Posted by mlemaire on November 25th, 2011
Entering the season, there was little doubt that Syracuse was loaded. They returned four starters from a team that won 27 games last season; they had two preseason All-Big East performers in forward Kris Joseph (first team) and guard Scoop Jardine (second team); and they welcomed the No. 16 recruiting class to campus.
So it was only fitting that locked in a back-and-forth battle with Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the Orange turned to none of the aforementioned players to give them a lift. Instead of Joseph or Jardine, it was reserves C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters who led Jim Boeheim‘s club to the win after they had trailed at halftime. The duo combined for 21 points in the second half and scored all but three of the team’s points during a 17-3 run that helped Syracuse pull away from the Hokies for a 69-58 win in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
An Improved C.J. Fair Gives Syracuse Another Weapon Off The Bench
But the performance Waiters and Fair didn’t just serve as a coming out party for two of the more underrated role players in the conference, it also highlighted the team’s incredible depth. Depth that could make the difference between a second round NCAA Tournament exit like last season, and the program’s first National Championship since Carmelo Anthony was draped in orange.
Through five games, Boeheim has 10 players who are averaging at least 12.8 minutes per game, and no one on the team — not even Joseph or Jardine — is averaging more than 25.4 minutes per game. Now against the Hokies, only seven players were on the court for more than ten minutes of game time and that may become a trend as the season goes on. It is unlikely that the Orange will stick with a ten-deep rotation, especially as the competition gets stiffer and certain players start to assert themselves, but it is a luxury that any coach would love to have.
Last season only eight players averaged more than ten minutes per game for the Orange, and Joseph, Jardine, Brandon Triche, and Rick Jackson used more than 70 percent of the team’s minutes. The result was a team that started 18-0, but went just 9-8 the reason of the season including a disappointing 66-62 loss to Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
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