Wednesday's 72-66 victory at Providence, believe it or not, marked the halfway point of the Syracuse basketball season.
The No. 7-ranked Orange (15-1) will enter Saturday's game against visiting Villanova with 15 games remaining on their regular-season schedule. Because of that, and students returning to class this upcoming week, I thought it would be a good time to handout some mid-season (term) grades for each player.
Just like any college class, grades are based on work done and performance (I am just the scorekeeper!), but because this is basketball we need to factor in preseason expectations
Pencils down! Scantrons in! Here come the grades.
As expected, the junior center did not earn one of the best grades in the class but overall he was a solid student.
The Senegal native is on pace to set career highs in minutes (14), points (4.3), rebounds (4.3) and blocks (1.2) per game. And whenever he is asked to do something he does it without complaining.
Keita may not be the classes best option to stand in the middle of the room and be a star, but he's doing what is expected and because of that he gets a solid passing grade for the first semester.
It pained me to do this. When Mr. Triche handed in his mid-term it was nearly perfect. He scored high on the multiple choice portion and his essay was nearly flawless - no grammar mistakes, structure was great and points were well supported.
But after reading the essay a second time, and knowing what he brings to the class room - he's easily the most consistent student that participates in discussion - I just wanted more from him. It was good, but not great. I WANT GREAT!
It maybe unfair, as Mr. Triche may never be a 4.0 student, but I know he has the ability to be one.
Everything about Mr. Fair has been outstanding, so it was hard not to give him an A.
The junior forward did struggle with constancy early, but lately he has made up for it.
Over the last six games, he's averaging 16.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, while shooting 49-percent from the floor and making 83-percent of his free throws.
If there's one student Syracuse fans feel most comfortable with, at least right now, when it comes to showing up to class everyday, performing well on tests and projects, it's Fair.
And we should all expect this to continue throughout the semester.
We all know the first semester of college is always the toughest on freshman centers, especially among Big East schools.
Coleman's preseason expectations, much like Fab Melo's during his first season, were probably set too high. Because of that, his early-semester tests and essays scores, especially of late (he's averaging only 5 minutes per game in Big East play) were graded with not enough of a curve.
The fact is Coleman is doing what most freshman centers do, and if that's the case we should expect a slight up-climb in his grade by semester's end.
At least we hope so.
James Southerland - GPA: 2.7
Mr. Southerland started the semester like a house on fire.
Through the first five games of the season, he was averaging 19.2 ppg and shooting 62-percent, including 60-PERCENT! from behind the 3-point line.
It was hard to imagine he would keep up those types of test scores, however, it really seems the great start got to his head.
Since then, there has been four games Southerland hasn't made a 3-pointer and four games, including Wednesday's win over Providence, he's made just one.
In the last 11 games, Mr. Southerland is shooting 27-percent from behind the 3-point line.
The good thing for James is he's still shooting a high overall percentage from the field, 49-percent, which is better than Fair, Triche and Michael Carter-Williams. He's also rebounding well (5.2 per game).
Because of his little contributions, Southerland is receiving a decent, but not too impressive, grade of a B-.
Grant has been the class room's pleasant surprise.
Despite not having test scorers that jump out, it does seems like every time the freshman is giving the opportunity he performs well in front of the class.
Now, it is still unclear how well Grant would performance if he needs to stand up in the middle of the class on a more consistent basis, but that's not what I am asking him to do.
If he keeps doing what he's doing he will be on my Dean's List much sooner than anyone could have expect.
For a player that is a threat to compile a triple-double every game it is a disappointment we're halfway through the season and the class' presumably "smartest" player hasn't achieved the feat.
(Question: What would be the class equivalent of a triple-double? I am not smart enough to come up with a clever example.)
Sure, he leads the nation in assists per game, but it now seems teams have a solid book on MCW. The strategy is make him a scorer, and he really seems to struggle in that role.
Dean's Lists students don't have weaknesses and for him to become an elite student he is going to need to fix that flaw heading into the second half of the season.
Entering the season, my expectations for Christmas were pretty high. I was on the record, multiple times, saying Christmas' leap from freshman to sophomore would be more impressive than Fab Melo's.
(I get a grade of F for that prediction.)
Though those expectations might have been too high, Christmas has just been O.K.
It seems he's finding his comfort zone - he scored 15 points and collected eight rebounds against Providence - but overall his performance has been mediocre.
Lets hope Wednesday's performance helps him find his confidence in the second half.
It was a very rough first half for Mr. Cooney.
We all thought with him taking all those extra AP classes in high school it would help him prepare for this semester, but it hasn't so far.
He's really struggling (17-for-60, 28-percent, from long range), and it doesn't bode well for the rest of the class if he doesn't step up.
Hopefully, he will find some confidence and get back on track.
Agree? Disagree? What kind of grades are you handing out?