Thursday, March 29, 2007

Orange Blogger Awards - Best Sophomore

And the Syracuse Orange Blogger Awards continue to move on.

Who was the best sophomore player for Syracuse this season? There are two viable candidates with Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf. Ironically the two candidates fought for the same starting position for much of the season (shooting guard) and ended the season sharing the starting backcourt with Rautins settling into the shooting guard, and Devo taking over the point.

Devo came away the winner, with 7 out of 8 votes. For most of the blogs, he was such an obvious choice that no additional comment was needed.

Sports Night with Howie Mansfield felt “Devo came into his own this year, and pulled away from the shadow of Gerry McNamara with his aggressive style and no-fear attitude. If he scores next year the way he did in the last six games, Devendorf could be the Orange's go-to player.

Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician focused on the obvious emotional edge that Devo brings to the court: “Although he lets his emotions get the better of him every now and again and even though he’s a part of the Terrell Owens club (If he played for anyone else, we’d all hate him), Eric Devendorf is the heart of the team and that will be even more so next season.”

Yours truly would add that “Devo was clearly the one guy on the team who wanted to be ‘the guy’, even if it at times he wasn’t the one who was best situated.”

Matt of Orange 44 was the lone dissenting vote: “Andy Rautins - Eric Devendorf is the obvious selection simply because of minutes played, but Rautins may have actually outplayed Rautins this season statistically. With a higher offensive rating and effective field goal percentage than Devendorf, Rautins actually contributed more to the Orange's success than Devendorf's efforts. Plus, he turned over the ball less than Devendorf, which, in my book, is the most important aspect to Rautins' contributions.”

Jim Boeheim has got to feel good about his back court for next season when he’ll have two experienced juniors returning, a couple of highly touted freshman guards coming in, and a senior point guard on the bench.

Tune in tomorrow at noon at Getting Back to ’03 to see who the Biggest Villain of the 2006-2007 season was.

Blogger Awards: Worst Game of 2006-2007

Five awards done today, one more to go. What was the Worst Game for the Orange in the 2006-2007 season? A season where possibly any one individual loss may have cost the Orange a bid in the NCAA tournament. And sadly, there were many games to pick from. In a season where Syracuse lost three non-conference games, none of those three made honorable mention for the worst game of the year. A loss to Wichita State and Drexel did not warrant a single vote from our panelists. That's unbelievable. So which game was the worst loss of the season?

Sports Night with Howie Mansfield went with Notre Dame: “Notre Dame loss. A shootout that Syracuse couldn't win.” Definitely a viable candidate; a Dome record for most points ever given up in a game to an opponent, where Syracuse looked totally overmatched on defense.

Getting Back to ’03 voted for the Louisville loss: “Louisville, You could just feel it seeping away…”. Yep.

And yours truly, OrangeHoops voted the same: “Unfortunately too many to choose from. The worst game for me was the Louisville game… having a 14 point lead late in the game, the game well in control, and then falling completely apart.”

Two votes for Louisville, yet blowing a 14 point lead on the road did not win this coveted award. So what was the worst loss for 2006-2007?

A January 21st loss to a forgettable St. John’s team on the road, 64-60, was the winner.

Cuse Country had two personal perspectives for the loss. Josh said “Having the St Johns MSG game ruin my up-till-then-fantastic weekend in NYC.”. Tim chipped in with “There's nothing like losing to St. John's. I have spent way too much time saying "MSG is Cuse Country" to survive that loss with my pride intact. “

Matt of Orange 44 was a little more direct: “Syracuse v. St. John's. If anyone picks a different game they are batshit insane.”. Guess, I may be insane… then again, he could be right.

Finally Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician summed it up: “St John’s loss. In a season where one more win, ONE MORE, would have changed the entire outcome of our postseason fate…this one hurts even more. Honorable mention: The Louisville collapse.”

Unfortunately in a season with two many candidates for this particular category, we have the Red Storm as the winners.

Check in tomorrow at noon with Sports Night with Howie Mansfield to find out the Most Disappointing Player for the season.

