USA TODAY Sports
Syracuse went back to its early-season form Wednesday easily defeating visiting Providence at the Carrier Dome.
After-the-fact apologizes are most of the time worthless, however, sometimes they're needed. Thursday, a day after the No. 8-ranked Syracuse Orange dominated Providence, 84-59, at the Carrier Dome, is one of those days to apologize to #OrangeNation for my grumpiness.
If you recall, on Tuesday I published a not-so flattering article on the Orange, who at the time had lost three of their last five games and had gone from a Final Four favorite to a near lock to be one of March's first- or second-round upsets.
Over the course of the last month or so, Syracuse had been lousy and, in my defense, I had a right to be nervous - as did most of you who commented on my post.
Last night's thumping of Providence, which maybe played the worst half of basketball this season, eased my concerns just a bit.
I know the victory was over the Friars, but here's a few things I like about last night's win.
Michael Carter-Williams used his scoring to opening up passing lanes
I harp on MCW a lot, and most of the time it is because I expect too much from the sophomore.
Lately, his decision making has been poor, he hasn't been able to make any shot other than a 3-pointer in rhythm and all of these aspects has led to awful offensive play by the Orange - as MCW goes as does the SU offense.
On Tuesday, I finally saw flashes of the soon-to-be lottery pick "getting it."
If you noticed, the floor general began the game taken the ball to the rim. His first bucket of the night was the Orange's first and it resulted in an old-fashioned 3-point play.
Much like a NFL team opens up its passing game by running the ball down the opponent's throats, MCW did basically the same thing against Providence. Once he asserted his offensive game - and made a few shots (all near the rim) - he was able to pick a part the Friars' defense, which held its previous four opponents to an average of 55.5 point per game.
MCW didn't tally his first assists until six minutes into the contest, but by halftime he had eight assists, four of them coming during a 1 minute, 30 second span at the tail end of the first half, which ended with Syracuse leading 43-16.
No one should be a fan of MCW trying to be a scorer, because he isn't. But Syracuse fans should be able to live with him asserting himself as one, early on, to open up the opponent's defense.
This happened Wednesday night and it led to 15 points, on 5 of 8 shooting, and 12 assists - his highest total since a 13-assists performance, Dec. 31, against Central Connecticut.
C.J. Fair is on fire
Like a freakin' ninja, the junior forward is slowly becoming the prime-time player Syracuse will need to make a deep run into March.
Every night he is scoring and rebounding. In the past six games, Fair is averaging 17.3 ppg, on 51-percent shooting, and 8.0 rebounds.
Right before halftime Wednesday night I thought to myself: "Where the heck has C.J. Fair been tonight?"
I nearly did a spit take when I looked at the box score and he had already tallied nine points and four rebounds. And then, BANG he nailed a 3-pointer to give himself 12 and 4 at halftime. He finished with 20 and 10 - his third double-double in six games.
Since SU's loss to Temple, Dec. 22, Fair hasn't tallied less than 10 points in a game.
Fair may not be Syracuse's "go-to" guy in the clutch, but there's no doubt he is showing up and performing at a high level every night; and that's exactly what good teams need to advance in a one-and-done situation.
Hello, transition game!
The Orange used a decent defensive effort to spark a transition game that scored 20 of the Orange's 84 points.
The last time Syracuse tallied that many transition points in a game was Jan 2 in a 78-53 victory over Rutgers. Since a Dec. 8 win over Monmouth, the Orange have only reached the 20-point mark just three times in 17 games.
(Last season's team was able to hit the mark six times and reached the 15-point mark 14 times.)
Though, I must point out that stats do lie sometimes. Looking at the box score one would figure Syracuse played outstanding perimeter defense, which helped lead to the transition game, as the Friars shot 3-for-18 from behind the 3-point line. But watching the game there was still way too many wide-open 3-pointers in the corners.
Luckily, for Syracuse, they didn't fall.
Overall, there was a lot to like about what Syracuse did Wednesday and we can all just hope it carries over to Saturday's showdown with the Georgetown Hoyas.
(P.S., it is okay for me talk about that game now, right?)