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Archive for the ‘Syracuse Orange’ Category

I believe an NCAA mega conference expansion is inevitable.  I’ve also written that when everything shakes out I’d prefer that Syracuse become a member of the ACC.  I’ve been thinking through what I think will actually happen and now have predictions for the full mega conference expansion.  Because I think it is going to happen in phases, I am going to post it in phases.  I believe phase one will be the initial Big Ten expansion. 

As others have written, the Big Ten expansion is mostly about television markets.  Because of the Big Ten Network, universities that are featured in major televison markets stand to bring in a substantial amount of revenue for the existing programs in the conference.  The Big Ten can add a program that on its face doesn’t seem to bring a lot from a competitive standpoint, but because of the market that university operates in, can still bring in enough revenue to supplement the current annual Big Ten pay out per school of $20-22 million through new advertising and subscriptions.

The ultimate prize in the conference expansion is Notre Dame.  The huge NBC television contract and national popularity would greatly enhance revenue for any conference Notre Dame would join.  That impact would be even more substantial if the Big Ten can secure the Irish because of the Big Ten Network.  While I think Notre Dame will still resist this initial Big Ten expansion, I don’t think they’ll be able to stay away for long.  Their athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, has expressed the school’s desire to remain an independent.  However, he said in March, “You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand. It’s not hard to do.”  Swarbrick also said, “The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame.”

To me that means that if major programs start leaving the Big East, Notre Dame will likely be forced to follow suit.  So what does the Big Ten do to force Notre Dame’s hand?

I think the Big Ten will not jump directly to 16, although they would if Notre Dame was ready to join the conference.  I think the Big Ten will likely expand to 14 programs and invite three Big East schools – Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.  The Big Ten will add these three schools because:

  1. Each matches the academic profile of the conference.  Academic fit is extremely important to the Big Ten.
  2. They open up bigger television markets (New York, New Jersey and Pittsburgh).
  3. Their exit from the Big East will essentially cripple the conference and force each current member, especially Notre Dame, to make major decisions.

So what happens next?  Which conference will make the next move?  Look for my next post in a couple of days.

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So it’s been nearly 48 hours since the 2009-2010 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season ended.  I needed to give myself a cooling off period before writing my final words on the season.  Thursday night’s loss to Butler was incredibly frustrating…but before we go there, let’s give the boys their due. 

This season started with moderate hopes.  The Orange figured to be fighting for an NCAA tournament birth at the end of the season…an experience with which Syracuse University supporters are all to familiar.  But the season started and we quickly learned that this squad was much better than expected.  In sensational back-to-back evenings in mid-November the Orange dominated Cal and UNC to win the 2k Sports Classic.  We also discovered early that Wes Johnson was an incredible addition to the team.  The transfer’s athleticism, rebounding and shooting ability brought pure excitement.

Syracuse entered 2010 undefeated.  They would quickly lose though, during the second day of the new year at the Carrier Dome to Pittsburgh.  They would then regroup and win their next 11 games.  We watched Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson mature before our eyes.  All three became the players we could not have imagined they’d be.

This team was selfless and hard-working and having fun.  They ascended to a #1 ranking – the first time Syracuse had done so in 20 years.  What more could you ask for? 

Two late season losses and a first round exit (officially quarterfinals) from the Big East tournament cast doubt on this squad that had defied the odds.  As a result they were chosen as the fourth #1 seed in the NCAA tournament instead of the third #1 seed as expected.

But faith was restored on the first weekend of the Big Dance when the Orange safely eliminated Vermont in the first round and then blitzed Gonzaga in the second round even without the services of Arinze Onuaku.  The team we knew was back and so was Wes Johnson, apparently healed from the many injuries he had been battling.  He scored 31 points against the Bulldogs, pulled down 14 rebounds and dominated the beginning of the game.

Unfortunately it was not meant to be, as on Thursday night in Salt Lake City the Orange played their worst game of the year.  They looked like a bunch of nervous teenagers on the floor.  They threw the ball all over the place, they hurried shots and with the exception of a stretch in the second half they were not hustling on defense the way they had for most of the season.

Who’s to blame?  For me the answer is the coaching staff.  Here’s why:

1/ The players did not look ready to play in the first half.  It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to make sure that doesn’t happen.  All people are motivated by different things and the same is true for teams.  Whether it’s a “win one for the Gipper speech,” calm encouragement or individual pep talks, coaches need to know what their players respond to and certainly employ those tactics in the biggest games of the year.

2/ The players did not look prepared to play against Butler’s suffocating man-to-man defense.  They should have been completely prepped for that by the coaches.  There is no excuse for the players not being able to respond to Butler’s defense.  Syracuse plays in the Big East, they face teams that play that type of defense at least once a week if not twice a week during the regular season.

3/ The younger players do not receive enough in-game development.  Would it really hurt the team to go nine or ten deep and give some of the younger, depth players five minutes each a game?  With Arinze Onuaku going down this weakness was glaring.  DaShonte Riley was really not ready to play meaningful minutes.  He was just out there during the Gonzaga game and was pulled as soon as possible during the Butler game.  I love what Rick Jackson was able to do this year but let’s be honest, his play was awful against Butler.  He really hurt the team.  Kris Joseph was a ghost in that game.  In fact he wasn’t much better in the Gonzaga game.  He scored 11 points total in the last two games.  But was there really a single option to replace either of those guys?  No.  And why?  Because they were never developed.

Being that this is my last planned entry, I do want to thank the players that we will  no longer see wearing orange who made a sizable contribution while playing for Syracuse – Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson and Arinze Onuaku.  It was a pleasure to watch you gentlemen play.  And I also want to say that I am really looking forward to the offseason progress and watching the 2010-2011 team take the floor.

