Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It's Raining Threes (and that's not good)

I have no idea what to think of this team at this point after the lopsided loss to Notre Dame. I think Jim Boeheim may have been right in his 2006 'GMac Underrated' tirade; this team may not have won 10 games without Gerry McNamara last year. Consider that it's basically the same team this year with the addition of Paul Harris, and all the returning players are at the least marginally better than last year (some significantly better). Yet this year's squad has struggled to 15 wins.

Many fans have been clamoring for Boeheim to drop the zone defense in favor of man-to-man; last night he played extensive man-to-man from the start of the game, and it got shredded by a three point shooting barrage never seen before at the Carrier Dome. At one point the Fighting Irish went 8-11 from three point range. Go figure. The 103 points was the most the Orange has ever given up in the dome.

According to the halftime boxscore, Syracuse had only 4 fouls at the break, and Notre Dame only 2 turnovers. Any wonder why the Orange gave up 61 points? In the natural course of playing solid defense you're going to have fouls and generate some turnovers. Was anyone playing defense?

Andy Rautins’ defensive specialty is obviously the zone, which he is good at. Foot speed is not one of his strengths. He had to be removed because of the focus on man-to-man for most the evening, thus only 11 minutes of playing time, despite the fact he hit 2-3 three point shots.

Because of the man-to-man focus, Paul Harris got significant playing time, and got his 11 rebounds; he is absolutely a rebound machine. Lot's of turnovers (4), but at least he learned not to take the three pointers outside his range. 4-10 from the floor isn't good, but heck, if he makes one more shot, he's 5-10 and that's good. He plays with so much energy, so much hustle, that I think he's the rare player who actually has to turn down his aggressiveness to be effective.

Darryl Watkins got eaten up having to play man-to-man defense... it cost him five fouls and limited him to only 21 minutes of playing time. Even then, Watkins needed to play more aggressive.

Devo was just plain out awful from the floor. 0 for 11? Egad. I don't know what else could be said about that.

I've tried to be supportive of Josh Wright this year. I really have. But another 4 turnover effort. He has got to learn to take care of the ball, and to run the plays.

Demetris Nichols had 29 points. I've seen some message board posts where fans think that proves he's a big time scorer because he helped bring the team back. I would argue the reverse; because of the terribly lopsided score, there was no pressure, and he was able to get into a rhythm. I really like DNic, but his history has shown that the bigger the game, the less we'll hear from him.

Terrence Roberts played solid, though the Orange could have used more rebounding from him. He did go 4-5 from the free throw line, raising his season above 50% (he's now 44-87, 50.6%), and his career is now at 158-326, or 48.5%.

Isn't it ironic that this year's team is one of the better free throw shooting teams in recent memory (71%)? The one thing that has always haunted the Orange in the past is not an issue this year. Can you imagine what it would be like if they could not make their free throws?

The season is not over; there's still a lot to be played. I'm less concerned about the wins and losses, though that will come back to haunt them. I would like to see better overall play. Teams should be improving over the course of the season, and this team is still where it was in December.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jim Boeheim Coaches #1000

Tonight, Jim Boeheim will coach his 1000th game for Syracuse University. Congratulations Mr. Boeheim on the milestone, and more importantly for 31 seasons of leadership that the Orange fans have been privileged to watch.

Fittingly the game is against Louisville, coached by Boeheim's first assistant coach back in 1976-1977, Rick Pitino. And of course, Bernie Fine will be by Boeheim's side tonight... his 1000th game as a Syracuse assistant coach. No small feat in deed.

Let's take a look at the numbers, as you know I am prone to do.

Boeheim's career record is 741-258 going into tonight, with a 285-155 Big East Conference record. He's the all time winningest coach in Big East history, and with no signs of retiring, and nobody else even close, that record will likely stand a long long time.