Note: apologies for a late post, but I’m out on the west coast this week on business, so not only am I three hours behind, but I’m tied up in meetings to the late hours. My appreciation to my fellow bloggers for letting me post last each day. Expect a late post for Thursday too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Syracuse Orange Blogger Awards

Starting Wednesday, the collective of the Syracuse basketball bloggers will be presenting the Syracuse Orange Blogger Awards. Six different blogs will be participating in rolling out the awards, including yours truly, Troy Nunes is An Absolute Magician, Cuse Country, Getting Back to ’03, Orange 44, and Sports Night With Howie Mansfield.

The announcements start at noon, EDT. Check in with TNIAAM for the complete schedule.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One For The Books

Congratulations to the Orange for advancing to the next round of the NIT Tournament. And more importantly, to have the character of players that make fans want to come out and cheer you on in record numbers. 26,752 fans at the Carrier Dome for a tournament that only 10 days ago we (meaning the collective Orange Nation) wanted to boycott. It speaks volumes about the character of the community to support a team with such actions.

Orange 44 and CuseCountry have put in similar sentiments, so thanks you Orangemen for the memories.

And it makes it even sweeter that the players recognize the moment too. From Mike Waters article in the Post Standard (link):

"In the Carrier Dome's 27-year history, there has never been a more
deserved standing ovation than the one given on Monday night.

During a timeout with 3 minutes and 19 seconds left in Syracuse's
80-64 victory over San Diego State in the second round of the National
Invitation Tournament, Dome public address announcer Michael Veley gave the
game's attendance: 26,752.

The figure not only shattered the NIT's
all-time attendance record of 23,522 set in 1979 for a Kentucky-Clemson game at
Rupp Arena, it was also the third-largest crowd of the season for Syracuse.

At that point, the Syracuse players and coaches stepped out of
their huddle and applauded the fans. In the center of it all was Syracuse coach
Jim Boeheim, clapping his hands over his head."

Let’s Go Orange

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Blessing in Disguise

Sometimes genuine memories get created from the least likely scenarios. I think in many ways, the Orange getting snubbed by the NCAA is going to make this post season more enjoyable, and certainly more memorable than many Syracuse post seasons.

Like many other Syracuse fans, I was both angry and confused by the NCAA’s decision not to invite the Orangemen to the tournament. I saw some handwriting on the wall that things weren’t as easy as everyone thought, but even given that, I was still shocked when the announcement was made.

However, the decision by the NCAA committee did not cost Syracuse a national title. Despite their recent improvement (and they are a much better team in their past ten games than they were in the first 2/3 of the season), the Orangemen are still a dysfunctional team, where the team total is less than the sum of the parts. The Orange could probably match up and stay close with most every team in the tournament on any given night, but even now are quite capable of losing against the Oral Roberts or Wright States in the tournament. I think they would likely have gone one and out, maybe won two, before they left.

Instead, the NCAA shipped Syracuse off to the NIT. And something wonderful happened. Something very memorable. Syracuse fans showed they weren’t just whining or complaining. Rather, they showed they truly cared. In a world where actions should speak far more than words, 16,832 Orange fans bought tickets and went to the Carrier Dome last Wednesday to cheer the Orangemen on. They gave the Orangemen a 5 minute standing ovation during their shoot-around. All of this without the students (who were on spring break) to lead them on, something that is usually a prerequisite for this type of action.

And the Orangemen responded by giving the Syracuse fans a solid played game, even if it took the seniors thirty minutes to get into the game (and who can really blame them, since the NIT really is the end for them). Eric Devendorf put on a memorable 34 point show, single handedly carrying the team until Demetris Nichols started scoring in the second half, and Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts started playing defense and grabbing some rebounds. The Orangemen were 17-20 from the charity stripe that night, and had only 10 turnovers, both high marks for a team that often shot itself in the foot this season. The Orange were able to overcome some amazing (and lucky) perimeter shooting by South Alabama.

It was a game to be proud of in regards to how the team responded down the stretch, how they were able to put South Alabama away, and how the fans responded. After the game ended, Syracuse fans were even more rabid for tickets, as the demand became high enough that Syracuse had to stop the on-line sales of tickets. In what could/should have been a downer post season, I now have anticipation for Monday night's game against San Diego State.

