ACC M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 4th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. SBNation: Interesting post-mortem on the Duke-Syracuse instant classic and how the Orange zone forced Jabari Parker into some bad shots. But part of the issue was Duke’s offense, which often gives Parker the ball in a position where he’s forced to isolate. That isn’t to say that Parker shouldn’t learn to pass out of a double-team or recognize the long help-side defender, but Duke needs him — even against a zone — to remain aggressive because it opens up the floor for the rest of the team. Tyler Ennis was a different story — he lived at the free throw line (where he and Jerami Grant were really the difference in the game).
  2. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Speaking of Syracuse, the Orange were bailed out by Trevor Cooney in a big way last night. The sharpshooter went unconscious, knocking down 9-of-12 threes against Notre Dame in a game Syracuse only won by six points. CJ Fair regressed in the most painful kind of way, going 2-of-13 from the field en route to six points. The Orange need to get these performances out of their system now because they still have games at Pittsburgh, at Duke, at Virginia and at Florida State left to play. Seriously, those are arguably teams #2 through #5 in the ACC right now.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bad news out of Atlanta as Georgia Tech’s Solomon Poole has been dismissed from the team. That’s not to say he was a very important piece of the squad — he hadn’t played since early January — but his older brother Stacey is still on the team and he was the most obvious backup for Trae Golden, a player who had to sit out much of the game at Wake Forest with a groin injury.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Here’s a midseason evaluation of Virginia that could probably be more generous. I mean, this team is 8-1 in ACC play with a very legitimate shot to grab the top seed in the ACC Tournament (and is a mortal lock for a double-bye). Malcolm Brogdon has been tremendous in conference play, and a grade of a B seems really low for Joe Harris (though I suppose that depends on your expectations coming into the season).
  5. Baltimore Sun: Sure, you can get another nostalgic “I still think of Maryland as an ACC school and I’ll always think that way” quote from Roy Williams, but the real reason to read this article is the elite-level trolling that Seth Allen does at the bottom of the article: “North Carolina, without question, because it’s louder than Duke,” Allen said. “Duke is small — they’ve got the [Cameron] Crazies over there sticking their hands out. But North Carolina is just really loud.” Your move, Duke fans.
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Five Key Questions as Pittsburgh Heads to the Carrier Dome with Something to Prove

Posted by Matt Patton & Lathan Wells on January 18th, 2014

In anticipation of the new marquee ACC match-up this afternoon at 4:00 PM EST, microsite columnists Matt Patton and Lathan Wells ask each other the tough questions. Somehow, we only mention CJ Fair once.

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse's diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse’s diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

LathanTyler Ennis has proven to be a freshman beyond his years at the point, with a demeanor that belies his class. Can anyone disrupt him defensively and thus help stymie what Syracuse wants to do on offense?

Matt: Calling Ennis a surprise is disingenuous because everyone expected him to be really good. People just didn’t him to be this good this quickly. He’s made the offense more efficient by replacing Michael Carter-Williams, the current NBA Rookie of the Year front-runner. But Pittsburgh will likely try to make the freshman uncomfortable by sealing off the lane with face-guarding on the perimeter.

Pittsburgh has some of the best ball movement in the country (seventh nationally in assists per field goal made). How will Syracuse’s zone combat it?

Lathan: In short, the zone makes ball movement the key to staying in the game. Syracuse’s length across its lineup forces teams to keep throwing the ball around the perimeter and causing teams to hurry late in the shot clock to get a good shot. Establishing a solid high-low option is probably the key to having some sort of success on offense.

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College Basketball by the Tweets: A B1G/ACC Tie, UNC Plays Jekyll and Hyde…

Posted by David Harten on December 5th, 2013

bythetweets

So can anyone figure North Carolina out? Seriously, that’s a question. In the past four games, the Tar Heels have done what can only be deciphered as playing up (or down) to their competition, losing to Belmont at home before beating defending national champion Louisville, then losing to UAB before taking down the No. 1 team in the nation, Michigan State, on Wednesday night. So please, someone explain what makes this team act the way it acts. The Tar Heels’ tussle with the Spartans highlighted the two-day Big Ten/ACC Challenge, with the two conferences tying at 6-6 for the second consecutive year. When it was all over, the national focus was less on the tie and more on the fact that the Tar Heels have two wins over top five teams and two losses to unranked bubble teams.

