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It's an Honor Just to be Nominated

If losing is par for the course, Syracuse -- and anything mildly associated with the Orange -- is at least four-under.

The 2006 College Football Blogger Awards is now at its apex; nominations have concluded, the voting is complete, and the roster of winners is slowly, yet surely, making its way through the college football universe.

This notebook, appropriately, was nominated in a single category: The Job Award. Designed to honor faithfulness in the face abject failure, the award epitomizes the inherent purpose and valor of college athletics.

Fittingly, Orange:44 failed to take home the hardware. Doug Gillett, Georgia partisan and author of the canonical Hey Jenny Slater wrangled high honors in the category. The defeat is not surprising in and of itself -- I was torn between voting for Doug or Ian Cohen's Virginia FanHouse -- but the fact that enough people sympathized with this notebook's collegiate affiliation is heartening.

I think.

Anyway, a hearty "congratulations" to Doug. And to everyone who took time out of their day to cast a ballot for this notebook, "thank you."

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I'd feel bad about this loss if I wasn't this big and going home to the twins.

This was by no means a bad loss in losing to #19 Notre Dame, but this was a bad loss in terms of reality. The team allowed 61 points in the first half and 103 total. As my friends would say, “are you joking?!”

We lose when we allow 11 three pointers to fall for ND. In years past we have stuck with the zone through the whole game, surviving at the Joyce center several games by letting them shoot themselves out of the game in the second half. This did not happen in this game as ND’s offense continued to be consistent down the stretch. They managed to close a game, unlike the Orange.

It is also a fairly sure bet then when Eric Devendorf does not score any points we will probably fall short. 0-6 from three point territory and 0-11 field goals in 26 minutes is a pretty poor outing. At least he only committed two turnovers. Scoring is the enemy of losing.

We, once again, committed more turnovers then Notre Dame. Josh Wright and Paul Harris combined for half of the 16 we committed. Paul, I again will tolerate because he is a freshman and basically building his resume as a four year player/lottery pick if he is lucky. Wright, on the other hand, continues his campaign as the teams ATM. Outstanding job handling the ball boys.

Nichols performed admirably contributing 29 points, including three baskets from behind the arc. A solid effort, but with no supporting cast it still leads to a loss.

Terrence Roberts contributed 20, but again Syracuse cannot live on D&T alone. Devendorf and Wright need to contribute as well, along with the Canadian Sensation Andy Rautins, if we hope to win against top competition in the Big East.

We had more rebounds then Notre Dame, however converting these rebounds was the key, which of course didn’t happen, especially for Devendorf.

All in all a disappointing defensive effort, coupled with offensive woes that The ‘Cuse just couldn’t overcome. I mentioned in the last essay that this team needed a serious dose of heart and leadership. It appears that going against #19 Notre Dame was not the game to try that. Now the team needs heart, leadership, and a big dose of consistency. Field goal droughts, Devendorf scoring zero, and Nichols hating play in the Big East are all the enemies of this team right now. The team needs to play with hustle, but playing intelligent basketball that maximizes the possessions they have. While the team struggles to find out who they are and what they are made of, the rest of the Orange Nation wonders if we can stand seeing a team in the NIT. Losing in the first round is tough enough, but to not make the tournament or have 20 wins might be a bigger shock and create more of an outrage. Of course it is not like Boeheim is in danger of losing his job. Matt Glaude will break down the major implications for the teams tournament status, but as of right now we are in danger of ending up for way too many games in Madison Square Garden.

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These kids are really starting to piss me off.
I should have known better. No less then three of my friends asked me before this weekend, “Hey do you think we’ll win on Saturday?” I replied with my usual honesty that yes, I thought we had a good chance of winning. Louisville was looking like they were on a down swing, and I really thought we had the chance to bounce back from St. John’s, all while being motivated by Boeheim’s 1,000th game. I hate being wrong to my friends.

The bad from this game is immense. A field goal drought of over nine minutes in the second half. This is what Jim Boeheim himself would say is “un-fucking-believable.” With a team as “talented” as Syracuse is on paper we sure looked like a Mid-Major team in the second half. No, not one of the good ones. We couldn’t buy a basket and it was more frustrating then a lot of things are on a Saturday night.

We were outrebounded. We looked defeated last night before the final horn. Desperation threes, no hustle, and no heart were our trademarks Saturday night. I’ll expound on this later in the essay, but we played like this game didn’t matter, or we did not need a win. This is not the way you can play in the Big East.

Turnovers lose ballgames. We committed 17 to their 11. Sloppy inbound passes, poor dribbling choices, passes out of bounds, and fancy moves that result in looking foolish caused us to make 17. Somebody needs to sit these kids down to watch Boeheim On Basketball. This is still the most disturbing trend for the Orange, and one that is most indicative of success.

Devendorf played well. Every time I thought he had a good outlet pass he simply drove the lane and scored at will (before the 10 minute mark in the second half). He looked sharp, played smart basketball (when not turning the ball over) and generally had a nice outing, scoring 18 points off the bench.

Terrance Roberts looked fantastic in the first half. He was shooting well, making moves on the basket, following shots, and generally being dominant like he is supposed to be. I like that. Too bad it didn’t continue.

Darryl Watkins also played excellent defense in the game. He is finally becoming a center that can block and play position in a competent manner. He even got a little love from The Sporting News recently. It was not enough however.

Can someone explain to me why we waited to foul Louisville with under a minute, but only after letting the shot clock wind down 30 seconds? Shouldn’t we have just fouled them early and maybe try to mount a comeback? Is anyone with me on this?

All in all a poor basketball night. The game started off great, and we had a nice 12 point lead in the contest before the wheels fell of the wagon, which made it all the most frustrating. What this team needs is a nice healthy dose of heart. This team should start watching Friday Night Lights for a little “clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.” The reason our season is unraveling is we are not playing quality team basketball. There is no clear leader on this team. It should be Nichols, or hell even Devendorf, but someone needs to take responsibility for this boondoggle so far, right the ship, and lead this team the rest of the way. Jim Boeheim is doing his part, I’m sure. I’m sorry he couldn’t get that 1,000th game to be a W. At least he won number 700. Also, let’s all hope we can get a quality win against Notre Dame in the Dome on the U.

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Notre Dame -- Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: ESPNU = Bush League

How important is transition to Syracuse?
In a word: Inconsequential.
A lot has been made recently about the Orange's lack of pace over its last two games (St. John's and Louisville). In those two defeats, Syracuse, seemingly, failed to play at its preferred tempo. The reality, however, is that Syracuse played these games at an average adjusted tempo of 71 possessions.
On the season, Syracuse is averaging an adjusted tempo of 71.8 possessions per game.
The Orange's season performances in losses reinforces this fact. In Syracuse's six losses, the pace of play has averaged 69.5 possessions. The question, therefore, is what is the defining factor for Syracuse in the context of success and defeat.
A reasonable argument lies in the difference between offensive and defensive turnover percentage. While subjectively strong, the relationship is tenuous at best. When Syracuse has turned over its opponents, the Orange has strengthened its defensive efficiency, yet the ability for Syracuse's guards to value the basketball has not had the impact on success as one would reasonably anticipate.
The most important aspect for one to consider is Syracuse's offensive effective field goal percentage. Specifically, when Syracuse shoots the ball well -- regardless of how well its opponents convert -- the Orange are tough to stop. Unfortunately, the stats support such a conclusion.
On the season, Syracuse has registered an offensive effective field goal percentage under 50 eight times. The Orange lost all but three of those contests (the victories came against St. Francis (NY), Texas El-Paso, and Marquette). In Syracuse's lone defeat in which the Orange shot above the 50.0 mark (Oklahoma State), Syracuse lost because it was destroyed on the defensive glass.
In short, if Syracuse is knocking down its attempts -- whether in transition or otherwise -- the Orange is going to win far more often than it will lose. The key, accordingly, is to find ways for Syracuse's best converters from the field (Demetris Nichols, Terrence Roberts, Eric Devendorf, and Watkins) to get better looks on the floor.