So we’re not going to win a national title this year. And quite probably, we won’t win the NIT title (though, we could). But the memory of Syracuse fans showing they truly do care for the players, and the memory of Syracuse’s players responding in like, is something to cherish. At least it is for me. And other than a miraculous run through the NCAA tournament, what could have more value than that? 10 years from now, I’ll still remember this (including the snub). I wouldn’t remember if we 1 and out in the NCAA, or 2 and out.

Another Opinion

A reader from kindly sent me a link to an outside perspective of the Orangemen snub from the NCAA tournament: Sports Maven. I think he echoes many sentiments expressed previously in my blog, and similarly over at Cuse Country, among others. It's just good to know that there are those who don't bleed SU Orange, who have similar takes on the situation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Twilight Time

For your consideration, take two basketball teams. I submit:

Team A has a 22-10 record, with a Hall of Fame Coach with 700+ wins. The team went 8-8, finishing 6th place in 12 team conference.

Team B has a 22-10 record, with a Hall of Fame Coach with 700+ wins. The team went 10-6, finishing 5th place in a 16 team conference.

Team A went 4-6 in its last ten games, including a first round lost in its conference tournament to a 5-11 team. Team A is 9-9 since January 3rd.

Team B went 7-3 in its last ten games, including a first round win in its conference tournament against a 6-10 team. Team B is 12-6 since January 5th.

Team A beat Georgetown at home, and St. Johns on the road. They lost to Marquette at home. Of the team’s 10 losses, 3 were double digit, 6 were by 6 or more points. They lost three games by one basket.

Team B beat Georgetown at home, and split two games with St. Johns this year. They beat Marquette on the road. Of the team’s 10 losses, 1 was a by double digits, 3 were by 6 or more points. They lost three games by one basket.

Team A has a player who was suspended for game for unsportsmanlike conduct on the court (contributing to one loss).

Team B has a player who is playing on one healthy leg for the course of the season, and missed some games earlier as a result (contributing to a couple of losses).

Team A was selected by the NCAA Committee to be a #6 seed, putting them in as one of the top 24 teams in the country.

Team B was ignored by the NCAA Committee, meaning said committee thought they were not one of the top 45 (approximately) teams in the country.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

Fade to black.

Team A, is of course, the Duke Blue Devils. Team B is the Syracuse Orange.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NCAA Thoughts

I forced myself to wait three days before putting any comments on the failure of the NCAA Selection Committee to include Syracuse in the tournament this season. After those days of reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing really new I can add that has not already been said by the media and by my fellow Syracuse bloggers.

Simply put, the Syracuse Orangemen should have been in the NCAA tournament. All of college basketball knows it, and the selection committee knows it. I think we had a situation were the selection committee wanted to prove it was smarter than everyone else, and so they went against conventional thinking in order to prove that point. The problem is that the committee isn’t smarter than everyone else; there’s a reason the consensus had Syracuse in, and now the committee has exposed themselves as fools.

I do have some comments about the NCAA Selection process, that this years’ committee did help to illuminate. Many of the following points I’ve mentioned in my blog previously, and for those of you who know me, some of these are positions I’ve had for years.

The Conference Season Should Matter: I’ve long maintained that if a team cannot finish .500 or better in their conference, they should not be allowed in the NCAA tournament, regardless of any other criteria. I don’t care if they were 7-9 in the Big East Conference, and if all sixteen teams in the Big East were better than the remaining 300 teams in college hoops. If you cannot beat half of your competitors in your own conference, you do not deserve to play for the national title. The only exception to this rule is the automatic selection for conference tournament champions.

Use Common Sense: Relating back to the conference seasons, the committee needs to pay attention to the obvious. Forget every other statistic out there and use some common sense. Syracuse finished fifth in the Big East this season, ahead of both Villanova and Marquette. Syracuse was 2-1 against these two teams. Yet you put in two teams that Syracuse had beaten head-to-head and finished ahead of? You know, if a selection looks strange, then it is strange. Don’t go looking for other statistics to justify it.

Mid Major Exclusion: I think the selection committee, heavily comprised of BCS schools, is moving along with the same agenda as the BCS in college football, and that is they want to exclude the mid majors and give more of the action to BCS conferences. They are slowly putting in tools and criteria that will eventually entice the BCS conference schools to only play other BCS conference schools. This will prevent the mid major schools from having an opportunity to prove themselves over the course of the season against quality opponents, and thus, make it easier to exclude mid majors in future selection processes because their ‘body of work’ will fail to meet the requirements of other schools.

