I have two cats, Flynn and Harris. I love them, but I want a dog. When I got married this summer, I made my wife include in our wedding vows that we would name all future pets after Syracuse basketball players. We were very excited to rescue a pup and name him "Scoop." But now... I just feel like every time I pick up one of my imaginary dog's imaginary turds, I'm going to associate it with an actual Scoop Jardine turd of a game. Every time the hypothetical dog hypothetically pisses on my carpet or won't place nice with the cats or gets rabies and goes on a killing spree, I'm going to think of all the times Scoop has pissed on my soul, ignored his wide open teammates, and killed this team. It's a problem. I'm searching for new names. "Triche" for a girl seems clever, but my wife doesn't like it. She likes the name "Scoop." So what's a guy to do? Hope things get better...
At his best, Scoop Jardine is an above-average point guard and play-maker. He has the ability to take a defender off the dribble, get into the lane, and pass or finish. His mid-range jumper is very solid. His defense has been very good at times in the zone. He's competitive and passionate and there's no question he wants to win; he cares. And he has a lot of leadership qualities. He's not perfect, there are flaws in his game, but he has enough ability and desire to be the floor general for a Syracuse team that still has the potential to be a Final Four team. So what gives? Why is Scoop playing like poop?
Last year, my friends and I would talk about Andy Rautins trying to make "6 point passes." You remember, the crazy passes where he'd wing a ball 60 miles per hour at Arinze's face, no look, from 40 feet away. Every once in a while he'd connect on one and the Dome would go nuts with the highlight reel dunk or 3 pointer that ensued, but more often than not, the pass would result in a turnover and the other team would come down and knock down a 3. Big 5 or 6 point swing. I lived with that last year, because hey, Andy was a great leader and you take the occasional overly-ambitious turnover with everything else he brought to the floor. When Boeheim talked in his presser about losing three great college players from last season, he wasn't just saying we lost a lot of talent, he was saying we lost our identity.
This year's team is lacking one. Rick has established himself as a double-double machine, a guy who gets us second chance points, lots of rebounds, and plays tough defense, but outside of the garbage man, no one on this team has cemented their role. Compare with last year: Triche and Scoop alternated playing the point, their job was to play defense, handle the ball, and distribute. Anything they did offensively was a bonus. AO anchored the zone and had a bevy of post-up moves. Rick cleaned up the glass, got us second chance points, and played D. Wes was deadly from deep, produced highlight reel dunks, was long and active in the zone. Andy was a lethal outside shooter, you could always count on him for a big shot. He was also the smartest guard I've ever seen in the zone, no one anticipated better than him. Kris was instant energy off the bench, a guy who could score off the dribble in a way Wes couldn't. Everyone had a role, everyone was unselfish, everyone understood what they had to do to win.
This year we don't know what roles guys are playing. Is Fair or Southerland the spark off the bench? Maybe? Can we get at least a little defense and rebounding out of Fab/Keita? Possibly? Is Triche an 8 point 2 assist guy or is he going to take over games? Is Joseph our go to player? Is Waiters capable of doing what Scoop did off the bench last year (finishing around the rim, distributing, and holding his own on defense)? And finally, what is Scoop's role?
If you ask Scoop, he believes he's the leader on this team. He's the guy taking the "6 point shot." You know, the one where he jacks up an ill-advised 3 6 seconds into the shot clock to get the crowd going, only to miss it and then give up a 3 or dunk in transition... boom 6 point swing. But I can't live with those shots the way I lived with Andy's passes, because Scoop hasn't consistently contributed in other areas. His defense has been porous of late. He allows too much penetration into the lane, which has doomed the zone the last three games. He gambles too much on defense for me - sure he gets some steals, but he gives up too many open looks for my tastes. Force the opposing team into long contested 3's and trap at opportune moments... that's how the zone is effective. When the team struggles, Scoop tries to do too much. He wants to carry them on his back because we don't have our go-to-guy yet, but he's not Andy Rautins, or G-Mac, or even Devendorf. He can't force shots if we're going to win games. He has to get into the lane, finish around the hoop, and get his teammates involved. He has to realize that even though he hits the occasional three, that's not his game. He has to realize that for him to be a leader, he doesn't have to be the one doing the bulk of the scoring. He has to understand that the best way for him to elevate the team is by elevating the game of his teammates. And he has that ability. He does. Watch that Notre Dame game... Scoop has that ability.
Scoop is the one guy on the team who seems to really want the ball in his hands in a close game and unfortunately, he's the one guy I don't want to have the ball. Until the self-proclaimed leader of this team starts playing like a leader (smart, unselfish, patient) and not trying to do it all himself, I'll be looking for other names for my hypothetical dog.