Speaking of disappointing Michigan State performances, does anyone remember that Garrick Sherman spent the beginning of his career with the Spartans? Well, he’s at Notre Dame now, which everyone probably knows after the five-overtime thriller against Louisville last year, of which he didn’t play a minute of until the first overtime and still finished with 17 points. He’s proven a capable scorer as a fifth-year senior, putting up an event-high 29 points in a 98-93 Irish loss at Iowa. Read the rest of this entry »

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode IV

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 4th, 2013

Over the last 10 days I have been lucky enough to see multiple national contenders in person, specifically Arizona, Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky. Of those four teams, Arizona impressed me the most. While T.J. McConnell certainly adds another dimension to Sean Miller’s offense as a true point guard (something they sorely missed last year), the most convincing part of the Wildcats’ performance against Duke was their defense. That is the kind of effort that will enable Arizona to get to the point where it is playing championship-level basketball. Arizona still needs to find a consistent shooter (Nick Johnson or Gabe York could be that guy), but I really like its potential. As for Duke, I am actually optimistic that it will turn its defensive problems around (the Michigan win was a great start in that regard), but I am not sure the Blue Devils can get to the level needed to win a national championship. I really liked what I saw out of Michigan State when I saw it play against Oklahoma. Keith Appling led the way for the Spartans and I just love the blend of talent and experience on this roster. Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine seemed primed to take another step forward while Tom Izzo has three All-America candidates in Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne leading the team in scoring. One area of concern for Michigan State is its offensive rebounding, which has been uncharacteristically poor in the early-going. It’s something to keep an eye on, but remember, Izzo’s teams always get better as the season goes along. This one shouldn’t be any different. Of the four teams, Kentucky has the most room for growth. What I saw from Willie Cauley-Stein on Sunday night against Providence was something that makes the Wildcats very scary going forward. UK has NBA length up front and the talent to dominate inside the arc on both ends of the floor. Kentucky’s defense is not at an elite level just yet but this game provided us with a glimpse of what it can be. Mid- to long-range jump shooting is not a strength of this team but as long as it controls the paint and limits turnovers, John Calipari will have even more options to turn to.

Nick Johnson's Arizona team impressed in its win over Duke.

Nick Johnson and Arizona impressed in its win over Duke.

After taking the Battle 4 Atlantis title, Villanova rightly earned a spot in this week’s Top 25. The Wildcats have been the most impressive team in the Big East to date, a conference that has struggled as a whole out of the gate. While I did slot the Wildcats in my rankings at No. 19, I’m not ready to fully buy in just yet. I love this team’s toughness and chemistry from what I saw in Atlantis but there are some clear limitations that I have noticed, even in its wins. The turnover problems that plagued this team all of last season are still there, albeit not to the same degree. Turnovers absolutely kill offensive efficiency and Villanova simply cannot afford it on a continuing basis against better teams. Another red flag is their three-point shooting, currently at 31.4 percent. For a team that relies heavily on triples (44.7 percent of field goals attempted), that can lead to a lot of hit-or-miss games. The old saying of living and dying by the three certainly applies to Villanova, which was on the good side of that equation in Atlantis. I would like to see JayVaughn Pinkston become a better presence on the low blocks, something that would immediately open up Villanova’s offense and make it more versatile. Jay Wright’s squad is clearly a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but it’s not like it lacks talent. The Wildcats have put themselves on the map but I need to see more of this team before I jump on board. A stern non-conference test at Syracuse (how weird is that to say regarding these old Big East rivals?) will give the Wildcats a great test. From the looks of it, it’ll be bombs away from three-point land.

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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presents Giant Opportunity For Michigan

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 2nd, 2013

What to Make of Michigan Heading to Duke in the Headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Nobody ever said life after Trey Burke was going to be easy. Despite entering the season with both a top 10 ranking and preseason All-American (again) to lead the way, John Beilein had to know that this group of Wolverines would be a work in progress. Gone was not only the transcendent Burke, but also backcourt mate Tim Hardaway, Jr., a highly accomplished player in his own right. Also of concern: The fact that this year’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, entered the season on the mend. The bruising sophomore is recovering from a back injury, and even with a (relatively) healthy back a season ago, he had averaged only 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as he got acclimated to college basketball. Was he really ready to deliver All-American type production? Every team entered this season with question marks, but Michigan faced as many as any of their preseason top-10 cohabitants.