How is the committee doing this? They are relying heavily on an RPI formula that penalizes teams for playing other teams with weak schedules. Read that again… its not that they are penalizing teams for playing weak schools; they are penalizing teams for playing other teams (weak or strong) that have weak schedules. The third component of the RPI formula is your opponents’ opponents record. So if you put a mid major on your schedule, you get saddled into your own RPI score, the combined efforts of all the schools in the mid major’s conference. So if you play Holy Cross, no matter if Holy Cross goes 28-0, you also get the net impact of the entire Patriot Conference on your RPI. That can be costly.

I’ve stated before, I think the mid majors deserve to be fairly represented in the NCAA tournament (and in the BCS in football), and it’s a travesty that anyone would try to exclude them or minimize their chances. But we all know money drives the show, and the BCS conferences want all of their schools to be included.

Balance the Selection Committee: If you’re going to have eight major conferences, and represent only six of them on the selection committee, you had better make sure that you have very clearly defined why you excluded schools from the non-represented conferences in favor of schools for those represented. It seems highly coincidental that the three most questionable teams in the tournament (Arkansas, Illinois, Stanford) were represented on the committee, and the five most controversial omissions (Syracuse, West Virginia, Kansas State, Drexel, and Air Force) were not. The selection may have been just, but is sure smells otherwise. And if you’re going to have a committee structured that way, you need to bend over backwards to make sure the end results look good.

Leave Tournament the Size It Is: I’m all for leaving the NCAA tournament at 64 teams (I’d remove the ‘play in’ game; that’s an insult and travesty to those two teams). You’re always going to have schools left out. No matter what number you choose, someone is left out. 64 works well, and it makes earning a bid to the tournament mean something. Otherwise, why not add two rounds to the tournament and go to 256 teams… then virtually everyone would be included. Though, I know this year’s committee would have found a way to exclude Syracuse (no, I’m not bitter).

Big East Is Bloated: I’ve been maintaining for several years now, ever sense the Big East originally expanded to 14 teams, and now 16, that it was too big, and it was going to hurt them long term. The larger a conference gets, the more it will have a representation of all the types of teams in college hoops… meaning very good teams, good teams, mediocre teams, and bad teams. If you have an 8 team conference, it’s quite possible you’ll have 7 or 8 great teams. With sixteen teams that’s not going to ever happen, and so there are going to be low end teams dragging down the conference RPI and SOS.

Plus, it leads to unbalanced scheduling, which is a joke itself. How can Syracuse and West Virginia be in the same basketball conference and never play each other once this season? And it absolutely hurt Syracuse that they had to play dogs UConn and St. Johns twice each, while only getting the opportunity to play Pitt, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, and Marquette once (in the regular season).

Schedule a Major School Outside the State of New York: This is a note specifically for Syracuse. They’ve become the poster child for a weak out of conference schedule, which is unjustified. Each year, you can easily show that their out of conference schedule is representative of most major college out of conference schedules. The difference is that Syracuse accomplishes a lot of that without ever leaving New York state. Now I’ve ranted and raved several times about the fact that games in Madison Square Garden being 4 ½ hours away from Syracuse, and that fact being ignored frequently by the media. I’ll give you a perspective from Pittsburgh, my current home. Columbus, Ohio is 3 hours from Pittsburgh. Does Ohio State have a huge advantage in Pittsburgh? Washington DC is 4 hours from Pittsburgh. Does Georgetown have a huge advantage in Pittsburgh? New York City is 5 ½ hours from Pittsburgh. Do the Panthers have a huge edge in Madison Square Garden? Of course not.

Does Syracuse have an advantage in Madison Square Garden? Sure… because there are a lot of Syracuse fans in New York City, and Syracuse basketball fans travel well. But you know what, Notre Dame has a very large and supportive alumni base, and they get a nice crowd everywhere they go. Duke has a large national following and they get strong support everywhere they go.

No, the issue really is that Madison Square Garden is in New York state, and it makes is so easy for the national media to constantly say ‘Syracuse doesn’t leave New York state’.

