Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Milestones Reached

The 2009-2010 season has wrapped up, and we have to say farewell to a couple of fifth year seniors in Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku. Though neither was a four year starter, they both did put up some notable career statistics, and this season saw a few other highlights.

Before I move on, here is the trivia question for today. Rautins and Onuaku were fifth year seniors, and because of injuries in their career, they played a year beyond their class graduation (2009). Who were the three Syracuse basketball players who should have been seniors on this year’s team?

Back to the statistics. Rautins finished his career as the 2nd all-time three point shooter at Syracuse with 282 three point shots made, trailing only Gerry McNamara’s 400. Rautins is 10th all-time in 3 point pct with 37.4%.

Andy Rautins, of course, is forever linked to his father Leo, and we can check how they compared. Both are in the 1000 point club, Andy with 1,121 pts (46th all time) versus Leo’s 1,031 (53rd). Leo has the edge in points per game, leading 12.1 to 8.8.

Leo shot 76.7% from the free throw line (18th all-time) versus Andy’s 76.3% (20th all-time). Leo had 423 assists (9th) versus Andy’s 347 (16th). Leo had 529 rebounds, Andy 327 rebounds.

Arinze Onuaku set both the all-time best marks and all-time worst. Onuaku’s career field goal percentage is 64.8%, the school record for a player with 200 or more field goal attempts. On the downside, Onuaku’s career free throw percentage is 39.5%, the worst for any player with 200 or more attempts.

Onuaku broke the single season record for field goal percentage this year with 66.8% (153 of 229), breaking the record he set last year at 66.7%. Onuaku finished his career with the #1, 2 and 6 best season field goal percentages ever.

Onuaku also joined the Rautins clan in the 1000 point club, finishing with 1,232 (36th all time).

Onuaku is 11th all-time on the blocked shot list with 148. His teammate, Rick Jackson, is currently 10th on that list with 173.

On the all time Syracuse three point percentage list (career), Wesley Johnson and Brandon Triche rank 3rd and 5th respectively at 41.5% and 40.0%.

I am not sure how many people realize how much of a three point shooting team the Orange were this year. In Syracuse Orange history, only 14 times has a player shot 40% or better from three point range. Four of those players were in this past season: Mookie Jones hit 44.6% (25 of 56, 2nd best all time), Wesley Johnson 41.5%, Rautins 40.7% and Triche 40.0%. That is quite a quartet of shooters with fine seasons, despite the fact that three point range was extended last season.

The Syracuse team shot 39.1% from three point range, 2nd best in team history, trailing only the 1986-1987 team that shot 40.3%. And when you consider that Syracuse made 244 of 624 shots from three point range this year, versus 100 of 248 shots that year, the feat is more amazing. The 244 three point shots made were fourth most in school history, trailing the 2005-2006 season record where they team made 260 (but shot only 33.9%).

65% of the teams field goals this year were made associated with an assist (1042 field goals, 673 assists), which is the highest percent in school history. This broke the record of 64% set in 1999-2000.

Brandon Triche had the 2nd best freshman three point percentage (40%), trailing only DeShaun Williams 41.8%. Triche also had the 8th most assists by a freshman with 99 (Pearl Washington holds the record with 199).

How did Carmelo Anthony and Wesley Johnson match up? The two played the same number of games so its an interesting comparison. Anthony clearly had the scoring and rebounding edge (22.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg vs 16.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg). Johnson is the better pure shooter, beating Anthony in all three shooting percentages: field goal (50% vs 45.3%), free throw (77.2% vs 70.6%), and three point percentage (41.5% vs. 33.7%). Anthony took far more field goal shots (612 vs 412) and was fouled far more (238 free throw attempts vs 145).

They had nearly identical assists, turnovers and steals. Johnson blocked 64 shots compared to Anthony’s 30. Anthony was definitely the better player, but Johnson was clearly the better shooter, and slightly better as a defender.

Coach Jim Boeheim earned his 800th career win in the season opener, and is now the 2nd winningest active coach, with 829 total.

Scoop Jardine set the school record for most points scored in a season without starting a game, with 318 points. This broke the record held by Wendell Alexis, who had 298 points without starting in his junior season.