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

The Wolverines are now seven games into the season, and the top-10 ranking is gone. The same cannot be said for those pesky preseason questions. Michigan is 5-2 on the year, with an overtime victory over Florida State ranking as its lone victory of consequence (seriously, the average Pomeroy rating for the other four Wolverine conquests is 297). The back injury ultimately caused McGary to miss just two games, but his production since returning has hardly been like that of an All-American: 8.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 25 minutes per game. I’m not in the habit of judging a guy off of five post-injury games, but the jury remains out on whether McGary can live up to those expansive preseason expectations.

Nor has a verdict been offered on the Michigan point guard situation. Nobody expected Derrick Walton to become Trey Burke, but the freshman has averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.4 per game) as assists (3.3 per game), while also ceding crunch time minutes to backup Spike Albrecht. In the two Michigan losses (to Iowa State and Charlotte), Walton has averaged just 19 minutes a game. Clearly John Beilein is not ready to fully hand over the reins to the talented youngster, but like McGary, there’s still plenty of time for Walton to grow into his expected role.

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Syracuse’s Maui Title Speaks to Roster’s Versatility

Posted by Lathan Wells (@prohibitivefav) on November 29th, 2013

When you think about Syracuse, you automatically think about the zone. The Orange’s 2-3 zone defense has confounded opponents throughout Jim Boeheim’s tenure, and its uniqueness across the college basketball landscape makes it that much harder to prepare for. One of the keys to the zone is that there often appears to be holes, places for a team to look to operate with space. Instead, the length of the Syracuse defenders closes those holes quickly and converges on opponents with a tenacity that can make even the most seasoned teams struggle. This year’s Orange team, at least thus far, has operated as a sort of microcosm of its preferred method of defense. There appear to be weaknesses to exploit, and sometimes teams have had success doing so. But in the end, Syracuse, just as its vaunted 2-3 zone often does, has won, including hoisting this year’s Maui Invitational trophy on Wednesday.

Syracuse recovered from early-season struggles to take the Maui Invitational (credit: USAToday)

Syracuse recovered from early-season struggles to take the Maui Invitational (credit: USAToday)

Coming into the year, the team was concerned about replacing its perimeter core. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams, guard Brandon Triche and swingman James Southerland all left, either via graduation or early draft entry, leaving the team unseasoned on the outside. One of the keys was the development of shooting guard Trevor Cooney. Billed as a shooter coming out of high school, he’d failed to live up to expectations for the Orange early in his tenure. But Cooney has shown that he can explode at times, with a 27-point, seven three-pointer effort in the opener versus Cornell, five made triples against Minnesota in the opener of the Maui Invitational, and another 23 points against California in the semifinals of the same tourney. The problem is that at other times he’s been a non-factor, such as when he was 1-of-6 from the field in a win over Fordham or 1-of-5 from the arc against Colgate. Cooney’s consistent ability to stretch defenses with his perimeter game is a must for this team.

