Saturday, December 28, 2013

Syracuse Beats Nova

Syracuse and Villanova met for the 71st time this afternoon, and the Orange displayed some championship caliber basketball in winning the game 78-62

Syracuse looked to be in trouble early as Villanova was hitting all their three point shots and Syracuse was struggling to find an offensive rhythm.  The Wildcats went on a run and led 25-7 with 11:00 minutes to go in the first half.  

Syracuse would turn the game around at that point with some smart offense and hard nose defense, going on a 20-0 run to take the lead 27-25.  It started with Trevor Cooney getting an open look and hitting a 3 point shot, and when Tyler Ennis made a layup with 4:52 to go in the half, Syracuse had the lead. Villanova would tie it up at 27, but when Cooney made another three to put Syracuse up 30-27, the Orange would never relinquish the lead again.

This game showed an great gut check by the Orange.  They never panicked despite falling behind by 18 points to a highly ranked team, instead methodically played their game and worked their way back into the game.  Tyler Ennis had another excellent game at running the offense; he had only two assists, but logged another game with no turnovers.  The young man knows how to protect that ball!

Trevor Cooney came up big when he got going. I was getting frustrated early in the game as it appeared that Cooney was never going to get open, shades of the St. John's game earlier this season.  But Cooney kept his movement going, and the Orange helped with some screens, and Cooney would hit five of eight three point shots he took.

C.J. Fair had another solid game; nothing singularly outstanding, but he kept the offense flowing, kept the defense honest, and made some clutch three point shots to make the Wildcats pay for leaving him on the perimeter.

A big key for this game was the re-emergence of the Baye Keita that we have known that past few seasons. He was hustling around the court, making some crucial rebounds and creating a noticeable defensive presence.  He displayed an outstanding high post pass to Michael Gbinije beneath the basket to help fuel the second half, and another nice perimeter pass to Trevor Cooney for one of Cooney's treys.

DaJuan Coleman appeared to be limited by an injured knee; I hope that does not come back to hinder his season as the Orange do need their three headed center of Coleman-Christmas-Keita.  Jerami Grant had another solid game; he didn't have any highlight real plays like we have become accustomed to, but he did make 11 points.

Overall the Orange hit 29 of 35 free throws, which could have given Villanova a chance if they otherwise had missed.  

I keep waiting for a quality opponent to stifle Tyler Ennis, but it has not happened yet.  The young man is having an amazing season running the offense for the #2 team in the country.  

Tip of the Hat to SB Nation

I wanted to acknowledge and thank the efforts of Sean Keeley and his SB Nation Blog (aka Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician) for the fundraising he initiated on behalf of the Houston YMCA.  He, and his readers, were able to raise $44,444.44 to send over 1,200 kids to the 2013 Texas Bowl.

I only wish that I had not been behind on my blog reading the past two weeks.

Well done Sean. That's an outstanding job by you and your readers.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Syracuse Top 10 Competitors - All-Time

The Syracuse Orange have played 2,716 varsity basketball games since its first game in 1900.  Approximately 1/3 of those games (982) have been against 10 schools.   Conference realignments and emphasis on programs (or de-emphasis) leads to a change on who the Orange play.

Syracuse is scheduled to play five schools in its top ten list this year.  The Orange have already played Colgate and Cornell, the two teams at the top of the all-time list.  Syracuse has played Colgate 166 times, by far the most, and Cornell comes in second with 119 games.

They will face Pittsburgh later this season; the Panthers are currently #4 on the list with 102 games, and will jump to #3 sometime next season.  #3 is may come to s surprise for some fans, especially younger ones:  Penn State Nittany Lions. Syracuse has played the Nittany Lions 105 times, with the Orange winning 62 of those games. The two schools have not met since January 25th, 1982, almost 32 years ago.  Part of that was due to logistics; but a bigger factor, I believe, was bitterness between the two schools over the Big East Conference.  Syracuse (along with others) did not agree with Penn State on what the conference should be and that led to Penn States exclusion from the conference.  The fact that Penn State basketball has not been competitive for quite some time has helped make it an easier decision (only 4 NCAA bids since 1965).

Connecticut is fifth on the list with 91 games; I am unaware of whether the Orange will try to continue this series or not.  Georgetown is sixth with 90 games. Both Syracuse and the Hoyas have discussed continuing the series, but nothing was scheduled for this season.

St. John’s is seventh on the list with 88 games, and Syracuse played the Red Storm earlier this season at Madison Square Garden. I would imagine that Syracuse will keep this series alive as long as St. John’s is willing, as it gives the Orange access to MSG on a routine basis, something the fans, players and recruits all like.

Niagara is 8th on the list with 81 games.  The Orange used to play Niagara very regularly, but stopped that routine in 1982, which does coincide with the growth of the Big East.  The two teams have met once since then, with an Orange 95-69 win on December 30th, 2000 at Niagara. 

Villanova is #9 on this list with 70 games. The Orange lead that always competitive series 38-32, and the two teams will be playing a high profile game later week with Syracuse ranked #2 and the Wildcats ranked #8.

Canisius is #10 on the list with 70 games.  Syracuse still plays Canisius; the last game was December 15, 2012 (last season) with the Orange winning 85-61.

Rounding out the top 20 would be University of Rochester, Seton Hall, Boston College, Providence, West Virginia, Rutgers, Penn, Notre Dame, Fordham and Princeton.  Rochester may surprise many; Syracuse has played 64 games against Rochester, but the last game was way back in 1975. Rochester is now a Division III school, and unlikely to appear on the Orange’s schedule.  Fordham reappeared on the Orange schedule this year, in a game the Orange won earlier this season.

As I mentioned earlier this month, the ACC is bringing a lot of unfamiliarity to the Orange schedule.  Pitt and Notre Dame stay on the schedule, but next on the list for the ACC is Miami, whom the Orange have faced only 19 times.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bring on the ACC

Syracuse officially plays its first ACC game on January 4, 2004 when it takes on former Big East brethren University of Miami. 

Syracuse has played every ACC school at least one time in its history, but overall those teams are unfamiliar landscape for the Orange.  Of the 2,716 basketball games Syracuse has played to date, only 38 are against ACC teams formerly not part of the Big East.

The most familiar team for Syracuse would be the Maryland Terrapins, who ironically are leaving the ACC after this season to join the Big 10.  Syracuse has struggled the most with the Terrapins in the past, having played seven games and going 2-5 in those games.  They were 0-5 versus Lefty Driesell.  It will be unfortunate for Syracuse that Maryland leaves, as I believe their presence would have helped the Orange continue to recruit in the Maryland/D.C. area.

