Let me first say that I'm a long time reader and rare poster. I was born and raised in Syracuse and have grown up rooting for this team. Some of my earliest memories were of Cuse games. I remember Sherm throwing an under-the-legs pass against Indiana in 1988 and I remember crying losing in the tourney to Illinois in OT. I no longer live in the Emerald City but would give a scrotal member to be back there. That said, I feel like I have a similar perspective as many of the regular posters here on this and past teams.
Needless to say, I was surprised to see so many in comments on this board saying they were 'not worried' about ND, but thought that Cincy would be tough, especially without Fab. My thought on this is that this team has been showing signs of weakness for several weeks and many seem to have have ignored that in order to defend our cause against idiots like gottlieb or whoever. The point is, this team has several major weaknesses and it was the lack of a loss that has masked those deficiencies Syracuse is incredibly talented, but that alone does not make up for the problems.
Here are my thoughts on where the club can improve. Please do not confuse this with a homer defeatist attitude. It's merely the thoughts of a dire-hard fan trying to be objective
1. Syracuse will always be vulnerable to a team that gets hot from the outside. That's the nature of the zone. Part of that happened tonight.
2. Rebounding. There have been lots of comments here about whether rebounding is important and whether this is offset by turnovers, etc. Tonight was a good example of how this will get the Cuse. TOs were at a minimun tonight (as they will be at points in future games). Playing good defense for 30 sec against a team that is trying to slow the game down and then giving up an offensive rebound for another 30 second possession REALLY hurts this club. It makes the D play longer, limits the aggressiveness and tires guys out. It also means less offensive possessions for the Orange. Bad combo.
3. Lack of interior presence. I word it like this because without Fab, it applies to both interior defense and offense. There is no low post presence on offense. This is with or without Fab. There is no Rick Jackson or AO to hammer down on the block for an easy two. Syracuse has to WORK for their points, either by making a 3, converting a layup in transition, or by dribble penetration. Limiting the offensive options makes it susceptible to going into dry spells. This has happened against Marquette, Pitt, Providence I, and ND. If Syr is not getting transition hoops, they too often settle for outside jumpers. This is not a recipe for success in the long term. There are no off-ball screens or back doors. Regarding the defense, part of the problem is that the wing often gets too high on the edge. This equates to creating what amounts to a 3-2 zone. When that happens, passing to the interior results in a isolation on the low block. Baye, CJ or James are not going to win that battle. They lost it all night tonight to Jack Cooley.
Okay. I'm done. I'm frustrated by tonight, but I have to say that this has been coming for weeks. I fear that there are more nights like tonight in the coming weeks. I think that this team would be great to finish 27-4 or 26-5. I think these are realistic goals. Syracuse is still more talented that any team in the conference. But given their offensive deficiencies, they are going to struggle when faced with a tough team on the road. My hope is that they can hold court and still win the home games they should and not lose too many 'soft' road games. A 1 or a 2 seed would be fine, and then the real season begins...