RTC Team of the Week: SyracusePosted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2009
We will readily admit that we crushed the Orange for their embarrassing exhibition game loss to Le Moyne three weeks ago and even left them out of our Top 25 after that loss, but we can admit when we were wrong even if we are pretty sure most Syracuse fans felt the same way that we did at the time. We figured that Jim Boeheim was in for a long year waiting for next year’s much hyped recruiting class to come to upstate New York. After the Le Moyne loss, the Orange rolled off big wins at home against Albany (by 32) and Robert Morris (by 40), but those two programs were hardly in the same category as the three teams that would be travelling to Madison Square Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (UNC, Ohio State, and Cal) and we expected the Orange to have a difficult time competing with those teams even if we never really considered any of those teams that great (you will notice that my co-editors were a bit behind me on the Tar Heels being overrated if you look at that last poll).
The Orange opened up against Cal, a team we had already covered live twice this season (against Murray State and against Detroit), and destroyed the more highly touted Bears. After falling behind 5-0 to start the game, the Orange took the lead with 17:08 left in the first half and dominated Cal from that point forward with their frontcourt outscoring Cal’s 54-22. The Bears highly regarded backcourt struggled against the zone and shot just 30% as a team from beyond the arc only managing to outscore the Syracuse guards by 10 (51-41). The fact that the Orange dominated on the inside was no surprise to us. They have one of the best frontcourts (Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku) in the country and Cal’s frontcourt is lackluster to put it kindly. The real surprise was the play of their guards and redshirt sophomore Scoop Jardine (22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists) in particular.
We figured the next hurdle — defending national champion UNC — would be a much higher hurdle and it was. For a half. The first half of the game was as good as any we have seen this season with the teams trading quick runs and both teams making big shots. The Orange opened the game with an 8-0 run that had us questioning whether Roy Williams was trying to channel Phil Jackson by not taking a timeout and letting his team work things out on their own. The Tar Heels responded with a quick run of their own and took the lead at 12-11 with 15:06 left in the first half. The Orange briefly took a 9-point lead at 31-22 before the Tar Heels rallied again to tie it up before taking a 39-37 lead into the intermission. Then the Orange exploded opening up the 2nd half on an insane 22-1 run that left us speechless and led Williams to comment after the game that Syracuse “beat the dickens out of us”. Andy Rautins was the star of the game with an Andrei Kirilenko-like line of 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 steals (minus all the whining) and Wesley Johnson added a 25 points and 8 rebounds against one of the best frontcourts in the country. The Orange’s performance left us wondering if this year’s version might be better than last year’s version even without Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris. And for those of you who are wondering, the Orange will be in this week’s yet unreleased RTC Top 25, which should be out some time on Monday. The Orange need to be careful not to let the honor of being RTC’s inaugural Team of the Week get to their heads though because their next game is at home against a very good Cornell team that much of the country doesn’t know about, but has already won on the road at Alabama and UMass.