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ACC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: I’m starting to notice a trend with articles written about teams picked to finish in the bottom third of the ACC. Writers and coaches use phrases like “hope to compete” in lieu of buzzwords like “confident” or any mention of the league title. Miami is no different. The most impressive statistic Christy Chirinos drops at the start of this article is that the Hurricanes return one percent of their assists from last season. One percent. That’s insane. Luckily, Manu Lacomte may be the best player on Jim Larranaga’s roster, so assists may be the one area that Miami isn’t in huge trouble.
  2. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney have huge shoes to fill on defense. Jim Boeheim called Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams the best defensive backcourt he’s ever had (though Dion Waiters, Triche and Scoop Jardine wreaked all kinds of havoc on the perimeter too). As they lack the length of Carter-Williams and Triche, this might be another reason to hold back on buying too much Syracuse stock before the season gets going in earnest. Perimeter defense was the biggest reason Syracuse made the Final Four last year, so taking a step back on that front will definitely have a big impact.
  3. Baltimore Sun: While it’s true Mark Turgeon‘s team looked like a headless chicken on offense for much of last season, Maryland improved dramatically down the stretch. The team showed flashes of its potential in two big wins against Duke, though inconsistency still shone through. But it’s weird that people think Turgeon can’t coach. His teams at Texas A&M weren’t stacked with talent and most of them overachieved. Last year’s Maryland team lacked a true point guard, which combined with an inside-out approach for a turnover-prone halfcourt offense. This year should be better, though Seth Allen’s injury doesn’t help the Terps’ turnover problems.
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Jamie Dixon does a good job explaining the struggles of crafting a schedule here. Interestingly he points out that the 18-game conference schedule gives teams less flexibility with the non-conference schedule. Another tidbit he offers is that it’s much less (directly) lucrative to play a big school on national television at a neutral site. That surprised me a lot. Obviously there are exceptions (for instance, Duke makes far more money on its trip to Madison Square Garden than normal home games because the school promotes the event itself), but Dixon estimated neutral games are only worth $100,000 and home games are worth $500,000 in revenue. That’s a huge per-game difference.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow writes that Duke‘s athleticism this season will bring back memories of the teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There’s one thing missing though: great bigs. The national championship teams of those years had Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, two players with plenty of NCAA success between them. They’re also both really big guys. Amile Jefferson may be taller, but he’s at least 20 pounds lighter. However, if Jefferson can hold down the post without getting in foul trouble, Strelow’s comparisons may look very good.
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ACC M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 28th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Mike Waters does a good job reporting on CJ Fair’s decision to come back to Syracuse for his senior season. Fair was right on the edge of declaring for the draft. But between very mixed feedback from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee along with his father and coaches pushing for him to return, Fair ended up coming back. Fair’s inconsistent draft stock may have a lot to do with his previous role for Syracuse; while he was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last year, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche really ran the team. This year, with a freshman point guard in place, Jim Boeheim will need Fair to step into that first option role.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the worst three-point shooters in the ACC. The only two players who took over 100 threes but still finished in the bottom 10 were Rion Brown (29.2%) — Miami’s streaky, bright shoe shod, lone returning wing — and rising Syracuse sophomore Trevor Cooney (26.7%). Miami desperately needs Brown to become an efficient scoring option, as he’s essentially the only returning scoring option. Another player who made the list is Florida State senior Ian Miller, whose offense will also be in high demand this season.
  3. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: The latest in the “adjusting to the less physical ACC” articles out of Pittsburgh, Kevin Gorman’s takeaway will be a little more interesting to follow. He points to Jamie Dixon’s recent recruiting of stretch fours instead of the bruising power forwards of old as a sign of changing times. While it’s true many ACC schools have a forward capable of stretching the floor, it’s also true that many have a bigger lineup better off staying near the paint. However, the new rules also put a value on spreading the floor, which could also influence future recruiting.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: PJ Hairston may be in trouble with the NCAA but North Carolina fans understand how important he is for this team’s success. Despite (or because?) of his summer troubles, Hairston received the biggest ovation at Late Night with Roy last Friday before he went on to be the leading scorer in the scrimmage. But it’s still unclear for how long Hairston will be suspended. In other concerning news for the Tar Heel faithful, Roy Williams mentioned that the athletic department is also talking with the NCAA about Leslie McDonald‘s eligibility. If you recall, McDonald was shown on a website for a custom mouthguard company, leading to questions about his connection with that organization.
  5. KenPom.com: Ken Pomeroy’s preseason rankings are out. His methodology is pretty simple, although ACC fans may be upset with being the third-ranked conference in the country. Duke leads the way for the conference at sixth, followed closely by Syracuse (#9) and North Carolina (#10). Like myself, Pomeroy is bullish on Boston College (#37) this season. Virginia Tech (#154)? Not so much. I have a feeling Duke and Syracuse have pretty high Pomeroy-ian ceilings, as both lost a lot from last season, where I imagine Miami (#62) has a low cellar because of its stellar finish last season.
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ACC Team Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 23rd, 2013

