Thursday, January 23, 2014

Where Syracuse Recruits

Benn Stencil put together an interesting map tool that will show you where each college and conference recruits their players.  I have been tracking the high schools and states that Syracuse basketball players have historically come from at, and have in fact written about it before, but I have never gone the extra step of illustrating it.  

Here is where the current Syracuse team comes from:

No big surprise; the majority of Syracuse players come New York, Pennsylvania and the Maryland area.  Historically speaking, the majority of Syracuse basketball players have come from New York state.   Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been strong, as have Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In the late 80s, early 90s, Syracuse had the Los Angeles pipeline going on, picking up players like LeRon Ellis, Stephen Thompson and Mike Hopkins.

My thanks to Sean Keeley at SB Nation for tuning me into this mapping tool.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Syracuse and Creighton: An Unusual Series

The Creighton Bluejays joined the Big East this year, and Syracuse joined the ACC at the same time, so the two teams will never meet in Big East competition.  The two schools have met before, thirteen games in all, with Syracuse winning eight of those.

The interesting thing about the Syracuse/Creighton series was the nature of their home & away series from 1929 to 1932. The two teams were scheduled to play two games each year, for a total of eight games over the four years.  However, travel in 1930's America was not always easy and definitely could be time consuming, particularly if you wanted to go from Syracuse, New York to Omaha, Nebraska.  

So the teams had a unique scheduling where they would play two home games in Syracuse the first season, then two road games in Omaha the second, two more in Syracuse the third, and finally two more in Omaha the fourth. And furthermore, to be efficient with the use of time, the games were played on back-to-back nights.

If that was not interesting enough, take a look at the breakdown of the games.  For each season, the team that won the first night, lost the second night of the back-to-back.

This was the era of Syracuse's fabled Reindeer Five basketball led by the speedsters Ev Katz, Dan Fogarty, Ken Beagle and Tuppy Hayman, along with Slim Elliot and/or Johnny Harwood depending on the year.   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Another Notch in the Belt

Syracuse pulled off another victory today, this time beating #22 Pitt 59-54 at the Carrier Dome.  The Orange continue to test their mettle by yet grinding out another close game down the stretch.  Syracuse led most of the second half, only to see the Panthers take the lead late in the game.  Pitt lead 52-49 with 2:39 to go in the game; the Orange would reclaim the lead with 1:30 to go a layup by Tyler Ennis, and they would never relinquish that lead down the stretch.

If Syracuse fans have not figured it out yet, the Orange have a special young man in their point guard. Ennis is an extremely poised individual, and seems to make all the right decisions.  He had yet another game with only one turnover. I thought if any team was going to fluster him it would be Pitt with their brutish defensive style, but Ennis had not problem with it.

Instead he scored six straight points while giving the Orange a lead and a small cushion of lead in the last two minutes of the game.  I do not know how this season will end up, but I am enjoying every minute of it right now.  I am not sure where I would rank Ennis among Syracuse's all-time great point guards, but he warrants discussion in that group.  That in itself is quite a compliment.

Syracuse broke 30,000 for the game, giving them 75 games all-time. They now have a 50-25 advantage in those games. The trend also continued with these large crowd games being low scoring. The 59 points for the Orange today was the most points by the winning team in the last five 30k games.

By the way, did you know that Pitt now has the second most 30k games in the Dome?  Number one is Georgetown, of course, with 17 games.  Pitt is now second with 8, and Syracuse is 6-2 against Pitt in the 30k games.  I was surprised to see that Pitt had surpassed UConn, Villanova and St. John's; while Pitt has been very good for quite a while, they just never seem to be quite the same draw for SU fans.  And really, if you look at when the games occurred, its not the recent Pitt success that gave them the 8 games.  They played 30k crowds in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991, 2003, 2004 and 2014.  It had been 10 years since Pitt was that type of draw.

Jim Boeheim beat Jamie Dixon for the second straight game today, but Dixon still holds a 10-5 advantage over Boeheim and Syracuse.  A lot of talk this week has been on why Dixon is so good against Boeheim and SU's zone.  First of all, let us not discount the fact that Pitt has been a top 10 / top 20 program for most of Dixon's career.  He is a quality coach with a quality program.  

