Sunday, January 16, 2011


Syracuse is now 18-0, the second best start in school history. The record is 19-0, set by the 1999-2000 squad.

The 1999-2000 squad finished the year 26-6, going 13-3 in the Big East and winning the Big East regular season title. Like this year’s squad, that squad was a fantastic defensive team led by the Big East Defensive player of the year Etan Thomas and point guard Jason Hart. Offensively, it was a well balanced team with five players averaging 10-13 points a game. The team had a couple of snipers who came off the bench in Preston Shumpert and DeShaun Williams that made up for a relatively weak perimeter shooting starting five.

This year’s squad is running deeper than most Syracuse teams, going nine players deep routinely. Part of that is somewhat misleading in that Fab Melo really has not been playing much, putting the team into a eight man rotation shortly after tip off. However, if his effort in the Cincinnati game last night is a sign of things to come in the near future, that would be a blessing for the Orange.

I hope Syracuse fans are really appreciating the coaching job that Jim Boeheim has done the past few years and the tremendous effort the Orange have had on the court. They have been a top 10 team since November 24th, 2009. The Orange are 11-2 versus top 25 teams the past two seasons; that is outstanding and should quiet those who say Syracuse never plays anyone.

Over the past two seasons the Orange are 48-5. That is an outstanding run by any school’s in today’s NCAA basketball. Going back to February 24th, 2009 (almost two years ago), Syracuse is 58-7, and 14-5 versus top 25 teams.

They have beaten a #3 ranked UConn in the Big East Tournament in the epic 6 overtime game. They beat California and North Carolina in November 2009 to get national recognition despite having no top 50 recruits on the squad. They beat Georgetown twice last season in epic battles that just added to the Orange/Hoya legacy. The team reached #1 in the rankings in March 2010, and they earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

These are good times to be a Syracuse fan. For those who continuously bash Jim Boeheim, just shut up. It is the right of a fan to second guess a coach on some decisions he makes. I don't agree with every decision Boeheim makes. Coaches are not perfect, just like none of us are, but they highly successful ones like Boeheim don’t make too many of them. He knows his players better than we do, he knows what they are capable of in practice, and how well the team plays together in different configurations. It is the mindless bashing of Boeheim that is just borderline idiotic. And frankly, I should just remove the word borderline.

For his career, Boeheim is 119-125 versus teams ranked in the top 25 (48.8% winning). In games where he has played a team ranked higher than the Orangemen, he is 66-78. He wins 46% of his games against teams that the informed voters think are a better team. That is downright impressive, and yet people think he has a career of beating up on weaker teams. Eventually this season he will lose to a lower ranked team; it’s inevitable because being ranked #4, there just isn’t going to any opportunities to lose to anyone ranked higher than them. I’m sure some yahoo will criticize Coach Boeheim at that time. Not me.

I’m going to soak up the joyous ride this team is on right now, a historic run for the Orange.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


The 2010-2011 version of the Syracuse Orange have entered a very elite group of Syracuse teams that started out 15-0. This year’s team is only the fifth squad to accomplish that feat in the 111 year history of Syracuse basketball.

It will be interesting to see how good this squad becomes. They were definitely an overrated team early in the year (to quote a Hall of Fame coach we all are quite familiar with!), and they managed to stay unbeaten in spite of themselves. The team started to gel, and now has impressive runaway wins over Michigan State, and Big East foes Providence and Notre Dame.

This years squad is definitely a versatile group of players, with a deeper than usual bench filling in for different roles. Now that James Southerland has the confidence in his perimeter shot and has shown some spots of inspired defense, the missing pieces of the squad are starting to get filled in. I would still like to see Scoop Jardine pass the ball more often and be a little more careful with it, despite his nine assists the last game. Better defense from Dion Waiters would be great (though he is improving), and a good 20 minute effort in some game, any game, by Fab Melo would really inspire me. The fact that Kris Joseph is hitting his 3's is very encouraging for the long term progress of this team.

But they team is playing shutdown defense like they did last year, and quickly converting to their transition game for easy baskets. And the team is crashing the board very well, something that has not always been a trademark of Syracuse teams. I think the top squads like Pitt and UConn will give the Orange a real test because they are so familiar with our zone defense and don’t typically get rattled, but I do like how this team is playing.

15-0 is very tough, as evidenced by the exclusive five member club. Last year’s team, which I think was much better than this year’s team, only went 13-0 before losing their first game. And I thought last year’s team had an excellent chance of winning the National Championship before the Arinze Onuaku injury finally came to hurt them in the Butler game.

So, how have the other four 15-0 teams finished?

The 1999-2000 squad was the last team to start 15-0, and they started off the season 19-0, a school record for most wins to start a season. This wasn’t the best team in Syracuse history, but like this year’s squad, was an outstanding defensive team. Etan Thomas, two time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, anchored the middle of the defense. Add in Jason Hart to harass the opposing guards and Ryan Blackwell to guard the post players, and it was a tough team to score on. The team would end up 26-6, winning the Big East regular season championship, and losing in the Sweet Sixteen.

1986-1987 team unexpectedly started 15-0 behind an unknown point guard named Sherman Douglas. The team had lost Pearl Washington, Rafael Addison, and Wendell Alexis from the year before, so expectations were not high. This team finished 31-7, as the Big East regular season champions. Douglas, along with Rony Seikaly, Derek Coleman, Howard Triche and Greg Monroe would make an impressive run through the NCAA tournament, only to lose to in the National Championship game to the Indiana Hoosiers.

The 1925-1926 team was led by the Three Musketeers: All-American junior Vic Hanson, and his classmates Charlie Lee and Gotch Carr would start out 15-0. They would lose their first (and only game) on February 24th at Penn State 37-31. A few weeks later they would play the Nittany Lions again, easily beating them 29-12 to revenge the victory. The squad was awarded the National Championship by the Helms Foundation for their 19-1 season.

The 1917-1918 team was the first one to start out 15-0, and they went to 16-0 behind All-Americans Joe Schwarzer and Bob Marcus. The team was a dominant defensive presence, and would enter the last game of the season undefeated. In a very physical game, Penn would beat the Orangemen 17-16. Penn would score only 2 points from the floor, the rest from the free throw line, as Penn’s Sweeney went 15-16 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Syracuse’s Schwarzer, normally an excellent free throw shooter was only 5 of 13. The Orangemen were still awarded the National Championship by the Helms Foundation for their outstanding 16-1 record.

All five of these teams were outstanding defensive teams with strong rebounders and excellent guard play. Let’s see how far the 2010-2011 edition can go.