He has coached 31 seasons, winning 20+ games in 27 of those campaigns (surely to make 20 again this year), making the NCAA tournament 25 times, the NIT 4. He has reached the Final Four three times, and in 2003 showed the third time is the charm by winning the National Championship. He is already a Hall of Famer, inducted in 2005, and has the Syracuse court named after him. He has won 5 Big East Tournament Championships, been to the Big East Finals 13 times, and has been named the Big East Coach of the Year 3 times.

Stevie Thompson has the fortune (or misfortune, some may say) of playing more games for Boeheim than any other player, at 144. Derrick Coleman started more, with 142 to his credit. And Gerry McNamara logged more court time sith 4,801 minutes (averaging 35.6 per game for his career).

31 different players scored 1,000+ points on Boeheim's watch, six of those scoring 2,000+, and Lawrence Moten leading the way with 2,334. Before anyone writes me, yes, Dale Shackleford, Jimmy Williams and Marty Byrnes scored 1000+ points and played under Boeheim, but they did not score 1,000 while playing for Boeheim (Roy Danforth had some of those points).

168 different players had the opportunity to play for Jim Boeheim. 56 of them played 4+ seasons; Jeremy McNeil played 5 seasons (with the benefit of a medical redshirt).

21 of Boeheim's players have played in the NBA, 30 have been drafted by the NBA. Three were named Big East Players of the Year (Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens and Hakim Warrick), and four were named Big East Rookie of the Year (Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, Lawrence Moten and Carmelo Anthony).

Two Boeheim players have scored 40+ points in a game (Gene Waldron and Gerry McNamara), and five have recorded a classic triple double (Leo Rautins twice, Allen Griffin, Lazarus Sims, Derrick Coleman).

As mentioned previously, Lawrence Moten is the all-time leading scorer under Boeheim. Derrick Coleman is the leading rebounder with 1,537 (also a NCAA record). Sherman Douglas the all-time assist man with 960. Jason Hart leads the way with 329 steals, Etan Thomas with 424 blocked shots. Gerry McNamara had an even 400 three point field goals for Boeheim.

Boeheim is reaching is 1000th game as the head coach of Syracuse, but its not his 1000th in connection. He played for 76 games for Syracuse, and was an assistant coach for another 230 games. For those of you who are sticklers, that means tonight is his 1,306 game with Syracuse University; if my calculations are right, his 1000th game in association with the university occurred on January 21, 1998, on the road vs Notre Dame, in a game the Orangemen lost 83.63.

Congratulations to Coach Boeheim on this 1000th game. I hope the second 1000 are as wonderful as the first.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hall of Fame

Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician made a great argument earlier this month about Hall of Fames being watered down, and I've been meaing to compliment him on it. I don't want to rehash all his arguments, he made them well; please check it out yourself. I'm right on board with his perspective.

I think Hall of Famers should be the best of the best, no brainers. If there can be a lengthy debate with valid points on both sides of the argument, then the guy is not a Hall of Famer. That's not a slight to those who are not in the Hall of Fame. It just should be about greatness, immortality. It's not all about the numbers, though they play into it. It's about how great they were at the time.

When I was growing up, Steve Garvey and Nolan Ryan were my absolute favorite players. Ryan went on to absolute greatness; he was larger than life, mythical, with an over powering fastball, seven no-hitters. Clearly a Hall of Famer.

Garvey was a multiple year all-Star, one of the most popular players of his era, among the league leaders every year in hits and rbi's. One of the cornerstones of a tremendous Dodger team of the 70's and arly 80's. He's not in the Hall of Fame... and I don't think he belongs there. He's definitely better than many guys who are there, but I think being one of the best guys every year for many years isn't quite the same as being the best.

Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton: guys you talk about with reverence and awe. Don Sutton was a very good pitcher, winning 300+ games, but does anyone ever say "I remember that day I saw Sutton pitch...".

Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lefty Grove. Again, no contest. Phil Rizzuto? A nice guy, integral part of many Yankee championships, but again, no Hall of Famer.