The least familiar school for Syracuse is Wake Forest, whom the Orange has faced only once. Syracuse played the Demon Deacons in 2001, winning the game and holding the 1-0 edge.  Syracuse has met Clemson only twice, losing both of those games.

Syracuse is 2-2 against ACC powerhouse Duke, including going 1-1 against Coach K.  They are 3-4 against North Carolina, 3-1 against Virginia, 2-2 against Georgia Tech, 3-1 against Florida State and 4-1 against North Carolina State.

Overall, Syracuse has done okay against those traditional ACC teams going 19-19 combined overall.  Nothing great, but nothing terrible. Many of those games were against ACC teams in the NCAA tournament.

The history for Syracuse versus the ACC is not a long one.  The majority of the games have occurred since 1980, with most of the action prior to then coming in the NCAA tournament and other seasonal tournaments.  College basketball was mostly regional for the first eighty years, and as a result eastern schools tended to meet other conferences only during those tournaments.

The first ACC team Syracuse ever played was Frank McGuire’s North Carolina Tar Heels in 1957.  Syracuse was in its first NCAA tournament ever, and they lost to the Tar Heels 67-58 in the Elite Eight.  Syracuse would later upset North Carolina in 1975, on its way to the Orangemen’s first Final Four.

The next time Syracuse would play an ACC team was in 1960 versus Press Maravich’s Clemson Tigers.  This was during the lowest point of Syracuse’s program in terms of winning, and the Orangemen lost 78-67.

They would face Duke in 1966 in the NCAA tournament.  Syracuse had All American Dave Bing leading the way, but Duke proved too much as the Orangemen lost 91-81.

The Orangemen’s first win against an ACC team occurred December 28th, 1971, when  Mike Lee scored 23 points leading the Orangemen to a 74-72 win over the Duke Blue Devils.

The ‘new’ ACC  brings many familiar teams to the Orangemen.  Former Big East foes Virginia Tech,  Miami, and Boston College have been in the ACC for nearly a decade now.  Syracuse is very familiar with Boston College with a 40-23 all-time series against them.  Syracuse leads the Hurricanes 14-5, and despite the fact that Syracuse and the Hokies were in the Big East together, they have only met six times with the Orange leading 4-2.

Pitt and Notre Dame joined the Big East this year. Syracuse leads the Panthers 63-39 all-time, though in recent history the series favors Pitt.  Syracuse holds a 25-19 advantage over the Fighting Irish.

The Orangemen have a familiar foe in Villanova this upcoming week; that will be the last non-conference game of the season.   Then it will be time for the Orange to make new memories in its new home, the ACC.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Southerland's NBA Debut

James Southerland finally made his NBA debut for the Charlotte Bobcats on November 29th with a 3 minute stint in a Bobcat 92-76 win.  It took Southerland 17 games into the season to finally play a game, despite starting the season on the Bobcats roster.  

Southerland took three shots in the game, including one three point attempt, but failed to score.  At least now he has broken through and received the playing time.

James Southerland, welcome to the NBA!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Free Throw Shooting - Whoas!

Syracuse has been shooting a blistering 88% from the free throw line in Maui, hitting 45 of 51 free throws against Minnesota and California.  Whether it is the friendly rims, the friendly confines of the small gym, the great weather, the low altitude, or whatever, it would be wonderful if this were a sign of the season to come. 

It won't be, as the shooting will tend to return to the norm, but for now it feels like the Orange are fielding a team of Gerry McNamaras.

Four Syracuse starters now are shooting 80% or better from the free throw line. C.J. Fair at 88% leads the way. Trevor Cooney is at 85%, Tyler Ennis 82% and Rakeem Christmas also at 82%.  Baye Keita comes in at 75%.

Christmas is just an aberration and will eventually return to his norm of 57% or so; it would be great if he were to have developed into a 70% shooter. It may have happened.

Fair has improved every year, and has been about a 75% free throw shooter the past two years.  If he could hover around 80%, that would be fantastic considering how often he will get to the line.

Cooney only took 15 free throws his freshman year, making 11 for 73%.  We really don't know what type of free throw shooter he is, if given enough repetitions to remove anomalies.  However, considering he is a three point shooting specialist, I would not be surprised if 83-85% was his capable range.

Ennis is a freshman, and we have no collegiate experience to fall back upon for him.  If he could stay at 80%, that would be fantastic.

Keita is about a 65% free throw shooter, so he will regress, though he has had a habit of making the clutch free throws.

Bottom line is that there is hope that Maui isn't just an illusion.  The Orange aren't going to hit 23 of 24 free throws routinely, like they did against California.  But, perhaps, they can hit 75% as a team?  It does help that the backcourt of Cooney and Ennis has a potential of hitting 80%, and if you combine that with a mean scorer of Fair hitting about the same, that's a lot of free throw shots from good shooters during clutch moments in the game.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bring On Colgate

Saturday will be the 166th game between Colgate and Syracuse on the basketball court, the longest rivalry in Orange basketball history.  Syracuse leads the all-time series 120-45, and it hasn't been a competitive series since the late 1960s, but nevertheless I am happy they still try to meet annually.

The series was not always lopsided.  In fact for the first 60 years of the Syracuse basketball program, Colgate was unquestionably the biggest rival the Orangemen had, and often was THE game of the season. The Colgate game often had the privilege of being the last game of the season, or at least among the last few, giving both teams a season to build up to the game.

The series started in 1902, the second season of Syracuse basketball, and the sixth game the Orangemen ever played. Syracuse would win that inaugural game 33-8, with junior forward Earl Twombley leading the way with 12 points.  Colgate would win three weeks later with a 21-17 victory in Hamilton.

The series almost permanently ended in 1911 following a particularly physical game on March 10th, ending the season. The Orangemen would win 19-14, but several fights broke out in the game. Junior guard Walt Davey reportedly could not finish the game because of the beating he took.  Both schools agreed to sever all athletic ties as a result of the game, not only ending Syracuse's biggest rival in basketball, but also its biggest rival in football.  However, in the off season the schools would reconsider and the rivalry continued February 14, 1912.

The series remained highly competitive up through 1962.  Colgate would beat Syracuse 67-63 on February 24th, 1962, extending Syracuse's then NCAA record losing streak to 27 consecutive games.  Ironically, it would be the last time Colgate would beat Syracuse at basketball.  Carl Vernick was the big gun on those Syracuse teams.

On February 16, 1965 Syracuse played an exciting 93-90 triple overtime game in Hamilton.  The star of the game was legendary Dave Bing, who would score 45 points.

