1. Orange::44: What exactly is the deal with Donte Greene? Does he really ever need to mention Syracuse again or should he continue to talk about it with the media?
Nunes: It's funny because only now that he's gone are we realizing exactly who Donte Greene really is. That's not to say he's a bad guy, but did you ever see this much personality from the kid during his time at school?
On one hand, I'd be pissed too if I were him and that was the reaction I got. At the end of the day, Donte has to look out for himself and he owes Syracuse fans nothing. If he hurt his knee next year and was unable to ever play again, Syracuse fans wouldn't start sending him checks to take care of him. We'd all feel bad and then move on. So at the end of the day I don't blame the guy for leaving. I still don't think it was the right move, but I'm also the same guy who once said Donovan McNabb wouldn't cut it in the NFL. So my opinion is moot.
On the other hand, Donte is exhibiting all of the signs of your prototypical me-first, whine-if-I-don't-get-my-shots, chip on his shoulder, selfish, prima donna in training...something the NBA is very familiar with. He's claiming that had he stayed at Syracuse his legacy would have rivaled Gerry McNamara. He's admitting that the reduced availability of shots for himself is a reason he left. He's blaming the zone defense for making him look bad defensively. He's calling out Syracuse fans as a whole for not supporting him. He's talking himself up as the best small forward in the draft.
The last one I don't have a problem with by itself, I'm all for being confident in yourself, but as part of the larger discussion it veers closer to cockiness than confidence.
The more he talks, the less he finds Syracuse fans stepping up to support him. Yes, a bunch of nitwits blasted his Facebook site with insults, but surely he can't believe they represented the majority of Syracuse fans? At the moment, if Donte Greene walked into the Dome during a game, he'd probably get booed. Not for anything he did on the court but for everything he's doing off it. That's the irony, he's the one getting attacked but for the 50% of the SU fanbase who wouldn't know Facebook from Yellow Book, all they hear is Donte calling them out over something they didn't do. Not good.
I can't imagine any of this stuff looks good to NBA scouts either. What Donte has gone through so far is NOTHING compared to the toil the NBA will take on a young player, especially one with as many question marks as he. I would think he'd want to prove that he's mature, above the criticism and able to just put his head down and play. Do NBA teams really want ANOTHER me-first whiner? Is that really putting your best foot forward?
If I'm in charge of Donte's career, I tell him to quit whining, put his head down, prove to teams that he's here to play and here to learn and that the off-the-court stuff is a distraction he wants no part of and doesn't notice anyway.
2. Orange::44: Williams is basically gone for at least this season. Who will now be looked at to pick up the slack for the absence, and will the offense be any good at all?
Nunes: The running backs. The focus is firmly on them to resurrect the running game, either as a unit or through the emergence of one star. It's so tough to say who is going to step out of the pack, and it seems like Robinson is keeping it close to his chest regardless.
If the running game can improve (and really, how COULDN'T they?), maybe that could open up the passing game and allow Andrew Robinson to create opportunities for Lavar Lobdell, Marcus Sales the rest of this developing receiving unit.
If the running game stalls again...God help us all.
3. Orange::44: Syracuse continues to have one of the hardest schedules in the nation. What do you see are the advantages and disadvantages of having such a hard schedule, and why the heck, when you are trying to rebuild a program, are we still doing it?
Nunes: In a perfect world, it's a great idea. But when you're 2-10 and facing a schedule that doesn't provide you with many opportunities to improve on that number unless your personnel vastly improve in a very short time, it's a very bad idea.
Seriously, imagine if we just took one season and scheduled creampuffs across the board. We wouldn't have to improve off the field drastically in order to improve drastically on the field. We'd jump up the win column quickly, attract better recruits, possibly make a bowl game sooner than expected and then we'd be in much better shape to play the 11th toughest schedule in the nation the next season.
So we'd be Kansas State or Clemson for a season. God forbid. Show me an Orange fan who would take the current schedule and another 2-10 season over a creampuff schedule that allows us to go 6-6 this season and I'll show you a crazy, crazed insane crazy person...who's crazy.
I get that playing Penn State and USC and those kinds of teams gets us in the national spotlight. But what good is being the in the national spotlight when you're losing 56-3?
4. Orange::44: What football team does Syracuse currently not play that you wish we did, and what team do you see on the schedule this year or in the next or last few that you wish we did not play?
Nunes: You know my schtick. There's three teams that Syracuse should rotate playing every season. At all times we should be playing at least two teams out of Boston College, Penn State and Maryland. Their geographical rivals, they're longtime rivals and they're recruiting rivals.