I'm also against retiring numbers. Hey, if they guy is memorable enough, the number will speak for itself. Seeing #44 on the basketball court was always a great reminder to me of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Derrick Coleman. Allowing the # to be something coveted by active players, now to me, that is the real honor. I know Syracuse doesn't actually retire the numbers; the ceremony is really more about hanging a jersey with a name on it. I hope they let the numbers be used again in basketball; I know its no longer going to be available in football, and that's a shame.


Manning & Brady

A little divergence from Syracuse basketball for the next day or so.
Congratulations to Peyton Manning and the Syracuse Four (Marvin Harrison, Dwight Freeney, Josh Thomas and Ryan LaCasse) for making the Super Bowl. I had meant to write this article prior to the Colts beating the Pats, but the content is still relevant.

From my perspective, there is a difference between the statement “which player had a greater career” and “which was the greater player”? The former focuses on what was accomplished, and latter on who was the best. They could be the same, but just as often, it could be different answers.

There is no doubt that at this point, Tom Brady has had a greater career than Peyton Manning. Brady has won three Super Bowls, and Manning none. They play the game to win, and Brady clearly accomplished more. However, the Super Bowl Championships does not mean that Brady is the better quarterback, they guy that you want leading your team over all others. Sure it's evidence to support that position, strong evidence, but it’s not the definitive evidence that many fans issue.

I'll start this by saying I think Tom Brady is a great quarterback. Possibly the best of our era; definitely one of the best. Amazing under pressure; an outstanding leader and an uncanny knack to make the big play at the right time. Like most fans out there, I also think that Bill Belicheck is a great coach, one of the best defensive minds out there. And I think Adam Vinatieri is a great kicker.

And that’s where I have an issue with pointing at championships as the definitive measure of how great a player is. Team sports are won by teams, not by individuals. It is a collective triumph, a collective failure. If all the players don’t work together, the big stars aren’t in a position to win the game when it matters. The big stars have to come through when it matters, but they also have to be given that opportunity.

Let’s follow the assumption that Belicheck is as great a defensive coach as we credit him to be. When the Patriots beat the Colts in past seasons in the playoffs, wasn’t it more of an issue of Belicheck vs Manning, not Brady vs Manning? I’ve never seen Tom Brady intercept a Manning pass, or sack Manning, or force Manning into a rushed pass. So Manning struggled against the greatest defensive minded coach of our era; and he looked bad doing it. How many times in his career has Tom Brady faced a Bill Belicheck defense? Zero. How would Mr. Brady do against a Bill Belicheck defense? I doubt we’ll ever know the answer to that question. For you devout Patriot fans, what would the answer be? I’m curious.

Adam Vinatieri is considered the greatest clutch kicker of our generation, if not of all time. He earned the reputation by repeatedly proving himself in clutch situations in January games. It begs the question then: if the Patriots had such a great defensive team, lead by the greatest defensive minded coach of our era, and the best quarterback of our era, how come they often had to find themselves in a position for their field goal kicker to win them games?
If they had a lesser kicker, the assumption is they would have lost those games (because the implication is that Vinatieri is a great kicker because he made the clutch kicks that most other kickers wouldn’t have made… otherwise, what was so great about it?) Would Brady have been any lesser of a quarterback because a lesser kicker had missed the field goal, and thus cost the Pats the titles? That would seem absurd, right? Yet, isn’t that really the argument people are making?
I think back to the great Miami / Boston College football game where Doug Flutie won the shootout with the Hail Mary at the end. Was Bernie Kosar any less of a quarterback because Flutie made that pass, forcing Kosar to lose? Would Flutie have been any less of a quarterback if Phelan dropped the ball in the endzone?

It is fair to say that Brady succeeded in the opportunities he was given, where historically Manning came up short. Very relevant arguments that need to brought into the discussion; but not the definitive answer. It is a team game. It takes 53 guys to win. 53 to lose.
My intent here is not to choose one of these quarterbacks over the other. I'm not trying to make an argument for one or for the other. I just want to challenge the thinking of many of you out there; I think falling back on who won more is the easy way out, and leads to biased results. But I think it would be gutless of me to write an article, and not state some conclusion.