Syracuse would continue to play Colgate twice a year through the 1968-1969 season.  The games while still close at times, were definitely falling in Syracuse's favor.  Colgate was still a late season game until the 1976-1977 season, coinciding with the dawn of the Jim Boeheim coaching era and the Bouie & Louie Show.  Syracuse would beat Colgate in the third game that year, 109-63. Most all of the games since that time have been in the early season (if at all).

A nine year period from the 1984-1985 season to the 1992-1993 season saw no games between the two rivals. The series revived in 1993-1994, and Colgate gave Syracuse a tight game in 1997, with Syracuse winning 78-74 behind Todd Burgan's 19 pts and 10 steals.  The two teams have played every season since 1993-1994.

Good luck to the Colgate Red Raiders on the season; I am glad to see them playing the Orange again this year. 

Let's Go Orange!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

On this Veterans day, as I have done each year past, I would like to 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
Ross Bibbens
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
Clifford Steele

In World War II, the following served:
Jim Ackerson
Earl Ackley
Lou Alkoff
John Balinsky
John Beck
Leo Canale
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
Mark Haller
Lew Hayman
Bill Hennemuth
Tom Huggins
George Jarvis
Ed Jontos
Jim Konstanty
Stan Kruse (Kruszewski)
Glenn Loucks
Guy Luciano
Saul Mariaschin
Don McNaughton
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
Bobby Stewart
Joe Sylvestri
Charles Taggart
Ray Tice
Joe Weber

In Korea the following served:
Reaves Baysinger, Jr
Fred Serley

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
Tom Jockle
Jack Malone
Frank Reddout

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.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Southerland Keeps Waiting

James Southerland made the Charlotte Bobcats opening day roster; an impressive accomplishment in itself for the undrafted rookie out of Syracuse.  Five games into the season, Southerland is still waiting to make his NBA debut.  He has been a healthy 'coaches decision' scratch for each of those games.

The Bobcats have been playing about a 9 to 10 man rotation for each game, and three of their five games have been close games. Southerland does appear to be the last man on the bench, as thirteen other Bobcats have played.

Best of luck to Southerland, and I hope the opportunity for some playing time arises soon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arinze Onuaku Debuts in the NBA

Arinze Onuaku worked hard for the past three years to rehabilitate his injured quadriceps and to improve his game so he could make it to the NBA.  That all paid off last evening as he had his NBA debut with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Onuaku played 15 minutes in the Pelicans 95-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers.  He scored only 2 points, but added five rebounds and three assists during his time on the court.  

Onuaku injured his quadriceps in the Georgetown game of the Big East tournament in 2010, ending his senior season and crushing any hopes he had in being drafted by the NBA.  He rehabilitated his leg, and played basketball in Lithuania for one year, before playing in the NBDL last year.  

Congratulations to Onuaku for making it back!

Carter-Williams Explosive NBA Debut

Former Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams had a spectacular NBA debut last night, leading his Philadelphia 76'ers to a 114-110 win over the two-time defending world champions Miami Heat.  

Carter-Williams had a strong first half where he had six steals, and helped the 76'ers jump out to a 19-0 lead.  The Heat would fight back, including a terrific third quarter, but Carter-Williams put away the game in the fourth harassing LeBron James in the lane, and making some clutch free throws.

Carter-Williams had a stat line that any rookie would be proud of.  He had 22 points on 6-10 shooting, with 7 rebounds, 12 assists, 9 steals and only 1 turnover. He was never a good perimeter shooter at Syracuse, but he managed to hit 4 of 6 from three point range.

Congrats to MCW on an excellent NBA debut.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Freshmen at the Point

Syracuse University and Coach Jim Boeheim have been fortunate to often be able to start an experienced point guard for the Orange.  In his first 37 seasons on the Hill, Boeheim has only started a freshman point guard seven seasons.  Tyler Ennis, for 2013-2014, will be the eighth journey with freshman running the team.

The first freshman point guard for Boeheim was unquestionably the most gifted freshman point guard.  Pearl Washington stepped onto Syracuse's campus in 1983, and electrified the crowds with his playground style of basketball.  The Pearl's freshman campaign was a fantastic individual highlight reel, including his game winning half court short to beat Boston College, and his outstanding Big East Tournament effort, where he scored 30 points in the semi-finals against Villanova, and 27 in a memorable Syracuse-Georgetown finals, a game the Orangemen would lose in overtime.  

Syracuse would go 23-9 that season, including 12-4 in the Big East, largely behind the efforts of Washington and sophomore Rafael Addison.  The Pearl would average 14.4 ppg and 6.2 assists. He was also very turnover prone with 3.5 per game, and also foul prone at 3.1 per game. The Pearl would log 34 minutes a game, and did have the luxury of Gene Waldron in the backcourt.  Waldron had been Syracuse's starting point guard the previous two seasons, and provided some steady play.

The next freshman to start at point guard for Syracuse was something of a surprise.  Syracuse had a team loaded with experienced talent for the 1989-1990, but had just lost superstar Sherman Douglas to graduation the previous season.  Boeheim wanted to get all his talent on the court to start the game and moved high flying senior Stephen Thompson to the point, playing sophomore guard Dave Johnson at shooting guard, along with a monster front line of Billy Owens, Derrick Coleman and LeRon Ellis.  

The move of Thompson to the point hurt the team for two reasons. First, Thompson was not a natural point guard, and was uncomfortable in the position. He was not proficient at running the offense.  Second, Thompson was the best finisher on the team, loved playing near and high above the rim, something he could not do from the point guard position.  So after fifteen games into the season, Boeheim inserted unheralded freshman Michael Edwards into the starting lineup.  

Edwards would play the point competently, which was all the team was asking of him.  Syracuse would go 26-7, and win the Big East Regular season championship.  Edwards would score 6.3 points per game and have 5.0 assists per game.

Adrian 'Red' Autry, was highly touted out of high school, and would immediately replace Edwards at the point in the starting lineup the next season (1990-1991); Edwards would still start but moved to the shooting guard position.  Autry was a big guard at 6'4", and was able to run the offense very well.  Syracuse would have a very successful season going 26-6, and 12-4 in the Big East winning the Big East regular season championship.  Billy Owens was the big story on the team, and most of the plays went through Owens one way or another, taking some of the burden off of Autry.

Unfortunately the Orangemen's post season did not go well, as they were one and done in the Big East Tournament and NCAA with shocking losses to Villanova and Richmond.  Autry finished the season with 9.7 ppg and 5.3 apg.  Like the Pearl, he was turnover and foul prone, with 3.6 and 3.4 averages respectively.  