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For Orange fans this Saturday night game was a dream.  More than 34,000 people packed into the Carrier Dome and most got to see just what they were hoping for – a dominant win for Syracuse.  The game was played at a torrid pace with a lot of up and down action, especially in the first half.  The Orange put forth a huge 40-minute effort.  As you would expect the Box Score includes some impressive statistics for Syracuse:

  • The Orange had six players score 12 or more points.  Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine each had 16 points off the bench.
  • Syracuse won the rebound battle 48-36.  Included in those 48 rebounds are 22 offensive rebounds.  Eight of those offensive rebounds were pulled down by Arinze Onuaku who really pounded the glass in the second half.
  • Villanova shot less than 42% (28-67) from the field and less than 29% (8-28) from three point range.  Like Providence, Villanova started out warm with the three as Scottie Reynolds hit two early deep ones.  But, just like Providence, they then were fairly cold.  When the Syracuse zone is at its best it pushes their opponents back further and further behind the three point line.  They then continue to shoot from long range thinking it is an open shot, but not really realizing how far back they are behind the line.
  • And finally…turnovers…after a very shaky start the Orange did an excellent job of taking care of the ball.  They finished with a respectable 10 turnovers.  That number is especially impressive when you consider that the Wildcats’ opponents are averaging 15.7 turnovers per game and the Orange are averaging a Big East worst 15.3 turnovers per game.

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This game really felt like three games in one.  The Orange got off to a hot start and were up 24-11 less than six minutes into the game.  Then the Friars got strong three point shooting and the Syracuse defensive intensity dropped, resulting in Providence charging ahead to an eight point lead just after halftime.  In the third, and final, stanza the Orange stepped it back up on both sides of the ball, got a big lead with 10 minutes left in the game and cruised from there until the end.  Some interesting tidbits from the box score:

  • Whether it was bad defense or the result of a few hot hands, both teams really tickled the twine from behind the three point line.  The Orange were 10-21.  Most of the credit goes to Andy Rautins who was 8 for 12 from three point range.  Providence was 14-33 or 42.4%.  As always, Syracuse showed that they can be susceptible to a hot three point shooting team.  That’s just the risk you take playing a 2-3 zone.
  • The Orange were impressive on the boards, winning the total battle 37-24, and pulling in 17 offensive rebounds to the Friars’ 8.
  • Syracuse took care of the ball better in this game with a reasonable 12 turnovers.
  • Besides Andy Rautins and his hot shooting, huge props go to stat sheet stuffer Rick Jackson who had 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.  He shot 13 of 17 from the field.

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Wow…what a game.  As good as the Orange looked in the first half, they looked just as bad in the second half.  Of course the officiating was ridiculously uneven as well.  As usual box score analysis shows some keys to the game:

  • I don’t think I’d believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.  Syracuse shot 90% from the free throw line, making 27 out of their 30 shots.  That was huge.
  • The Orange also made eight of their 15 three point shots.  The Hoyas shot a cold 20% behind the three point arc, 5-20.
  • Andy Rautins and Wesley Johnson played big.  Rautins had 26 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.  Johnson had 16 points 8 rebounds 5 blocks and 3 assists.
  • Why was it so close in the end?  The Orange shot a dreadful 33% in the second half and had 18 turnovers in the game.  Turnovers are really starting to be a problem for this team.

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What a frustrating game to watch for Orange fans.  The team did just enough to stay ahead for most of the game, but could never string together multiple quality possessions and put Louisville away.  As a result the Cardinals rallied in the second half and got the win.  Obviously if Syracuse is going to reach the levels of success expected of them based on their play earlier in the season they are going to have to improve greatly.

Interestingly, as I look at the box score there are not a lot of points of separation between the two teams, but there are a few statistics worth mentioning:

  • Wesley Johnson continues to struggle.  Watching the game it was clear that he was not comfortable shooting.  It looked like he was always fading one way or another.  He finished the game 5-20 and 2-7 from three point range.  For the Orange to make a substantial NCAA tourney run Wes is going to have to get his touch back.
  • The Cardinals did just what the Orange wanted them to…they took 30 three pointers and only made nine.
  • Syracuse could not find the touch from three point range either.  They shot just over 26% at 5-19.
  • After some time there was another Mookie Jones siting.  He played three minutes, during most of which he seemed completely lost.

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While last night’s game got a little too close for comfort at the end, the final result for the Orange was certainly satisfying.  It was a good win against a Connecticut team that may have played their best game of the season.  For excellent comprehensive recaps of the game I’d encourage you to visit the Orange::44 blog (which includes a detailed explanation of the controversial timeout call) and The Axeman blog

There are a number of things that jump out at me when looking at the box score:

  • The first of two key stats that made the biggest difference in the game to me is Syracuse shooting 23 of 28 from the free throw line.  On the season the Orange are shooting 66% from the charity stripe so knocking down 82% last night in a tight game was huge. 
  • The second critical statistic is the 12 blocks the Orange had…that’s five more than their season average per game.
  • Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins were a combined 5-18 from the field including 2-9 from three point range.  That Syracuse could withstand a shooting night like that from Johnson and Rautins and still win is an excellent sign.  But like they kept saying during the broadcast last night – Syracuse is the only team in the nation with seven different players that have scored 20 or more points in a game.
  • The Orange had 20 turnovers, 13 of which were Connecticut steals.  To me taking care of the ball is an area of concern with this team.  Sure they can get away with 20 turnovers against UConn but that is not likely to be the case against the big boys.

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