I would take either guy to quarterback my team, and be very happy with it. I just have a sense that Peyton Manning does more to help a team win, that he is more important to the success of the Colts than Brady is to the success of the Patriots. I also think Manning is more instrumental in the Colt losses than Brady is in the Patriot losses. In my opinion, the Colts have been more dependent on Manning playing well than the Pats on Brady.

For that reason, I’ll take Mr. Manning. But Mr. Brady can still play for me any day!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Welcome Back Terrence

Welcome back to earth Terrence Roberts. After shooting like Gerry McNamara, Richie Cornwall, and Greg Kohls from the free throw line over the previous six games (14 of 17), TRob came back to his roots and shot an abyssmal 1-9 from the free throw line in Syracuse's 64-60 loss to St. Johns. That drops Roberts to 34-74 for the season (45.9%) and 148-313 for his career (47.3%).
What was really amazing was the Roberts' form looked solid during his stretch when he was making the shots. Agains the Red Storm he looked horrendous. Absolutely terrible.
He did keep up with his solid play for the first ten minutes of the game, almost single handedly carrying the team. Unfortunately the big guy disappeared after that, though he did get his double-double.
He's now taken 4 three point shots this year, and of course has missed them all. Terrence, there's a reason you're open at the arc; you're 5-23 for your career from that range. Egads. Only thing worse than seeing TRob square up for a three is seeing Paul Harris do the same.
Anyhow the Orange played great against Villanova, perhaps the best team effort I've seen in a couple of years. They struggled against Cincinnati but showed a lot of poise when it mattered. The whole team looked terrible against St. Johns. The Red Storm simply looked awful, and yet the Orange seemed determined to play worse than the Johnnies.
I have hope the team can achieve some success on this season, but Sunday was not one of those times.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Syracuse 75, Villanova 64

Jim Boeheim’s been saying for a couple of seasons that the Orangemen will only be as good as this year’s senior class takes them. Well, perhaps for the first time, the seniors put together an outstanding effort against a quality team in a Big East game, beating Villanova 75-64 on Rony Seikaly Day at the Dome.

Demetris Nichols had an outstanding first half of the game. His confidence seemed high, and for at least one game, he shook his career long struggle in Big East play to look like a legit star player. Nichols had one of those games where he seemed to make every shot, and even when he took a couple ill-advised shots, he still made the basket. Five of six from three point range is a very nice day. Special congrats to Nichols who joined the Syracuse 1000 point club today (always nice to get a personal accolade on a day your team wins).

Nichols was somewhat quiet the second half, but there really was no need for more heroic efforts from him as the Orangemen were pretty comfortable in the lead most the time. It seemed they solved their season long problem of starting the second half slow, as they came out firing, and quickly put Nova away to start the half. I hope that’s a trend we see continue.

Darryl Watkins had a silent but outstanding game, basically doing everything required of him. Some outstanding defense, and making every basket he tried (four for four). He could have rebounded more, but his teammates picked that up.

The big man on the day was Terrence Roberts, and what a game he had. 17 points and 14 rebounds for the big man. And that only tells part of the story. For the first time in a long while he seemed to do a lot of the little things right. He was handling the ball relatively well, made some nice interior passes and kick outs, and generally making the right play (he took an ill advised three point shot with plenty of time left on the clock; that’s a shot TRob should not ever take, the Rutgers game from last year the rare exception).

The most amazing thing about Roberts has been his free throw shooting transformation the past few weeks. Roberts, as I’ve well documented before, is statistically the worst free throw shooter in Syracuse history. He went 5-5 this afternoon, and 1-1 against Marquette the other night. He’s now gone 11-12 from the line in the last five games he’s played. Roberts is now 30-60 from the free throw line this year, up to 50%, and he’s raised his career record to 144-299, or 48.1%. How does a player who is so bad at the free throw line for 3 ½ years suddenly turn into Gerry McNamara at the line? Hypnosis? Has his knee injury affected his stroke in a positive way? Pure luck?