Going back to the trivia question. The answer is: Paul Harris (who left in 2009 as a junior), Mike Jones (who left in 2007, as a freshman) and Devan Brennan-McBride (who left in 2008 as a sophomore). Neither Rautins nor Onuaku were part of this freshman class, nor was Eric Devendorf, who like his classmates Rautins & Onuaku, missed a season because of injury and would’ve been a fifth year senior if he had stayed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Season Ends

The season is over, and it is a hurtful ending. Syracuse’s ‘shut it down’ defense, which has confused the opposition all year, stymied Butler for most of the game last night, but was unable to make the critical stops in the last few minutes. Butler on the other hand, provided their own version of ‘shut it down’ defense, and they stopped the Orange cold for nearly the first 10 minutes of the game, and made the stops necessary when it mattered at the end.

Butler did everything they needed to do to win this game, and they deserved it. They were the better team last night. They imposed their defensive will on Syracuse, and for reasons that are tough to fathom, it rattled the Orange. The Orange did not shoot poorly, though they shot below their own high standard. They hit 44% of their shots and 37% from 3 point range; they missed only 4 free throws. Meanwhile they held Butler to 40% from the field, and 25% from three point range (only 6 three pointers made).

The difference, as everyone who watched the game painfully knows, was that Butler protected the ball on offense and Syracuse gave it away. The Bulldogs had only seven turnovers in the game; Syracuse had 18, the majority of those in the first half (12).

This was a team loss for Syracuse. They played as a team all year, and won because of solid teamwork; the loss last night was in part because that teamwork was not there. Syracuse has had a high number of assists all year, particularly in terms of field goals made. Against Butler the Orange had only 12 assists on the 21 field goals they made. That is a good ratio for most teams, but when the Orange have been clicking this year, they were getting 17 to 18 assists on those 21 field goals.

There was some consistent poor decision making. The team had a very difficult time taking advantage of the Wes Johnson mismatch on Willie Veasley. Scoop Jardine seemed to carry a ‘shoot first, pass second’ mentality into the game, and we needed him to run the offense. Brandon Triche, who shook off his slump with solid outings against Vermont and Gonzaga, appeared to disappear again. Kris Joseph, 22% three point shooter, pulled up for a three during one sequence, with plenty of time left on the shot clock. Andy Rautins had five turnovers, and only two assists.

This game was the first game where the loss of Arinze Onuaku really showed. Syracuse needed a big man down low who was going to catch the ball and make Butler pay inside. Rick Jackson, who hustled all game, seemed to have soaked his hands in butter before tip off. I do not know how he only had 3 turnovers, as it seemed like many more. I guess in many of those cases, he never had possession of the ball, and thus cannot be credited with a turnover.

It is disappointing. And it is always tough to see the season end on a loss. Though, most college basketball seasons for most teams end on a loss. With the exception of the NIT Champion and the NCAA Champion, everyone else goes home losing that last day, whether it’s in your conference tournament or one of the two national tournaments.

The most disappointing thing to me is I am going to miss watching this particular team play. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them this year; to me they were a fun team to watch. Good ball movement, clutch shooting, the ‘shut it down’ defense. No more opportunities to watch Andy Rautins shoot a long distance three, or make a bullet pass. No more Onuaku pounding the ball inside, or even the comical efforts at the free throw line. I will assume Wesley Johnson will be gone, and I’ll miss his soaring leaps for rebounds and dunks, and his persistent smile.

On the whole, this was a season to enjoy, and one to remember fondly. The team went 30-5; that is outstanding! They won the Big East Regular Season title, running away with it. They won the preseason NIT Tournament. They went 7-2 versus top 25 teams, and 6-0 versus top 10 teams. They played in front of an NCAA Record crowd when they beat Villanova. They swept the Hoyas during the regular season and beat UConn in their only meeting. They rose to #1 in the National Polls, for the first time since 1989, and they did it starting out being unranked. They earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, something they had not done since 1979. Their head coach earned his 800th career win.

There was a whole lot to cheer for in 2009-2010. And that is how I will remember this season.

Thank you Orange, for a wonderful year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wesley Johnson Takes Over

Onto the Sweet Sixteen. And with relative ease, as it turns out, with an 87-65 win over Gonzaga, a final score that makes the game seem closer than it was.

I would admit that I was very concerned about this game knowing Arinze Onuaku was not going to be present. It is not that I do not trust the rest of the squad, but that does put the Orange into a very short bench.