I don't think, however, it is so much a matter of Dixon figuring out the zone, as much as Pitt playing a style that very effective against the zone. Dixon's mentor Ben Howland also had success against Syracuse the last couple of seasons before he left for UCLA, and Dixon coaches very much like Howland.  Both coaches like an aggressive in-your-face defense, with a strong emphasis crashing the boards for offensive rebounds and taking good care of the ball of offense.  

I think Pitt's success against Syracuse is more a result of them consistently having a strong offensive rebounding edge, than Pitt being excellent at dissecting the zone.  To me it is more of a case of Pitt throwing the ball up on the boards and then going and putting it home with aggressive play.  The one area the zone is particularly week against is defending against offensive rebounds, because defensive players do not have player assignments to block out, and that plays to Pitt's strengths.

Add in the fact that Pitt is not careless with the ball, and they are aggressive on defense, and they make things happen. They make their own breaks in the game and take advantage of them. 

The one thing that has always frustrated me with watching Dixon's teams in the NCAA is that I do not feel they have an offensive scheme. They are extremely focused on their defense and their rebounding, and when they have to beat six talented teams in a row, teams that are also crashing the boards relentlessly, it becomes very difficult for Pitt to them find the go to guy they need.  This year they have Lamar Patterson, an excellent all around player.  They may be able to ride him for post season success if they can figure out how to truly rotate their offensive scheme around him.  

Anyhow, it was a big win today for the Orange.  18-0! Let's go Orange!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

All Time Toughest Opponents

Syracuse basketball fans have had it very fortunate over the years. In the first 112 years of varsity basketball, the Orangemen had only 16 losing seasons.  Of those sixteen seasons, four of them occurred before 1911, and nine of them prior to 1950.  The last losing season was 1968-1969.  The current 2013-2014 will add another winning season for the Orange, and losing seasons do not appear to be on the short term horizon. Fortunate indeed.

Syracuse has played 280 different teams since 1900.  Only 25 of those schools have a winning advantage over the Orange.  Ten of those schools have played Syracuse only once, and beat the Orange in that lone appearance. This includes Austin Peay, Baldwin-Wallace, Cleveland State, Denison, Denver, East Liverpool, Oral Roberts, Texas A&M, Tulsa and Williston Seminary.

Eastern Kentucky, Crescent Athletic Club, Illinois, and the St. John's Military Academy all have a 2-1 advantage over the Orange.   It is unlikely that Syracuse would ever play Crescent Athletic Club or St. John's Military Academy again.

Clemson, Iowa and Schenectady County East (whomever they are) have a 2-0 advantage over Syracuse. The Orange will now meet Clemson regularly, so the true nature of that series will resolve itself.  Iowa will likely require a couple of pre-season or post-season tournaments to get the matchups.

That leaves eight programs that have a real historical advantage over the Syracuse basketball squad.  There used to be nine, but Syracuse evened up the series with North Carolina with their win yesterday.  These are the teams, historically speaking, the Orange would not want to meet in a critical game:

#8:  The Oklahoma State Cowboys hold a 3-2 edge over the Orange.  OSU has won the past two games in the series, and the two teams have split their two matches in the NCAA tournament.  Oklahoma State was one of the teams Syracuse beat on its way to the national championship in 2003.

#7:  The Bradley Braves have a 3-1 edge over the Orangemen.  Bradley was a power house team in the early 1950s, when Syracuse faced them three times. The Orangemen upset them 76-75 in the National Campus Tournament finals in 1951.  Bradley upset the Orangemen in the 1982 NIT Tournament.

#6:  The Ohio State Buckeyes have a 5-2 advantage over the Orange.  The two teams have met twice in the NCAA tournament, with Ohio State beating the Orangemen both times; the last time was the Elite Eight in 2012.  The two teams first met in 1911.

#5: The Maryland Terrapins have a 5-2 edge over the Orange.  The two teams are now in the same conference, but only for one year, as the Terrapins move to the Big 10 next year. That is a shame, because geographically they would have made a real fine rival in the ACC.  Maryland beat the Orangemen the first five times they met, with Lefty Driesell on the bench.  However, the Orange have won the last two games in the series.  The two teams have met four times in the post-season, splitting those games.

#4:  The City College of New York (CCNY) Beavers have an 8-5 edge over the Orangemen.  CCNY was once a power house in college basketball, from the 1920's until the 1950's under legendary coach Nate Holman.  The Beavers' program was overshadowed and decimated by the infamous point shaving scandal of the 1950s, and it now a Division III program.