Eric Devendorf did not do much scoring today, but his playmaking was nice. He broke down Nova’s defense well, and didn’t seem to force too many bad plays, and ended up with seven assists. Down the stretch he did force some shots, but I think having him run the clock down and drive to the hoop when we have a lead is a smart play for Syracuse, and one where the result is a forced shot is an acceptible risk. More often than not Devo will get fouled or make the basket, and the key at that point of the game is to eat clock.

Andy Rautins filled his role nicely on the three point play, making three of six, and scoring 11 points in 21 minutes. Overall, if the Orange play this way on a regular basis, their going to win a lot of big games. I think the lack of size from Villanova helped Syracuse, especially on the interior passing, and that may not be an advantage the Orange will always have. But you can’t criticize the Orange for taking advantage of a mismatch situation; if the passes are there, take them!

Syracuse ran the fast break well today, and go the outlet passes to the right players quickly. The switch to man-to-man seemed to make a difference today. I think Villanova’s personnel had a lot to do with that. Watkins didn’t need to worry too much about the play down low, and that helped everyone rotate well.

I only have a few negative observations for the game. 20 turnovers is far too many; this team just seems to have a set number of sloppy plays in them, regardless of who they are playing. Nova had only 12 turnovers; it would be nice to see the Orange have forced more out of the Wildcats. Then again, when you have a large lead, at home, you’re going to play more conservative on defense, and make the other team force the action.

Josh Wright seemed to break the press well, and I think the Wildcats probably should have abandoned it. It’s likely a staple of their game, so that would be unlikely, but it seemed ineffective against the Orange. Wright did make some poor decisions in the second half, and Boeheim pulled him for most of the stretch play. I’m not sure if Boeheim was unhappy with Wright’s play and wanted to send him a message, or if it simply was giving Wright an extended rest.

I know a lot of fans love Paul Harris. He hustles on every play, and has some amazing physical talents. But he looked very spastic on the court today, like he was totally lost on the court. Offensively he doesn’t seem to be adding anything at all to the team, and on defense when they were in the man-to-man defense, he seemed to stray from his man a few too many times (I don’t know if that was by design or not). I do love watching him grab a defensive rebound; he takes off down the court immediately and pushes the action. Hopefully Harris is a coachable player and the coaching staff is able to harness and mold that talent.
Overall, great job Orange! These are the types of games that are very enjoyable to watch.

Friday, January 12, 2007

An Undeniable Pattern

Demetris Nichols has been an enigma to me for the past three years. He physically looks like an NBA caliber player, has the athletic grace and a 6’8” frame. He’s reported to be an excellent perimeter shooter, which I’ve seen glimpses of. Each fall he gives us a sneak peak of how good I think he should be.

As teams shift from non-conference games to their conference schedule, you can expect to see some drop in a player’s individual performance. Tougher games are played on a regular basis during conference play, and there’s more wear and tear on the players. Nichols, however, seems to take that to the extreme.

Over his combined sophomore and junior seasons, in 34 non-conference games, Nichols has averaged 10.5 points per game, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. During the same time period in 28 Big East games, Nichols averaged 7.7 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assists. Over a 27% decrease in total points, and a 25% decrease in rebounds are somewhat larger than what you might expect to see. But its probably not too much outside the norm in drop off.

However, it is the disappearance of his shooting touch in Big East play that is absolutely mind boggling. Over his sophomore and junior seasons, in non-conference games, Nichols shot 45.3% from the floor, 38.5% from the 3 point range and 54.2% from the two point range. Those are pretty good numbers.

In Big East play over the same time period, Nichols shot 37.2% from the floor, 26.7% from three point range and 47.3% from two point range. The first two numbers are terrible. More amazing though, is that his three point shooting drops 11.8 percentage points. That his a huge difference. To give you some perspective on the three point field goal shooting change, in 2005-06 Gerry McNamara shot 33.9% in non-conference and 32.8% in Big East play, Eric Devendorf shot 38.7% in non-conference and 36.6% in Big East play.