It would be another six seasons until a freshman ran the Syracuse offense. In 1996-1997 highly heralded Jason Hart started for the Orangemen.  It was a very experienced team with seniors Jason Cipolla and Otis Hill, and juniors Marius Janulis and Todd Burgan all starting.  The team was coming off of a surprising Final Four season, and there were some reasonable expectations for a strong season. The Orangemen would start the year ranked 13th in the country in the AP polls.

However, by mid season, the team had dropped out of the polls with four losses by December 14th.  The loss of the talent and veteran leadership from John Wallace and Lazarus Sims from the previous season was clearly felt. Hart was a solid defensive guard, but tended to make poor shot decisions and game play decisions on offense.  He would shoot only 37.9% from the floor, and average 3.0 turnovers a game.  The Orange had no other point guard to really help him out, so Hart played about 35 minutes each game.  He did average 9.6 ppg and 5.8 apg, decent numbers for a freshman.  

The Orangemen would finish 19-13, and would lose in the first round of the NIT Tournament.

The next time a freshman point guard started for Syracuse, the end result would be the first NCAA National Championship for the Orange.  In 2002-2003, red-shirted freshman Billy Edelin was slated to be the starting point guard; however, NCAA violations from activity in another basketball league prevented Edelin from playing in the first 12 games of the season.  So Boeheim turned to another freshman, Gerry McNamara, and made him the point guard.

The results were far better than anyone could have expected. McNamara played the point position well, and the team had outstanding ball movement.  Superstar freshman Carmelo Anthony had a lot to do with that, as he drew a lot of defensive attention; but Anthony wasn't the only star on the team, and players knew their roles.  McNamara would play a very strong game at point guard, and was excellent at the inside/outside game with Anthony and Hakim Warrick.  McNamara would get the ball to one of those big men, and if defenses collapsed too much, they would kick it back out to McNamara who would drain the three point shot. 

McNamara would remain the starting point guard for the whole season, even after Edelin returned, and would play 35.2 minutes per game.  Once Edelin returned, McNamara would get some opportunities to play the shooting guard, but still would log more time at the point. It wasn't until the championship game that Edelin saw more time at the point than McNamara.  Syracuse would of course finish the year 30-5, 13-3 in the Big East, and would win the National Championship. In that game, McNamara would hit six three point shots in the first half to help the Orange get a large early lead.  

McNamara would finish the year with 13.3 ppg, and 4.4 apg.  He was good at not turning the ball over with only 2.4 turnovers a game, and while not a great defender, he was very adept at stepping into the passing lanes for a quick steal, averaging 2.2 steals a game.  

Jonny Flynn would be the next freshman to run the Orange, for the 2007-2008 season. Flynn was electrifying, a guard with great quickness and some flair in his play.  He was a good playmaker, but the team struggled.  A preseason injury took sharpshooting junior Andy Rautins out for the year, and midway through the season his classmate Eric Devendorf would tear his ACL and miss the remainder of the season.  Syracuse would end up with a lot of defensive and rebounding talent on the team, but not many polished offensive players.  Freshman Donte' Greene was the best offensive weapon, and the game tended to focus the offense on him, and unfortunately it often ended with him.  The lack of depth due to injuries forced three starters, including Flynn, to play 35+ minutes a game.

The Orange would finish a disappointing 21-14 that year, including 9-9 in the Big East.  Flynn would have an impressive freshman campaign with 15.7 ppg and 5.3 assists, and would be the Co-Rookie of the Year in the Big East.

The last freshman to start at the point for Syracuse was Brandon Triche in 2009-2010.  This may have been the best all around team in Syracuse history, with a devastating post season injury shortening their run.  Syracuse started the season unranked, and by March 2nd, 2010, they would be the #1 ranked team in the country.  They would enter the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed, however, they lost center Arinze Onuaku to a knee injury in the Big East Tournament, and the hurt them in a close lost to Butler in the tournament.

Triche played well at point guard all season.  He had the luxury of being on a veteran team, and having a veteran back up point guard to support him in Scoop Jardine, a sophomore in his third year at Syracuse.  Perhaps the biggest advantage was most of the offense flowed through senior Andy Rautins, the teams top three point shooter and top assist man.  

Triche would spend a lot of time at the shooting guard position, along with the point guard position, as Boeheim rotated Triche, Jardine and Rautins as needed.  Triche was steady, but Jardine usually played the point at the crunch minutes at the end of the game.  

Triche would finish the year with 8.1 ppg, and 2.8 apg.  He shot an excellent 40% from three point range, often as the luxury of defenses considering him the fifth best scoring option on the floor. Triche took advantage of those opportunities.

Tyler Ennis will be the eighth freshman point guard, and has no true backup.  There will be a lot of minutes the 6'2" guard will have to play. He will be blessed with an outstanding senior in C.J. Fair who has a great inside/outside game, and several promising players who could provide strong offensive support, such as Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant.  Ennis will have his work cut out for him; the preseason activity in Canada looked very promising, and if the Syracuse team can develop so that it can rely on Ennis to run the offense, and not have to provide it, then it could be an excellent freshman year for him, and an excellent season for the Orange.

Let's sit back and see what happens. Let's go Orange!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

OrangeHoops Hall of Fame 2013

In 2007, OrangeHoops inducted its charter class into the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame: Dave BingDerrick ColemanSherman DouglasVic Hanson, and Pearl Washington. The next four years saw the addition of Billy Owens (2008), Billy Gabor (2009), Lawrence Moten (2010), Louis Orr (2011), Roosevelt Bouie (2011) and John Wallace (2012).  So the list now stands at 11. Another year has passed, and now it is time for the 2013 inductee.

I established my rules for the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame back in 2007 and you can catch up on them here. 2013 does have six new eligible candidates (using the fifteen year rule): Marius Janulis, Todd Burgan, LaSean Howard, Sam Spann, Erik Frazier and Jason Mallin

Burgan is by far the best of that bunch.  He was a classic Syracuse mid size forward, able to play the shooting guard, small forward and power forward positions.  He is currently the 17th leading scorer in Syracuse history; he was a decent scorer, rebounder, ball handler, perimeter shooter and defender. Not great at anything but good across the board.  Janulis was one of the best spot up three point shooters in Syracuse history, making about 40% of his attempts.  He was a pure shooter, but not a strong ball handler or defender.  

LaSean Howard was a reserve swingman for two seasons at Syracuse. Unhappy with his playing time, he transferred to Hampton University after his sophomore year, where he would be an average player.  Spann was a reserve forward for one season at Syracuse playing in only 8 games, and would transfer to Fairfield University after his freshman year.  Frazier and Mallin were both walk-ons.  Though Burgan was a talented player, I don't think he is at the top of the list for Hall of Fame consideration. 