So, Syracuse should identify an area of the country they want to heavily recruit, say Maryland or Virginia, and schedule an annual road game against Maryland, Virginia, Duke, or North Carolina and play them every year. Don’t even make it a home-and-home… just make it their annual road game down south. This will forever remove the ‘Syracuse doesn’t leave New York state’ label and give Syracuse a power conference rival on their schedule. Plus it enhances the recruiting pipeline in that area.

And as we all know from NCAA selection criteria, it doesn’t matter if you beat the good teams on your schedule. You just need to have them on your schedule. If you do the math, you would see that Syracuse’s RPI would be better off if they traveled to Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles and was crushed by UCLA by 30 points, than if they stayed home, and crushed Colgate by 30 points. And don't schedule the mid majors. The committee will only penalize you if you lose to them; there's no advantage to beating them. That's wrong... but that's the reality.

Anyhow, these are the thoughts of a embittered Syracuse fan. Go Orange.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

As Freshman Rebounders Go

Anyone who has watched Syracuse freshman Paul Harris play this season quickly realized that he is a terrific rebounder. Despite starting only one game this year, he is second on the team in rebounds with 229, and had a masterful 15 in the loss to Notre Dame the other night. Harris came to Syracuse with extremely high fan expectations (far too high in my opinion at the time), and it is rumored he would have gone straight to the NBA if new rules had not prohibited it.

The new rule probably is fortunate for Harris. While he shows sparks of defensive brilliance, and outstanding rebounding, he has often seemed totally lost in the offensive scheme and has demonstrated little shooting ability 10 feet and out. He has shown he is an explosive scorer near the hoop, and there is a lot of promise in this young man, and it appears we are fortunate to have him gracing the Orange uniforms. A few years in college basketball should help him adjust and develop his offensive game.

How good has Harris’ freshman year been? He hasn’t been a starter, so his stats may look askew. He has only 7.2 rebounds per game. I say only, because that’s still an impressive number as a freshman. Only five Syracuse freshman have ever exceeded that mark and they were all starters:

Carmelo Anthony 10.0 rpg
Dale Shackleford 8.8 rpg
Derrick Coleman 8.8 rpg
Roosevelt Bouie 8.1 rpg
John Wallace 7.6 rpg

In terms of total rebounds, Harris is still fifth behind the following: Anthony 349, Coleman 333, Billy Owens 263, Shackleford 256 and Bouie 242.

Harris’ stats are deflated because he has not been a starter nor played starter minutes. I figured I would check all Syracuse freshman since 1982-83 (the first season I have minutes played information), and see which freshman had the best rebound per minute. I multiplied the number by 35, since a start player would play about that many minutes per game if given the opportunity, and that makes the numbers more intuitive I think (it doesn’t change the results). I also restricted the list to freshman who played at least 300 minutes. Harris has 229 rebounds in 693 minutes of playing time. That works out to 11.57 rebounds per 35 minutes played, which is by far the best number any Syracuse freshman has had (at least since 82-83, and freshman couldn’t play prior to 73-74 anyhow). The top seven Syracuse freshman rebounders per 35 minutes played is as follows:

Paul Harris 11.57 (229 total rebounds)
Derrick Coleman 10.02 (333)
Hakim Warrick 9.66 (168)
Wendell Alexis 9.61 (134)
Carmelo Anthony 9.60 (349)
Etan Thomas 9.01 (105)
John Wallace 8.96 (221)
Rony Seikaly 8.94 (198)

Coleman was always a terrific rebounder, and if you remember had 19 rebounds in the national championship game against Indiana. Alexis was somewhat of a surprise to me, though I do remember how often he and Rafael Addison used to come into games their freshman year and help out the Orangemen. Alexis sat behind Tony Bruin and Andy Rautins’ dad Leo, so it was tough getting his playing time. Carmelo didn’t have any upperclassmen in his way, so he got all the playing time he needed.

In fact, if you look at the top five Orangemen in terms of rebounds per 35 minutes played, regardless of class, Harris would be #4 on this list. Mr. Derrick Coleman, the NCAA’s all time leading rebounder, holds the top three positions with 12.04, 11.95, 11.86. Harris would be fourth with his 11.57, and then Rony Seikaly comes in fifth at 10.81, and Owens sixth at 10.69.