So what to attribute Nichols drop in shooting each year? Fatigue? A style of play that does not suit him? More aggressive defenses? Psychology? Winter blues?

More surprisingly is the undefended shot, the free throw. Over the last two seasons, Nichols shot 71.0% from the free throw line in non-conference games. In Big East play, that plummeted to 61.9%. A drop of almost 10 percentage points on uncontested shots!

It had looked like 2006-07 was going to be different. Nichols was playing so well in the non-conference games. He averaged 19.8 points a game, shot a blistering 48.8% from three point range, and a McNamara like 89.4% from the free throw line. In December, he was peaking with 6 straight games with 20+ points, averaging 25.8 ppg during that stretch, including an impressive 31 points against Drexel on December 19th.

Nichols looked extremely confident in play, was making all the right moves. I wasn’t even concerned after the first Big East game against the Pitt Panthers. Pitt has outstanding defense, and while Nichols shot wasn’t falling, he still showed a lot of solid play on the court, including those special nuances you like to see your superstars make.

But now we’re three games into the Big East season. Yes, there’s still a long ways to go, but after three games, Nichols Big East stats are looking awfully familiar. He’s shooting 33.3% from the floor, 25.0% from three point range, and his free throw shooting once again dropped to 62.5%. Those are huge drops.

It’s only three games; statistically speaking that means nothing. I keep telling myself that. Yet, it’s following the Nichols career trend. And when you keep seeing a pattern repeat itself, you’re foolish to ignore it. I can’t explain why Nichols struggles in Big East play. I know its not all about the defense, because a large drop in free throw shooting isn’t caused by defense (fatigue plays into that, and strong defense can lead to fatigue, but not to that extreme).

Demetris, I haven’t given up on you yet. I still think you can be a star for Syracuse. Prove your historical numbers wrong, prove this analysis wrong, and show us you’re the play I had always hoped you would be. It was nice to get another glimpse in autumn, but while being Mr. October is great for baseball, its not what we want in basketball.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Roberts Free Throw Quest

Terrence Roberts missed the St. Bonaventure and Hofstra games with his knee injury, and then didn’t get an opportunity at the line versus Pitt, so he’s been on hold with his quest for free throw shooting history.

An ironic twist occurred along the way against Marquette. The Orange as a team had a bad night at the charity stripe. The team was 0-6 from the line in the first half, on their way to a 21-35 night from the line. The game entered the final minute with the Orange having a slight lead. Marquette did the smart thing and fouled Roberts rather than let him score. And what did Roberts do? Well, the owner of a career 46.7% free throw shooting percent, calmly made both of his free throw shooting to basically seal the win for Syracuse.

And while I don’t expect the trend to last, Roberts has gone 5-6, 83% from the line in the last three games he’s played. Not quite Gerry McNamara numbers, but that would put him in the Eric Devendorf class. Of course six free throw attempts statistically means nothing… but Roberts easily could have been 0-6.

So for the season, TRob is up to 24-54 from the free throw line (44.4%), and his career percentage is skyrocketing (well, not quite) to 138 of 293, or 47.1%.

As a side note, the rapid improvement of Darryl Watkins at the free throw line has simply been amazing this year. Watkins was a career 48.2% free throw shooter entering this season. Yet, he has managed to go 35 of 50 for 70% for this season, and even improved to 8 of 12 for 75% in his first two Big East games. Mookie, my hat is off to you, and may you continue shooting it well from the free zone.