As always, for an exhaustive explanation of Pomeroy's methodology and statistical theory, this link may be a useful resource.

When Syracuse is on Defense

Notre Dame Offense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %55.121
T/O %19.244
Off. Reb. %37.069
FT Rate32.421

Syracuse Defense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %43.19
T/O %20.5232
Off. Reb. %36.0262
FT Rate26.616

No matter how well a zone defense is played, the strategy is susceptible to defeat in two instances: against solid outside shooting and interior offensive rebounding.

Unfortunately for the Orange, Notre Dame does both very well.

Led by seniors Colin Falls and Russell Carter, the Irish are one of the most perimeter-oriented teams in the country (54th in 3PA/FGA). Converting on 39.0 percent of its long-distance attempts, the Irish are exploiting the theory governing effective field goal percentage. Thus, unlike recent editions of the Irish, Notre Dame is cashing on its offensive philosophy of shooting from deep early and often.

Augmenting Notre Dame's ability to convert from behind the arc is the Irish's ability on the offensive glass. With only four players under 6' 7", Notre Dame has crashed the glass and wiped them pretty clean. This has led to numerous second-chance attempts, which has undoubtedly effected the team's two-point shooting percentage (52.9 percent on the season).

The question, therefore, is how Syracuse can combat this twofold attack. The Orange has performed well against perimeter-oriented clubs (Syracuse's opponents are only cashing in on 31.2 percent of its three-point attempts while registering a astronomical 39.0 3PA/FGA value). Against Notre Dame, however, Jim Boeheim's zone defense may not have enough juice to neutralize the Irish attack considering how well Notre Dame has crashed the glass (as noted above, Syracuse is in the bottom of the country in defensive offensive rebounding percentage).

The solution: a little more man-to-man defense. Syracuse has premised its reputation on sound zone defense and, accordingly, should not simply abandon it because the Orange is playing a sound perimeter club. However, a little defensive variety -- whether it be through some timely full court pressure or otherwise -- may disrupt the Notre Dame attack.

In short, the less comfortable the Irish feel from the outside, the better chance Syracuse has at victory.

When Syracuse is on Offense

Syracuse Offense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %52.484
T/O %22.2180
Off. Reb. %35.2117
FT Rate33.114

Notre Dame Defense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %47.271
T/O %22.3144
Off. Reb. %28.113
FT Rate31.070
Last season, Notre Dame was one of the worst defensive clubs in the country. While not the sole reason for the Irish's woeful performance in 2005-2006 (a lack of interior play played a major role in the team's struggles), it surely did not help.
Fast forward to 2006-2007 and the Irish have become a pretty good defensive team. It has markedly improved its ability on the defensive glass (up over five percentage points from last season), and has improved its on-the-ball defense. The end result is a defense that will not lose Notre Dame games this season.
To beat this defense, Syracuse is going to have its worked cut out for it. The Orange has not relied on its outside ability much this season (Syracuse is ranked 177th in 3PA/FGA). Yet, Syracuse is cashing in on 37.7 percent of its long-distance attempts. As Notre Dame is not particularly adept at limiting three-point conversions (235th in defensive three-point shooting percentage), the Orange has the opportunity to exploit the Irish defense and give Mike Brey a taste of his own medicine.
However, given Syracuse's recent offensive woes, relying on three-point attempts is not going to win the game for Syracuse. The best chance Syracuse has is for its frontcourt to really emphasize the offensive glass and convert underneath. For whatever reason, the Orange has gone away from Roberts and Watkins late in games and, consequentially, has struggled. A solid empahsis on the team's inside play should reap rewards.

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The sky is not falling yet, but it is getting pretty dark.

Two heartbreaking losses in the span of six days has dulled Syracuse's consideration for tournament inclusion. However, the losses are not irreparable; over the Orange's final slate of nine contests, Syracuse will face seven clubs with RPI values within the nation's top 100.

The moral of the story: put down the bleach and razor blades.

Resume and Factors of Relevance
The foregoing data is accurate only to the date and time of publication. As this feature will not receive a daily update (rather, a weekly update will take place), its particular factual accuracy should not receive great weight as the week subsequently passes. However, it should stand as a solid indicator of what Syracuse has accomplished this season and what the Orange must yet achieve in order to secure another NCAA Tournament invitation.

With respect to the status variables included, each variable relates to one of five possible states of affairs:

  1. Great;
  2. Good;
  3. Adequate;
  4. Troubling; and
  5. Terrible.

Status variables ranging above "adequate" indicate facts and circumstances conducive to receiving a bid. Status variables ranging below "adequate" indicate facts and circumstances of concern -- relative to the rest of the nation, Syracuse needs to improve its position. The status variable of "adequate" indicates a hold position -- depending on what other colleges or universities accomplish, Syracuse's current status may or may not be good enough to merit an invitation.

Resume and Factors of Relevance
Factor of RelevanceFactor ValueStatus
Big East Record4-3Adequate
Non-Conference Record11-3Adequate
National RankNoneTroubling
Pomeroy Rank44Adequate
Syracuse RPI47Adequate
Big East RPI7Troubling
Non-Conference RPI57Troubling
Overall SOS31Good
Non-Conference SOS80Adequate
RPI 1-50 Record2-2Adequate
RPI 51-100 Record3-3Adequate
RPI 101-200 Record6-1Good
RPI 200+ Record4-0Great
Last 10 Games6-4Troubling
Road/Neutral Record3-3Troubling
Solid Victories1. Villanova
2. Marquette
3. Hofstra
4. Holy Cross
5. Penn
Detrimental DefeatsSt. John'sAdequate
Projected Record20-10Adequate
Projected BE Record9-7Adequate
Total Invitation StatusAdequate

Invitation Status Downgrade
The downgrade is primarily attributable to three factors: 1) Losing to St. John's on the road (Syracuse's first defeat to a team ranked outside the RPI top 100); 2) The Orange's 6-4 "Last 10" record; and 3) The static nature of the Big East's standing relative to the rest of the country.

Despite the downgrade from "good" to "adequate," Syracuse stands in a fairly good position relative to the rest of the nation. Despite the two consecutive losses, the Orange fell only seven positions in the RPI. However, its overall strength of schedule ranking remained steady while its non-conference strength of schedule rose seven positions. Moreover, it's non-conference RPI value also rose considerably.

What does this mean? Well, in short, if Syracuse can maintain is projected pace, the Orange's final RPI and strength of schedule values should be consummate with those of tournament-invited clubs.

The logic behind such a position is fairly straightforward and tied directly to the formulas designed to calculate such values.

With respect to the RPI, the formula utilized looks as follows:

1/4*(Winning Percentage) + 1/2*(Opponents' Average Winning Percentage) + 1/4*(Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage)

Given the fact that the formula puts such a strong emphasis on opponents winning percentages, Syracuse should complete the season with a strong RPI value. In pertinent part, as more than half of Syracuse's opponents this season are projected to finish with 19 wins or more this season, the formula should play to the Orange's advantage (assuming, of course, that Syracuse does not implode over its final nine contests).

Similarly, the strength of schedule formula also benefits the Orange:

(2/3) Opponents Winning Pct. + (1/3) Opponent's Opponents Winning Pct

As noted above, Syracuse should take advantage of this formula as its slate looks to be one of the tougher in the country.

In short, worrying about the RPI right now is the least of Syracuse's worries. What the Orange needs to do currently is improve its conference record and its overall record. If Syracuse should finish with at least 20 wins and around 10 conference victories, the Orange should merit invitation consideration despite the lack of "marquee" victories.

Last 10 Games
Position is exactly the same as last week. Syracuse simply needs to make a good showing down the stretch. A home victory Tuesday against Notre Dame would be an excellent start.

However, if Syracuse sticks to its predicted path, the Orange will close out the regular season with a 4-6 record "last 10 games" record. Clearly, a run into the Big East Tournament would be necessary to merit stronger consideration.

Who To Root For
Three teams: St. John's, Villanova, and Marquette. These are, respectively, the Orange's worst loss and best victories. Mitigating the damage and elevating the positives would certainly do some good.

