Syracuse vs. Manhattan/Albany - NIT Tip-Off Impressions

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

So it looks like Jim Boeheim might play ten guys this year.  How about that?

Last November wasn't nearly as fun as it should have been.  We struggled with mediocre teams like William & Mary. The only consistent presence on the court was Rick Jackson.  The team had a lot of issues.

This year is an embarrassment of riches for Syracuse.  As St. Rose coach and Kris Joseph have stated already, "Syracuse is like Noah's ark.  They've got two of everything."  Out of our two lineups, I don't see one player who doesn't deserve continued playing time.

This depth is going to make this a very unique Syracuse team.  Besides the fact that Boeheim will be more liberal with his substitutions, I believe that we will see more press than we have in recent years, and maybe even a bit of situational man-to-man.  We're going to be in the 2-3 zone the vast majority of the time, that is our defensive identity as a program, but if Louisville has a random dude go off from behind the arc, as per usual, I can see Boeheim turning to a few possessions of man to try to throw them out of rhythm.  

It's funny to think that senior Scoop Jardine might be our only player who hasn't really put it together yet, but if anyone is going to get off to a slow start, I'd rather it be Scoop.  We have a lot of capable guards behind him, as Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters and Michael Carter-Williams can all play the 1, and he's a savvy veteran guard- he's going to get it together.  Scoop was the only scholarship player to get shut out against Manhattan (0-3 from the field), but he rebounded last night against Albany for a solid 7-point, 5-assist, no turnover effort.  I think that Scoop will be big for us next week at the Garden.  He's played very well there throughout his career.

Triche had been playing pretty poorly, despite his continued effort to assert himself in the offense, until the game against Manhattan.  He shot 5-12 from the field (2-5 from three point range), and scored 12 points.  The Albany game wasn't as kind to Triche, he only scored six points on 2-6 shooting, but he distributed pretty well.  Triche had five assists and only two turnovers.  I think Triche has looked more comfortable at the point this year, and he and Waiters has probably been our best back-court thus far.

What more is there to say about Waiters?  He's really doing it all offensively for Syracuse this year so far.  He dropped 17 points against Manhattan, and while he was held to 8 against Albany, he was very smart with the ball and distributed well (5 assists, no turnovers).  He's still forcing some bad shots, but his selection is much better than last year, and he's doing a great job playing within the offense.  His defense, both man and zone, has been excellent as well, as Boeheim has noted.  

Michael Carter-Williams is still finding his way at this level, but I think he's done a decent job.  He's not looking to force things on offense, he's just looking to manage things and run the point.  In the last two games he has six assists and just one turnover.  He also rebounds very well for such a skinny guard.  He grabbed three boards against Manhattan and four against Albany.  He's been very good at the top of the zone, and he's really attacking the passing lanes like we saw Andy Rautins do a few years ago.

I think Kris's knee is healthy.  15 points against the Jaspers, and 19 against the Great Danes.  Kris looks a lot like the player he was last year before his concussion that set him back.  He also seems to be rebounding better- he grabbed seven in just 23 minutes of play against Manhattan.  If he keeps shooting from behind the arc like he is right now, he'll be one of the best all-around offensive players in the Big East, if not the nation.  

C.J. Fair just keeps doing his thing.  He's smart with the ball, and he's pound-for-pound the best rebounder on the team.  Not much else to add.

Holy James Southerland Batman!  I had real doubts that James was going to be a big part of our rotation this season, especially after he struggled a bit in the two exhibitions, but obviously James had other plans.  He dropped 15 on Manhattan and set a new career high with 19 against Albany, in just 23 minutes.  He's consistently drilling his three point shots (6-9 this season), which is something we need out of him as he may be our only lights out shooter when he's on, and most importantly, he's rebounding!  James's struggles on the boards is what lost him playing time last year.  He's still not a great rebounder, but he's not a detriment to the team out there.  I'm also incredibly impressed with all of the new things he's added to his game on offense.  Yesterday he hit some midrange jumpers, he hit a hook shot from around eight feet out, he's showing the ability to score from anywhere on the court.  James has the most unique set of skills on our team, and I'm really excited to see him play so well.

I'm still happy with what we're getting out of Rakeem Christmas.  He's giving solid minutes, converting around the basket, rebounding well, and he can block some shots.  He's had a little bit of foul trouble, but that is to be expected from a freshman forward.  

Fab continues to play very well.  It really is amazing to see how much better he understands how to play the game this year.  The games he played in China were huge for his development.  The one thing that concerns me is that he tends to bury himself too far underneath the basket on offense, so when he gets the ball he's not in a great place to explode and dunk the ball.  He needs to do more work from the block.  I really hope the refs start calling things for him fairly, because this nonsense with him getting repeatedly slapped by three players every time he gets the ball down low has to stop.  

How good was Baye last night against Albany?  14 points in 14 minutes, five offensive boards, and two blocks is pretty impressive.  Baye blocks shots from the most awkward, unpredictable angles...the dude just knows how to find the ball.  He's also 8-8 from the field this season. 

Keep doing your thing Mookie.

 

I'll be in SEC country visiting friends at South Carolina during the Colgate game, but I plan to be in the Garden for the rest of the NIT Tip-Off, so drop me a line on Twitter if you'll be in the city.  I'm really excited to see what this team can do against major conference competition.  Whatever it is, I'm sure Seth Greenberg will cry about it.

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