DePaul were picked up to balance out the basketball.  The league identity was gone. It was no longer a small conference of tough battling teams, but a mega conference.  It was a conference with some dominating basketball and tremendous depth, but no identity. And of course the recent grab of Boise State, Memphis, San Diego State, etc. was just a collection of every desperate program out there.  Thankfully Syracuse would be no part of that.
It bothered me that Syracuse left the Big East, but it made perfect sense. If they did not, they would now be were UConn is; a team with no home.  A great basketball program that needs a place to put its football program. Syracuse made the right move, at the right time.
Syracuse owed nothing to the Big East.  It entered the league as a top regional player, and in the first season of the Big East, which was a partial schedule, the Orange were the #2 team in the country.  They entered the Big East as a top program, they were one of the reasons the basketball league had credibility from the beginning. The Big East obviously helped Syracuse go to the next level, as it did to every other team in the league.  But the benefit to SU was mutual with the benefit to the league.  Syracuse was the only program in the league that remained a contender throughout the history of the league; year in and year out, they were always in the top half of the league.  They were not always the best team, but they were always a recognizable team.  Georgetown, St. Johns and Villanova dropped to some very forgettable and losing seasons.  UConn, Pitt. Providence and Seton Hall took advantage of being in the Big East to build successful programs.
I had discussed with friends during the 90’s that I would have loved to have seen the Big East add Navy, Army, Temple, and gone after Maryland for the Big East.  Those programs would have added to the identity of the league. It may not have been the powerhouse it became in basketball in the 2000s, but it would have had a regional and national identity.  Top to bottom talent doesn’t really matter; how do you think the ACC has gotten by the past 8-9 years with only a few really good basketball programs? Regional identity and historical perception. 
Anyhow, good luck to Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence, Notre Dame, Marquette and DePaul as you try to return to a respectable format.  I really do wish you the best of luck.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

2011-12 versus 2009-10

The 2011-2012 season ended painfully, with an Elite Eight loss to Ohio State.  The pain of the loss was not so much the particular game, which in itself was horribly officiated on both ends of the court. No, the pain was watching a tremendously accomplished Syracuse team compete without one of its key players in Fab Melo.  That squad was one of the deepest squads in Syracuse history, but the depth at center was not present.  There was a big drop off between Melo and Baye Keita, and there was no real backup to Keita.

I never wrote a recap on this blog about last season, because it was too difficult to do. It also was eerily similar to two seasons prior, the 2009-2010 season, where an equally great team lost its center, Arinze Onuaku, for the post season. That also cost that team in the post season.

Those two teams were great squads on the hill, both achieving #1 rankings at some point in the season, both winning the Big East regular season, and both earning #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.  They had different paths to those seeds.  The 2009-10 squad started the season unranked, went 8-2 versus top 25 teams, and climbed to #1 by March 2nd.  The 2011-2012 squad started the year with high expectations with a pre-season rank of #5, and never dropped below that all season, rising to #1 by December 17th.  They would go 6-1 versus top 25 teams.

There is no doubt that the 2011-2012 squad accomplished more. They went 34-3, reached the Elite Eight, and tied the Big East season mark with a 17-1 record. The 2009-2010 squad was impressive at 30-5, reaching the Sweet Sixteen and going 15-3 in the Big East. But you have to acknowledge that last year’s squad accomplished more.

The question I want to propose is which team was better? If the two squads were to meet on the court, who would win?

The 2009-10 squad went seven players deep with no other player appearing in half the games.  This was a team with well-defined roles for all the players, and with a lot of NCAA experience.  There were two fifth-year seniors in Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku, and a fourth-year junior in Wesley Johnson.  Rick Johnson was a junior, Scoop Jardine a third-year sophomore, and Kris Joseph a sophomore.  Brandon Triche was the only inexperienced player as a true freshman.

This squad was extremely proficient at running the half-court offense with Andy Rautins running most of the offense.  Syracuse’s inside-out game was outstanding, with Onuaku and Jackson pounding the ball inside with high precision (67% and 59% respectively).  Johnson and Joseph were extremely adept at driving to the hoop and skying about the rim.  Rautins, Triche and Jardine were all good ball handlers, and because of Rautins’ adeptness at making the three point shot from deep range, teams had to focus on him on the perimeter and on the big men inside. This gave open shots to Triche, Johnson and Jardine, and Syracuse was extremely good at making the three point shot.  Between those four, they made 41% of their three point shots (202 of 498).   

