Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Oshae Brissett's Freshman Year

Oshae Brissett had quite an impact on the Orange his freshman season.  He was the 2017 All-Canadian High School Player of the Year, but even with that distinction, he was not that heralded, nationally, when he came to Syracuse.

Super frosh Oshae Brissett
He showed early on that he had a nose for the ball pulling 10+ rebounds in five of the first eight games.  He would have season high 25 point games in a win over Buffalo and a loss to North Carolina State. In the NCAA tournament he would lead the Orange with 23 point and 10 rebounds in the First Four victory over Arizona State.

Brissett would lead the Orange in rebounds, 3 pt %, and led the ACC conference in free throw attempts. He was second on the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game.

I think some of his accomplishments went unnoticed, at least from a historical context. The Orange players had to be ironmen in 2017-2018 due to a reduced roster. Brissett would play 1,411 minutes, for a 38.1 minutes per game average.  Both are by far records for a Syracuse freshman.  The previous records were 1,274 minutes with a 36.4 mpg average, both set by Carmelo Anthony back in 2002-2003.

Brissett made 174 free throws, the most ever by a Syracuse freshman, again eclipsing the mark of 167 set by Anthony.  His 221 free throw attempts were second only to Anthony’s 238. 
Carmelo /Anthony
Brissett’s 327 rebounds were third most ever by a Syracuse freshman, trailing Anthony’s 349 and Derrick Coleman’s 333.  His 8.8 rpg average was tied for second best, again trailing Anthony, and tying Coleman.

Brissett scored the fourth most points ever by a Syracuse freshman with 553. He trailed Anthony’s  His 14.9 points per game is fifth all-time, trailing Anthony 22.2, Moten 18.2, Greene 17.7 and Jonny Flynn 15.7.    He scored more points per game as a freshman than stellar freshman Pearl Washington (14.4), Gerry McNamara (13.3), Billy Owens (13.0), Derrick Coleman (11.9), and Tyler Ennis (12.9).
778, Donte Greene with 620, and Lawrence Moten with 583.

His 37 games played trailed only Derrick Coleman and Billy Owens' 38 games.

Brissett was not the best freshman ever at Syracuse.  Carmelo Anthony rightfully earns that designation. Some of the other aforementioned freshman also had better seasons than Brissett. But it is notable that Brissett did have an excellent freshman year, and he can be mentioned with some of the greatest freshman to play for the Orange.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father and Son Duos for Syracuse Basketball

Happy Father’s Day!  In honor of the day, I wanted to recognize the father/son combinations that have played and/or coached for Syracuse basketball.  This fall, Jim and Buddy Boeheim will become the seventh such combination for the Orange.  Below are the father/son combination in chronological order.

The Baysingers (Reaves ‘Ribs’ and Reaves Jr).  The Baysingers were the first father/son combination in Syracuse basketball history.  Ribs was a solid reserve on the 1921-1922 team playing both center and guard, and starting a handful of games.  He would play only his sophomore year.  He was a star on the football field at both guard and end, as well as an outfielder on the baseball team for three years.  Reaves Jr was a reserve center on the Syracuse basketball team for one season. He was a gifted football player like his father, and played quarterback for the football team in 1944.  Reaves Jr would enroll in the Naval Academy as a result of World War II, and would end up a star quarterback for the Navy football team.

The Suprunowicz (Dick and Bill). Dick was a defensive stalwart on the Syracuse basketball team for three seasons, helping guide the Orangemen to their first NIT appearance in 1950.  Dick would score 526 points in his career with 6.7 ppg.  Bill was a reserve guard on the basketball team for three seasons, from 1972 to 1974. He would score 30 points in 20 games.

Vinnie Cohen
The Cohens (Vinnie and Vinnie Jr).  Vinnie Cohen was the best Syracuse basketball player of the 1950’s, a star forward for three seasons.  He would lead the Orangemen to their first NCAA berth in 1957, taking the team to the Elite Eight.  Cohen would be the first Orangemen to score 20+ ppg, with 24.2 ppg, and had a career average of 19.7 ppg.  Vinne Jr. was a walk-on for the basketball team for two seasons, scoring six points in nine games.

The Danforths (Roy and Mike). Roy was the Syracuse head coach from 1969 to 1976, with a 148-70 record. He led the team to its first Final Four in 1975, along with 3 other NCAA berths, and 2 NIT berths.  He brought an entertaining style of basketball to Manley Field House, and helped build a winning program, before heading off to be the basketball coach at Tulane.   Mike was a reserve on the 1975-1976 team playing in seven games and scoring two points.  He would transfer to Tulane when his father became the coach there.