I think this year’s viable top candidates come down to the following ten, listed chronologically: Lew CastleJoe SchwarzerLew AndreasVinnie Cohen, Leo RautinsStephen ThompsonRony Seikaly and John Wallace.

Castle was a two time All-American at Syracuse, and was captain and leading scorer of Syracuse’s only undefeated team, the 1913-1914 squad that went 12-0.

Schwarzer was a two time All-American, and was captain and leading scorer of the 1917-1918 squad that went 16-1 and was retroactively named the National Champions by the Helms Foundation.

Andreas coached Syracuse basketball for 27 seasons, including the 19-1 1925-1926 squad that was awarded the Helms Foundation National Championship. He had a career record of 358-134, and he was the Syracuse Athletic Director for 28 years (1937-1964).

Cohen was an All-American, the first Syracuse player to average 20+ points a game in a season, and led the team to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1956-1957.

Rautins was a terrific ball-handling forward with a nice shooting touch, solid rebounding and scoring skills. He is most well known for his game winning tip in basket to win the Big East Championship in triple overtime against Villanova in 1981.  Rautins also recorded two triple-doubles in Big East action.

Thompson was an explosive swingman, with incredible quickness and vertical leap, and excellent defensive skills. He was extremely adept at playing above the basket though he was only about 6'2". He teamed with Sherman Douglas to perfect the alley-oop basket.  Thompson was an extremely proficient scorer, despite the fact he was a terrible perimeter shooter.  

Seikaly was an All-American, a standout defensive player whose outstanding play in the 1987 NCAA tournament took Syracuse to the brink of its first tournament championship.

All are worthy players, and tough selections to make.  I designed my selection rules to make it tough; the Hall of Fame should be the 'best of the best', and I would rather have a line of worthy players outside the Hall of Fame, than cheapen it by having lessor players included.

I have got to go with Rony Seikaly for the 2013 selection.  Seikaly came to Syracuse as a raw talent with very little basketball skills other than a tomahawk dunk.  Despite that, Jim Boeheim took advantage of his athletic ability and size and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup his freshman year.  Seikaly would develop into a solid defensive threat his sophomore season, but it was not until midway through his junior season that he started to become a solid all around center.

It was likely Seikaly's improved play, more than anything else, that helped propel Syracuse's run through the NCAA tournament in 1987, allowing Syracuse to advance to the National Championship game.  Seikaly would take on Florida's fame Duane Schintzius in the NCAA tournament.  Seikaly would shut down Schintzius, while scoring 33 points himself.

Seikaly would lead the team in scoring his senior year, no small feat on a team loaded with talent in Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman and Stephen Thompson.  He would earn 2nd Team Big East honors his junior and senior seasons, and at the time his career ended, he was the 4th leading scorer in Syracuse history and the 2nd leading rebounder.  He would be the 9th pick of the 1988 NBA draft, and would have a solid NBA career.   He would finish his Syracuse career as arguably the greatest center Syracuse ever had.

Congratulations to Rony Seikaly.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

It's All About The Money

I'll put this on the table, just to get it out of the way: I understand it is all about the money.  Big time collegiate sports is all about the money, and nothing else.  If joining the Chinese Athletic Conference, and having Syracuse play every football game in Beijing guaranteed the University a 10-fold increase in profit, they wouldn't even hesitate to make the move. No doubt about it.

That does not mean I have to like it. I hate the fact that a great basketball conference like the Big East, was forced to expand over the years to accommodate the football schools, and then eventually disbanded when more money was elsewhere.  I hate the fact that Syracuse is going to the ACC, and won't be playing schools it regionally should.  I hate the fact that Syracuse plays 'home games' in New Jersey, and have the visiting fans outnumber the Syracuse fans 2 to 1. 

I understand it is all about the money.  But it doesn't have to be.  It would be nice to see decisions made on principles (other than principles on how to make money).  

I can dream.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A New Iceman at the Line?

Baye Keita entered his junior season as a 56% career free throw shooter, making only 31 of 55 career attempts. He was not the worst free throw shooter in Syracuse history; there are several worst, with Herman Harried, Arinze Onuaku and Derek Brower leading the way.  But he was a poor shooter.

After the first three games of the 2012-2013 season, Keita was even worse, shooing 49% from the charity stripe, making only 18 of 37 free throws.  He was at that point a 53% career free throw shooter.

I do not know what got into Keita at that point. Perhaps extensive practice was finally paying off. Maybe he got a DNA swap with Gerry McNamara (Syracuse's all-time free throw shooter at 89%).  Maybe extensive praying paid off.  Who knows?

What we do know is that Keita would shoot seven for seven from the line against Georgetown in the Big East semi-finals, helping to propel the Orange into the Big East Championship.  Without each and everyone one of those made free throws, Syracuse does not go into overtime in that game. 

But Keita did not stop there.  He shot an okay 4 for 6 against Louisville in the Big East tournament.  A mere 0-1 against Montana in the first round of the NCAA.  Then a decent 7 of 10 versus California in the NCAA 2nd round.  Keita followed that up with a 3 for 4 effort against Indiana in the Elite Eight.

Not only was Keita making his free throws, but his form looked good in those games. He would made 21 of 28 free throws in his last seven games of the season, a nice 75%.  I do not know about you, but I honestly felt more comfortable down the stretch with him at the free throw line than Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche.

Hopefully Keita has found his shooting touch, and this will be a sign of good shooting for 2013-2014.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Season is Over

It is always bittersweet when the season is over, with the exception of 2002-2003.  A loss is always the last game of the year, and it is tough to end that way.  Player's careers end, and the team as you know it ceases to exist.

This year's team did not disappoint me.  It was a flawed team, as many in the NCAA were.  They lost their mojo down the stretch of the regular season, and that did disappoint me, particularly with it being the last year of the Big East.  However, they redeemed, and revitalized themselves in the Big East Tournament, and carried that success over to the NCAA tournament.

The Orange would dominate their first four games of the NCAA tournament, making tournament worthy teams look inept on offense. Syracuse was playing their zone defense at its best, generating high turnovers, reducing shooting percentages, and simply frustrating teams out of their game plans.

Last night the Michigan Wolverines were able to jump out to a 36-25 halftime lead, primarily for three reasons. The first was that Mitch McGary kept his phenomenal post-season play going, doing his best Bill Walton impression with his shooting, rebounding and passing.

The second was Michigan's ability to hit the shots in the first half. A couple of bench players came in and made some three point shots, and Michigan made a couple of 30 foot three point shots in desperation.  

The third was that Syracuse could not handle Michigan's defense, could not figure out how to score.

