Sunday, November 29, 2009

Geography 101

The Syracuse Orange are now 6-0, after putting away Columbia in the second half of Friday night’s game at the Carrier Dome. Wesley Johnson was exciting on offense, Andy Rautins had his usual stellar defensive effort, and Jim Boeheim moved in to sole possession of 7th place on the all-time win list with win # 805.

I would like to take a break, to educate all the youth of America who are being educated by Professor Dick Vitale on the proximity of Madison Square Garden to Syracuse University. He likes to reiterate each and every year that Syracuse ‘never’ leaves NY state before the Big East season, as if that is a tremendous home field for Syracuse. I will of course agree that the following statement is indeed correct:

“Syracuse and Madison Square Garden are indeed both in New York State”

For those unfamiliar with the geography of New York, that is about the only thing in common with New York city and Syracuse. Syracuse University is 249 miles driving distance from Madison Square Garden (per MapQuest). It is a 4 hours 22 minutes away.

Syracuse is not on a subway line from New York City. Many people from Syracuse have never been to New York City. I had never visited New York City until I was 20 years old. Roughly 27% of the Syracuse city area is covered by trees, and the city receives more snowfall than any other major US city with 115 inches of snow a year. The immediate areas surrounding Syracuse are known for apple orchards, wineries, and dairy farms.

Syracuse is closer to the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut than it is to New York City. It is closer to Canada, than it is to the Big Apple.

Of the original 8 Big East Schools, guess which university is the furthest from Madison Square Garden? Yes, the answer is indeed Syracuse. Here’s the list with their Mapquest driving distance.

St. John’s – 0 miles (The Red Storm play some home games at MSG)
Seton Hall – 19 miles
Villanova – 96 miles
UConn – 142 miles
Providence – 180 miles
Boston College – 216 miles
Georgetown - 229 miles
Syracuse – 249 miles

In the new Big East alignment, Rutgers is added to the above list at only 14 miles. And just for the heck of it, here are three non-Big East schools of note: Temple is 96 miles, University of Maryland is 222 miles and Penn State University is 239 miles away.

Syracuse is closer to Toronto, Ontario at 245 miles. It is virtually the same distance to Montreal, Quebec at 252 miles. And Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 245 miles. And Hartford, Connecticut at 256 miles. Erie, Pennsylvania, at the far western corner of the state of Pennsylvania is 238 miles away.

Anyhow, I hope you all get the point. Yes, Syracuse is in New York State. But unless you count all the cities just mentioned as 'home' games for Syracuse, then please don't apply the same standard to Madison Square Garden. That goes to you too Mr. Vitale.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#804 for Boeheim behind Balanced Scoring

The Orange moved to 5-0 with a hard earned victory over Cornell. Syracuse grabbed control of the game in the second half and made the final score one sided, but Cornell shot the lights out in the first half, and made the Orange work for this one. This was Jim Boeheim’s 804th career victory, tying him for 7th all time with Eddie Sutton.

The Orange have not yet played a game that has been close in the final two minutes, so there are many questions on how those types of games will go for Syracuse. Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf were the ‘go to’ guys in the past couple of years. There may not be ‘the guy’ to go to this year, at least not in the classical sense of the big scorer. I suspect as the season goes on that one of the guards will become the playmaker that you want the ball in the hands of, and he’ll make the right decision. And I think Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins, depending on the scenario will be the guys who end up taking those last minutes shots more often than not. But we will have to wait and see.

Syracuse has a statistical anomaly after the first five games. Five different players have led the Orange in scoring this season: Arinze Onuaku, Andy Rautins, Scoop Jardine, Wesley Johnson and Brandon Triche. This year’s team is a selfless team, as a few of the players have already stated, and so far the scoring indicates that. It will be interesting how that plays out over the course of the year.

When was the last time the Orangemen had 5 different players lead them in scoring in the first five games? If you go back to the 2003-2004 season, they had four players do it in the first five games: Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick, Billy Edelin and Terrence Roberts.

You could go back to 1980-1981 where Tony Bruin, Leo Rautins, Erich Santifer, Danny Schayes and Marty Headd all led the team in scoring in the first five games. But I would not really count this one, as Headd and Rautins tied for the lead in scoring in one game, and Schayes led it two other games.

The last time that five different players led the team in scoring for each of the five games was 34 years ago back in 1976-1977, Jim Boeheim’s first year (and victories #1 through #4). Larry Kelley, Roosevelt Bouie, Dale Shackleford, Marty Byrnes and Ross Kindel all had a hand in leading the team in scoring. That team would end up 26-4. Noteworthy is that Louis Orr was on that team, and was not one of those five players.

Three other times in school history this pattern has emerged. In 1935-1936, Ollie Scott, Norm Leavitt, Jack Curran, Edgar Sonderman and Johnny Simonaitus each had the honor. The squad would finish the year 12-5.