Leo Rautins
The Rautins (Leo and Andy).  The Rautins were probably the best father/son combination at Syracuse University.  Leo was a versatile forward for the Orangemen from 1981 to 1983, scoring 1,031 points. He was an exceptionally skill passer for a forward, averaging 12.1 ppg, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. He would be drafted in the first round of the 1983 NBA draft.  Leo had three triple doubles at Syracuse.  Andy was a prolific three point shooting guard for the Orange from 2006 to 2010, and was an exceptional passing shooting guard.  He would score 1,121 points, averaging 8.8 ppg, 2.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists.  Andy was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 NBA draft.  Andy is the only son on this list to outscore his father.

The Autrys (Adrian ‘Red’ and Adrian Jr).  Red was a star starting point guard for Syracuse for four seasons, averaging 12.7 ppg and 5.2 assists.  He helped guide the Orangemen to a Big East Tournament Championship (1991), a Big East Regular Season Championship (1992), and three NCAA tournaments.  He has been an assistant coach for Syracuse since the 2011-2012 season, and in March of 2017 was named the Associate Head Coach.  His son Adrian Jr has been a walk-on player the past three seasons, and has scored 10 points in 19 career games.  Red is  the first father to coach basketball to his son at Syracuse.

The Boeheims (Jim and Buddy).  Jim is the 2nd winningest coach of all-time in men’s Division I basketball, with a record of 1027-371.  He has led the Orange to one National Championship, five Final Fours, and 33 NCAA tournaments.  He was also a solid guard for the Orangemen for three seasons in the 1960s, scoring 745 career points with a 9.8 ppg average.  Buddy is a freshman for the upcoming season, and has a reputation as being a terrific perimeter shooter.

Jim Boeheim has ties to many of the other individuals on this list.  He was the head coach for Vinnie Cohen Jr, Leo  & Andy Rautins, Red Autry & Adrian Autry Jr.  He was an assistant coach under Roy Danforth, and for Mike Danforth and Bill Suprunowicz.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Orange Scoring Troubles Historic for 2017-2018

The Syracuse Orange basketball team struggled mightily to score the past season, especially from the supporting positions.  I had written about the struggles earlier in the season, focusing on the fact that the team was centered around only three scorers.  I had expected the team to expand beyond those three as the season progressed, and while there was some development, there was not much.  Injuries played a part of that, as did departures from the team.
Marek Dolezaj
We did see Marek Dolezaj improve during the tail end of the season and into the NCAA tournament. This is a hopeful stepping stone for him in 2018-2019. Dolezaj scored a career high 20 points in a home win against Wake Forest. In the NCAA tournament, he scored 17 against TCU and 13 against Duke. 

Dolezaj was the fourth best scorer for the Orange in the 2018-2019 season, but he averaged only 5.8 points per game.  He was accurate in his shooting, making 54% of his shots.  The fifth leading scorer was Paschal Chukwu, and he scored 5.4 ppg on 66% shooting. The problem was not their accuracy, but the ability to put them into positions where they could or would take shots.

As I indicated back in December, it has been quite a long time since the fourth leading scorer on the Orange scored that few points per game. 

I have to go back to 2004-05 to find a team where the fourth leading scorer was even remotely close to that low, and that was Terrence Roberts with 7.2 ppg.  Fourth leading scorer on the 2001-02 team was Hakim Warrick with 6.1 ppg.  Fourth leading scored on the 1989-90 team was Dave Johnson with 6.5 ppg.  You would have to go all the way back to 1948-1949 to find a Syracuse team where the fourth leading scorer averaged 5.4 ppg or less.

Of note, the 1963-1964 squad’s fourth leading scorer averaged 6.6 ppg, and it’s fifth leading scorer was a sophomore named Jim Boeheim, who averaged 5.2 ppg.  That team was lead by Dave Bing with 22.2 ppg and Chuck Richards with 22.0 ppg, so while there was not depth in scoring, the top one-two punch of Bing and Richards was quite potent.

The 1961-1962 team was probably the worst team in Syracuse basketball history, taking part in 27 consecutive losses and completing the season 2-22.  The fourth leading scorer on that team was Bob Murray, and he managed 6.3 ppg, better than Dolezaj’s 5.8 ppg.

No, we still have to go back to the 1948-1949 team to find a case where the fourth leading scorer put up less than Syracuse had in 2017-2018.

The return of the entire starting lineup from last season will almost certainly rectify that by itself. Natural improvement of each player will make a difference. Add in the incoming freshman class, and we should definitely see more scoring from the fourth and fifth players on offense. 

The odds of the Orange getting historically low production from that position on offense is highly unlikely to occur again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Jordan vs. James

Normally, I only discuss Syracuse basketball, but I'll deviate today just for a topical opinion.  Like many fans, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Michael Jordan and LeBron James both play in their primes.  They are both great players, and I really cannot tell you who is better. They are different style players in different eras; they are wired differently and approach the game differently on and off the court.