General Fodder

  • At this stage, I am not sure why Texas is generally considered to be a tournament club. Its marquee victories are Arkansas and Oklahoma (two average teams) and its quantitative values are weaker than Syracuse's. Unless the Longhorns do something markedly impressive over its final 10 games, Texas should not have a stronger shot at the tournament than Syracuse.

  • Connecticut is destined for the NIT. It is just that simple. Connecticut's only saving grace for the season is that it will defeat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome as I will be in attendance for the Orange-Huskies contest on February 17th.

  • Barometer Team To Watch: Southern Illinois. The Salukis are the poster boys of why people both love and despise the RPI and strength of schedule formulas.

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Syracuse-Louisville Preview

Syracuse students agree: Matt Glaude needs to work today.

If you're a professional in the world of accounting, you obviously know the joys of "busy season." Since I am stuck in the office for the majority of the day, there is no time to put together a standardized preview. Instead, I'll simply link to the applicable material and you can run your own analysis.

Louisville Scouting Report

Louisville Game Plan

Syracuse Scouting Report

Syracuse Game Plan

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2007 Syracuse Lacrosse Preview: Midfield

One more run for the "Orange Fox."

Eds. Note: This essay is the second in a five-part series examining the 2007 edition of the Syracuse Orange. An index of previous and subsequent installments can be found here.

Bold: 2007 Projected starter
*: Preseason Inside Lacrosse All-America
^: Transfer

2007 Syracuse Orange Midfield
Returning PlayersD. BiegelSr.
D. BrennanSr.
C. HammondSr.
J. JeromeSr.
G. Rommel*Grad.
S. BabblesJr.
S. Brooks*Jr.
J. Carrozza^Jr.
D. DidioJr.
M. HattonJr.
B. LoftusJr.
M. MacDonaldJr.
M. AbbottSo.
P. Perritt*So.
S. Van SchaackSo.
Incoming PlayersM. BartigFr.
L. CavalieriFr.
J. CoulterFr.
C. DanielloFr.
W. DanielsonFr.
G. JenkinsonFr.
N. TuckerFr.

Syracuse's defense has dominated much of the early season headlines, but the true depth and talent on the Orange roster likely lies in its midfield unit. Dotted with three preseason Inside Lacrosse All-Americans, Syracuse's offensive guru Kevin Donahue has at his disposal a myriad of offensive options in 2007.

Unfortunately, little information has emanated from the Lampe Athletic Complex regarding Syracuse's midfield line composition for 2007. Given last season's performances, however, the following represents a reasonable estimation of how the Orange will look at the midfield this year:

2007 Syracuse Orange Midfield Lines
First LineG. RommelGrad.
S. BrooksJr.
P. PerrittSo.
Second LineM. AbbottSo.
S. BabblesJr.
M. BartigFr.
Third LineB. LoftusJr.
M. HattonJr.
M. MacDonaldJr.

Recruiting is clearly the lifeblood of any good lacrosse program. In Syracuse's case, however, Greg Rommel's return from season-ending injury may be the most important addition to the Orange roster in 2007.

As Syracuse defenseman Dustin Palmer notes, Rommel's absence from the field in 2006 not only effected the Orange's offensive efficiency, but his return has buoyed Syracuse's opportunities for success in 2007:
[Rommel's injury] was a huge loss. When you lose someone like that, it’s a focal point of opposing defenses and a midfielder of that caliber you don’t see very often.

* * * * *

He’s a guy who has been there for four, five years. He’s got tons of experience. He’s veteran on the field. He takes us through practice and he helps us out as much as he can. It’s a huge help having someone like that back.
Mike Leveille, Syracuse's All-World attackman, echoed Palmer's sentiments:
Greg would have been a big loss for us if he hadn’t come back, with his leadership and him being familiar with everything here.
Rommel has all the tools to take Syracuse to great heights in 2007. Armed with a potent shot, an innate ability to dodge from both behind the crease and from the top of the offensive box, and a nose for delivering laser-sharp passes, Rommel is the total offensive package. He is a legitimate Tewaaraton Trophy candidate and will ultimately make the players around him better.

He is the "Orange Fox;" a field marshal with all the tools necessary to direct an offensive attack indicative of his tank-wielding namesake.

Not to be lost amongst all the excitement surrounding Rommel's return is the return of his linemates -- Steven Brooks and Pat Perritt. Like Rommel, Brooks sat out last season due to injury. His quickness and nose for finishing plays (Brooks finished fourth on the team in scoring in 2005) will provide instant matchup problems for opponents.

In short, if Brooks can consistently beat the short-stick midfielders marking him, stopping the Syracuse offense may prove to be impossible.

Perritt -- a bona fide superstar at any other college or university -- is midfielder that evokes memories of former Syracuse great Paul Gait. His "upside" is as high as any player currently on Syracuse's roster and has so many skill attributes that this notebook fails to maintain the internet real estate necessary to list them all.

The offense will not run through Perritt, but his presence on the field will be recognized on a game-to-game basis.

While Syracuse's first line evokes memories of Syracuse lacrosse past, the most important aspect of this unit is its depth. Matt Abbott has impressed the coaching staff since his enrollment last season and performed fairly admirably as a member of Charlie Lockwood's "Upstate" squad during Team USA's exhibition slate. Abbott still needs to grow into his body, but can hold his own against Syracuse's opponents this season.

The big question facing Syracuse this season, though, is whether freshman phenom Max Bartig or junior Brendan Loftus will step onto the Orange second line midfield. Loftus came to the Salt City with high expectations but has not performed as well as anticipated. He has been a solid, if not underappreciated, contributor during his tenure, yet has not taken the step forward his is capable of making.

Thus, the door is open for Bartig to run with Syracuse's second line. As noted previously, Bartig is likely to see time at both attack and midfield. With his abilities, Desko will find a way to get Bartig on the field; it is simply a matter of the particular capacity.

Impact Potential: Necessary
Most Important Player: Rommel
Player to Watch: Perritt

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2007 Syracuse Lacrosse Preview: Attack

Boom goes the dynamite!

Eds. Note: This essay is the first in a five-part series examining the 2007 edition of the Syracuse Orange. An index of subsequent installments can be found here.

Bold: 2007 Projected starter
*: Preseason Inside Lacrosse All-America
^: Transfer

2007 Syracuse Orange Attack
Returning PlayersD. BiegelSr.
M. Leveille*Jr.
M. MacDonaldJr.
D. Hardy*So.
G. NiewieroskiSo.
K. NimsSo.
Incoming PlayersM. BartigFr.
C. DanielloFr.

Evan Brady -- regarded as one of the stronger on-the-ball defenders dotting Syracuse's roster this season -- may have summed up the 2007 attack best:
[Syracuse has] three attackmen that are probably the best in the country and the three backing them up they could play at any other school in the country.
Granted, Syracuse's 2007 attack line may not rise to the historic level of some of the game's most recent incarnations (Princeton's 1996-1998 unit of Jesse Hubbard, John Hess, and Chris Massey is probably the greatest the game has ever witnessed), but the Orange should not have any problem generating production from its front three.

After a year of playing with a sports hernia, All-Everything attack Mike Leveille is back this season to regain his 2005 form. As Syracuse head coach John Desko notes, the senior captain's play will ultimately dictate how well the unit performs throughout the season:
“He’s one of our captains and our leading point returner so there will be a little bit of pressure on him for that but he’s got some guys that will really help him out. I think one of the things that Michael’s always done is he’s always picked things up very quickly. He understands all his positions so being a captain, being a guy back with a lot of experience, it’s very easy for him to tell guys where to go on the field. He’s like having another coach out there and he’s done a terrific job.”
Joining Leveille on attack will likely be sophomores Kenny Nims and Dan Hardy. Nims and Hardy both have incredibly high ceilings, and if either can tap into their potential this season, Leveille's potency as a scorer will elevate even higher.