The team had four good free throw shooters in Rautins, Johnson, Jardine and Joseph.  Rautins was extremely good in making 82% of his charity shots.   The team was prone to some careless turnovers from Jardine, and some overly aggressive passing from Rautins.

However, it was the team’s defense that made them a #1 team.  Their ‘Shut It Down’ defense would clamp down on opposing teams, and prevent them from scoring for 5 to 8 minutes of the game.   Onuaku and Jackson were not especially tall, but they were very wide bodied and took up a lot of space along the baseline at 235 lbs and 265 lbs respectively.  Triche (6’4”) and Rautins (6’5”) were tall and rangy up front, preventing easy looks from opposing players inside.  Johnson and Joseph were explosive from the wings intercepting passes and taking off down the court.   The team was not particularly adept at shot blocking, but very good at maintaining its defensive positioning, and good at rebounding.

Let’s go forward two years to the 2011-2012 team.  Syracuse would go 9-10 players deep each game.  A very explosive backcourt with a four man rotation of Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Michael Carter-Williams. It was also a very experience backcourt with Triche a junior (and three year starter), Jardine a fifth-year senior, and Waiters a sophomore.  Jardine and Waiters were very adept at tipping passes and running the fast break, something Syracuse did extremely well. 

Kris Joseph provided the interior offensive game with his drives to the hoop, though the lane was not nearly as clear as he had found it two years prior. Syracuse did not have any great three point shooters, but they had five guys who could make about 35% of their shots in Jardine, Triche, Waiters, Joseph and James Southerland. 

The team was extremely good at shot block and altering shots, led by Fab Melo and his three blocks a game. They were also very adept as a team at stealing the ball, and with the ten man rotation, the players were always fresh; Joseph led the team in minutes played and that was about 32/game.   C.J. Fair did a little bit of everything to make sure the job was getting done.

The team did not run its half-court offense very well.  It relied on the fast break to generate most of its points.  However, the guards were very adept at taking their defenders one-on-one and driving into the paint to make things happen, particularly Waiters and Triche. Waiters was extremely explosive, and Triche very strong.  The team had four good free throw shooters in Triche, Waiters, Joseph and Fair.  It hurt that Jardine struggled at the line, since he played the point, but he would often get removed late in the game to prevent that situation.

The two teams would be an interesting matchup.  Up front would be a tough matchup both ways. Up front you would basically have Rautins/Triche/Jardine versus Waiters/Triche/Jardine.  The latter three would be more adept at driving the lane (particularly Waiters), and in pestering offensive players. The former three would be more adept at preventing players from getting into the lane, and in shooting deep (with Rautins).  I would have to give an edge to last year’s squad up front because of Waiters and the more experienced Triche/Jardine combo.  It would not be a huge edge.

The interior play is where I think the 2009-2010 squad would have a big edge. Wesley Johnson was the  Big East player of the year. He was explosive at getting to the hoop, and could pull outside for three.  Onuaku and Jackson were polished interior scorers, and they knew how to get offensive and defensive rebounds.  Joseph was a better player in 2011-12 than in 2009-10, but he struggled last year without other players to open the lane for him.  Christmas and Melo were very limited offensively (as was Keita); Fair would be the only other scoring threat inside, and he would pick up those garbage points. 


I think the size and experience of Jackson and Onuaku would take a lot of advantage over the inexperience of Christmas and Melo.  It’s true Melo would block some shots, but big body players are often good at avoiding the blocks by creating separation and going strong to the hoop. 

Both teams would be able to run the court, and run it well.  I don’t think fatigue would come into play for the 2009-10 squad, because they played their whole season with only 7 players anyhow.  I think the answers to two questions would determine the outcome.

1st – could last year’s squad limit the second and third chance shots that the 2009-2010 team specialized in with its rebounding?

2nd – could last year’s squad generate enough fast break opportunities to limit its exposure in the half court? 

For those who watched last year’s games, you would know that the team struggled all year to get rebounds, and prevent second chances.  I don’t see how the 2009-2010 squad would be any different, and they would probably get their fair share of second shot opportunities.

And I do not think last year’s team would generate enough fast break opportunities to offset  their half-court liabilities against a team that was ‘Shut It Down’ in the half-court defense. Basically, we would have a team that struggled in the half court set (2011-2012) trying to score against a team that specialized in stopping that exact same thing. 

I think 2009-2010 comes out on top. That’s not a knock on last year’s team. I thought the 2009-2010 team was going to win the National Championship. Their teamwork and unselfishness were outstanding (and much of that carried over to last year’s team).  That 2009-2010’s biggest weakness was they had no player outside of their top seven, and that came back to get them.