We've got Penn State back, we'll have BC back in 2010. But for some reason, it never occurs to us to play Maryland. We've built up a quiet rivalry with them in basketball, which I'd love to see more of as well. And it's a great time, Maryland is decent but not a powerhouse by any means. It's a winnable game for us...I think.
As for who I wish we didn't play...it's not USC. As much as I'm against playing powerhouses right now, it's just too big an opportunity to pass up. And we still have three years to at least be respectable by the time we head out to LA. Plus, being an LA citizen, I'm giddy.
It's actually Northeastern. I'd rather we played a Division 1-A team but if we have to play a 1-AA team, why not one we have some kind of relationship with. Why not Villanova? Why not UMass? Why not Albany? Why not Georgetown? At least there would be a superficial reason for us to care about this one.
As-is, this game actually terrifies Syracuse fans. It's a no-win game. If we win, we fully expect it to be a harder fought win than it should be. And if we lose, well, we really lose. Then again if we lose, maybe Robinson gets canned on the spot, and in that case, maybe we win. It's all very cyclical.
5. Orange::44: You've showcased other people's thoughts on the Big East Lacrosse conference forming, but I'm curious, what do you think about it?
Nunes: I've said I'm all for it. Long-term, I don't see a downside.
1. Schedule - We have to add Providence, Notre Dame, St John's and Villanova to the yearly schedule so we'll have to make some tough decisions. Or will we? Cutting loose Binghamton and UMass is no big deal. After that, well it's probably between Hobart and Albany, which are both shames, but in the grand scheme not such a big deal as compared to losing a rivalry with Johns Hopkins, Virginia or Princeton.
2. Other teams - On their own, St. John's, Providence and Villanova would probably need a decade to reach a level that is competitive with the Syracuses and Georgetowns of the world. As part of the Big East, it should take half that time. Yeah at first there's gonna be a lot of 20-6 games while these programs build up. But recruiting will be so much easier for them when they get to say they have Cuse, ND and Georgetown on the schedule every year. The Big East name will help them schedule strong out of conference. And sooner or later one of them will beat one of the big guys and put the fear of God in us all that there might be some balance to this.
3. The sport - The sport is growing up. Conferences are taking shape. Auto bids are being decided. The sport is expanding away from the power brokers and sharing the wealth. The days of willy-nilly scheduling and arbitrary tournament bids are ending (which you may or may not see as a good thing). It's beginning to look like a sport the mainstream can get into. They're seeing old rivals in a new form. It's easy to root for your team when your playing a hated foe.
In all, I like it.
Nunes: Find out where the Syracuse men's lacrosse team is taking their vacation and then DOC Gross will be there...staying in their hotel rooms, sipping their pina coladas and wearing their Bermuda shorts.
The second half of the season saw a lot of ups and rarely a down. By this point in the year Syracuse had achieved a benchmark not seen since 2004; a #1 ranking. Syracuse at the start of April had a record of 7-1, Virginia being the only blemish on an otherwise stellar season.
It was only fitting that Syracuse would play longtime rival Princeton next, a team that, of course, beat them the previous year. A rival game for Syracuse, the exploits of these two teams could not be better illustrated than the 2000, 2001, and 2002 National Championship games. Syracuse won in 2000 and 2002, but lost in overtime in 2001 to Princeton. These were some very exciting finals and after that overtime loss, Syracuse and Princeton were rivals from then on. Both Brendan Loftus and Steven Brooks contributed three goals, but it was Brooks that had a complete day with three assists as well. Danny Brennan was almost unstoppable as well as he won 15 of 21 face offs. Clearly as the competition got harder, DBren became a more important piece of the puzzle for the ’08 Orange. Syracuse beat Princeton 13-6.
Syracuse’s next stop on the ’08 Revenge Tour would be familiar territory for Syracuse. It would be a measly hour away, traveling down I-81 to Cortland, and then a trip on Route 13 to Ithaca, New York to take on Cornell. The ‘Cuse lost to the Big Red the year before in the Dome 16 to 15, while Cornell had the #1 next to its name. This year the tables were turned in relation to that #1 and Syracuse looked to enact revenge from the previous year’s result. Cornell was not a shabby team either, sporting a #5 ranking. Both teams were also 8-1 on the year at this point. Mike Leveille would be the leader in this game, as he ripped off five goals and an assist. Cornell was not even close to competing in this game as Syracuse won 15-8. The interesting statistic from this game were that there were 19 total penalties, 16 of which gave a man advantage to one team or the other, and Syracuse was able to convert on four of ten, while Cornell was unable to score on any of the six man advantages they had.