I will digress for a second here while I rant about my feelings of the national media and halftime shows. I often wonder if they watch the same games I do. I have more of a feeling that they make up their minds before the game begins, and then use the action in the first half of the game to justify their positions.

Look, Michigan made some nice plays in the first half against Syracuse's defense.  Michigan also made some incredibly difficult shots.  A team runs a defense to force another team to take shots it doesn't want to take; that is how the game works. If that other team happens to make those difficult shots, you tip your hat to them.  You don't need to adjust your defense to account for it, though all the experts at halftime indicated that is exactly what the Orange would need to do.

The experts made very little reference to the fact that Syracuse's offense was struggling against Michigan's underrated defense. That was the real story of the game. 

I could not believe the experts were suggesting that Syracuse, down by 11, would need to adjust its defensive scheme to win the game.  Nonsense. 

Instead, Syracuse did exactly what it needed to do. It turned up the pressure a little with its zone, kept playing its solid defense, and slowly brought themselves into the game. 

C.J. Fair had an outstanding game, and Michigan had very little answer for him.  He ended up hitting 9 of 20 shots, but it sure seemed like he was hitting more than that.

Jerami  Grant game in and gave the Orange a much needed lift, something he hasn't done for a while.  His seven rebounds in seventeen minutes were very important.  

Syracuse's defense stymied Michigan's offense in the second half. The NCAA Player of the Year, Trey Burke, could never figure out the defense.  He scored only 7 points on 1-8 shooting, and had only 4 assists. Tim Hardaway Jr was 4 of 16 from the field.  The sharp shooting Nik Stauskas, who had just torched Florida with 6 for 6 three point shooting, and had a 43.9% three point shooting on the year, was held to 0 for 4.

The Orange did a lot right last night, and should be proud of their accomplishments. They got back into the game, and had a few pivotal moments where it was theirs to take, but the breaks did not fall.  The biggest moment down the stretch was during Syracuse's big run, and Carter-Williams had the great defensive play on Hardway, drawing the charge on the trap just beyond half court. That play would have been a dagger into the Wolverines souls, and given Syracuse the ball.

Instead, the referee erred and called it a blocking foul on Carter-Williams.  This had the triple impact of not giving Syracuse the ball, giving the Wolverine free throws, AND giving Carter-Williams his fourth personal foul, which would be extremely critical a minute later when he fouled out.

I don't want to hark on that moment, though in the tide of a game, that was huge. It cannot be understated.

Nevertheless, the bottom line why the Orange did not win was that Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland could not deliver throughout the game.  As well as Carter-Williams had played in the tournament, he struggled on Saturday night. Defensively he was outstanding (look at Burke & Hardaway). But offensively he did nothing; his passing and running of the offense was negated, and he turned the ball over 5 times.

Triche played a decent game, but Syracuse needed more from him.  They needed him to be able to hit a three point shot; he wisely only took two (he missed), but a big night from Triche shooting would have helped.  He was smart and realized he could drive to the hoop, and kept doing that late in the game. A very wise move... the type of move he kept forgetting about all year.  It was questionable whether or not he charged on this last foul; I applaud him for deciding to take it to the hoop.  It was the right decision, just the wrong outcome. Hidden in Triche's game was his outstanding defense (MCW had help in shutting down the Michigan guards), and his ball handling. Triche had 8 assists and only 2 turnovers for the game.

Syracuse really missed James Southerland. Michigan played him tight, but he did get a few open shots.  If Southerland had made a couple of those shots earlier in the game, something he had done all year long, that would have made a huge difference.  Syracuse also missed Southerlands defensive play and rebounding that he had excelled at lately.

Keep in mind that Southerland was missing some open shots that he normally makes, and two bench players for Michigan (Albrecht & LeVert) went 4 for 5 from three point range.  That type of thing makes a HUGE difference in a tight game.

Syracuse still had its chances in the last minute, despite the fact that its two starting guards were both out of the game, and they had no real ball handler on the court.  

The team never gave up. They played as a team down the stretch, they gave it all they could.  It was a game they could've won, and that will bother the players.  But the Orange never folded, like they did at points this year. They never panicked.  The team had offensive limitations all year, and those limitations could not be overcome down the stretch against a Wolverine team that was playing with real defensive intensity.

So, my thanks to the Orange for a wonderful season.  It's not a National Championship, but you gave us all a fun ride through the NCAA Tournament.

The Empire State Building Lit Up in Blue & Orange

The Empire State Building's North side lit up to honor Syracuse University's participation in the NCAA Final Four.
Photo courtesy of Anne Latimer Hart, Matter Inc.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Lights on the Empire State Building: Press Release


The Empire State Building will celebrate the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four on Saturday, April 6, 2013, by shining its world-famous tower lights in each of the four teams’ colors, then in the winning teams’ colors following the games.

Beginning at sunset on Saturday, ESB will shine its four sides for each team:
  • North Side: Syracuse University (orange and blue)
  • East Side: University of Michigan (navy blue and yellow)
  • South Side: University of Louisville (red and white)
  • West Side: Wichita State (yellow and black)

Following the games, ESB will shine its north and south sides for the winner of University of Louisville vs. Wichita State, and its east and west sides for the winner of Syracuse University vs. University of Michigan.

A special, interactive lighting will be held for the championship game on Monday, April 8.

About the Empire State Building
Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan (from base to antenna), the Empire State Building is the “World’s Most Famous Office Building.” With new investments in infrastructure, public areas and amenities, the Empire State Building has attracted first-rate tenants in a diverse array of industries from around the world. The skyscraper’s robust broadcasting technology supports all major television and FM radio stations in the New York metropolitan market. The Empire State Building was named America’s favorite building in a poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects. The Empire State Building Observatory is one of the world’s most beloved attractions and is the region’s #1 tourist destination. For more information on the Empire State Building, please visit,, or @EmpireStateBldg.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Brandon Triche in Review

Brandon Triche has one of the most difficult careers to define at Syracuse. Is he an overrated local player who was fortunate enough to be along for the ride on three great Syracuse squads? Or is he an integral part of those teams that defined whether they one or loss the games? Triche has started a school record 146 games, soon to be 147 come this Saturday.

Three Point Shooting: If you don’t think getting open looks and having defenses sag off of you don’t make a difference, take a look a Triche’s three point shooting season by season. As a freshman he made 40% of his shots (32 of 80). He benefited a lot because opposing defenses had to respect Andy Rautins on the perimeter, Wesley Johnson everywhere on the court, Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson with their high percentage shooting inside, and Kris Joseph slashing to the hoop. A great situation for a freshman sharpshooter to be in, and Triche delivered.
As a sophomore, Triche became the main three point shooter, and his percentage dropped to 33%. Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph also took to shooting the trey, but nobody was a serious threat… at least not of the level of Rautins and Johnson.