Of course, it is important to remember that when you extrapolate statistics, you are making assumptions that may not hold true. Averaging 21.7 minutes per game, Harris can expended a lot of energy in short bursts, and that could help to inflate his rebounds per minute. If he were to play 35 minutes per game, he could likely tire and be less effective per minute, though still getting more total rebounds.

Just to look into the ‘what if’ scenario a little further, I figured out what Harris’ scoring would be if he played 35 minutes a game (same caution holds as mentioned above). He would have 14.2 points per 35 minutes played, which would be good for 8th on the all time Syracuse freshman list. The top five freshman in scoring per 35 minutes played are:

Carmelo Anthony 21.4
Lawrence Moten 18.9
Sherman Douglas 16.6
Rafael Addison 16.0
Eric Devendorf 15.8

The surprise on that list was Douglas. For those of us old enough to remember the General, he came out of no where his sophomore season to lead the Orangemen to the national championship game. Yet, if we had looked at the numbers the year before, you could see was quite productive in his minutes played, limited because of the great Pearl Washington ahead of him.

I will be curious to see how Paul Harris develops and grows the next couple of years, especially with the graduation of Syracuse’s front line: Demetris Nichols, Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts. He’ll have ample opportunity to get his playing time next year and show what he can really do on a regular basis.

For now, we can just sit back and watch him provide his rebounding spark against the opposition in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

All Big East

The Big East just keeps getting worse and worse each year with the number of guys it puts on its first team. 11 players named to the first team. The Big East has always been bad on their math. Even in the early 80s they used to traditionally name six guys to the All Big East first team, usually with the distinction that Player of the Year was in addition to the five other guys. Then it grew to seven. Now eleven. It sure does take away from the honor doesn’t it?

Ten more guys made the Big East Second team. So, if you’re one of the top 21 players in the Big East, you’re on the first team or second team.

Thankfully the Big East has dropped having a Big East Third team. Guess they decided it might be a little too obvious is they started putting guys like Matt Gorman on an All Big East team.

They also put eleven guys on the all Rookie team. So I’m wondering what the qualification is to be on that squad? My guess is you were either a starter, or one of the top two reserves on your team. It seems to me they’ve honored every freshman they could have. I guess it’s a real slight if you are not on this team.

Congratulations to Demetris Nichols who made the first team. I’m pretty sure he would have made the first team even if it was five or six guys. If fact, there were five guys who were unanimous: Nichols, Herbert Hill, Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, and Aaron Gray. Sounds like a great five… they should’ve stopped right there. I realize they wouldn’t be recognizing any guards, but the Big East has precedent for leaving a position off the first team. When Etan Thomas was a sophomore and junior, there were no centers on the Big East First Team; so he was voted the best center in the league, but did not make first team.

Nichols is the 15th different Orangeman to be named to the Big East First Team (overall they’ve had 25 recognitions).

Also congratulations to Eric Devendorf for getting honorable mention, and Paul Harris for making the All Rookie Team.

I also thought it was interesting that several players on the First Team are on their first All Big East selection. Demetris Nichols made his first selection, along with Russell Carter, Colin Falls, Herbert Hill, and Frank Young. That doesn’t happen too often. It also means it will be interesting who wins the Most Improved Player award… you have five guys who never were even honorable mention, and now are first team. That’s quite an improvement.

Regarding the new Syracuse Uniforms… they are hideous. Why couldn't Nike have picked Georgetown, UConn or Duke instead. Then I could mock them and tease their fans. Uggggh.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Nova Loss

I’m not sure if there is ever a good loss, but I was not disappointed in the loss the Orange had to Villanova. I thought the team showed it had grown over the course of the season, and showed some poise down the stretch. In the last few weeks, they seemed to finally have grasped the concept of working the ball inside out, looking for the open shooters and mixing that with strong moves to the hoop. They seemed to have improved their overall zone defense. Sooner or later it was inevitable that Andy Rautins would cool down, and it was good to see Eric Devendorf snap out of his shooting slump to carry the team.