Syracuse fans saw flashes of Nims' and Hardy's ability last season, albeit in the midfield. This year, however, Desko and offensive guru Kevin Donahue have moved Hardy and Nims back to their natural positions in close. The end result, at least according to sophomore midfielder Pat Perritt, is a multi-faceted look at attack:
We have Dan Hardy and Kenny Nims back at attack. They like dodging from behind and they can both feed the ball, so I think it’s going to be scary with the shooters we have up top and down low.
Considering how much Nims and Hardy contributed to the Orange's post season run last year, there is little evidence indicating that either will drop off their production in 2007.

And if Hardy fails to mature this season, many will question whether his decision to don the fabled "22" jersey was the correct one.

The two "x-factors" effecting whether Nims and/or Hardy will join Leveille on attack are sophomore Greg Niewieroski and freshman phenom Max Bartig. Each has the talent to contribute on either attack or in the midfield, but both are probably most suited playing in close.

Bartig, clearly Syracuse's most anticipated freshman contributor for 2007, has all the tools necessary to play this season, yet may not find time on attack due to the logjam ahead of him. As Desko notes:
“Max has done a good job especially for a freshman. He is very much like Mike Leveille. He picks things up very quickly and lacrosse is really turning into a thinking man’s game both on offense and defense with so many packages of zones, man-to-man’s, shutoffs, and you have to be aware of what the other team is doing. Max is one of those guys who can recognize that quickly.”
As a consequence, it would not be surprising to see Bartig running on one of Syracuse's midfield lines and serving as a secondary option on attack should either Nims or Hardy falter.

With respect to Niewieroski, the redshirt sophomore may just be the most underappreciated options on the team. Lost last season due to an incredibly regrettable incident on Marshall Street, Niewieroski is apparently back in solid playing form. His inherent versatility and size provide preferable matchups for the Orange. Moreover, his veteran presence may prove invaluable given the amount of young talent Syracuse intends to play this season.

In short, Niewieroski is going to play this season, it is just a matter of where and how much. As it stands currently, Niewieroski may just be the Orange's best option as an extra attacker in man-up situations.

Impact Potential: High
Most Important Player: Hardy
Player to Watch: Bartig

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Don't think I didn't bring a gun with me.
I’m kidding of course. I’m not abandoning SU Basketball now or ever. But it is fun to pretend. Plus I do really love lacrosse. That being said, time for some analysis of what went horribly wrong for the Orange in the building they have owned the last two years.

Turnovers. Do I really need to keep harping on this point? When the team turns the ball over in high numbers we have less of a chance to win. Syracuse committed 15 turnovers. The favorite ATM, yours and mine, contributed only two, while Devendorf committed the team high five. I feel like Jim Boeheim; if you don’t know that this is a problem by now I have no idea how to tell you at this point.

We were out rebounded. It was only by 2, but it still happened. That cannot and should not happen against teams of the same ilk as St. John’s. It cannot happen.

Syracuse could not buy a free throw on Sunday. Going only 4-14, this translated to a dismal 28.6%. Terrence Roberts only hit one out of nine. I’m not blaming the loss on this fact completely, however…it is pretty hard not to. Roberts has shot better all season, making the majority making 11 of 13 in the past four games. He was shooting 51.8% from the free throw line on the season until Sunday. Now he falls to 45.9% on the season. It is a shame he made this regression in a building that the Orange have been fantastic in lately.

Nichols saw his allergies acting up against a perennial Big East rival. St. John’s is a team that should have been outmatched by Syracuse. He made 5-14 on FG’s and a dismal 2-8 on three pointers. While he was not the only one having trouble spotting up from long distance (Rautins 0-5), he is the “go to” shooter now. When Nichols plays badly it takes a much greater effort from the rest of the team to overcome that obstacle. Thus this result is not terribly surprising.

Normally I’d put something good here, and while there were some bright spots on the day (Devendorf, Team FG %) we all know this game is a disappointment. Over at Nunes/Magician I think he sums it up perfectly; “This team could end up winning the Big East or losing every game for the rest of the year and neither outcome would be shocking at this point.”

So what have we learned from this game? Nichols needs to go back to his winning Big East ways. The team needs to stop turning the ball over. We need to play up to our level. We need a winning lacrosse basketball team. We all hope this team can pull some magical wins out, because right now If I were Matt Glaude, I would say this loss put us at “Troubling”.

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The "Matt Glaude Streak of Defeat" Continues

Losing to St. John's is a sin punishable by excommunication.

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Report: The Powells Were Good

"The Season" officially began Wednesday on The Hill. In honor of John Desko's charges taking the field, the following Powell tribute should get everyone in the mood for the 2007 Syracuse lacrosse campaign:

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Tomorrow, I will leave the hectic life of Connecticut's "Gold Coast" and ride the rails into the world's foremost cesspool of metropolitan glitz. As of late, Syracuse's hoops record in games I attend is fairly pedestrian -- the Orange is winless since April 7, 2003 (an 81-78 victory over Kansas in the National Championship).

Yeah, it's pretty awesome being me.

Anyway, I'm going to attend the "Orange Friendzy" at Stout prior to the game. Stop by, say hello, and buy me a beer. I deserve it.

Resume and Factors of Relevance
The foregoing data is accurate only to the date and time of publication. As this feature will not receive a daily update (rather, a weekly update will take place), its particular factual accuracy should not receive great weight as the week subsequently passes. However, it should stand as a solid indicator of what Syracuse has accomplished this season and what the Orange must yet achieve in order to secure another NCAA Tournament invitation.

With respect to the status variables included, each variable relates to one of five possible states of affairs:
  1. Great;
  2. Good;
  3. Adequate;
  4. Troubling; and
  5. Terrible.

Status variables ranging above "adequate" indicate facts and circumstances conducive to receiving a bid. Status variables ranging below "adequate" indicate facts and circumstances of concern -- relative to the rest of the nation, Syracuse needs to improve its position. The status variable of "adequate" indicates a hold position -- depending on what other colleges or universities accomplish, Syracuse's current status may or may not be good enough to merit an invitation.

Resume and Factors of Relevance
Factor of RelevanceFactor ValueStatus
Big East Record4-1Good
Non-Conference Record11-3Adequate
National RankARVAdequate
Pomeroy Rank37Good
Syracuse RPI40Good
Big East RPI7Troubling
Non-Conference RPI66Troubling
Overall SOS31Good
Non-Conference SOS87Adequate
RPI 1-50 Record2-3Adequate
RPI 51-100 Record3-1Good
RPI 101-200 Record6-0Great
RPI 200+ Record4-0Great
Last 10 Games8-2Great
Road/Neutral Record3-1Good
Solid Victories1. Villanova
2. Marquette
3. Hofstra
4. Penn
5. Holy Cross
Detrimental DefeatsNoneGreat
Projected Record21-9Good
Projected BE Record10-6Adequate
Total Invitation StatusGood

Invitation Status Upgrade
Despite Syracuse's woeful second-half performance against Cincinnati, I upgraded the Orange's invitation status one notch. The elevation is attributable to three factors:

  1. Syracuse's road/neutral record is terrific and given the fact that the majority of the Orange's remaining road contests -- St. John's, Louisville, Connecticut, South Florida, Providence, and Villanova -- are winnable, there should be sufficient "bonus RPI points" available for Syracuse to accumulate.

  2. After running some predictory models this week, I am fairly certain that Syracuse's rank in the RPI and its Strength of Schedule should finish somewhere inside the nation's top 30 by the end of the season. The NCAA Dance Card agrees with my assessment, although it takes a different route to the conclusion.

  3. From a subjective standpoint, Syracuse has begun to generate some national attention from the main stream media. The more the Orange stays in the conversation for a bid, the better chance Syracuse has at creating pathways to garnering an invitation.

"Marquee Victories"
This has been a touchstone for many critics and pessimists, but the factual circumstance is a red herring (or at least it should be).

The issue turns on consistency of selection methodology. The Selection Committee has at its disposal a host of criteria to determine whether a college or university merits an invitation. Amongst those criteria includes subjective evaluations and perceptions of victories. That perception, however, must be tempered by other factual data such as RPI, total victories, conference standing, strength of schedule, and actual performance.