Detractors will point out that LeBron is only 3-6 in the NBA finals, while Jordan was 6-0.  LeBron’s teams have been the underdog in 7 of the 9 series they’ve played; Jordan’s teams were the favorite in all six finals.

LeBron carried teams to the finals that had no business being in the finals. At 22 years old he took the Cavaliers to their first NBA finals.  Jordan was injured most of his season when he was 22; his team was only 40-42 when he was 23.

LeBron played in two finals at age 22 and 26, before Jordan ever played in one.
Both players left a team and then returned to that same team.  We can see a clear impact each player had on his team, and what caliber player surrounded him. 

LeBron’s Cav’s were 61-21 in 2009-10.  He left the team for four years, and they went 19-63, 21-45, 24-58, and 33-49.  That was the worst record in the NBA for those four years, and they didn’t sniff the playoffs. LeBron returns and the team immediately goes to the NBA finals with a 53-29 record.
Jordan’s Bulls were 57-25 in 1992-93.  He left the team for two years, and they went 55-27, and 47-35. Note, in that second year, Jordan came back at the end of the season, the Bulls went 13-4; they were 34-31 without him.

Jordan’s teammates were good enough to make the playoffs with almost the identical record without him in 1993-94.  That’s not a knock on Jordan; that’s a comment on how good the teammates around him were.  They couldn’t produce in the playoffs without MJ; he was sorely missed for sure.  LeBron’s team was the worst in the NBA without him, and immediately went back to champion caliber upon his return.

Jordan’s teams won it all when he had great talent around him.  The fair knock on LeBron is that his ‘super team’ in Miami didn’t win it all every year; they only went 2-2 in the finals (though they did make the finals all four years).  Jordan never elevated a mediocre team to the finals.

LeBron has made the finals 8 years in a row, and is now 33 years old. Jordan, after three straight finals, walked away from the game at age 30, citing he was tired of the game.  Whether MJ walked away from the game on his own, or he was nudged out as a suspension for gambling is a matter of debate, but if you take MJ’s story at its face… he tired of it.  You can’t assume MJ would’ve won titles in those two years he walked away from the game, or for that matter, what if he had stayed… would he have been burned out before the second three peat era?

MJ played 41,011 minutes in his career; LeBron has 44,298 in his career, and is still going strong. 

Haters are always going to look for a way to tear down one or the other of the two players. Personally, I think Bill Russell, Kareem, and Wilt all deserve more consideration than they get. But I digress.  I just enjoy watching Jordan and James play.  Revel in their individual greatness, and the unique gifts to the game.

As a side note, Jordan probably played with better NBA talent his junior year at NC (Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith), than LeBron played with when he went to the finals in 2007 (Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Syracuse Opponents They Have A Losing Record Against

Syracuse has played 288 different teams in the history of the program.  They have a winning record against 235 of those teams, and a split record against 24.  There are only 29 teams that the Orange have a lifetime losing record against.  Five of those teams are non-collegiate programs that they will never play again:  Schenectady Company “E” (0-2), Crescent Athletic Club (1-2), St. John’s Military Academy (1-2), East Liverpool Athletic Club (0-1) and Williston Seminary (0-1).

That leaves 25 collegiate basketball programs that have winning records against the Orange. 16 of those teams have a one game margin over the Orange. Those include:

  •     Virginia (5-6)
  •      Maryland (4-5)
  •      Clemson (3-4)
  •      Oklahoma State (2-3)
  •      Wisconsin (2-3)
  •      Eastern Kentucky (1-2)
  •      Illinois (1-2)
  •      Iowa (1-2)
  •      Austin Peay (0-1)
  •      Baldwin-Wallace (0-1)
  •      Cleveland State (0-1)
  •      Denison (0-1)
  •      Mississippi (0-1)
  •      Oral Roberts (0-1)
  •      Tulsa (0-1)

Virginia and Clemson are current ACC conference foes, so the one game margin there will be up for play for the foreseeable future.

There are nine teams that have a two game or greater margin against he Orange. They are:

Bradley (1-3): The Braves are in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Orange have played them four times, always on a neutral court or in a tournament.  The two teams last met in 1982 when Bradley beat the Orangemen in the NIT.

Duke (5-7):  The Blue Devils are now a familiar foe in the ACC, and the Orange will see them at least once every year.  The Orange are 3-4 against Duke in ACC play, and last lost to them in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last year.

Ohio State (2-5): The Buckeyes are part of the Big 10.  The Orange have played OSU twice in the NCAA tournament, both times with painful losses, twice on neutral courts, twice at OSU and once at home.  The Orange last played the Buckeyes in the 2012 Elite Eight with the Buckeyes winning 77-70.

