Here’s my courtside report card from Saturday’s 108-56 Syracuse win:
Head of the Class
Michael Carter-Williams: Only eight games into his sophomore season, MCW is looking like the best pure point guard the Orange have had since – dare I say – Sherman Douglas? The Big General had his fingerprints over the entire stat sheet, racking up 16 assists (3rd all-time at SU) to go with 15 points, 5 steals, 4 blocks! and 3 rebounds. He was 2-4 from 3-point territory, and had only 3 turnovers in 26 minutes. However, the numbers often don’t do his game justice. The offense simply looks more fluid and efficient with the ball in his hands, to the point where it could be a detriment down the road if his teammates just wait around for him to make a play and drop the ball in their hands for an easy bucket. I haven’t seen too much of that yet, which is a credit to him and the coaches for keeping everyone involved in the offense.
The Young’uns: There’s an old saying in sports: “Winning is the best deodorant.” Even though SU is undefeated thus far, they haven’t been without flaws. Trevor Cooney’s shooting woes were oft-discussed, but after his awakening at the end of the Eastern Michigan game he seems to be on the right track. Jeremi Grant has been a revelation lately, with his energy and athleticism seemingly well-suited to Boeheim’s zone and press defenses. Even DaJuan Coleman, a starter all season, had his best outing Monday, chipping in 11 points and 14 boards against a woefully outmatched Hawks front line.
Syracuse's Fast Break: The Orange fast break is a thing of beauty to watch when it is going well, especially when fueled by their relentless full-court pressure. MCW is the perfect point guard to lead the break, with the size and athleticism to finish himself yet the court awareness to find the open man nearly every time down the floor. With athletes like C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Brandon Triche, and Grant filling the lanes, SU could get ridiculous amounts of easy buckets this year, perhaps even more than last year with Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine as the primary playmakers.
Stay After Class
Free Throw Shooting: And even on the sunniest of days there can be a few clouds. The Orange shot a disappointing 13-27 (48%) from the free throw line, with freshmen Coleman going 3-7 and Grant 1-4. Now anyone who has watched Syracuse basketball over the years knows about their history of less-than-stellar charity striping. If the Orange, a team who will earn its keep taking the ball to the rim, can’t consistently hit a respectable percentage at the line they’ll pay for it by losing a game they should have won. Mark it down now. One encouraging note - I saw on Twitter late Monday night Grant and walk-on Griffin Hoffmann tweet that they were going to the Melo Center to work on FT shooting after the game. You have to admire the dedication.
Monmouth: I don’t want to shovel dirt on a bunch of college kids, but Division II schools Pace and Bloomsburg put up a better fight than the Hawks did on Monday night. 52 points? I know Boeheim says he doesn't need to play Duke to find flaws in his team, and I’m sure the coaching staff can find plenty of faults in how they played (see above), but 52 points? It was already Taco Time two minutes into the second half! There was one play late in the game where Triche looked like he was trying to murder the rim on a dunk, and the PA announcer simply said “Triche for two” like he was bored with the whole thing. I didn't blame him.
Final Grade: A-
The players can’t be penalized for the lack of a challenge provided by their opponent. They can only win the games they’re given.