It is because of these other points of emphasis that I believe that Syracuse's lack of "marquee victories" should not ultimately doom the Orange. In short, Syracuse has done enough -- at least currently -- in other scrutinized areas to merit a bid.

Last 10 Games
This is going to be an area to keep an eye on. Syracuse's final four regular season games features alternating road and home contests against a handful of the Big East's better clubs -- Connecticut, Providence, Georgetown, and Villanova.

Should Syracuse drop these last four games, the Orange may or may not need to win a Big East Tournament game to ensure an invitation. However, given the overall resume that I expect Syracuse to accumulate, such a "must-win" may be unnecessary.

Who To Root For
It's easy: Drexel and Wichita State. These are the only two potential anchors on Syracuse's RPI.

General Fodder

  • If I'm a Connecticut fan, I am somewhat concerned at this juncture. I'm not saying that Connecticut is going to miss the Big Dance, but the Huskies have more work to do at this point than the Orange.

  • At this point, I think that the Big East gets at minimum six bids to the show; at maximum, seven.

  • Syracuse's two contests against St. John's is a double-edged sword. There is great potential to win both contests, but the games will not help the Orange's RPI and Strength of Schedule significantly (even with the bonus points for road victories). Plus, St. John's has a legitimate chance to win both games.

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Cincinnati - Syracuse Postgame Reaction

Why do you hate me?
Once again it is a tail of two teams in the Carrier Dome. The first team playing lights out in the first half leading by as much as 19, and the second team allowing Cincinnati to go on a 10-0 run and not score a field goal in the last four minutes in the game. Disgusted is about the only word for it. It is a good thing I was busy, otherwise I would have needed to get hammered.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new ATM on the team. Taking the coveted spot from former Orange player Louie McCroskey, Josh Wright is the new Automatic Turnover Machine for Syracuse. Committing five in the previous contest against Villanova, and another five against Cincinnati, I think he easily earns the title. In 19 games so far he is averaging 3.2 turnovers a game. Coupled with the fact he is only averaging 4.9 assists a game, this is not good. In addition to averaging just over 31 minutes, he is only gaining 8.8 points a game. This, for the starting point guard for the Orange, is unacceptable.

Turnovers in general were a huge problem for the Orange last night. Syracuse committed 21 turnovers, while Cincinnati only committed eight. The big stat of the night, however, is Cincinnati gained 22 points off Syracuse turnovers, while Syracuse only gained seven. This, combined with the fact that we didn’t hit a field goal after the clock ticked to 4:27 in the second half, equals a scary night for the Orange.

The good news is that Demetris Nichols continued his good Big East play going 7-12 on field goals, 4-9 on three pointers, and 4-4 from the charity stripe on his way to 22 points. We can only hope this trend of scoring continues later in the season.

The team shot well from the free throw line making 17 of 21 for an 81% day. The Orange also outrebounded Cincinnati 37 to 35. As long as the team can match or beat other teams in rebounding there is a chance to win (or in this case blow) the game.

Team defense is improving despite the second half as well. Syracuse held Cincinnati to 36.4% shooting on the day. Previously, they held opponents to close to 30% the last 3 games. If this continues they put the team in a good position to win the games as well.

In summary, Syracuse blew this game hardcore and should be lucky to have escaped with a win, because we really didn’t deserve it. I’d love to make a prediction on personal and what the scheme will be for the next game but after this I have no clue with Boeheim will do. Stay tuned to the daily disaster that is our basketball team.
You might need this game to help you cope with these close/terrible games.


This & That (Plus Drinking!)

It's fine. You're beating the crowd to Faegan's if you get tossed.
The Big East in basketball is a little down this year, there is no doubt. With massive stars graduating or entering the draft last year many of the big names are somewhere else. Coupled with the dominance of Big East football and there is a formula for a down year. However, it is still just as exciting as ever to watch this league as teams go up and down, battling for the right to be the best team in a fantastic conference.

Now that that is out of the way, time to pour some general anger and hatred towards people and things into this entry.

First on the list is Doug Gottlieb (who looks high, or like a douche bag, or both in his picture on It does not matter who you are, or what you do, but you do not get into a fight with Jim Boeheim. It’s not as bad as getting into a fight with John Chaney, but you still don’t want to mess with the man (Good examples of both are here). Boeheim may have taken a cheap shot at Gottlieb, but he sort of earned it from the years of saying Syracuse is worse then they really are. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should go here.

UConn is terrible this year. I have said it all year. I will continue to say it all year. As my friend at UConn put it, “why would I want to go and watch a bunch of freshmen that suck?” I could not have said it better myself. Pittsburgh dismantled this untested, undetermined squad. AJ Price has turned out to not be the savior of the season as some media types expected (just because his jersey said Connecticut on it). After two years off due to injury and legal issues, he is rusty and unproven. Also, to the coaches that vote in the poll…can we stop ranking UConn in the top ten every non-conference season for beating Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Sacred Heart, and Hartford? That would be great.

Notre Dame is a complete conundrum to me. By all conventional logic they should be terrible this year like they were last year. I’m glad they are playing Syracuse in the Dome and not at the Joyce.

ESPN is having Spirit Week and they asked their panel of experts to give their favorite atmospheres for watching college hoops. The Loud House got a little love from Mark Schlabach:

Syracuse: The noise at the Carrier Dome can be defeaning. I nearly deflated it during an NCAA Tournament regional by walking out the wrong door; the suction nearly blew me to nearby Albany, N.Y. At least they don't play basketball games in July; for whatever reason, the Carrier Dome doesn't have air conditioning.

While I agree it is one of the most intimidating places to play because of the noise of all the people, the air conditioning joke is a bit tired. Also, he misspelled deafening.

Nichols once again made it to the Big East Honor Roll. His name will appear in his local paper and he will get a coupon for one free ice cream in the cafeteria.

SU Athletics has now taken down the “Orange Ask A Question” for Darryl Gross off the front page. I wonder if he got pissed over this? Also, Josh Wrignt answers trivial questions. Shouldn’t you be in practice?

Now for the real fun: The Jim Boeheim Press Conference Drinking Game!
Rules: Grab a drink and watch the post game press conference of the head coach. Drink accordingly.

Note: This game best works if watching the press conference on News 10 Now or

Drink 1 if:
Jim scratches his head.
A current player is mentioned.
He disagrees with a reporter.
He doesn’t like a question.
Says the word “zone”.
He describes something as bad or not good.
Comments on The Big East or another Big East team.

Drink 2 if:
He states his man-to-man defense was good that night.
He argues with a reporter.
He mentions a former player.
He mentions Bernie Fine.
He mentions the fans or crowd noise.
He describes anything as “pretty good”.
He mentions officiating calls.
He defends his non-conference schedule.

Finish your drink if:
Tim Higgins or Jim Burr is mentioned.
He looks happy.
He swears.
Have fun and happy drinking.

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Villanova - Syracuse Postgame Reaction

I love the halftime orange slices!
Yeah yeah I know it is late. I was busy having delicious drinks with the good folks down at Faegan’s on my long weekend (I have to love my government job and props to MLK). But I did watch the game (not in person) and was deliciously impressed with the teams total performance.

As always, some things really were awful for the Orange. With 20 team turnovers we look like a community college team. Our biggest offenders were, of course, Josh Wright (5) and Eric Devendorf (4). This is still unacceptable. Until our turnovers are at 12 or below I refuse to believe this team can be an elite team. No clichés here, just straight numbers that are dismal.

We tied Villanova in rebounding the ball, both with 26. While this stat isn’t impressive it shows the continued growth of Watkins and the play in the post. 26 rebounds is nothing to be too proud of, but if we continue to match up well against teams in rebounding, as well as getting offensive boards, we should continue to win. Roy Hibbert better watch out (not that he doesn’t suck anyway).

The Orange had a pretty good shooting affair again, earning 24 of 44 shots for a field goal percentage of 54.5%. This is always encouraging, especially when the lack of a jump shot hinders some players on the team (Harris, Watkins, Roberts).