Monday, January 08, 2007

BCS - No Time for Playoffs

I looked at my calendar this morning and saw that today is January 8th, 2007. A full seven days after New Years day, the day traditionally the major bowl games were played on. And what is so significant about today's date? Well, the BCS is playing its mythical national championship game tonight.
One full week after major bowl games were historically played. One of the biggest arguments that the NCAA and respective member universities used to make was that they couldn't have a playoff system because it would disrupt the studies of the student athletes with games running into the next semester.
Interestingly enough, they could have played semi-final games on New Years Day, giving a traditional 7 day gap between games, tonight's national championship game would still have been on the same date, with the same impact on the student's academic schedule.
That still would have left Boise State out in the cold; they weren't on anyone's top 4 list. Those four by consensus would've been Ohio State, Michigan, Florida and USC. I had mentioned my own solution a few weeks back, and my solution wouldn't have had a game playing on January 8th. And Boise State would've had a shot in that scenario.
If Ohio State wins tonight, I would concede them the national championship... two undefeated teams, one a tougher schedule. However, if OSU were to lose this game... I'm not conceding it to a one loss Florida team that struggled against FSU down the stretch.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pre-Conference Schedule Records

The pre-conference schedule is done for Syracuse this year, with the Big East season starting Thursday night for the Orange. I’m sure a lot of Orange fans such as myself are glad it’s done; it has not been a start to a season that we’re accustomed to from Jim Boeheim’s squads.

I went back to determine how Boeheim’s teams have done in previous seasons in the “pre-conference” games; I’ve defined a pre-conference game as any non-conference game that occurs before the start of the Big East season plus any non-conference games that occurred in the first week of the Big East season; I excluded the first year of Big East play where there were only 6 Big East games for the Orangemen. Including this year, Syracuse is 260-27 over 27 seasons in pre-conference games. That’s a winning percentage of 90.6%.

Here’s the breakdown by year.

A few things to note. From the 1984-85 season to the 1993-94 season, Syracuse was an amazing 94-2 in the preseason games. I don’t care who you’re playing; that’s great. During that time frame they played in the Big East / ACC Challenge, along with some other tournaments, so not all the games were “creampuffs”. The only two losses during that time frame where to North Carolina and Arizona, both in the 1987 Great Alaska Shootout.

Even more amazing, from the 1988-89 season to 1993-94, the Orangemen didn’t lose a single pre-conference game, going 57-0. That includes memorable win over Indiana in 1988, Missouri in 1988, Duke in the 1989 ACC/Big East Challenge, Indiana & Iowa State in the 1990 Maui Classic, NC State in the 1990 ACC/Big East Challenge, Florida State in 1991, Tennessee in 1992 and 1993, and Arizona in 1994. So for those critics of Jim Boeheim, please review that list again.

In the 27 seasons of Big East play, Syracuse has only twice lost more than 2 games in the pre-conference schedule. In 1996-97, they went 8-4. That team would end up 19-13 overall, 9-9 in the Big East, and would lose in the first round of the NIT. Not one of the better Boeheim teams.

The other team is this year’s squad, at 11-3 as previously mentioned. I don’t know what that means, but not a good sign. The pre-conference schedule this year has had several setbacks to slow down the team’s progress. Darryl Watkins broke his nose, Terrence Roberts hurt his knee, several players missed games due to viral illness, and Eric Devondorf struggled through some off the court personal tragedies. So the team really hasn’t had too much time to be focused and cohesive. Unfortunately, the Big East season is now here, so they’ll have to put it all together in the big games.

Speaking of the “big games”; detractors of Coach Boeheim like to point out to his ‘cream puff’ schedule for all his wins. As pointed out, he is 260-27 in his pre-conference games, however as I’ve also mentioned, some of those were against some very good squads. Boeheim’s teams were 366-208 in all remaining games during that 27 year period: those would be Big East games, non-conference games in mid-season (typically a solid major conference team), Big East tournament games, and NCAA & NIT games. Boeheim’s squads win 64% of those games too. That’s a pretty good winning percentage against quality teams, almost 2/3rds.

Boeheim has a pretty good recipe: basically win all the games he’s supposed to win, and then win 2/3 of the tough games. There are always bumps in the road; nobody wins them all. But he wins most of them.