The Orange then traveled south to the Garden State to take on future Big East opponent Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Dan Hardy finally had a break out game, scoring four goals and an assist. Mike Leveille again had three goals and three assists. Danny Brennan again had a stellar day, earning 16 of 22 face offs. Syracuse would cruise to another win beating Rutgers 17-9.
Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome to play Upstate rival Albany. The Great Danes previously were ranked as high as #2 last year, but this year was not as kind to Albany. Sporting a record of 5-6 entering the contest, Albany looked to possibly save some face and play the still top ranked Orange hard. Alas, Syracuse would emerge victorious again by a score of 10-5. Leveille again led the Orange in scoring with three goals.
The year’s final home game rolled around against a foe that has certainly emerged in the last few years as a hated rival of Syracuse on the lacrosse field; Massachusetts. UMass entered the Dome much like Albany. They were just not as good as the year before. Syracuse traveled to Amherst, Massachusetts the previous year only to lose to UMass 9-7, assuring that they would not earn an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1982. This year Syracuse exacted its revenge with seemingly no mercy. Syracuse beat UMass 16-3. Mike Leveille and Steven Brooks again each had three goals. Leveille also had three assists. Danny Brennan, after injuring one of his legs, rested most of the game, after he won two out of three. The question would be how effective could Brennan be the rest of the season? Syracuse, like in many of their games, outshot their opponent by a wide margin. In this case Syracuse took 42 shots compared to UMass’ 21. UMass would be vanquished as just another opponent to fall victim to Syracuse’s renewed commitment to winning.
The final game of the regular season would be interesting. After ten straight wins Syracuse would travel to Colgate, just east on the New York State Thruway, to Hamilton, New York. Four players would have two goals for the Orange, but it would not be enough without the services of Danny Brennan. Sidelined due to injury, and an at large bid for the NCAA Tournament locked up weeks ago, Syracuse rested their specialist and that was clearly the difference in a Colgate win. Syracuse would come up just short by a score of 12 to 11. Syracuse again greatly outshot Colgate 40 to 26, but again Colgate was the better team. Syracuse had an excellent fourth quarter, but it was not enough to overcome a bad third quarter in which Syracuse was outscored five to one.
Because of the loss, Syracuse would lose its #1 ranking, but it mattered little to the Orange as they had already punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. They earned a #3 seed and looked to get back to the Final Four, this time in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The questions on everyone’s minds clearly were would Danny Brennan be ready for the NCAA Tournament, and was this regular season how Syracuse would perform in the Tournament, or would they choke and not close the deal when they needed to? Syracuse had at least two games before the Final Four, and they would certainly not be cake walks, not to mention the test they would find if they managed to make it to Foxborough.
The year started with high expectation and for the most part the team delivered. Syracuse opened up their season against Villanova, a familiar foe on the hardwood, but not so much on the lacrosse field. This was clearly for good reason, because Villanova presented no challenge for the Orange. Syracuse easily won 21-6 and had ten unanswered goals in the first quarter alone. Kenny Nims started his season off right with 6 goals in the game. Mike Leveille also started his season off solid with two goals and four assists for a total of six points. ‘Nova was no match for the refocused Orange.
Syracuse next faced Revenge Tour ’08 foe number one, Army. Only a year before Syracuse had lost to them 7-8. Now, the newly focused Orange would not let that happen. This time Syracuse was the victor 8-7. Mike Leveille was the top player with four goals and two assists in the game. Syracuse, like they did all year, had far more shots than the competition.
Next, Syracuse took on old foe Virginia, ranked #3 at the time, in the Face Off Classic in Baltimore, Maryland. This would be one of the first overtime matches the Orange, and the lacrosse season in general, would see. In a hard fought battle, clearly the first real test for the team, Syracuse lost a close one in OT to the Cavilers in Bawlmer 14-13. Steven Brooks and Kenny Nims each had three goals, and Mike Leveille had a pair of goals and an assist. But it was not enough as Virginia’s Brian Carroll win the game in OT. This was a disappointment for the Orange, but redemption is only ever a week away with the tough schedule Syracuse had.
It was now time to face #12 Georgetown. Syracuse severely out shot Georgetown in this game, but it would take two overtime periods to determine the winner. Brendan Loftus was the MVP and the hero in this game as he had four goals, one of which was the game winner. Mike Leveille added a goal and two assists as well. Syracuse would beat Georgetown, prove that this team would not go down without a fight, and regain their confidence in the murders row they would have in this stretch of the season.
