Big East Burning Question: Are Syracuse And Jim Boeheim Really Overrated?

Posted by mlemaire on January 15th, 2013

We are admittedly well late to the party with this question, but amidst all of the fawning articles and celebratory columns remarking on the incredible 900 wins that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has amassed, there was one turd in the punch bowl – CBS Sports college basketball analyst and noted Syracuse agitator Doug Gottlieb. Gottlieb has contended for quite some time that Boeheim is a great coach, but not an “elite” coach, especially when compared to some of his contemporaries who have had more success in the NCAA Tournament such as Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun. Now its true that Gottlieb has a rather testy history with Syracuse, its fans, and its famed head coach, but for the sake of this argument, we will ignore the suspicions of personal bias and just take his argument on its face. So without further delay, we posed the question to the three microsite writers and here is what they came up with.

Will Tucker: It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to lampoon Doug Gottlieb, especially when his subject is a coach with whom he seemingly has an ax to grind. But it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. As Mike points out, when you compare Jim Boeheim’s postseason accomplishments to those of his peers, his 900+ wins––amassed disproportionately early in the season––serve as an indictment in their distribution as much as a milestone in their volume. And Gottlieb’s accusation that Boeheim’s soft nonconference schedules have been a disservice to his team’s toughness is a fair criticism that merits further investigation. But Doug’s aversion to nuance is on full display, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. While Boeheim’s nonconference scheduling is and should be fair game, Gottlieb further attributes Syracuse’s postseason stumbles to feasting on an overrated Big East schedule. This seems more ad hominem than intellectually honest, and Doug conveniently ignores the 2010-11 UConn and 2011-12 Louisville teams that reached Final Fours with nearly ten Big East losses apiece. He also summarily mocks Boeheim’s zone defense as an inferior system nobody else uses with any success. In doing so, he ignores that Boeheim’s protégé Rick Pitino took an offensively stunted group to a Final Four with a variation of that zone last season, and the Cards retain the most efficient defense in the country again this year (Syracuse is hot on their heels at #3). Rhetoric notwithstanding, at the crux of this discussion is a fan’s aesthetic preference between regular season success and tournament success. Sure, the two aren’t mutually exclusive (paging Mike Kryzyzewski), but most coaches fall somewhere toward either end of the spectrum. Knowing all too well how a team’s struggles in the winter can exacerbate my seasonal affective disorder, I’m philosophical about the whole thing. I’ll take a Sweet 16 preceded by four months of big wins, high rankings, and conference championships over an agonizing regular season capped off by an Elite Eight––every time. Gottlieb subscribes to the notion that tournament success supersedes any other measuring stick, and the rigidness of his assumptions leaves little room for us to meet in the middle. Ultimately, I think it detracts from the salient questions his raises about what makes a coach great.

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Michael Carter-Williams Impresses Jim Boeheim in a Rhode Island Homecoming

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 10th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite writers who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Syracuse and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has had more impressive games this season than last night’s 17-point, six-assist, six-rebound, five-steal effort against Providence.  The 6’6″ guard, who grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and played his high school ball 15 minutes from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, Rhode Island, has flirted with triple-doubles on various occasions this season, missing the milestone by a single assist or rebound three times already. Last night, the general steadiness with which Carter-Williams ran Jim Boeheim‘s offense impressed the venerable head coach.

Carter-Williams' steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.

Carter-Williams’ steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.

Carter-Williams’ play for Syracuse this year has been almost revelatory, considering the sophomore played few meaningful minutes last season. After the game, when asked about his guard’s ascent from little-used freshman to All-American sophomore, Boeheim made a comparison to perhaps the greatest point guard in school history:  Sherman Douglas, who sat behind Pearl Washington as a freshman before leading the Orangemen to a national championship game berth as a sophomore. Boeheim spent a large portion of his presser discussing Carter-Williams’ play, as one would expect in Providence, saying that “MCW” is “playing as well as you can expect.”

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Big East M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 3rd, 2013

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  1. With Syracuse’s 78-53 takedown of Rutgers at the Carrier Dome last night, Jim Boeheim took sole ownership of second place on the Division I all-time wins list with 903 victories, passing Bob Knight. These first few months of the season have been eventful for Boeheim, whose ascent up this list has been the focus of tremendous media attention and occasional scrutiny this season. In weighing in on Boeheim’s ranking among the greatest coaches of all-time, Rob Dauster notes the affect that a single Keith Smart jumper has had on Boeheim’s perception. If that shot doesn’t fall, Boeheim is two wins ahead of Knight, has the same number of national titles (two) as the man who many consider the greatest game coach of all-time, and many writers have a lot less material come March.
  2. USF and UCF have played twice this season, splitting two contests that foreshadow what may develop into a nice rivalry for whatever the future of the Big East holds. Tampa Bay Online‘s Joey Johnston argues that the rivalry between the two schools could become a staple for the new look Big East, or whichever conference the two schools find themselves attached to in the future. Johnston believes that the natural rivalry and the high number of television sets in the I-4 corridor makes the two schools very attractive. Let the lobbying begin.
  3. Buzz Williams48-hour suspension from the Marquette basketball team has now ended, and the fiery coach will rejoin the team in preparation for Georgetown. Williams’ suspension stemmed from assistant coach Scott Monarch giving apparel and rides to a Golden Eagles recruit. Monarch, a close friend of Williams, was summarily fired. Williams was not found to have had any knowledge of the violations, but he took the school-sanctioned leave as the program is ultimately his responsibility. Marquette defeated UConn in overtime during Williams’ absence from the team.
  4. Pittsburgh‘s two losses to Michigan and Cincinnati had a very similar feel to them, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ray Fittipaldo outlines three major factors that hurt the Panthers in both games: a lack of rebounding in the second half, especially from the center position; struggles against talented, aggressive guards on the perimeter; and, opposing teams limiting the Panthers’ transition game.  If Pitt can’t solve these issues soon, the team will have major struggles in league play. Syracuse has a strong interior presence, Louisville has excellent high-energy guard play, and Georgetown will absolutely look to control the game’s tempo, just to name three teams who will look to take advantage of these weaknesses.
  5. Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters was asked about his all-time Big East team in his weekly mailbag. This is a fun exercise that I’m sure will come up on many sites and blogs this year, especially around Big East Tournament time. Waters weighs in on a number of Big East greats before settling on a strong starting five consisting of Sherman Douglas, Ray Allen, Chris Mullin, Derrick Coleman, and Patrick Ewing.  When a conference could have a second team of Allen Iverson, Kerry Kittles, Carmelo Anthony, Donyell Marshall, and Alonzo Mourning, you know that they’ve been doing something right for a very long time.
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