#3: The NewYork University Violets (NYU) have a 12-9 edge over Syracuse.  NYU was a power house in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s in college basketball, and the Orangemen played them routinely then.  NYU holds the distinction of handing the Orangemen their worst margin of defeat ever.  Of course, the 1961-1962 Syracuse squad was the worst team ever fielded on the Hill, with a 2-22 overall record.

#2: The Kentucky Wildcats have an 8-3 advantage over the Orangemen. The Wildcats have long been one of the most established and successful programs in college basketball, so this should come as no surprise.  One of the notable early games was in 1964 with #9 ranked Kentucky beating unranked Syracuse 110-77.  It was notable because the Adolph Rupp coached Wildcats starred future Laker manager Pat Riley, while the Orangemen were led by two gentleman named Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim.    While the Orangemen have not had tremendous success against the Wildcats, it should be noted that Syracuse is 2-0 versus Kentucky at home, and 1-2 versus Kentucky in the NCAA tournament (one of those losses being the 1996 National Championship game).

#1: The Louisville Cardinals have been a thorn in Syracuse's side for much of its recent history.  The two teams first met in 1964, which the Cardinals won 67-62.   It's been a struggle since then as the Cardinals hold a 15-7 edge over the Orangemen. It doesn't seem to matter who coaches, whether is it Peck Hickman (2-0), Denny Crum (4-3)  or Rick Pitino (9-4) but Louisville has the Orange's number.  Louisville held only a 6-4 edge as of 2006, but then they won seven straight against the Orange.  Recent history as Big East foes has intensified the rivalry, and with Louisville moving to the ACC next season, there will be plenty of time for the Orange to rectify this imbalance.

Let's go Orange!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Orange Hoops: All-Time Competitor Series Info

I launched in December 2013 a new feature on that will show the breakdown of the all-time series for the Orange against each of their opponents.  

The all-time series totals has existed since 2007, but displaying the breakdown of that series is new. You can get to each of the series by clicking on the opposing school.

For example, the Orange are now 4-4 all-time versus North Carolina, and have won the past two against the Tar Heels.  I have not completed the updates for all the teams Syracuse has ever played, but I have updated the series breakdowns for all their 2013-2014 opponents, particularly the ACC teams, which we all need to become more familiar with.

The win over North Carolina today showed a lot from the Orange.  Despite the fact that the Orange were shooting very poorly, and were sloppy with the ball earlier, they keep composed, were extremely aggressive on the offensive boards and on the interior defense, and won easily over the inconsistent Tar Heels 57-45. That final score makes the game seem closer than it was; there really was never a chance in the second half that the Orange were going to lose this one.

This was the 74th time the Orange have played in front of a crowd of 30,000+ fans at the Carrier Dome. Despite common misconception, the Orange do play well in front of those large crowds, with a 48-23 all-time record.

You must wonder what those large crowds are doing to the offenses of the teams. In the past four games at the Dome, where crowds exceeded 30,000 fans, neither team has scored more than 58 points.  Surely the Duke-Syracuse game later this year will break that trend.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Someone Out There Likes Us

Ken Pomeroy's computer simulations of the conference seasons has the Orange winning the ACC, and doing it with a rather strong edge over #2: 

Interestingly, the Pitt Panthers are the second favorite team, based on his simulations, with Duke coming in third.  I, myself, think Pitt is a bit overrated at this point in the season by all the computer assessments out there, and I haven't quite figured out how Jamie Dixon is gaming the SOS to make it all work, considering the only team of any caliber that Pitt played they lost to (Cincinnati).  Ken Pomeroy also agrees that he believes his simulation is overstating Pitt, and understating Duke, for whatever it is worth.

We are also currently #5 in the country in his version of the RPI.

I'm not sure what to read into ESPN's BPI system, but it seems very flawed to me. Perhaps the sample size is too small right now, but having a 9-3 Kansas team ranked #2 in the country, when there are 8 undefeated teams is too excessive.  I can appreciate a tough schedule, but you have to win the games... you shouldn't get massive credit for just playing them.  Plus, the BPI has Pitt at #9, which as I indicated earlier, has a very easy schedule so far, and a loss, and yet they are higher than Syracuse. Go figure.

Anyhow, I thought I would pass along this news on this snowy January day.