The worst nightmare for any Syracuse fan occurred at 8:58 in the first half when Rick Jackson picked up his third foul, and the game was close. Gonzaga’s 7’ center Robert Sacre and 6’7” Elias Harris had already tasted a lot of success by that point in the game, and I was hoping the Orange would be able to make it to halftime without the game running away from them.

A strange thing happened over that nearly nine minutes stretch. The Orange pulled away from the Bulldogs to take a 47-32 half time lead. How did that happen?

Really, it should not have been a surprise. The team that has played like a team all year did what they did best, and played ‘shut it down’ defense. Add that in with their two best players, Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins, stepping it up and pouring in the points, and the familiar recipe makes this much easier to understand.

Brandon Triche has re-emerged, which was really a necessity for Syracuse to do well in the NCAA tournament. He played aggressive on offense and defense, and it appears his confidence is back. We tend to think of Triche as having struggled all year, but the young freshman is hitting 41% of this three point attempts this year.

DaShonte Riley was admirable in his 15 minute stint. He did foul out, had a few turnovers and did not get a rebound. On the positive side, he had a great pass to Scoop Jardine, and did his job of clogging up the middle of the zone.

Now I did not forget about Wesley Johnson’s performance. The Big East Player of the Year showed the rest of the country why Syracuse fans think he is one of the best in the country with a very smooth 31 points and 14 rebounds. Johnson was scoring from long range (4 of 6 on three point shots), mid jumpers and on some nice dunks. He was leaping high to grab his fourteen rebounds.

Johnson’s 31 points was the first thirty point effort by an Orangeman since Jonny Flynn put 34 on UConn during the legendary six overtime Big East game on March 12, 2009. It was the first 30 point NCAA effort by a Syracuse player since Gerry McNamara had his spectacular 43 point effort against Brigham Young on March 18, 2004.

Johnson joins a list of seven other Syracuse players who have scored 30+ points in an NCAA Tournament game: Gary Clark, Rudy Hackett, Rony Seikaly, Adrian Autry, John Wallace, Carmelo Anthony and McNamara.

The Orange are now at 30-4, the most wins since their Championship season of 2002-03 when they went 30-5. This is the second most wins ever for a single season, joining the 2003 team and the 1989 team. The record is 31 for the 1986-1987 National Champion Runner Up Orangemen, who went 31-7.

The senior class of Syracuse broke the school record for most wins in consecutive seasons, now standing at 58 (28 last year, 30 and going this year). An impressive accomplishment for two hard working fifth year seniors: Rautins and Onuaku. The previous record had been 57, which was held by the 1987 class (Howard Triche and Greg Monroe), who won 26 games their junior year and 31 their senior year, and by the 1988 class (Rony Seikaly and Derek Brower), who had 31 wins their junior year, and 26 their senior year.

With all the upsets in the tournament this year, the path really has not been cleared for the Orangemen yet. I am not too worried, if Onuaku returns, because this team can play with and beat anyone when they have their game going.

I do wonder how the Orangemen played an 8 seed who was ranked #22 in the AP (Gonzaga), and a 5 seed next (Butler), who is ranked 11th in the AP. A 22nd ranked team should be around a 6 seed (not an 8), and an 11th ranked team should be around a 3 seed (not a 5). It does not seem like the West was "favorably" loaded. But as I said, it really will not matter to these Orange players.

Go Orange!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 NCAA

I hope everyone has their brackets locked and loaded. I have three sheets this year; one ‘sheet of integrity’, as ESPN’s Mike & Mike would say, with my picks of how I think the tournament will play out. And then two other sheets just to cover the basis and hope to win one of the pools I am in. Not that there is any money involved; it is all a matter of pride (sure).

I saw that Pat Forde lists five teams in his Forde Minutes as having a chance of winning the tournament. I do not know if it is a good sign or a bad sign that my three winners are among his five teams. I will not reveal my picks, but let us just say that they rhyme with canvas, pair of shoes, and best for win, yah.

What I thought was interesting on Forde’s blog was his mathematical evaluation of several coaches in terms of how much they overachieve or underachieve in the NCAA tournament (see the Mastering Your Medium section). I think there are some flaws in the process (obviously coaches with consistently highly rates teams have a very tough time overachieving, while those with lowly rated teams have a much better chance to overachieve), but for a ‘quick tool’, it’s fairly interesting.