Yesterday we saw one of the most impressive dunks I’ve seen in a while, when Paul Harris brought it home to end the first half. I’m not sure if a replay does it justice. And we almost saw one of the most miraculous come backs in basketball history. Syracuse was down by 6 points with five seconds to go, and no time outs… and they had a chance to win the game.

A few observations:

I’ve been saying for a while now that I think the Orange had to finish the regular season 6-0 to lock an NCAA berth. I think I still believe that; finishing 5-1 isn’t locking us into the tournament. I think 5-1 with the win over Georgetown is very helpful… but not a lock. Yes, we are 21-9, and 10-6 in the Big East. And if they did the selection right now, I’m fairly certain that we would be in. However, I believe a first round loss in the Big East Tournament would put us on the bubble.

It’s not that we need to add to our resume. It’s that a loss to St. John’s or UConn would damage that resume. Neither of those two teams are quality opponents, so a loss would be a bad loss. If I were on the committee, I’d want to know Syracuse is going to take care of business, and a loss there would not be an indicator to me. It would also leave the Orange at 6-4 over their last 10 games; that’s not bad, but it’s not a plus. The number of quality wins on the Syracuse resume is low: Marquette, Villanova and Georgetown. Especially when compared to the poor losses: Wichita State, Drexel, St. Johns, UConn.

We could still make the NCAA with a first round loss, but I think it would be from the bubble position. A first round win moves us to at least 22-10, with no worse than 7-3 in our last ten games, and a loss at that point would be to a quality team (in all likelihood). So, winning the first round should lock it in for us.

Demetris Nichols had a good chance at being the Big East Player of the Year, but I think he lost it with the end of the game yesterday. It’s a tight race this year, with none of the top five players really separating themselves from the pack. If Nichols had made both of the technical free throw shots, and then made the three point shot to win the game… that would have clinched the award for him. It would’ve been a great player pulling off the miracle ending to a big game. He’s made many big shots this year, but I think he needed that moment to do it. The fact he failed to deliver, as harsh as that may be, will likely be held against him, and I think that puts the ball back in the court of a front runner for Pitt or Georgetown.

Eric Devendorf looked great on the court yesterday, playing mostly in control. It was good to see him actually succeed when he put the team on his back; he’s tried that a few times this season but with little success. He still had his five turnovers, and he did miss ten shots, but it was a great effort for Devo. It was the first time since the 2003-04 season that two different Orangemen have scored 30+ points in a game in one season (Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara did it that season). It’s also the first time an Orangemen has scored 30+ points in a road game since Warrick did it against Nova in February 2005.

Terrence Roberts is playing extremely inspirational basketball. I’ve questioned his toughness before, but its amazing the toughness and grit he’s shown the past couple of games. Playing on one knee, and only 24 minutes of playing time he pulled down 8 rebounds (four offensive), and showed some solid defense. Now he did go 0-2 from the free throw line ( that’s 54-108 50% for this season, 167-347, 48.4% for his career ), and he took another three point shot and missed (Why does he even try? For his career he’s now 5-25, 20%). But Roberts is going out on a positive note… and that’s how a lot of people will remember him.

Andy Rautins finally had his hot streak snapped, and was 2-11 from three point range. However, for those who think he offers little else on the court, he still played tremendous zone defense, and had four assists with only one turnover.

Did I mention Paul Harris’ dunk? Wow. If anyone has been paying attention, Harris is only 10 rebounds off the team lead. Not too bad for a guy who hasn’t had nearly the minutes many thought he should.

Nova shot 29-32 from the free throw line. You’re not going to win too many games when the opponent shots that many free throws and makes 91% of them.

I’m trying to keep an open mind about Syracuse having new uniforms. I’m not optimistic on what I’ll think. And if any color but Orange is the dominant color, I’ll be extremely disappointed. I am getting tired about everything always being about money. I’d like to see a college actually do something for another reason. Perhaps, maybe for educational purposes, pride, history, tradition, etc. I can think of a lot of reasons… the monetary focus needs to be toned down several notches.

Don’t think it can be done? Hey, this blog is written for free, and I hope you find it has some quality to it. And there are several other blogs out there regarding Syracuse basketball, all of them with quality, and most of them done by fans who have a passion for the game and for the team. So money does not need to drive everything.

Go Orange!