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People have been calling me a mother****er for 42 years. Well, IT'S TRUE, SON!

The Syracuse Men's Basketball team opened the 2017-2018 season on Friday night against upstate rival Cornell. There was nothing remarkably unusual about that... other than Orange coach Jim Boeheim's eldest son, Jimmy, is a freshman for the Big Red. And so Jimmy has gone from being a ball boy in the Carrier Dome in his toddler years, so playing his first collegiate game on that same court bearing his father's name. And in fact, his first collegiate points came on a three as he positioned himself right in front of the Syracuse bench. Drew it up great! But at the end of the day, this was about Syracuse vs. Cornell, and starting the season off the right way. And to the extent Syracuse won the game, then mission accomplished. Orange > Big Red, 77-45.

  • Leading the way for the Orange in scoring was Tyus Battle. Because it had to be. Tyus put up 18 points on 6-14 shooting, 2-5 from three, and 4-6 from the line. He also grabbed four rebounds in 28 minutes (no other Orange player clocked more time, with Matthew Moyer also playing 28 minutes).
  • Battle needed to step up and be that veteran leader on a team that doesn't really have a senior leader to look to right now. It's a young team, so Battle did what he had to do in this regard.
  • Also in double digit scoring were Geno Thorpe off the bench with 12 points on 4-13 shooting, and Oshae Brissett with eleven points on 3-13 from the floor. Overall, Syracuse shot 29-70. I'll spare you the math: it's 41.4%.
  • Don't be fooled by the 77-spot: Syracuse is not a great offensive team. They'd get some great looks, but couldn't get the shots to drop. They also seemed to struggle getting into any sort of offensive groove or setting up any good plays. That being said, most of these guys have only been playing with each other for several weeks -- and mostly against themselves -- so with more game time experience, hopefully we'll see some better gelling.
  • A bright spot with this squad has to be the size, and therefore, defense. Because these players are tall and long-armed, they can cover a larger area in the zone defense. To that end, they held Cornell to 13 baskets on 52 attempts (25%), had 33 defensive rebounds, caused 15 turnovers, blocked six shots, and had twelve steals. Add in 21 offensive rebounds, and you've also got yourself lots of second chance opportunities. The 2-3 zone is generally difficult for young players to fully grasp, but a combination of their understanding of it, their size, and Cornell being Cornell really made the defense look great on Sunday.
  • Grad transfer Geno Thorpe looks good -- or at least that potential is there -- but he really had a hard time getting his shots to fall. Maybe a little more finesse and he'll be a huge scoring threat off the bench.
  • Though you'd have wanted to see a better offensive output from him, Matthew Moyer had a decent game and showed some skills on rebounding. He had the benefit of redshirting last year, being in practice and learning the game, so I expect him to be a force this year. He and Battle should compliment themselves very well.
  • The newly-renumbered Frank Howard had a decent game back in his role as starting point guard. He ran the offense well enough, and had some great plays, but he needs to step it up against better competition. That said, I think he can, and will.
  • For Cornell, Matt Morgan led the way in scoring with 14 points on 3-9 shooting. Jimmy Boeheim was right behind him with eleven points on 4-13 shooting.
Jimmy's younger brother Buddy signed his National Letter of Intent with Syracuse a couple days before this game, so assuming he doesn't redshirt next year, we'll be looking at a Boeheim/Boeheim vs. Boeheim game next fall, when Syracuse inevitably finds itself playing Cornell again. But until then, we focus on '17-'18, where Syracuse has rather low expectations. I have no problem with that assessment, given the young age of the team and its disappointing trip to the NIT last year. But, Syracuse tends to do a lot better than expected when the expectations are so low. It's a much tougher non-conference schedule this season (highlighted by a trip to Miami to face Kansas in the Hoophall Invitational, which I will be attending), and the ACC won't be any easier. However, seeing this team on Friday night proved to me that there's a lot of talent there, and if they're able to harness it and mesh together as a team, they have the potential to surprise some people.

Or at least that's the optimist in me talking.

Up next, Tuesday night against Iona.

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