Jim Boeheim has a 4.4% underachiever status, which means that 4.4% of the time, his team underachieves in the tournament. That is pretty much insignificant. Over a 35 year coaching career, that would mean you underachieved once. As those of us who have followed Syracuse for a long time realize, Boeheim’s NCAA teams have pretty much done everything. They have pulled off major upsets, they have been the victim of major upsets. They have gone to the Final Four three times when they were not expected, and they have failed to make the Elite Eight when they were considered NCAA contenders.

For those who want other coaches because they assume they would get better results, consider these numbers. Rick Barnes is an underachiever 14.7%. Mike Krzyzewski is an underachiever 8.6%. John Calipari is a 16.7% underachiever. Rick Pitino is only a 3.9% overachiever.

What it really points out is all the good coaches out there win games they were underdogs, lose games when they are favorites. We are always more sensitive to our ‘own guy’ losing the games, and we rarely want to give him credit for winning the upset because we consider our team underrated, and thus its not really an upset in our minds.

Go Orange!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boeheim and Johnson Earn Top League Recognitions

Congratulations to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and forward Wesley Johnson, both who earned significant Big East Awards yesterday.

Jim Boeheim won his fourth Big East Coach of the Year award. He won his first in 1984, twenty six years ago. This is a well earned award this year, as the Orange were not ranked in the preseason top 25, and predicted to finish 6th in the Big East. Instead, the Orange, with no players recruited in the top 50 of their class, rose to #1 in the national rankings, and won the Big East title outright with a two game lead. There were some other coaches with outstanding efforts this year, but this selection was really a no-brainer.

Wesley Johnson was more of the surprise as Player of the Year. Many Syracuse fans, myself included, had assumed that since Scottie Reynolds had been the front runner most the season and was the only unanimous player on the All Big East First Team, that he was going to win the award. That is one advantage of having coaches vote, as opposed to sportswriters. The coaches are less impressed by statistics, and more impressed by what they have seen on the court. That does not mean they always get it right, in my opinion. But this year I think they did. As I had mentioned the other day, Johnson’s team focus, at the expense of his own statistics was a major key in the Orange having an outstanding regular season.

I do have to agree with other fans and bloggers, including Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, that I thought Andy Rautins was the MVP of this team. Though we do have to keep in mind that Player of the Year is not the same as Most Valuable Player. There is a subtle difference.

Johnson is the fourth Syracuse player to win the Big East Player of the Year. Derrick Coleman was the first in 1990 guiding the Orangemen to a 26-7 record, 12-4 in the Big East. D.C. averaged 17.9 ppg, 12.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game that year, and shot 55% from the floor.

Billy Owens gave the Orangemen back-to-back Player of the Year recognitions earning the award in 1991. Owens carried the Orangemen most of the season to a 26-6 record, 12-4 in the Big East including the Big East Regular Season Championship. He averaged 23.2 ppg, 11.6 rpg and 3.5 rpg. If not for a terrible post season by the team (0-2), Owens’s season may have been remembered as one of the greatest individual seasons ever for an Orangeman.

Syracuse would have to wait another 14 years before an Orangeman won the Player of the Year. Hakim Warrick earned the recognition in 2005 leading the Orangemen to 27-7 overall, 11-5 in the Big East. Warrick averaged 21.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and 1.5 assists on 54.8% shooting.

Johnson’s resume isn’t done yet for this year. But he has helped lead the Orangemen to a 28-3 overall record, 15-3 in conference and a Big East Regular Season Title. He is averaging 15.3 pp, 8.5 assists and 2.4 assists while shooting 38% from three point range and 79% from the free throw line. His scoring numbers are not overly impressive, but he is on one of the most balanced scoring successful teams in league history with seven players averaging 8.3 ppg or more.

At first glance it seems hard to believe that Carmelo Anthony did not win the award in 2003. He averaged 22.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg, and 2.2 apg, while leading the Orangemen to a 30-5 record, 13-3 in the Big East for a share of the division title, and oh yeah, a National Championship. Of course, the National Championship wasn’t relevant at the time the award came out, and Troy Bell had an outstanding season for Boston College which also won its division in the Big East.

I always thought Sherman Douglas should have won the award in 1989 when the Orangemen went 30-8 overall and 10-6 in league play. Douglas averaged 18.2 ppg, 8.6 apg and had 2.5 rpg. He was what ran Syracuse’s high powered offense. Georgetown did win the Big East Regular Season that year, and that does count for something, but at the time (and even now), I don’t see how the Hoyas’ Charles Smith was the better player or had the better season. A couple of guys named Mutombo and Mourning also contributed to the success of that team.