The Syracuse Orange had a great season last year, largely overachieving on their way to a 30-10 record and a Final Four appearance. After struggling to an 11-7 conference record in the swan song for the mighty Big East Conference, they rode a wave of momentum behind their tenacious zone defense all the way to Atlanta where they fell to Michigan. Much of their overall success was due to senior leaders Brandon Triche and sixth man extraordinaire James Southerland. Losing these two seniors and play-making savant Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA Draft lottery removed much of the nucleus head coach Jim Boeheim relied upon in the 2012-13 season. However, Syracuse does return arguably the team’s most valuable and versatile player in C.J. Fair, who led the team in points and rebounds per game from the forward slot. Much of the team’s success this year will rely on Syracuse’s patented zone defense and Fair’s ability to shoulder an even larger offensive role without Southerland, Carter-Williams and Triche around to help shoulder the burden. There certainly will be a nice “shock factor” present in unleashing their vaunted defense against the rest of the new ACC this season that will have Boeheim cushioning his already exorbitant wins total.

syracuse-preview-2013

Returnees

  • Senior forward C.J. Fair: Widely considered one of the best players in the ACC. Should be in a compelling year-long battle for ACC Player of the Year with Virginia’s Joe Harris and Duke’s Jabari Parker. A second team all-Big East performer last season, Fair is a versatile and athletic leader for this Syracuse team. Big things are expected from the Baltimore native in a transition year for Syracuse athletics to the ACC.
  • Sophomore forward Jerami Grant: The 6’8” DeMatha alumnus is pegged by many analysts to have a breakout season. While he did not have a successful freshman season, he is a future project based on his rangy and lanky body type and the athleticism he has exhibited. He certainly has successful basketball genes in his family, seeing as his brother Jerian is a senior point guard star at rival Notre Dame and his father Harvey had a successful NBA career with multiple teams.
  • Redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney: This redshirt two-guard sure has no trouble scoring the basketball. He is a prolific shooter but needs to improve other facets of his game to secure his spot in Syracuse’s starting lineup. The Delaware native has two years of practice with Boeheim under his belt which should help his knowledge of the 2-3 zone and offensive schemes.

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20 Questions: How Will Syracuse Handle Depth at the Point Guard Position?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 15th, 2013

As usual, there will be no shortage of talent at Syracuse this season, but that’s not to say Jim Boeheim won’t be facing challenges with his newest collection of talent. A dearth of capable ball-handlers looms as the biggest hole in this Orange roster, meaning freshman Tyler Ennis better be ready to handle point guard duties from the get-go.  Still, even if Ennis is prepared to carry the load – and his prep resume would indicate that he is – the absence of a natural backup to the freshman is both puzzling and potentially problematic. One would think that finding a backup in the mold of a Spike Albrecht – a role player capable of playing five to 10 minutes a game at the point (dazzling title game shooting displays, optional) — wouldn’t be especially difficult for a program with as much reach as the Orange, and yet here we are in mid-October, with Duke transfer and natural wing Michael Gbinije resting second on the point guard depth chart. Mike Waters – a man quite familiar with the happenings around the Syracuse program – posited a few theories for why Boeheim is okay with that situation last week, but I’m not quite as eager to let Boeheim off the hook on this one.

Coach Jim Boeheim And The Rest Of The Orange Will Lean Heavily On Tyler Ennis This Season

Coach Jim Boeheim And The Rest Of The Orange Will Lean Heavily On Tyler Ennis This Season

Waters notes that Syracuse isn’t in the habit of recruiting backups, but in this era of the one-and-done superstar, we are seeing more elite programs stockpile talent throughout their rotations. Kentucky is the best example of this phenomenon, but top recruits across the country appear increasingly willing to bet on the stars starting above them to leave early for the NBA. So no, I don’t think tasking one of the best recruiters in the game with bringing in a well-regarded backup is an impossible challenge.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Syracuse Orange

Posted by BHayes on August 28th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

In many ways, the 2013-14 season looks to be business as usual at Syracuse. The roster is deep and talented, expectations are sky-high, and Jim Boeheim is manning the sidelines for the Orange. But you can rest assured that there will have never been a Syracuse basketball season like this one. The day is finally here – the Orange, charter members of the Big East conference, are now officially ACC constituents. Heading south with them are former Big East brethren Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The addition of these three formidable basketball programs makes the ACC, at least on paper, the toughest hoops conference in the land.