City College of New York (5-8): The Beavers were a powerhouse NCAA program in the 1940s.  They were caught in a point shaving scandal in 1950-1951, and that destroyed the program. They dropped down to Division III and have remained there ever since.  Former Orangeman Tom Green is currently the head coach of the Beavers.  Syracuse last played CCNY in 1950, and that is unlikely to change.

New York University (9-12):  The Violets are now Division III and part of the UAA conference.  The Orange and Violets met frequently from 1940 to 1964.  The last time they met was in 1964, with NYU beating SU in the NIT tournament, despite Dave Bing’s 31 points. 

Kentucky (3-8):  The Wildcats are in the SEC, and are one of the blue bloods of college basketball. The Orange have met them sporadically over history, facing many of their famous coaches: Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith.  The two teams met in the 1996 NCAA Championship game with the Wildcats winning 76-67.  They last met in 2000 with the Orange beating the Wildcats in the 2nd round 52-50.

North Carolina (4-11):  The Tar Heels are now a conference rival in the ACC.  Despite the legendary status of the program, the Orange held their own and were 4-4 over the first eight games against the Tar Heels.  The Orangemen upset NC in the 1975 NCAA tournament and again in the 1987 NCAA tournament, both times advancing to the Final Four.  The two teams met in the Final Four in 2016, and North Carolina beat the underdog Orange.  The Tar Heels have won the last seven games in the series.

Louisville (9-18):  Louisville is now a conference rival in the ACC, and a former rival in the Big East.  Louisville has a winning record over the Orange, and has the distinction of the widest margin (9 games), and the most games giving the Orange a losing record (27 games played).  The Orange have won 6 of the past 11 games, so they are on an upswing.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Returning Starting Lineups

Tyus Battle has announced he will be returning to Syracuse for his junior season.  As a result, the Syracuse Orange will be returning their entire starting basketball lineup for the 2018-2019 season.  The Orange will suit up Battle, Frank Howard, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Paschal Chukwu.  This is a very rare occurrence in Syracuse basketball history, having only occurred four previous times.

In 1999-2000, the entire starting lineup from the previous year returned, but Allen Griffin lost his starting position to Tony Bland, and did not start a single game for the season. The 1998-1999 starting lineup was Jason Hart, Allen Griffin, Damone Brown, Ryan Blackwell, and Etan Thomas.  The squad would improve from 21-12 (10-8 Big East) to 26-6 (13-3 Big East), and was the Big East regular season champion. The team would be ranked as high as #4 in the country in early February, before finishing the year at #16.  They would lose in the NCAA tournament to Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen.

The 1982-1983 squad saw Gene Waldron, Erich Santifer, Tony Bruin, Leo Rautins and Andre Hawkins all return from a 16-13 (7-7 Big East) team.  The previous season was one of the least successful teams in Jim Boeheim history. The 1982-1983 squad saw an improvement to 21-10 (9-7 Big East), including wins over #9 Houston, and #4 Villanova. The team would lose in the 2nd round of the NCAA to Ohio State.

The 1933-1934 team returned Elmer Maister, Ronnie Phillips, Lou Alkoff, Johnny DeYoung and Skids Sanford. The 1932-1933 team was an impressive 14-2, and won their last 12 games of the season, including going undefeated against the Eastern basketball teams.  The 1933-1934 team would go 15-2, one win better, but did lose to Eastern foes Colgate (on the road) and Penn (on the road).  The season was deemed very successful, despite the 1932-1933 leading scorer Johnny DeYoung injuring his leg and missing playing time as a result. They would conclude their season with a very lopsided home win over Colgate.

Reindeer Five
The 1930-1931 team returned the famed Reindeer Five squad of Ev Katz, Dan Fogarty, Ken Beagle, Tuppy Hayman and Slim Elliott.  The 1929-1930 team went 18-2 with big road wins over Michigan State and Penn, and would go 15-1 against Eastern basketball team. The team was known for its speed on the court, balanced scoring, and did not have too many close games.  The 1939-1931 team would drop to 16-4, still an impressive record.  The highlight of the season was three consecutive road wins against Penn State, Penn and Colgate.

It makes sense that starting lineups rarely return intact.  Most teams have at least one senior in the starting lineup, which means graduation impacts the ability to return the squad.  Academic issues and transfers also come into play. In the modern era, early departure to the NBA definitely impacts the ability of a team to retain starters.  The 2008-2009 squad has no seniors in the starting lineup, but Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf both left school a year early to pursue pro careers.  Same thing with the 2007-2008 squad, as Donte’ Greene would leave after his freshman year.  The 2003-2004 squad lost Billy Edelin to academic issues mid-season, which prevented that squad from returning all its starters.