The big story of the game has got to be Demetris Nichols coming out of his Big East shell. In 40 minutes of action he went 8-12 for 23 points, specifically going 5-6 on 3 point FG’s. That is what I call a mighty fine outing. If he continues to be the stud, while supplemented by Watkins and Roberts by the hoop, getting additions from Devendorf, this team could be dancing well into March. Stay tuned to The Nichols Note every postgame to see how he does in the ridiculous Big East (I am trademarking that as we speak so it better not show up on SU Athletics).

A good game all in all. The team that showed up against ‘Nova sure was fun to watch. Cincinnati coverage will come out a little sooner, but real life responsibilities will be heavy tomorrow. Until then, enjoy the game…if you have The U, which I don’t think anyone actually does. It is like the NFL Network, only even more elusive.


That's Why 11 Wins Isn't a Given



Syracuse Tournament Status: Edition I

Believe it or not, only a dozen games remain on Syracuse University's 2006-2007 basketball schedule. With so few contests left, it is probably a good time to take stock of the Orange's effort thus far this season and try to determine where Jim Boeheim's outfit stands relative to its NCAA Tournament relevance.

The table below aggregates a series of factors the NCAA Selection Committee utilizes to craft the organization's men's basketball championship field. Also included in the data table are some Ken Pomeroy-created factors and resume indicators. These items are either projectionary in nature or attempt to refine where a particular team stands in relation to the 336 colleges and universities participating in Division 1 hoops.

Resume and Factors of Relevance
The foregoing data is accurate only to the date and time of publication. As this feature will not receive a daily update (rather, a weekly update will take place), its particular factual accuracy should not receive great weight as the week subsequently passes. However, it should stand as a solid indicator of what Syracuse has accomplished this season and what the Orange must yet achieve in order to secure another NCAA Tournament invitation.

With respect to the status variables included, each variable relates to one of five possible states of affairs:
  1. Great;
  2. Good;
  3. Adequate;
  4. Troubling; and
  5. Terrible.

Status variables ranging above "adequate" indicate facts and circumstances conducive to receiving a bid. Status variables ranging below "adequate" indicate facts and circumstances of concern -- relative to the rest of the nation, Syracuse needs to improve its position. The status variable of "adequate" indicates a hold position -- depending on what other colleges or universities accomplish, Syracuse's current status may or may not be good enough to merit an invitation.

Resume and Factors of Relevance
Factor of RelevanceFactor ValueStatus
Big East Record3-1Good
Non-Conference Record11-3Adequate
National RankARVAdequate
Pomeroy Rank39Good
Syracuse RPI51Adequate
Big East RPI7Troubling
Non-Conference RPI67Troubling
Overall SOS39Good
Non-Conference SOS99Adequate
RPI 1-50 Record1-3Troubling
RPI 51-100 Record4-1Great
RPI 101-200 Record4-0Great
RPI 200+ Record5-0Great
Last 10 Games7-3Good
Road/Neutral Record3-1Adequate
Solid Victories1. UTEP
2. Marquette
3. Villanova
4. Penn
5. Baylor
Detrimental DefeatsNoneGreat
Projected Record20-10Good
Projected BE Record9-7Adequate
Total Invitation StatusAdequate

Good Guys - 75, Bad Guys - 64

Syracuse hoops legends agree:
"This team ain't half bad."

Syracuse - Rutgers Postgame Reaction

When The Furor says shoot the 3... you shoot the 3.
Does anybody care about Rutgers Basketball this year? I don’t even think Rutgers does. Football, for the first time ever, carries the day in New Jersey. But over 7,000 fans managed to make it to the RAC last night to watch a pretty good game out of the Orange.

There was little that I didn’t like from Syracuse last night, so I’ll briefly touch on that. Syracuse, once again, saw more turnovers then a bakery. 15 total turnovers, with Nichols, Watkins, and Roberts all having three a piece, is again unacceptable. The true key to Syracuse winning games is limiting turnovers, getting more looks at the basket, and converting on the majority of them. Having less scoring opportunities have clearly hurt the Orange down the stretch of many a game over the least few years.

Again, a fairly poor three point shooting night. Nichols and Rautins had one each on four attempts. Devendorf was a bright spot shooting two for two, one of which came on a bizarre play in which he tripped Harris at half court, Harris recovered and passed it to him, then he squared up wide open to nail a trey. Other then Devendorf our star long ball threats did not deliver again.

We also we outrebounded by one. Against a shorter Rutgers squad this probably shouldn’t have happened. We need to establish good rebounding habits against the lower teams in the league so when it comes to playing the big time matchup games we perform well. Am I all that disappointed Rutgers bested us in rebounds though? Not particularly. We were hustling and getting second and third chance looks at the basket via offensive rebounds and still had an effective low post presence. All in all we rebounded fine.

Now on to the good stuff. We created 11 turnovers for the Scarlet Knights. This immensely helped our transition game, in which we were killing Rutgers with. Syracuse achieved 19 fast break points, while Rutgers only managed oh…. like… you know… ZERO. In Matt’s Pregame analysis you noticed that Rutgers plays a fairly slow tempo game. This obviously hurt them immensely last night against a very quick, good in transition basketball club.

Syracuse shot the ball well last night going 23 for 49 on field goals, which translates to a 46.9% outing. A good night for the Orange in the paint and at the post. We were pretty much “in the zone” last night in the first half, where we came out guns a blazing. Andy Rautins hit three shots in the first four minutes, which was pretty exciting. A nice night shooting for the Orange.

For the third game in a row, however, the shooting stud was not Nichols but Devendorf, contributing 19 points. He went 5-11, making all seven of his free throws. Why is Nichols so allergic to Big East play? That topic will be covered in another essay, but for now I’m just as confounded as you. He still looks great in the paint, but he has lost that loving feeling when it comes to the long ball. Gold star again to Devendorf though.

Speaking of free throws, we made a lot of them. 18 of 21 to be specific, which is 85.7%. Josh Wright rebounded off a five out of ten effort to hit four for four last night. The key to beating physical teams is cashing in on free throws. I like that we settled down and hit them when we needed them tonight.
The zone defense was tight. That is all I need to say about that.

All in all a great effort out of the Orange, however one stat looms large for me. Rutgers only shot 29.5% from the floor, in which they usually average 41% in shooting. So does this mean that Syracuse defense did their job, or more likely did Rutgers just have a terrible (and I do mean terrible) night? I think probably the answer is a little of both. Syracuse, on paper, clearly outmatched Rutgers in pretty much every way. Combined with an off night for your players and Rutgers goes down in a bad way. Syracuse probably should have beaten them by more then ten, but I’ll let them slide. We need some gas in the tank against Villanova on Saturday.

Some other things are worth a mention. Tim Higgins, referee and the thorn in the side of Jim Boeheim for many years, once again got his TV time last night. Do we really need to know how many Final Fours this guy has refereed? Let alone completely screwed up? No we did not. Thanks ESPN Plus.

My friend posed an interesting question to me which is worth sharing here in hopes of critically analyzing it, while gathering the opinions of the valued and loyal readers of this notebook. Does Andy Rautins need a tattoo? Would he look more badass with one? Would it help his shooting? All these questions need answers. I think it would probably be a bad idea for the kid, but it is worth a second thought probably.

All in all a good night in New Jersey (if there is such a thing as a good night if you are in New Jersey). The team looked sharp, played well, and delivered a win. That is pretty much all you can ask. Especially from a team with literally only seven players right now. I look forward to the ‘Nova game on Saturday and will again cover the aftermath of what could be a great or terrible game for Syracuse. We will also keep you posted on the conundrum that is Demetris Nichols right now.
Oh, and UConn is owned by Marquette.

BlogPoll: Final Pull

. . . but don't underrank the Broncos!

Another year, another great BlogPoll effort. For the sake of putting a bow on the season:

1Florida 2
2Boise State 16
3Ohio State 2
4Southern Cal--
6Wisconsin 2
7Louisville 1
8Michigan 6
9West Virginia 5
10Auburn 2
11Rutgers 4
12Oklahoma 5
13California 8
14Texas 3
15Arkansas 6
16Brigham Young 7
17Oregon State 7
18Wake Forest 7
19Boston College 6
20TCU 6
21Georgia 5
22Notre Dame 9
23Hawaii 3
24Penn State 2
25Virginia Tech 15

Dropped Out: Nebraska (#16), Texas A&M (#19), Tennessee (#20), Georgia Tech (#22).