Jim Boeheim And CJ Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse's First Year In The ACC

Jim Boeheim And C.J. Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse’s First Year In the ACC

  • Team Outlook: Duke will undoubtedly be eager to remind the newbies that the ACC is its conference to rule, but Syracuse should be as poised as any foe to upend the Blue Devils. The Orange frontcourt is loaded, with junior and all-Big East second teamer C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) leading the charge. Surrounding Fair up front is a trio of high-upside sophomores. Rakeem Christmas (5.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG), DaJuan Coleman (4.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG), and Jerami Grant (3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) are all expected to see an uptick in production in year two, but of the three, it is Grant who has the best chance to quickly transform himself from role player into star. Junior Baye Keita (8.6 block percentage) will also see minutes up front, while Duke transfer Michael Gbinije and freshman B.J. Johnson will battle to find time in this crowded frontcourt. Not surprisingly, given the remarkable depth up front, the question marks for Jim Boeheim and the Orange all appear in the backcourt. Gone are Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, leaving Trevor Cooney as the sole backcourt returnee who saw any time a year ago. The sophomore is an engaged and capable defender, but will be expected to shoot the ball better from the outside this time around (he was just 27% from three as a freshman). He may also be tasked with handling some backup point guard duties, as there is no obvious reserve for presumptive starter Tyler Ennis. Ennis, a freshman from Ontario, California, may be the most important player on the Orange roster. With said deficit of ball-handlers, the consensus top-25 recruit will have the rock in his hands a whole lot, and what he does with it will go a long ways towards determining the fate of this Syracuse season. With all the talent around him he does not need to be nearly as dynamic as MCW was a year ago, but with few other options around, he most certainly has to play a solid floor game for the Orange to begin to tap their full potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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Season In Review: Syracuse Orange

Posted by mlemaire on May 16th, 2013

The 2012-13 college basketball season for the Syracuse Orange was nothing if not entertaining to watch and follow. Hopes were high after the team rattled off 18 wins in its first 19 games including a gutty road win over then-No.1 Louisville. The optimism faded quickly as off-the-court issues sprung up again, the team lost seven of its final 12 regular season games, and some began to wonder whether the Orange had quit. Of course the Orange made those people look foolish in the Big East Tournament by reaching the title game and then made the doubters really eat crow by cruising with relative ease all the way to the Final Four before losing to Michigan. The team heads for the ACC next season and coach Jim Boeheim’s future remains murky, but for now, Orange fans have reason to walk a little taller these days.

Preseason Expectations

Everyone agreed that the Orange were at least a half-class below Louisville in the preseason conference pecking order, especially considering they had lost three of their four leading scorers from a year ago and one of the conference’s best defenders in big man Fab Melo. Despite all of that, expectations were still high for the Orange who had plenty of talent to fill the holes and now had a year of college basketball experience. Both the coaches and our microsite picked the Orange to finish second in the conference and while the regular season didn’t shake out that way, the NCAA Tournament vindicated our predictions.

Michael Carter-Williams Was The Big Reason Syracuse Was So Good.

Michael Carter-Williams Was The Big Reason Syracuse Was So Good.

The Good

Even if you didn’t watch any Syracuse basketball you could still say that Syracuse’s defense was excellent and feel good about your chances of being right. Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense has become famous, but this year’s team was particularly well-suited for it. There may not have been a longer and more athletic team in the country than Syracuse and opponents did not enjoy trying to score against that zone, just ask Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen or Marquette in the Elite Eight. The Orange’s team defense is the reason the team made it all the way to the Final Four. If you are one who likes to nitpick, you could point out that Michael Carter-Williams turned the ball over too much and has a long way to go before he becomes a shooting threat. That still won’t change the fact that MCW (11.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 39.9% FG) was one of the best players in the entire country and a big reason why Syracuse was so successful this year. He was a difference-maker on both ends of the floor and in every facet of the game and opponents should be glad he has moved on to the NBA. Efficient senior seasons from Brandon Triche and James Southerland helped the Orange get over the rough stretches of the season and junior C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 47.0% FG) came into his own this season, especially in the NCAA Tournament when he was a two-way monster for the Orange.

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