Syracuse then would travel to Homewood Field to face rival Johns Hopkins in Maryland. It had been a number of trips for the Orange since the last time they had beaten Hopkins on their own field, and adding to the pressure was that they were ranked #4. Syracuse, for the third game in a row, would play extra lacrosse in an overtime period. Steven Brooks had four goals in this game, and Mike Leveille earned three goals and three assists. But again, it would take extra lacrosse for the Orange to put away another foe, as Steven Brooks put in the game winner to give Syracuse the victory over the Blue Jays, and the Revenge Tour ’08 rolled on with another loss avenged.
Syracuse would then play three games, that by all accounts would be a cake walk compared to the three games the Orange just played. First, the ‘Cuse would play Binghamton in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse would easily handle them 16-2 with Mike Leveille tallying four goals in the win. Then Syracuse would take on upstate rival Hobart in nearby Geneva, New York. Leveille would score his 100th career goal in a three goal, one assist effort. They would easily handle upstate rival Hobart 13-5. Loyola would then travel to the Carrier Dome, a team that beat Syracuse the previous year 11-10, but that would not be the case this year. Syracuse would beat Loyola in the Dome 13-8. Mike Leveille would again lead the way with three goals and two assists. Dan Hardy would also tally three goals in the contest as well. Syracuse would then turn its attention to more classic foes.
The reason for forming the league for Syracuse is simple. After a year of missing the tournament Syracuse felt that they could have still made it by winning their games against more than likely inferior Big East opponents. This theory is backed up by Syracuse, even in one of their worst years ever, managed to beat #2 Georgetown and Rutgers. The theory is sound enough; if in the event Syracuse fails to earn the proper pedigree to send them to the field of 16, then they surely will get an automatic bid either way. While the idea of a Big East lacrosse conference is a sexy one, in reality for Syracuse it is anything but.
Syracuse will most likely play a 14 game regular season. The Orange usually pepper in the usual suspects of Princeton, Virginia, and Johns Hopkins. They also play Albany, Cornell, Hobart, and Colgate; Syracuse’s upstate New York rivals. Syracuse the last few years has also played Georgetown, Army, Loyola, and, in my opinion, now rival UMass. They have also played Rutgers home and away the last few years. Syracuse has played Binghamton the last two seasons, and this year they played Villanova to fill the 14th slot. So there is your traditional schedule and what happened to consist of their slate this season.
So what would it do to the Syracuse schedule to play the Big East? The conference would consist of Syracuse clearly, but it will also include Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John’s, Providence, and Villanova. Therefore, six games are spoken for. Syracuse will of course continue to schedule Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and Virginia. That would bring the total to nine. Syracuse would also like to keep their upstate rivalries in tact as well, which would mean playing Albany, Colgate, Hobart, and Cornell. That is now 13 games. So that would mean that there would most likely only be one more spot to schedule a game, which I would imagine would be taken up by UMass. At least hopefully.
But, of course the unintended consequence is the watering down of Syracuse’s schedule. Syracuse will no longer play Army and Loyola, teams that have been ranked the last few years. Instead, Syracuse will be playing St. John’s, Providence or Villanova, teams that are not even remotely near Syracuse’s level of play. Currently Villanova and Providence are not even fully funded programs with the proper number of scholarships.
So really my argument boils down to the fact that if it is not really broke, why fix it? Syracuse already plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Syracuse just won its record tenth National Championship. Syracuse is an elite program that can stand a down year now and then of not making the tournament. I mean missing the tournament once between the years of 1983 and 2008 is not so bad right?
While it appears that Syracuse will be joining a yet to be formed Big East Lacrosse conference, I for one will not be looking forward to it. All the benefits could be achieved by just scheduling Notre Dame in place of Villanova or Binghamton. Boom, there is your rivalry game without the scheduling of Providence. Amazing. Syracuse can write its own ticket. Syracuse, like Johns Hopkins, can afford to be independent still. A program with the caliber of Syracuse should not be making knee jerk reactions for the exception of missing the tournament, rather than the rule. While this may be good for the sport, it will still not be good for Syracuse, even if down the line it means the BET in the Dome.
We finish our coverage of the 2008 Lacrosse National Championship tomorrow with the season wrap up, as we say goodbye to another lacrosse season.
Nunes: Yeah I guess I'll start paying attention now. What's lacrosse anyway, is that the one with the brooms on the ice?
I really got into it towards the end of the season and I guess that makes me a front-runner but hey, that still makes me a better lacrosse fan than 97% of the Syracuse fandom out there. You could not have asked for a better Final Four. Two amazing semifinal games and then a definitive victory in the championship over a hated, uppity rival. It's amazing how comfortable we all got again with being the best team so quickly. And yet it didn't feel like old hat at all. Last season, for all its terribleness, was a great re-calibrator for SU lacrosse fans.
