Syracuse Basketball: Lessons, Grades & Forward Looks

PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 17: Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim screams at his team in the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 17 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. The Panthers defeated the Orange 74-66. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

We've hit the midway point of the college basketball season. The Orange are No. 3 in the nation (for now) and 18-1 overall. I think we can all say we would have gladly taken that had it been offered at the beginning of the season.

The Daily Orange offers up some grades for the season so far. For the most part everyone earns B's while Rick Jackson gets the requisite A. They also point out that Jim Boeheim has done A work so far this season, but what else is new?

Boeheim has done some of his finest work with this squad. From calling the team "overrated" in its second game to reeling off 18 straight victories to start the season, Boeheim has motivated and managed his team correctly at most steps. The extension of trust in his bench also has allowed him to put his rotation in the right spots to succeed — without a star like Wes Johnson was last season.

Their only low mark is for Fab Melo (D) and based on expectations I think you have to agree. I did think they left out a couple grades however, so allow me to add them in.

James Southerland's Beard: A

Mookie Jones In Reality: C

Mookie Jones In His Mind : A+++

Team Theme Song (Un-finished Business): F-

The Orange are coming off a loss to Pitt but they're not going to sit around moping about it. They don't have a choice with the No. 7 Wildcats coming to town this weekend. The Orange regret their lack of toughness at times but do see where they can build on the loss.

"We can take credit from this loss," Jardine said. "We didn’t have one of our best players. Not taking anything away from Pitt, but we didn’t have one of our best players and we fought. C.J. played a great game. James helped us. We just fought."

"I don’t think they just outright beat us," Jackson said. "We did a lot of things where we just killed ourself. We missed point-blank layups and forced tough shots. We let them get the ball inside too much. Those are basic things that we didn’t do."

The D.O. thinks the Orange need to see improvement in three areas if they want to continue their success. They need to keep healthy, they need to see more production from Fab & Baye and they need to see more and more steady play from wild card Brandon Triche.

In the 10 games since going 1-for-7 against Michigan State on Dec. 7, Triche has shot 55 percent from the field, including 45 percent from 3-point range. He's becoming the consistent perimeter shooter SU lacked in the early going.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Triche's efficiency is that it is coming against some of the toughest teams on SU's schedule — Big East teams. Syracuse may not have gotten past Seton Hall without Triche scoring 15 second-half points. He was equally important in a win over St. John's four days later at Madison Square Garden.

Going back to Fab to finish things off, Eric Forman put together this video. While Fab Melo has struggled mightily this season, it's clear there's a ripple effect on his teammates when he does contribute - by their account.

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