Monday, May 26, 2008

Syracuse Lacrosse Wins #10!

Though this blog covers Syracuse basketball, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the Syracuse Orange Lacrosse team winning its 10th National Championship today 13-10 over Johns Hopkins. For those not familiar with lacrosse, Syracuse meeting Johns Hopkins in the finals is similar to Kansas vs UCLA in the college hoops, or the Yankees / Dodgers in the World Series, or the Celtics / Lakers in the NBA Finals. It doesn't get more legendary than that.

Only seven colleges have won the Division I National Championship in Lacrosse:
  1. Syracuse - 10
  2. Johns Hopkins - 9
  3. Princeton - 6
  4. North Carolina - 4
  5. Virginia - 4
  6. Cornell - 3
  7. Maryland - 2

If you cared to know, the most Division II championships go to:

  1. Adelphi - 7
  2. NYIT - 4
  3. LeMoyne - 3
  4. Hobart - 2
  5. Limestone - 2
  6. Towson State - 1
  7. UMBC - 1
  8. C.W. Post - 1
  9. Roanoke - 1
  10. Cortland - 1
  11. Springfield - 1

And the most Division III championships of all time:

  1. Hobart - 13
  2. Salisbury - 8
  3. Nazareth - 3
  4. Middlebury - 3
  5. Cortland - 1
  6. Washington (MD) - 1

Enjoy your Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Syracuse Top Freshman - Revised

In September I posed the question, who was the greatest freshman basketball player in Syracuse basketball history? At the time I gave the nod to Carmelo Anthony, barely edging out Billy Owens. My top ten were:

1. Carmelo Anthony
2. Billy Owens
3. Lawrence Moten
4. Pearl Washington
5. Derrick Coleman
6. Gerry McNamara
7. Dale Shackleford
8. Roosevelt Bouie
9. Eric Devendorf
10. Adrian Autry

The past season, 2007-2008, could be called the ‘Year of the Freshman’ for Syracuse because of the impact four freshman had on the time and their overall playing time. Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine were valuable backups. Jonny Flynn and Donte´ Greene were starters all year and definitely among the top players on the team. Where do Flynn and Greene rank in the all-time Orange freshman?

Jonny Flynn is a tough call. He played a solid point guard position all season long, starting out with 28 points in his freshman debut, and finishing the year with 15.7 points per game, 5.3 assists a game, and 2.7 rebounds a game. He shot nearly 78% from the free throw line, 35% from three point range with 56 three point shots made. Statistically, he’s definitely in the top 10 for SU freshman.

Flynn had a 1.9 assist to turnover ratio, with 2.7 turnovers a game. Those are not great ball handling numbers, but I’m nitpicking a little here. Statistics only tell part of the game. Flynn played virtually every minute of every Big East game because of injuries on the Orange squad, and really no one to back him up. He showed the ability to defer to his teammates as a playmaker first, and take the big shots when they were needed.

Flynn showed patience on the court. It was clear in many games that he wanted to speed up the tempo, run the fast break, only to find that he had no teammates running down the court with him. More often than not, Flynn would make the wise choice and pull up, waiting for his teammates to support him. Flynn’s freshman season was definitely better than Shackleford, Bouie, Devendorf and Autry, and he wasn’t as good as Anthony, Owens, Moten, or the Pearl. So where does he fall in the Coleman / McNamara ranking?

Comparing Coleman and Flynn is very difficult as they played different positions and had vastly different responsibilities. Coleman had to play stellar inside defense, provide as much rebounding as possible, and provide some inside scoring presence. Flynn had to run the team, and because of lack of teammates, provide more scoring. Coleman was clearly surrounded by better players than Flynn, and has more experienced players around him. Having said that Coleman was instrumental in Syracuse winning the Big East regular season title, and coming within a basket of the national championship. Flynn, though not necessarily his fault, was pressed to get Syracuse to .500 in the Big East season, and the Orange were NIT bound. I have to go with Coleman over Flynn in this case.

Flynn compared to McNamara is a more straight forward. Flynn was a point guard asked to take on some of the perimeter shooting requirements because of injuries. McNamara was a shooting guard asked to play the point guard position because of the suspension of Billy Edelin. Both were asked to play with a freshman forward with aspirations of going to the NBA after one season, and both were asked to take on significant responsibilities and burdens for the team.

Flynn was a better playmaker, better ball handler. McNamara a better shooter, particularly from the free throw line. McNamara understood Boeheim’s zone defense better, and was more adept at creating turnovers from that scheme than Flynn. The two players actually played surprisingly similar minutes (35.3/g for McNamara, 35.5/g for Flynn). I’m going to give the edge to McNamara here on the basis that he had more big plays, more game winning moments than Flynn. McNamara seemed to always put the Orange in the position to win games (admittedly Anthony had a lot to do with that). McNamara’s team had a reputation of repeatedly coming from behind to win games. Flynn’s team had a reputation for repeatedly blowing large leads.

So that puts Flynn as # 7 on my all time Syracuse freshman list.

Where does Donte´ Greene belong? I think most would agree that Flynn was the better freshman player than Greene. I know that’s a position I’ve consistently written in this blog. Greene did have an outstanding freshman season. He scored 17.7 points a game, and averaged 7.2 rebounds a game. He shot 90 three point shots, a school record for freshman, breaking McNamara’s record. He had moments in games where he would dominate the court for a short period of time.

Greene’s weaknesses are pretty well known by Syracuse fans. He played poor defense on a regular basis. He did not like to play inside and take advantage of his height, instead preferring to take the perimeter shot. He refused to fake the perimeter shot and drive to the hoop. He often took ill advised shots that he rushed to get off, despite plenty of time for the offense to operate. He turned the ball over a lot (91 times) for a player who was not the primary ball handler. Basically, he was a very talented freshman who made a lot of freshman mistakes.

I think Greene falls somewhere around Roosevelt Bouie. Bouie was a raw freshman talent, with a strong defensive reputation and limited offensive skills. Bouie didn’t disappoint anyone with his defense as he proved he was a strong intimidator inside, and a solid rebounder. Bouie didn’t have the great offensive skills but still scored 10 points a game by showing he could run with the fast break, and take advantage of the dunks near the hoop. As flashy as Greene’s offensive numbers were, I would take Bouie’s freshman defense over Greene’s offense, and Bouie was not a liability on offense where Greene was on defense. Greene was more polished than Bouie, but he also had bigger holes in his game.

So my top ten, with the two new freshman on it, is now:

1. Anthony
2. Owens
3. Moten
4. Washington
5. Coleman
6. McNamara
7. Flynn
8. Shackleford
9. Bouie
10. Greene

Eric Devendorf and Red Autry had solid freshman seasons, but it’s an impressive list of freshman ahead of them. What's your opinion? Feel free to leave a comment or vote in the ranking at