In 1922-1923, the Orangemen struggled to find a consistent leader, and had six different players lead them in scoring in the first six games: George Fisher, George Noakes, Pete MacRae, Bernie Kates, Pep Fasce, and John Gallivan. This team struggled to 9-11. Ironically, they started out 5-0.

And back in 1918-1919, the Orangemen had Jimmy Kernan, Bob Marcus, John Barsha, Nick Paul and Danny Martin all take the honors in the first five games. That squad would finish 13-3. Ironically, the team’s second leading scorer Charley Dolley, would not take scoring honors until the 7th game of the season; Dolley was also the team’s clutch shooter that year winning three games with last minute baskets.

We'll have to wait and see if Syracuse can pull a sixth top scorer for the Columbia game this coming Friday. Perhaps Rick Jackson or Kris Joseph will get the honor.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Orange Win 2k Sports Classic

Wow. I would be lying if I told you I thought the Orange would be 4-0 at this point of this season. I would have been pleased with 3-1. The team lost its top three scorers from last season, including Jonny Flynn who basically controlled every aspect of the offense last year.

Syracuse easily beat Robert Morris and Albany. I had hope and optimism from those two games because the Orange not only beat those teams, but they beat them easily, something that Syracuse really has not done for the past decade. Even in the famous 2002-2003 season, the Orange won a lot of close games, and really never blew too many teams out of the building.

But this year’s Orangemen have taken this a step even further. The not only beat easily the teams they should beat, they took on #12 California and #4 North Carolina, and easily dismantled those teams. That’s the North Carolina Tar Heels, the defending national champion. Yes, the Tar Heels lost four starters from last year, but they still have a ton of talent, a Hall of Fame coach, and they were ranked #4. That was Syracuse 87, North Carolina 71.

I have no idea how good this Syracuse team is, but it is clearly not the #6 team in the Big East. Wesley Johnson is one of those rare situations where he is better than advertised. Johnson had 25 points and 8 rebounds against a big Tar Heel front line. He was 10-17 from the floor and 4-8 from three point range.

Andy Rautins has clearly grabbed the leadership of this team, and his teammates are behind him. Rautins defense in the zone has been simply superb this year. He had seven steals this evening, to go along with his seven rebounds and seven assists. Oh yeah, he did make a few threes going 3-8. Rautins is showing all the poise, guile and maturity of a fifth year senior, and that time on the Canadian National Team is surely helping him. And those passes Rautins is throwing? I hope his teammates are icing down their hands because he is blistering them.

Scoop Jardine is making us almost want to say “Johnny who?”. Jardine is not the scorer Flynn was, but he surely is showing he can run an offense. And he is backing up Brandon Triche. I’ll be really excited to see what happens when these two actually learn how to run this team.

Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku are just eating up the inside. And unlike the past two seasons, their teammates are getting the ball inside to them.

Of course the real success to this team is their defense, which has been outstanding. Extremely active, very active. They have long bodies on the court, but it’s the mental attitude that is making the difference. These guys really buy into the Jim Boeheim defense, and are giving a clinic on how to run it.

We can temper our expectations with a few realities. The team is flat awful at free throw shooting. If another team can get them into a close game, it will be tough for the Orange to pull it out. It some aspects it reminds me of the Orangemen in the Coleman-Douglas-Owens era. Those guys would run most opponents off the court; when they lost a game it was a close one where the free throws did matter.

The Orangemen are also making a lot of turnovers, though they did well against California. Part of that is being overly aggressive, and part is being youthful at some positions. Those types of turnovers can hurt you down the road. This is something that can be corrected (unlike the free throws which will be an albatross this year).

It is going to be a long season. One with many ups and downs as the team learns. But right now they are definitely on an up. Hard to believe this is the same squad who played LeMoyne a few weeks ago. Time for the Orange fans to really enjoy this.

I know I am eager to see what this team can do over the long haul. Let’s go Orange!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let's Play Two

“Let’s play two”, was what the legendary Ernie Banks was attributed to saying. The Orange faithful can all remember back to the memorable 6 Overtime game against UConn on March 12th, 2009 at the Big East Tournament. It surely seemed like Syracuse played two that day. And technically, they did as when the game ended at 1:40 am EDT, they went to bed, woke up and played West Virginia that night (and of course, that game went into overtime too). I doubt we’ll ever see another team play 195 minutes of basketball in the Big East tournament, even if they expand to another round.

The other thing we are likely never to see again is a scheduled doubleheader of basketball. Who would be crazy enough to do that? Well, former Syracuse coach and athletic director Lew Andreas did just that to kick off the 1948-1949 season. Syracuse played the University of Toronto on the afternoon of December 4th, 1948 at the Syracuse Coliseum, and later that evening came back and played the Ithaca College. Syracuse would win both games easily, beating Toronto 81-41, and Ithaca 76-34. Jack Kiley and Ed Stickel would lead the scoring for the day, both having a combined 25 points for each game.

