"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Know your opponent: Syracuse

Is Sunday night's home tilt against the mighty Syracuse Orange a 'must win' for the Marquette Golden Eagles? With a UConn road game to follow and only three home games for the entire month of January -- it just might be.

The Orange roll into town with a record of 11-4, and 0-1 in the Big East after losing at home to Pittsburgh last week. Jim Boeheim's bunch is led by Demetris Nichlols. The 6'8" senior stepped up his game and is pouring in 19 points and grabbing better than five boards per game while leading the team in minutes played. Sophomore Eric Devendorf averages 12ppg, while super freshman Paul Harris is good for 11 ppg and 7 rebounds.

Though not deep, the Cuse is a balanced squad with six players averaging nine points per game. Defensively, the Orange will play their patented zone. The Cuse is holding opponents to less than 40% shooting on the season, including just 31% from downtown and 41% inside the arc.

OK, now its time for an expert fan's perspective on the Syracuse Orange. I want to thank rrlbees of the SyracuseFan.com community on the Scout network for joining us today and offering his perspectives on the Orange.

rrlbees is one of the moderators for SyracuseFan.com -- so let's take a look at his perspectives on the 2006-2007 Syracuse Orange:

Paul Harris was a prep school teammate of current MU freshman Lazar Hayward. How has he adapted to the Cuse system?
Harris has been good but has had some difficulty in transistioning to the college game in general, not necessarily the SU system. At 6'3 - 6'4 he isn't able to get inside at will and dominate like he did in high school. His game is that of a PF in a 2g's body. He is averaging 11 and 7 so he has contributed as well as expected for a frosh. Some SU fans were hoping for another Carmelo Anthony, but unfortunately there aren't many Melo's. Harris has provided a lift defensively. He is an intense defensive player which is something SU hasn't had in awhile. The area that is his biggest weakness is shooting the ball. Eventually he will get there because he has become a solid free throw shooter and you can see his jump shot just has a hitch in it that will eventually get worked out.

Does this team miss Gerry McNamara more or less than you thought they would. How so?
SU misses Mcnamara A LOT. Besides his clutch shooting, what they miss the most is his leadership and his ability to run the team. Many folks never thought of Gerry as a pure PG because he shot so much. But many games he would rack up 7-9 assists and he always knew where every player was supposed to be offensively. This year's team struggles some with the half court offense and that is because they are still trying to get used to life without Gerry. This is particularly true in end game situations. Maybe Boeheim was onto something when he said last year SU wouldn't have won 10 effing games without Gerry.

Which player has shown the greatest improvement year over year?
The two kids who have improved the most over the past couple years are small forward Demetris Nichols and center Darryl Watkins. Nichols has gone from 4ppg to 11ppg to 13ppg to averaging 19ppg his senior season. He was strictly a perimiter shooter but now has greatly improved his ability to take his man off the dribble and go to the basket. Watkins showed flashes of greatness toward the end of last season. He started out well this year then suffered an injury which slowed his progress. Watkins is now back and playing very well. He is a good defensive player and his offense is coming along. Against Pitt he shut down the preseason player of the year, Aaron Gray.

The Cuse rarely leaves the comforts of home in the pre-season...in your view, does that prepare the squad adequately for the Big East?
It's a matter of perspective. Coach Boeheim likes to play at home because he feels it helps get SU's younger players ready. But there is the side that thinks playing great teams on the road builds a certain toughness and makes them focus more. I'm not sure which is more effective but as a fan, I like playing good teams on the road. Part of the "never leaving the dome" is countered with the fact that SU plays in a lot of preseason tournies which are on neutral courts and often against quality teams. SU lost to Pitt the other night in the Big East opener, but if you look back SU always gets out of the gate quickly in Big East play, so I'm not sure Boeheim's strategy is necessarily wrong. I believe SU had won 7 straight Big East openers prior to the Pitt game.

What are the biggest areas of concern for this team right now?
The biggest area of concern with this team is no doubt their health, especially inside. Before the season started, backup center Arinze Onuaka injured his knee and was lost for the season. Then Watkins was hurt but has since come back. Starting power forward Terrence Roberts bruised his knee and missed a few games before returning versus Pitt. However, in the Pitt game he got hurt again and missed half of the game. The day before, Matt Gorman, who backed up both Watkins and Roberts, twisted his ankle and missed the Pitt game. He is qustionable for the Marquette game. What these injuries have done is cause SU to play small quite a bit and also having to play Nichols inside at the 4 spot a lot instead of on the wing. The injuries have basically made consistency in the inside game shaky at best.

The most pleasant surprises?
The most pleasant surprise is probably Andy Rautins. He has gotten more time than expected because of injuries and illnesses. He is a 2G who has a great outside shot (although it doesn't fall as much as we'd like in games). He is gaining more and more confidence in his shot with each passing game. But he is a very heady player who just has solid basketball instincts. He has also improved his defense quite a bit. He is the son of former SU star and NBA player Leo Rautins.

Eric Devendorf was one of the best freshman in the league last year. How has his game evolved.
Eric started off playing well, but then went into a "funk" due to some personal issues including a friend of his back home being shot. For a stretch of games he played poorly and lost his starting position to rautins. He is just now coming around and getting back to where he was last season. While he still is not back in the starting lineup, he has had back to back 17 point games.


Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm CST on Sunday night. The game is part of the ESPN Full Court package. Directv subscribers can view the game on channel 785.


Anonymous said...

The Syracuse game will be on MSG.

Anonymous said...

Anyone's tickets say 1 PM tipoff? I think there are going to be some ticked off people tomorrow when they get to the B.C. at 1 PM!

Anonymous said...

Student tickets say 11:00 AM.