Ditto with his junior season; there was no great three point shooters, though a bevy of guys who all shot in that 35% range. Triche hit 35%.

This season Triche inexplicably has dropped to 29%. That is just plain awful for a guy who shoots as much as he does. And his career has shown that he should be about a 34%-35% shooter in this situation.

Free Throw Shooting: Triche struggled at the line his freshman year, hitting only 63% of his free throws. His sophomore season, Triche became an iceman at that free throw line, hitting 84% of his charity shots, including a school record 37 consecutive free throws. Triche dropped a little his junior year, hitting 77.5%, but still was a solid shooter, and was often on the court the last few minutes of the game because of his stellar free throw shooting.

His senior year, Triche is hitting 74% of his free throws. That’s an average number, somewhat respectable. But he now seems to miss all the crucial free throws, the complete opposite of the previous two years.
Clutch Shooting: Triche was often removed from the court his freshman year during crunch time because Jardine was a much better clutch shooter. Yet late in his sophomore season, and throughout his junior season, Triche was seemingly always the guy who would step up and make two critical shots in a row to start a Syracuse rally, or to stop an opposing team’s rally. Even early this season that occurred, and yet that has seemed to completely disappeared from his resume.
Ball Handling: Triche was the steady ball handler his junior season, the guy you wanted on the court during crunch time because he wouldn’t make mistakes. He had a 1.9 assist to turnover ratio that year, which is fine for a 2-guard. This season Triche has twice the number of turnovers, and a 1.27 assist to turnover ratio. The frustrating thing is that a lot of his turnovers appear to be of the freshman variety; that is, poor decision making and sloppy passing.

Driving to the Hoop: Triche is a strong player and has always been excellent at driving to the hoop. It seems like he has settled for more three point shots this year than in the past. Statistically speaking, that is not true. 38.5% of his shots this year are three pointers, compared to 40%, 48% and 41.1% for each of his first three years. So he is taking a higher percentage of his shots inside the arc, albeit a small difference. It just doesn’t seem that way.

He is also shooting at about the same frequency as he has in the past; if anything, it is a little bit less. His junior year, he had a shot every 2.9 minutes. This year he has a shot every 3.0 minutes.

Rebounding: Triche is a good rebounder for a guard, averaging about 3.4 rebounds a game. That’s not record breaking, nor even in Michael Carter-Williams league, but it is a respectable number for a 2-guard. That has remained somewhat consistent for his career.
Reputation: I have read a lot of fans derisively state that the only reason that Triche got a scholarship to Syracuse was that he was Howard Triche’s nephew. Furthermore, that the only reason Jim Boeheim plays him is because of that same reason, and that he wouldn’t start for most top 25 teams

There is no evidence to support that. New York State has a reputation for turning out high quality high school basketball players. Recruiting the New York State Player of the Year, for the highest school classification, would be a plum in the cap of any coach. Brandon Triche earned that distinction his senior year at Jamesville-DeWitt.

Syracuse has been 121-25 in the four years that Triche has played, including 55-17 in the Big East, one of the toughest, if not the toughest conference in the country. That includes two Big East Regular Season Championships, and a 29-12 record against top 25 teams. He is a 6’4” guard with the ability to rebound, drive to the hoop, play some point guard, and in most seasons, make a three. Guys like him will start for most top 25 programs.

Conclusion: Overall, I do not know what to make of Triche’s career. This Final Four run has clearly helped his legacy. During one stretch of this season when James Southerland was out of the line up, Triche would lead the Orange in scoring four out of seven games, including a victory on the road to #1 Louisville. The only loss during that period was an overtime loss to Villanova, where Triche led the team with 23 points. So he has been the big man for a period of this year; we all just seemed to have forgotten that with his terrible play down the regular season stretch.

If I was pushed for an answer, I would say he is a great complimentary player. He is the type of guy that Championship teams have on their starting roster, but not the star of a team. You don’t win championships without guys like Brandon Triche in your lineup, but you also don’t win championships if your team is dependent upon guys like him.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

On To the Final Four!

Syracuse is going to the Final Four after a dominating performance over Big East foe Marquette! Unbelievable, and rewarding to the Syracuse players, coaches and fans.  I was convinced Syracuse was going to win the National Title in 2010-2011 until Arinze Onuaku got hurt.  I was convinced Syracuse was going to the Final Four in 2012-2013 until Fab Melo departed.  Both those teams had stifling defenses and offensive firepower.
This year’s team has a suffocating defense, but a wildly inconsistent offense. They have however, played well and efficient enough to score the points they needed, and they have won their four tournament games with relative ease. When James Southerland hit the time clock desperation 3 pointer with about two minutes to go in the game last night, I knew the game was over.  Just sweet.
Some random thoughts about the Orange:
  • As is well documented, this is Syracuse's fifth Final Four; the fourth under Jim Boeheim. Boeheim is 3-0 in the Final Four, and he has made a Final Four in four different decades. If you count his tenure as an assistant coach, he has made a Final Four in five different decades.
  • Since February 23rd, 2013, Syracuse has played 12 basketball games.  9 of those have been against Top 25 teams, four against Top 5 teams. This team is battle tested.
  • Since the start of the Big East Tournament, Syracuse has played 8 games, five against Top 25 teams, 3 against Top 5 teams.  The Orange are 7-1 in that stretch.
  • The past four games have seen four different Orangemen lead the team in scoring: Triche (Montana), Fair (California), Carter-Williams (Indiana) and Southerland (Marquette).
  • There were a lot of former Syracuse players in attendence at the Verizon center including Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Herman Harried, Leo Rautins and Lawrence Moten.  Of course, alumni Boeheim, Mike Hopkins, Adrian Autry and Gerry McNamara were in attendence at the bench.  Is it just me, or does Syracuse have more former alumni routinely show up for games than any other program?  I think that is a testament to the loyalty between the Coach and his players.
  • This is Syracuse's 6th 30 win season.  Syracuse finished the season ranked 16th, which is the lowest rank for a Syracuse 30 win team.
  • Syracuse's previous Final Four teams finished the regular season ranked as follows:
    • 1974-1975: unranked (not seeded)
    • 1986-1987: 10th (2 seed)
    • 1995-1996: 15th (4 seed)
    • 2002-2003: 11th (3 seed)
    • 2012-2013: 16th (4 seed)
  • Boeheim is 121-25 the past four years (and still going). Simply amazing.
Let's Go ORANGE!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