- Should I have included Nebraska? Probably, considering the Cornhuskers only dropped a 17-14 contest against Auburn. However, I'm not so worried about it that it merits going back into the widget and altering my ballot.

Syracuse-Rutgers Preview

Syracuse students agree: Rutgers is irrelevant.

While most media outlets having been lauding Demetris Nichols for his performance progression over the last four years, the player that has seen the strongest rise in his contributions to the Orange is senior center Darryl "Mookie" Watkins.

As a late edition to Jim Boehiem's Class of 2003 recruiting effort, Watkins came to the Salt City as a guy with a lot of raw potential. He always had the ability to block shots and get off of the floor, but question marks surrounded his overall fundamentals comprehension.

Four years later, Watkins has become an indispensable cog in the Syracuse attack on both ends of the floor. He is a dominating defensive force that has managed to control his penchant for picking up fouls. On offense, Watkins has developed a nice touch and stands as a reliable if not solid offensive rebounder.

He has, for all intents and purposes, become Syracuse's first two-dimensional center since Etan Thomas. And if Syracuse is going to make a run over its last 14 games, Watkins needs to continue his maturation.

As always, for an exhaustive explanation of Pomeroy's methodology and statistical theory, this link may be a useful resource.

When Syracuse is on Defense

Rutgers Offense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %45.8280
T/O %22.6179
Off. Reb. %35.9100
FT Rate27.497

Syracuse Defense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %43.819
T/O %22.1166
Off. Reb. %36.0244
FT Rate25.515

There's no need to sugarcoat the obvious: the Big East has not seen an offense this horrible since the peach basket era.

The Rutgers offense does nothing well. To wit:

  • Three-point field goal percentage -- 31.4 (268);
  • Two-point field goal percentage -- 45.1 (260);
  • Free throw percentage -- 65.7 (238); and
  • Assists per field goal made -- 43.6 (330)

And this is against the 106th strongest schedule in the country.

In the context of Rutgers' offensive strategy, the Scarlet Knights would like to play a fairly slow contest. With an adjusted tempo value of just over 64 possessions per game (the 283rd fastest attack in the country), Rutgers' mentality is to keep opponents from possessing the leather and scoring in transition.

Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, however, the pace of offensive play is not going to dictate Rutgers' success. As noted above, Rutgers simply cannot shoot the basketball. As Ken Pomeroy notes, the absolute key to Rutgers' offensive efficiency is the team's offensive effective shooting percentage. When the Scarlet Knights covert their attempts more efficiently than their opponents, Rutgers wins (save the contest against Lehigh).

With Syracuse holding its opponents under 44 percent in effective field goal percentage, however, the Scarlet Knights are in deep trouble.

The key for Syracuse, consequently, is to sit in its zone defense and let Rutgers shoot itself out of the basketball game. As noted, the Scarlet Knights are just horrendous at converting from distance. With the 2-3 zone's inherent proclivity for forcing opponents to resort to three-point attempts, if Syracuse concentrates on crashing the defensive glass -- which it did admirably against Marquette -- the Orange should be fine.

When Syracuse is on Offense

Syracuse Offense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %52.292
T/O %21.3117
Off. Reb. %36.588
FT Rate34.211

Rutgers Defense
Four FactorsValueNt'l Rank
Eff. FG %51.2211
T/O %21.3214
Off. Reb. %31.8102
FT Rate30.673
As bad as Rutgers plays with the basketball, the Scarlet Knights compound their deficiencies with an unreliable defensive effort.
In order to secure victory, Syracuse must limit its turnovers. Rutgers has performed fairly respectably when turning over its opponents, but is not particularly good at creating such events on a consistent basis. The key, therefore, is the play of Josh Wright and Eric Devendorf. If these two Orange can protect the basketball, Rutgers is likely to implode defensively as teams are shooting well against the Scarlet Knights:
  • Three-point shooting percentage -- 40.0 (317);
  • Two-point shooting percentage -- 46.9 (114);
  • Free throw percentage -- 70.4 (240); and
  • Assists per field goal made -- 61.2 (281)
The secondary issue Syracuse must focus on is getting the ball out in transition and keeping an uptempo pace throughout the contest. Despite the fact that the Orange is still shorthanded player-wise, the tempo of Wednesday's contest is increasingly important.
In Rutgers' seven losses, the Scarlet Knights played at a pace just under 66 possessions per game. In its eight victories, the games saw approximately 61 possessions (three games were played with less than 60 possessions). Thus, Syracuse needs to run Rutgers ragged and create unmitigated fatigue in a vastly less talented squad.

Syracuse – Marquette Postgame Reaction

Come on! One high five is all i'm asking for.
Holy crap! We beat a ranked opponent.

For the first time this season Syracuse earned a win over a ranked opponent. This case is particularly interesting because, frankly, we looked like garbage out there. This game, in my mind, is the complete reverse of the Pittsburgh game. I liked the result, but did not like the effort. It seems Syracuse is doing the old two steps forward, three steps back.

First the negative. Syracuse committed 20 turnovers. This is nine more then the previous effort. Eric Devendorf seemed to be making horrific decisions in between his fantastic drives to the basket. He was the worst offender committing seven himself. This is completely unacceptable and Jim Boeheim better give him an earful to that effect.

Syracuse returned to its old self last night by shooting only 60% from the charity stripe. This, again, in contrast to the 90% they put in against Pittsburgh. Demetris Nichols missed the front end of a key 1-and-1 late in the game that could have helped ice the game a little earlier then we did. Eric, who normally shoots well, only was three for six, and Josh Wright, who put away Pittsburgh during the Big East Championship last year with some late clutch free throws, only made five of ten. When we play a more physical team like Pittsburgh, Georgetown, or Connecticut we will need to earn more of the free points if we hope to be successful.

Again, the team looked tragic from behind the three point arc combining for a 3 for 14 effort (.214%). Nichols hit two, one at a very key moment at the end of the game that sealed the deal, but two is not enough for the scoring leader in the Big East. Devendorf also only hit one on three attempts. Not up to Syracuse standards.

Andy Rautins continues to be a disappointment. He only played seven minutes in this game and was zero for one in shooting and earned zero points. This is unacceptable for a starter, let alone a sophomore on Syracuse. He needs to find his stroke and provide some points in tough games or he might fade into second string territory rather quickly.

Generally, the team looked sloppy, which is disappointing considering I think they looked very sharp and focused against Pittsburgh in the Dome. Poor decision making is still haunting the Orange and will continue to jeopardize a winning Big East campaign. We need to remain progressive and continue to build upon the success we have already had, rather then regressing when facing a team that looks better then us on paper.

There were several good things present last night in Wisconsin. For the second game in a row the Orange outrebounded its competition. This is a pretty big statistic in my opinion because we were outrebounded in several non-conference affairs with teams that were shorter and less athletic. If Syracuse continues to dominate the boards only good things can come of it. Provided we don’t turn it right back over.

Paul Harris seemed to respond to Boeheim’s coaching because he did not attempt a three pointer. Rather, Harris focused on defense and creating scoring opportunities by slashing to the basket, a much higher percent shot.

Watkins has become quite the shot blocker. He earned five blocks Sunday night, as well as two against Pittsburgh. This is a good trend and if it continues, Syracuse will match up well against Connecticut and the other tougher teams of the Big East.

Josh Wright saw 39 minutes of action last night. He seemed in control and sharp most of the night, only committing four turnovers. This is good to see because of his concerning absence during the Pittsburgh game. If he continues to play and allow Devendorf to play the two spot, things should improve from the backcourt.

Devendorf, when not turning the ball over, was putting it in the basket. He contributed 20 points in 37 minutes of action. He had some drives that would make Dickie V get out from under Coach K’s desk and give it a look. He looked impressive when attacking the basket.