Pearl Washington should have won the award in 1986. He lead the Orangemen to a 26-6 overall mark, 14-2 in Big East play and won the Big East Regular Season title. I know St. John’s Walter Berry had an impressive year, but Washington was the most exciting player in the league, led the Orangemen to the best record, averaged 17.3 ppg and 7.8 apg, outstanding numbers for a point guard.

The other great single season for an Orangeman in the past twenty years was John Wallace in 1995-1996. Wallace carried the Orangemen all season with 22.2 ppg and 8.7 rpg, leading the Orangemen to a 29-9 record, 12-6 in the Big East, and to the National Championship game. But the Orangemen were not a great team during the regular season, merely very good, and UConn was dominant with the great Ray Allen, who would win the award. Sometimes, its just a matter of who your competition is.

UConn Blues

Connecticut bowed out of the Big East Tournament in the first round yesterday. UConn losing in the first round was not that big of a surprise, as they were the #12 seed, and they were playing #13 seed St. John’s. The big surprise was that the Red Storm ran the Huskies out of the building 73-51.

Losing in the first round of the Big East Tournament is not something new for UConn fans. The Huskies have not won a Big East Tournament game since the 2004-2005 season when they went 1-1. They are now 0-5 their past five seasons in Big East post season play. During that stretch the Huskies were seeded #1, #12, #4, #3 and #12. The team’s record over that five years has been 119-47, with individual season records of 30-4, 17-14, 24-9, 31-5, and 17-15, and includes a Final Four team (last year). This makes their recent Big East failures more baffling.

I am not going to pretend to offer any incite into this, and I am not going to state that this is ‘the end of the line for Jim Calhoun’. It just a series of losses that frankly strikes me as amazing.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

2010 Big East All Conference Team Selections

It is that time of year again when the post season hardware is rewarded for the Big East. Earlier today the league announced its All-Conference Teams and its All Rookie Team.

Congratulations to Wes Johnson who earned All Big East First Team honors along with Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds, South Florida’s Dominique Jones, Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe and West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler. I like the fact that the Big East is now sticking with a 6 man First Team, rather than the bloated 9-10 player team it has used for a few years. It does make it difficult to make the first team in a league with 14 teams; but it also makes it quite a notable achievement to be able to make that team.

I do not have a disagreement with the first team selections with the possible selection of Harangody. Harangody missed five games, and played token minutes in the last game of the season. Harangody has always been an outstanding offensive player, but also was known for suspect defensive play. The Fighting Irish went 4-2 in those last 6 games, with the two losses being one point losses. Harangody miss 28% of the Big East season (and if you count the sixth game, 1/3 of the season). So while he put up impressive offensive numbers, I think the fact that he missed a significant portion of the season, and his team arguably played better without him, would warrant his exclusion from the first team. Would you name an NFL player to the All-Pro team who played in only 11 games, or an MLB Baseball player who played in only 108 games? If the inclusion on Big East Conference teams is supposed to include the player’s entire body of work inside and outside of the conference, then the issue changes. But, based on only his inclusion in the conference, I would be hesitant to vote for him on the first team.

Harangody did become the twelfth player to be named to the First Team 3 times. That list includes four Syracuse players: Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Lawrence Moten, and Pearl Washington. It also includes legendary college players Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing, and legendary conference players Danya Abrams, John Pinone, Kerry Kittles, Terry Dehere and Troy Bell.

I have mixed feeling with Andy Rautins being on the second team; I very strong argument can be made that he should be the league’s Player of the Year. It is a big jump to be included in a conversation of the Player of the Year, and then to only be on the League Second Team. However, I think that with only six players on the first team, it is definitely strong recognition for Rautins to be on the second team, and it should be an accomplishment he would be very proud of. Eric Devendorf, the primary man he replaced, never earned more than Honorable Mention, and Jonny Flynn, last year’s star guard, was only Second Team.

I was surprised that Wes Johnson did not receive a unanimous selection to the First Team. His statistics are decent, and while they may not be as dominant as other players on the First Team, the following is true: (1) he is the leading scorer and rebounder on the leagues’ most dominant team, and (2) his selfless play was part of the reason the Orange were a great ‘team’ and that in part reduced his stats.