Of course, Syracuse did have some advantages in those games, especially when compared to the Syracuse/UConn 6OT game. First of all, the competition was far less intense, as the final scores indicated. Second of all, there was a couple of hours break between the two games. And third, and most importantly, was how deep Andreas went into his bench for each game.

In terms of playing his reserve players, Andreas was the anti-Boeheim. 19 different Orangemen would play against Toronto in the first game, 17 players would play in the second game. Coach Andreas was notorious for making wholesale substitutions during his coaching career on the hill, and often had a First Team, Second Team, Third Team, that he would send in as a whole group. In some games, he would start his second team, and then bring his first team in.

The 19 players that Andreas played in the Ithaca game were not a school record. On January 14, 1939, Syracuse played Fordham at Archbold Gymnasium. The Orangemen routed the Rams 57-22. Andreas would play 21 different players that day; the local news that day questioned if that was possibly a collegiate record (I don’t know the answer to that even now).

To put 21 players into perspective, Jim Boeheim has only played 20 different players the past two seasons combined, and 25 different players the past three seasons combined.

Anyhow, let’s play two!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

On this Veterans day, I would like to once again thank all those who have served our country, putting their lives on the line to do those tasks that need to be done.The Orange basketball team has had its share of veterans over the decades. And has been tradition at OrangeHoops, I would like to recognize those former basketball Orangemen who did serve. I acknowledge this is not a complete list; only those I know of (each year I add a few more). I imagine more Orangemen were in the service that I am omitting; if so, please post a recognition here! Also please feel free to recognize any other veterans in the comments.

In World War I, the following served:

Albert Ackley
Bradley Barnard
Meyer Bloom
Jim Casey
Ed Cronauer
John Cronauer
Charles Fasce
Russ Finsterwald
Ken Harris
Ted Huntley
Bernie Kates
Ken Lavin
Nathan Malefski
Danny Martin
Walter ‘Dutch’ Notman
Walter Peters
Elias Raff
Billy Rafter
Horace Ruffin
Courtland Sanney

In World War II, the following served:

Jim Ackerson
John Balinsky
Dick Casey
Larry Crandall
Wilbur Crisp
Dan DiPace
Les Dye
Alton Elliott
John Emerich
Bob Felasco
Paul Ferris
Billy Gabor
Ed Glacken
Joe Glacken
Marc Guley
Lew Hayman
Bill Hennemuth
Tom Huggins
George Jarvis
Jim Konstanty
Stan Kruse (Kruszewski)
Guy Luciano
Saul Mariaschin
Tom McTiernan
Francis Miller
Joe Minsavage
Andy Mogish
Roy Peters
Hank Piro
Phil Rakov
John Schroeder
Bill Schubert
Bob Shaddock
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Red Stanton
Mike Stark
Joe Sylvestri
Charles Taggart
Ray Tice

In Korea the following served:

Reaves Baysinger, Jr

In Vietnam, the following served:

Reaves Baysinger, Jr
George Crofoot
Rick Dean

The following were veterans who served but were fortunate to miss a war era:

Art Barr
Mel Besdin
Rudy Cosentino
Roy Danforth
Ronnie Kilpatrick
George Koesters
Jack Malone

Four of the aforementioned players deserve special note, as they sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was a member of the Tuskegee Airman, and was killed in a training accident when his plane crashed into Lake Michigan in 1943.

Charles Taggart was a member of the US Navy serving aboard the USS Frederick C. Davis, and was killed when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on April 24, 1945. Taggart and 115 crew members perished.

John Cronauer was killed in World War I in 1918.

Joe Minsavage was killed in World War II on June 19, 1943 when his ship was attacked and he was lost at sea.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Win #800

Congratulations to Jim Boeheim on his career win #800. It was an inevitable win for a coach who routinely wins twenty games a year. If the win did not come against the Great Danes of Albany (it did 75-43), it was going to happen. It seems like only yesterday that Boeheim won game #700; in fact it was a lopsided win over Providence at the Dome on February 26, 2005, with Hakim Warrick leading the way with 36 points.

Syracuse University has now won 1756 games, fifth all time for NCAA Division I basketball (only Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and Duke have more). Jim Boeheim hasn’t coached all those games, it just seems that way. He has however won 45.5% of the games the Orange have won. As a player, Syracuse was 52-24, as varsity assistant coach, Syracuse was 139-65. So all combined, he has been involved with 991 wins for Syracuse basketball. Think about the magnitude of that number… 991. He has been involved with 56% of the wins for Syracuse basketball.

The 2008-09 season should be an interesting one to watch. It would have been a different season had Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris all stayed. There is no doubt about that. A team with a ton of experience and talent, a rare combination in today’s NCAA. And definitely a team that could have challenged for the NCAA tournament, even though it had some weaknesses. However, I think this year’s team, as currently comprised will be an NCAA tournament team, one that will be much better in March than it is in November. It is a young team in some aspects, but it is a team with some fifth year seniors (Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku), and a some great potential in young players.

Let’s go Orange.