As we all know, it’s really difficult to glean much from exhibitions against Division II opponents. However, it is nice to see the team back on the court, and I think there are a few things we can take away from the game against Cal State LA.
I liked the way Scoop played. He didn’t force the issue on offense; he distributed and took what the defense gave to him. I thought there was only really one bad shot Scoop took, where he drove the lane and tried to draw a foul, and threw up an ugly shot off the glass. Luckily, Baye was able to make a ridiculous tip in off of the miss. Otherwise, we got mostly "good Scoop" on Tuesday night.
Brandon obviously had a tough game, he only shot 2-11 from the field and was 0-3 from deep, but I liked how he was trying to score. He’s pretty strong and physically imposing for a guard, and since his freshman year I’ve been waiting for him to use this as an advantage, and post up some guards and try to do more damage in the paint. To this point, he’s really done most of his damage floating outside in three point range, but against CSLA, Brandon tried to find higher percentage shots. They didn’t fall, but the idea was there, and he looked really aggressive, which as we know, is not always the case with Triche. The fact that his struggles didn’t discourage him from continuing to attack the basket was a big plus for me. He is one of our most talented players, and this may be the year that he discovers it.
I also liked the way he crashed the boards. There was one play where he missed a three and was very aggressive in following his shot, and grabbed a board. He grabbed five rebounds in just fifteen minutes. He was also probably our most aggressive backcourt defender, and looks like he’s ready to try to be the Andy Rautins of this year’s zone.
Kris had a pretty quiet game, with 11 points and three boards in 24 minutes. I’m not convinced that Kris is 100% recovered from the nagging knee injury that held him out of a few practices (I think Boeheim alluded to this as well in the presser). I really hope this isn’t the case all season. The one play I really liked from Kris was where he drove the lane, and instead of possibly charging, or missing a tough contested layup, he dished it quickly to CJ who was open under the hoop.
I was very happy with what I saw out of Christmas for his first game. He was very good on the boards for a freshman, looked natural going for blocks, and just played well overall. He’s going to struggle with fouls, and his offense is really raw (although he did have a really nice kiss off the glass from about eight feet out). He needs to be a little better about anticipating passes, (Cooney had a really nice one in transition with about a minute left, but Rak was just not prepared for it). I think that we’ll probably get something similar to what we got from Baye last year out of Rakeem this year, with maybe a little more offense.
The best player on the floor Tuesday night was Fab Melo. Who saw that coming? There are few tangible things you can take away from a game with a team like Cal State LA, but the things Fab showed improvements upon from last year were very apparent, no matter who the opponent was. He’s just a ton slimmer, faster, more athletic, and way more aggressive. All that experience he got overseas this year seemed to be huge for his development as well. Some of the plays he made in transition (the goaltend that we all loved) were so impressive to see a 7-footer make.
If Fab can play like that against Big East competition, and I understand how big an ‘if’ that is, he’s going to open up so much for us offensively. In 2009-10, we started almost every game by having Brandon or Rautins feed AO on the block to get him established. I would not be shocked if we tried to do this with Fab to get him in rhythm.
Fab also showed a really nice face up game. Watching him take the three was funny, but if he can consistently hit that 15 footer he hit from the side, it would just be another bullet in our Orange holster, and another thing for defenses to have to defend.
I’m not ready to anoint Fab this year, Cal State LA is Cal State LA after all, but if this was a sign of things to come, this may be our last year with Fab Melo at Syracuse. And that has nothing to do with turn signals.
I was a bit disappointed in Dion's play. While he was a respectable 4-8 for 10 points, he was 0-3 from deep, including a few air balls, and most of his damage was done in transition. He didn't really play within the offense like I hoped he would this year; we saw more of the out of control play that we saw out of Dion too often last year. Dion is one of our most talented scorers, but he tends to become a black hole all too often.
CJ looked like the CJ we all know and love from last season. He just has such a high basketball IQ, and seems to know exactly where to be at all times, whether it is for a putback or a rebound. His stroke on his three-point ball looked great, I can definitely see him taking a similar jump that Kris did from his freshman to sophomore year as a shooter.
While a bit overshadowed by the Fab Melo show, I thought Baye showed improvement as well. He is still a strong rebounder and shot blocker, and looks like he's added some great offensive skills, like the hook shot he hit late. He has such long arms, if he gets consistency with that sky-hook, it's going to be almost impossible to defend. I loved watching him take that charge early on as well. He and CJ might be our two most heady players.
Michael Carter-Williams was pretty visibly nervous in his first game at the Dome, but I thought he got better as the game went on. Early on, he was sailing passes and seemed to be rushing things, but as he let the game come to him, he made some really nice plays. I was impressed how well he scored in the paint, despite how rail-thin he is. He's only going to get better around the rim. He also has a really quick release, but he shoots pretty low. MCW is a tall, lanky guard, so he might not suffer as much as a shorter player may because of this, but I am a bit worried he might get shots blocked. Either way, I like him as a shooter, and loved the head fake he threw to open himself up for the jumper in the second have.
I don't think we'll see much of Cooney this year, but I think he could come off the bench as a three-point bomber in a pinch (sorry Mookie). His shot is gorgeous, he has such a quick release. I also loved the midrange play he made late in the game. I think he's 10th or 11th in the rotation at this point, but he should be a good one down the road.
I really really want James Southerland to be a good player. He's the most athletic guy on the team, he has the ability to be a dagger three point shooter, and he just does so many things well. That being said, the guy just disappears. James had a pretty dreadful game, he wasn't ready for passes, he air-balled shots, and he just wasn't really a factor.
Mookie racked up fouls at an incredible rate. Like, I was actually impressed.
Some random, non-player specific notes:
-I'd be a bit surprised if we didn't lead the Big East in blocks this year. Fab, Baye, CJ, and Christmas are all very good shot-blockers. Again, Cal State Los Angeles is taken into consideration, but Rak had three, Fab, CJ, and Baye all had two, and MCW, Dion, and Southerland all added blocks of their own. 12 blocks is a crazy number.
-i don't know if we'll be quite as good defensively as we were two years ago, but this is probably the longest zone we've had. I'm warming up to Christmas as a starter, I think he will be a very effective wing defender, and is probably a more natural fit there athletically than 2009-10 Rick Jackson was.
-When I first saw it, I wasn't sure of what I thought about the new court design, but I think I like the new stronger emphasis on the Orange. Also, I like seeing the "New York's College Team" front and center in big bold letters on the side. Keep pushing it Doc Gross.
-No part of me thinks that the press or man-to-man is going to be a big part of our defense this year, but I think we are better suited for it this year than we have been in the past, if we wanted to throw a quick defensive wrinkle in there. The press that we did use had pretty mixed results.
-This is probably the fastest team we've had in my time at SU, and we should be demons in transition. Especially if Fab is going to hunt people down from behind all year.
-We need to do a better job of grabbing loose balls and long rebounds on defense. I thought we let Stevie Thompson's boys get too many extra chances on offense.
-Boy was that game ugly? The first half was just brutal to watch since neither offense could do anything of note, and the second half had about eight fouls per minute. #BlameBurr
-How funny was Adrian Autry's daughter running onto the floor?
It seems like basketball really crept up on us this year, but between Midnight Madness and Tuesday's exhibition, I'm really excited for this year. Come on down to the slaughter, College of St. Rose.