The zone defense looked outstanding. We created 23 turnovers from Marquette and wore them down so they had trouble from behind the arc. There was good movement and several athletic plays. Jim Boeheim = amazing 2-3 zone defense.

Like I said earlier, I loved the win, but didn’t like the way we played. For a team that looked good against Pittsburgh it was disappointing to see a sluggish, lackluster offense that turned the ball over a lot. Hopefully we can again move forward and learn from the mistakes of this game. If we play like we did against Pittsburgh, but earn some more wins we will obviously be in good shape. In this league anyone can win on any given night.

More Postgame Reaction

Thank god you didn't eat at the Dinosaur!
The start of the Orange 2007 Big East Campaign was an interesting one. It perfectly illustrates the dichotomy of the Orange this season, possibly every season. Syracuse seems to have one half that they play to or beyond expectation and one half that they play well below expectation.

Let’s start with the bad news. The deepness of the bench was a problem last night. Only seven Syracuse players saw action. That is pretty much because those seven were the only ones that could actually play. Nichols did another excellent job of hitting mid range jump shots and swashbuckling points in the paint like he has all season, however he only shot one for five from behind the arc. This, behind a Pittsburgh team that seemed to be shooting lights out from that distance certainly did not help.

Another negative point that Matt mentioned was the disappearing act of Josh Wright. Although Devendorf seemed to play fairly well in the second half, dissecting the Pitt defense, as well as being very entertaining television, he made his share of terrible shots and demonstrated moments of absolutely atrocious decision making. He is a sophomore and should have put that mostly behind him by now. So where was Josh Wright who played adequately? I suppose the next game will be a good indication of where the lineup and he stands.

Andy Rautins and Paul Harris failed to hit cash money bling from behind the arc as well. Rautins went two for six and Harris was zero for one. Rautins contributed six points, while Harris added six. This is unacceptable for these two players. Harris should crash the boards and cut the lane, while Rautins has to provide a consistent outside shooting threat to take some heat off of Nichols. Nichols can not be the only consistent scoring threat and still have a great offense.

Onto the good. The team out rebounded Pittsburgh by one. We had only 11 turnovers. We shot 90% from the free throw line. These are all encouraging things. While being able to shoot free throws is traditionally a point of drama for Syracuse, this was refreshing. The bigger point, however, is that we out rebounded the #10 team in the nation with one of the top big men in the conference. This means that Darryl Watkins is progressing nicely this season, considering he could not defend against a cold last year.

Being able to contain and score against the solid low post players of the conference is a must in such a physical and talented league. The biggest positive we can take from this game is that Syracuse, when pushed by the challenge of a team that, on paper, seems head and shoulders above, we can respond. The team did not win this time, but I have a feeling there will be some quality home wins and a few road ones as well.

To touch upon the referees for a moment. I agree with Matt in that it certainly is not the referees in this game that determined the outcome. As a former basketball referee I can say that I have experience making calls and can spot a good call from a bad one. Nothing really outraged me last night. Sure, there were some non-calls, and a few blown out of bounds calls. These things happen. None were so egregious that they truly changed the outcome. Frankly, they called a pretty loose game, which made the game much more enjoyable to watch. Otherwise, they would have called every little foul on Devendorf when he inevitably bumps the player he is guarding. As my good friend Jayme says, let the kids play. I will always say this about referees in the Big East though; if there is major contact in driving to the hoop it is either a block, or a charge, but not nothing.

Mike Jones, I don’t know if you know this, but you go to Syracuse. If you play well in the following years you get drafted. Why don’t you wait it out, seeing as you are a freshman, and then show your stuff. I don’t want a guy on my team that doesn’t like a challenge or has a little common sense and patience. Goodbye and peace out. Matt said Louie, but say hi to DeShaun Williams for me.

I don’t know either if Kendall intentionally elbowed Roberts in the face, but if he did shit is going to go down if these two teams meet in the league tournament again. From the replay it looked accidental though, for what it is worth.

All in all, I was please with the effort, just not the result. The team just needs to be consistent in offense and not allow teams to get behind the zone and in the paint without being absolutely confounded with Syracuse players. Marquette will be a good road test and hopefully this team can build upon the things they did well against Pittsburgh and move forward and progress like all of Jim Boeheim’s teams do. I didn’t throw anything at my television for this game, but there is always next time.

Boeheim Sends Jones One Last Parting Shot

Jim Boeheim was obviously frustrated with Syracuse's loss this evening. During his postgame press conference, however, Boeheim managed to find a few moments and piece together a short, yet unmitigated assault on recent Orange transfer Mike Jones:
On the effect of Mike Jones transferring:
“He hasn’t played a minute for us this year that counts. He hasn’t helped us one minute this year. He’s a three-man, and we got a guy in that position that’s pretty good. If he was a four-man he could help us, but he’s not. He knew it coming in that we had a three-man, and he just didn’t want to wait until next year.”
Stay classy, Coach.

I usually keep immediate postgame reactions to a minimum, mostly because rumination is a vastly underrated life pursuit. However, I felt the need to pen some brief comments following tonight's Big East Conference opener against Pittsburgh.

The thoughts will remain brief and bulleted:
  • That was an old fashioned Big East war. Physical play on both sides of the floor, interesting inside-outside play, and both teams exhibited a ton of resiliance. It does not get much more fun that that.

  • I've already seen comments on both Syracuse and Pittsburgh-oriented internet sites about poor refereeing. The comments, obviously, are from different perspectives at various points in the contest (intuitively when either team was trailing or struggling), but in either instance, the comments are unwarranted. I am a strong believer that non-participant onlookers should never "blame" a referee for the outcome of the game. Referees do not play passively in transition defense. They do not create commit turnovers on sloppy decisionmaking.

    In short, to blame the referees is to assume that the players' performances do not ultimately control the outcome of the game.

  • Syracuse's play thus far this season has been lukewarm at best. Tonight, however, the team showed some much needed consistency and competitiveness. All in all, the Orange probably played above its head tonight, but that is at least heartening given the circumstances it was forced to play under.

  • Josh Wright's second half absence is somewhat concerning. Eric Devendorf made some unquestionably boneheaded decisions with the basketball in the final stanza, yet Boeheim kept him at the point, apparently under the hope that Devendorf would make more positive plays than negative ones. Given the fact that Devendorf is still getting his basketball legs under him, the reliance on Devendorf down the stretch may have been a fatal mistake. Especially after Wright's acceptable first half effort.

  • I'm not sure what to think about Pittsburgh right now, but I think that the Panthers are pretty good. Pittsburgh, at least to me, does not appear (at least at this point) to be an Elite Eight squad, but the Panthers do have the potential to grow into a Final Four squad over the next couple of months. With that said, Syracuse should take tonight as an indication that it can lay some haymakers on a good club and have the opportunity to secure victory in a game it did not deserve to win.

  • The papers tomorrow will likely echo this sentiment, but Syracuse's lackadaisical post-halftime effort ultimately doomed the Orange's opportunity for success. That was truly disgusting and a great indication to the nation of Syracuse's fatal flaw.

  • However, other than those brief four or five minutes to start the second half, Syracuse seemed to show signs of improvement. Granted, this is not a championship club, but the Orange's effort on the glass (both offensively and defensively) and its ability to stretch Pittsburgh's defense with solid outside shooting should be an indication that 20 wins is a reasonable possibility. So, if you think that Syracuse did not play well tonight, you are probably extrapolating and isolated moment in the game and not understanding how well Syracuse dominated over extended stretches throughout the game.

  • Paul Harris, despite his flaws, displayed why an athlete of his stature can compete at this level despite not knowing how to shoot a basketball. Once he figures out how to play basketball -- and Boeheim certainly has his work cut out for him in that department -- he is going to dominate the hardwood on both ends.

  • Now, on the Kendall-Roberts situation. Whether Kendall intentionally created the contact or he accidently smacked Roberts because he was bumped is actually a nonissue. Moments like that are natually part of a physical game, especially in the Big East. To equate the incident to the Shumpert eye poke against Pittsburgh in the 2001 Big East Tournament. In short, shit happens; get over it.


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