Players on lesser teams will often have bloated statistics as they are the only guy on the team, and therefore all the offense has to flow through them. Another reason players on lesser teams can have bloated statistics is because of selfish play, which rewards the player but hurts the team. You have to look at these on a case by case basis to really determine what is going on. Derrick Coleman averaged ‘only’ 17.9 points per game his senior year. But he shared the ball with Stephen Thompson, Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens, among others. A team is going to score a limited amount of points in a game, and the more you share the wealth, the more your statistics will be dampened. But sharing the wealth makes the team much harder to defend, and increases your probability of winning. Coleman could have scored 25 points a game if he played on a lesser squad, but he did not; he played on a powerhouse team.

An example of a player who benefited by being on a ‘poor’ team was Syracuse’s Carl Vernick. As a sophomore, Vernick was the leading scorer on Syracuse’s 1961-1962 team, twice scoring 30 or more points in a game, and averaging 16.5 points a game. Vernick was a good player, and the best player on that squad. However, the 1961-1962 team was the worst team in Syracuse basketball history going 2-22, and losing a (then) NCAA record 27 games in a row. As Syracuse got better the next couple of years, Vernick’s scoring dropped dramatically. With the arrival of a talented sophomore class that included Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim, and a junior transfer Chuck Richards, the team would improve to 17-8 and go to the NIT tournament. Vernick would average only 2.7 points a game that year.

Over the course of Big East history, there have been exclusion of Syracuse players from Big East teams that have caused some rumblings on the Hill. Gerry McNamara did not make any of the team selections his freshman year despite his season long heroics. Leo Rautins, who would be an NBA first round pick, only made the Big East Third Team. And there are other examples I could come up with. I still think it is an outrage that Georgetown’s Charles Smith was the league Player of the Year in 1989 over Sherman Douglas.

However, from a historical perspective, Syracuse has been very well represented on the All Conference selections. In fact, they have been better represented than any other team in league history with 72 selections (next on the list is Connecticut with 62). Syracuse has also had 34 first team selections, thirteen more than Georgetown, who is next on the list. Part of that is because Syracuse has had some of the truly great players in Big East history. It is the winningest program in Conference history; winning generates great players and vice versa.

Another part is that Jim Boeheim is a player’s coach, and he lets the star players lead the way. He only goes 7-8 players deep on the bench, and that means the starters are going to carry a larger burden than on the average team. It gives the primary players at Syracuse a greater chance to shine (and also a greater one to fail).

A program like Pittsburgh, which under the Howland/Dixon era has focused on team defense, going ten players deep, and eschewed having star players in the program, is going to have a tough time generating ‘star recognition’, despite the team having an impressive record. Other than last season when Dixon let DeJuan Blair and Sam Young star, there has not been much award recognition for Pitt, which has only 12 first team selections in league history (by far the lowest of the good programs in the league).

Notre Dame, which has a reputation of funneling all the action through big man stars such as Troy Murphy, Pat Garrity, and Luke Haragody, has a disproportionate high number of players on the first team (13 selections), despite having been in the league half as long as Pitt.

It will be interesting who the league Player of the Year will be. I’m guessing the award will go to Scottie Reynolds, though I would have nominated Rautins or Wes Johnson. The sixth man award should be Kris Joseph, hands down. Coach of the Year should be Jim Boeheim, with no disrespect intended towards Jamie Dixon.

Defensive player of the year will likely be Jermaine Dixon of Pitsburgh; I think a good argument could be made for Andy Rautins. Dixon is a better man-to-man player, and that is what his system calls for. Rautins is the master of the zone defense, and I think is the primary reason the Syracuse defense excels. Rautins would not be as effective in Pitts defense; Dixon would not be as effective in Syracuse’s. Given that the zone does not get much respect, Dixon will win it. But I would vote for Rautins.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Syracuse Basketball Videos

Normally I ignore the promotional requests I get as I do this blog and my website OrangeHoops for fun and for the fans. However, I did receive a request from a development company Thought Equity Motion to showcase their efforts with the NCAA on NCAA Vault.

They are currently focusing on NCAA Sweet Sixteen video links, and they have the entire games available for free. You can also choose to search for specific plays in each game. The site is fairly interesting. Browse around on it and enjoy.