On to the Elite Eight

A recipe for disaster for Syracuse would be a game where James Southerland is held to 3 points, Michael Carter-Williams has only one assist, and Carter-Williams is the leading scorer on the team.  Yet that is exactly what happened in the Syracuse / Indiana game, and the Orange won handedly. 
I must admit that I thought this team had no chance of making the Final Four, and now they are one very winnable game from being there. Marquette is a tough opponent, and either team could win the game, but this is not a case where Syracuse has to slay Goliath to advance. 
The Syracuse defense has been outstanding in this tournament, and really has been consistently strong all season.  It really hasn’t been a question of whether they could stop their opponents. It has been a question if they could put together enough offense to outscore their opponents. The Orange haven’t been playing perfect on offense, and still are making some ugly unforced errors, but they have been doing enough on offense to win.
Indiana had a game plan that refused to let Syracuse get the ball to Southerland. That is a very smart game plan.  The Syracuse guards responded with the correct action, and that was to take the ball to the hoop, and have the guard play dominate the game.  I hope this mindset of driving to the hoop carries over to today’s game, because when Brandon Triche and Carter-Williams drive the lane, good things happen.
Good luck to the Orange today! It should be a great game.

Friday, March 22, 2013

An Easy First Round Win

The Syracuse Orange played with intensity in their first round game, and they caught an underdog flatfooted resulting in one of the most lopsided NCAA games in SU history.

Syracuse beat the Grizzlies 81-34, a 47 point margin of victory that at one point was 50 points.  Coach Jim Boeheim had senior walk-on Matt Lyde-Cajuste on the court for the last 6 minutes of the game, and that really did not make a difference.

Syracuse held the Grizzlies to 20% shooting from the field (11-54) and 12.9% shooting from three point range (4 of 31).  No Montana player scored more than 5 points in the game. Syracuse was confident offensively, hitting 52% of their shots (27 of 52) and 45% of their three point efforts (5 of 11).  They had an impressive 21 assists on their 27 made field goals, and only 8 turnovers.  There were some sloppy unforced moments by Syracuse, but that did not matter.

Syracuse’s defense was tough, but psychology played into this margin of victory too. Even when Montana did have the open shot, they missed it bad.

This statistically, by far, the best defensive effort the Orange have ever had in the NCAA tournament.  Previously the lowest point total for an opponent was 43 points, by Princeton in a 51-43 win in 1992. That was more a result of Princeton’s slow down offense, than Syracuse’s defense.

Six previous times in the NCAA Tournament the Orange have beaten an opponent by 20+ points. The largest margin of victory was on March 16, 1986 when the Orangemen and Pearl Washington crushed Brown 101-52, a 49 point margin of victory. 

In 2010, the Orange beat Vermont 79-56 in the first round, and Gonzaga 87-65 in the second round. That is the only tournament the Orange beat two teams by 20+ points, and also the last time they had done so before last night.

The Orange love playing Montana teams. In 1996, John Wallace and the Orangemen beat Montana State 88-55 in the first round.

Syracuse easily handled Coppin State in 1990 with a 70-48 victory, and Bucknell in 1989 with a 104-81 victory.

The games do not necessarily carry over to the next effort.  The 1986 effort, for example, was followed by the upset loss to David Robinson and Navy.  The 1996 victory, however, foreshadowed Syracuse’s run to the Championship game against Kentucky. 

That’s why this tournament is called March Madness. Anything can happen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Farewell with Redemption

The Big East Tournament has turned into a fond farewell for the Syracuse players and the fans.  The magic and aura of the madness in Madison Square Garden will dearly be missed, something we all are becoming more aware of each and every game Syracuse advances.  Tonight it will end. 

Fortunately for the Orange, the Tournament is going to bring a positive resolution for many involved.  The backdrop of the poor performance by the Orange over the past few weeks, only heightens what we can observe today.

First, congratulations to Trevor Cooney. We have been hearing about how well he plays in practice, but had yet seen that play in Big East action. Last night, was his coming out party with 10 points, including a couple of threes. More impressive was his hustle, solid defense, and rebounding. He could not have chosen a better stage.

Baye Keita did his Gerry McNamara impression, and calmly drained seven out of seven free throws.  He did a yeoman’s job of handling Georgetown’s big men, and had a team high 13 points.

James Southerland… what a way to shake off some shooting rust.  He has tied the Big East Tournament three point shooting record with his 16 treys, and he still has one game left to play. I am glad to see the senior get some glory in MSG; it allows us to forget his poor shooting down the stretch of the season.

And it was great to see Brandon Triche show some emotion, and get his game back on track. The senior has meant a lot to the Orange over four years, and it was so disappointing to see his season fall apart over the last few weeks. He has had the opportunity to make some treys in the tournament, and has made some excellent decisions in driving to the hoop.  That is the type of play that Triche has shown in the past when he leads this team; it fuels the Orange offense and allows it to fire on all cylinders.

C.J. Fair had a poor game shooting and uncharacteristically made some poor decisions, something he would surely like to forget. But his emphatic dunk in overtime that gave Syracuse the four point margin should erase all memories of that. That dunk will be remembered as one of the greatest in SU history.

It is tough leaving the Big East, and it was very disappointing to close out the regular season playing poorly. Losing to Georgetown in a non-competitive situation in the Dome really hurt. We have all become accustomed to fierce games between the two teams, and that loss was anti-climatic.

Last night’s game erases that memory. A 58-53 overtime win just added to the legacy of the series.  It is unfortunate it is the last meaningful game between the two schools.  Even if the Orange had lost last night, it would have been a fitting conclusion… a hard fought physical games, and something to appreciate. The fact that Syracuse won makes it far sweeter.

Finally, the man who is really getting his due is coach Jim Boeheim.  I hope no one doubts how much the Big East Conference has meant to Boeheim. He has stated that the past two years, but people may just take it for granted. Having the opportunity to play Georgetown last night was extra special for him; you could tell by his emotions down the stretch and post game.  Typically the only emotions you will see from Boeheim in a game are anger and stoicism.  Last night you could see that Boeheim really wanted to win the game; it was very special for him. He was displaying excitement about the players positive scoring in the last few minutes of the game and in overtime.  His moist eyes in the post game interviews revealed any more.  The Georgetown series is now officially over.

I’ve been blessed to be old enough to be able to watch all the Big East Tournaments since inception. This is meaningful to me.  Just think about how meaningful it is to Jim Boeheim? He lives and breaths college basketball, and loves the Big East. This isn’t just a hobby for him; it has been an integral part of his life, and he knows it is going away forever.  It has to make him feel very happy knowing that his team put on a good show during their last Big East Tournament.

I think that is all he wanted from this week. And I think Syracuse fans would all agree.