And frontrunners like myself.
2. Orange::44: Any closing thoughts for you on the Lacrosse Final Four or the season in general?
Nunes: I KNEW that early on when all those "parity" folks came out of the woodwork that we'd end up with a Final Four consisting of teams like Hopkins, Duke, Virginia and Syracuse. I love that lacrosse is expanding and new teams are getting their due but college lacrosse is in a real Catch-22 right now. It needs to become more of a national sport yet it risks alienating its hardcore base if the Final Four ever consists of Ohio State, Denver, Notre Dame and Providence. The whole process is moving at a glacial, steady pace but maybe that's the best thing. It took a little while to get used to this whole "Duke is really good" thing and now they're part of the old guard. I think we'll see more teams creep into the top tier over the next few years, but not many and not as often as you might think.
Only four schools have won the national title since 1991. And only five schools have won the national title since 1978. That's INSANE. It's not in the sport's best interest for that to continue, but it's not in the best interest for those teams to totally go away either.
3. Orange::44: Has the women's lax team become relevant to the Syracuse community simply because of Gait and making it to the Final Four?
Nunes: When we remember this women's lacrosse season, there will probably come a point when we forget the Orange were really good last year as well, the year before Gait got here. But let's face it, there is no better form of instant credibility in lacrosse than to align yourself with Gary Gait. What may or may not have been a nice run by Syracuse women's lacrosse is now feeling like the budding of a dynasty. Northwestern more than proved how good their program is with another title this year, their fourth in four, but you get the sense Syracuse is about to become challenger #1 to that run. And possibly overtake them sooner than later.
Like women's basketball, the program is in a fantastic position to remain relevant in the community. Now they just have to keep building on it. And eating whatever it is Katie Rowan is eating. I'm guessing Wheaties.
4. Orange::44: We now turn to football. I know it is early, but how do you think the Northwestern game will turn out for Syracuse?
Nunes: God dammit, I thought we had another month or so before we had to trick ourselves into thinking we had a shot this year. Now Mike Williams went all cheatie on us and nothing feels good about this team anymore. That really sucked all the wind out of the sails. It opened our eyes to just how fragile this team is...take away one guy and we're left with a good QB, a questionably decent stable of RBs, an OL we just can't trust yet and a quorom of untested WRs. I'll go into battle with these guys but I can't be sure of how good we're gonna do.
On paper, we've tricked ourselves into thinking this game is quite winnable but we keep forgetting one thing. It's not like Northwestern is looking at us and thinking they're screwed. They're licking their chops over there...and why shouldn't they be?
It's too early to say for sure but I wouldn't commit to anything better than a 50/50 shot for us to win that one right now.
5. Orange::44: I make the argument that the offense should be better this season. But really, I think everyone should be concerned with the defense. Who will be and who should be the biggest defensive playmakers on the team?
Nunes: Assuming you wrote this question pre-Mike Williams news, you want to amend?
Agreed though, we're all so worried about the RBs, OL and WR positions we're forgetting about that defense that needed major upgrading over last season.
I'm counting on Bud Tribbey to step it up at the D-line. We just lost our most experience player, Tony Jenkins, and I think Tribbey is the best young guy with the shot to become an impact player right away. CB Mike Holmes, our second leading tackler last year, is going to need to step it up as well since I expect him to become our leading tackler, for better or worse.
6. Orange::44: Finally, now that school is out and it is the Syracuse "off season", what exactly do you plan to fill the void with, both in real life and on the blog?
Nunes: It's funny, I was literally saying to myself the other day that I have nothing to write about cause we're in a dead zone and then BOOM the Mike Williams thing happens. So clearly it's my fault. I do want to do a couple random ideas I've been thinking of, such as Best Places To Drink at SU or Ranking The Dorian's Sandwiches and I'm sure I'll get around to them as soon as there's a day one of our players doesn't break school policy and/or our athletics department isn't making vague statements about it.
In the real world, it’s the summer and I live in LA so I really have excuses. The great thing about California is that you almost feel compelled to go hiking/run/play volleyball every second of the day so it forces you to get out there and actually do something productive with your life that doesn't include detailing the inner workings of Syracuse football.
Otherwise I'm also trying to do a lot of writing in terms of screenplays and short films. I'm doing my best to uphold the stereotype that everyone in this town is either an actor/director/writer. I've currently got "multiple projects in various stages of development" so I'm just trying to keep those balls rolling and be productive. My goal is to eventually get on the writing staff of The Office and write an episode where they go to a Gerry McNamara autograph signing and Dwight freaks out. Fingers crossed.
Labels: Chill Out Already
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