I was working on putting together a page of video clips from YouTube and other sources, so the timing on this request was good. So if you want to get psyched for tomorrow's Louisville game, take a look at the 2003 National Championship game in its entirety, or just watch the last 90 seconds.

For those of you who long for yesteryear, how about Sherman Douglas hiking the ball to Stephen Thompson in the blowout of Indiana? Or Pearl Washington draining a half court shot to beat Boston College at the buzzer? And of course, highlights from last year's marathon 6 Overtime game.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A History of 30k Crowds

Syracuse beat Villanova Saturday night 95-77 raising their all-time record in Carrier Dome games with 30,000+ fans to 46-22. That game was the first official sellout of the Carrier Dome for basketball, as the university refused to sell more than 34,616 tickets for the event. I imagine another couple thousand tickets could have been sold, as fans wanted to participate in the event. The Orange faithful should be rewarded for their efforts as not only did the Orange win the game, clinching the Big East Regular Season title, but when the polls come out later today, Syracuse should be ranked #1.

The Carrier Dome opened for college basketball on November 29, 1980, and saw Syracuse easily beat Columbia 108-81 before a little over 15,000 fans. The first time Syracuse and Georgetown met in the Carrier Dome was February 9, 1981, before 17,092 fans. Syracuse would win that game 66-64 on a Marty Headd jumper in the waning moments of the game. Seventeen thousand fans was a lot of fans. Most arenas only seated a few thousand. When Syracuse had played Georgetown in Washington D.C. earlier that year, roughly 4700 fans were at that game.

The first Carrier Dome crowd to reach the magical 30,000 mark was for the Georgetown/Syracuse game on January 10, 1983. The Hoyas would win that game 97-92 in front of 31,327 fans. The Syracuse starting five were Gene Waldron, Erich Santifer, Andre Hawkins, Leo Rautins and Tony Bruin. Rautins would register a triple double in that loss.

Playing in front of the 30k crowds was exciting for the fans, but not a significant home court advantage in the early going. Syracuse would be only be 7-7 in the first 14 games in front of 30k crowds, though one must temper that by the fact that those games were against some of the best collegiate teams ever (the Ewing era Hoyas, Mullin era Redmen, and Jordan era Tar Heels).

The frenzy of fans participating in 30k crowds kept growing in the 80s, and coupled with the lack of televised games (we take it for granted that all games are televised these days) and the rise to national dominance of the Syracuse basketball program, helped generate the crowds. The 1989-1990 season saw games exceed the 30k mark level.

NCAA probation, followed by a drop off in dominance by the Syracuse basketball program, increased television coverage, and increased ticket prices, reduced the frequency of the big crowds in the 1990s. Five seasons saw no crowds hit the magical barrier, and from 1996-2002 only three times did the dome hit the mark.

Since 2002-2003, the dome has seen one or two games a year hit the 30k mark, a trend that I imagine will continue. Fans in the 30k+ range have a poor view of the court because of distance, and with all the television coverage, only the concept of the ‘event’ will draw crowds that large.

It would be of no surprise to any Syracuse fan to know that Georgetown has been the most common opponent in the 30k games, with the Hoyas and Orange meeting 16 times, Syracuse winning ten of them. St. John’s and Pittsburgh are next on the list, with seven games a piece, followed by UConn, Villanova and Notre Dame at six.

I have put together a complete listing of all 68 games, along with breakdowns by opponent, and by month, and by season.

Stephen Thompson and Derrick Coleman have participated in 22 games each, by far the most of any player. Sherman Douglas was fortunate to play in 19. Pearl Washington, who played a big part in generating excitement in the early days of the Dome, played in 12 of them.

A random sampling of other notable Syracuse players shows the following: Gerry McNamara 9 times, Carmelo Anthony 3, Lawrence Moten 9, John Wallace 5, Todd Burgan 3, Jason Hart 2, Etan Thomas 2, Preston Shumpert 2, and Jonny Flynn 3. In the family Rautins competition, Leo played in 3, while Andy has played in 7.

Not all Big East teams have yet to experience a 30k crowd. Most notable would be West Virginia. The other teams on that list would be Marquette, South Florida, Cincinnati, and DePaul. However, if they hang around the Big East long enough, they eventually will. Just ask Rutgers, who saw 33,071 fans, then an NCAA record, chant ‘one more year’ for Carmelo Anthony in his last home game.