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Guest Post: State Of The Orange

Site rule here at TNIAAM. When someone sends me a booze-induced email asking to write up a guest post about the State of Syracuse basketball, I am required to post it. And so, below are the thoughts of Jeff, aka settes, from We Won't Let You Forget.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, TNIAAM Inc. and it's parent company, Sexplosion Video & Distribution.

I'm not gonna lie. I was super drunk when I proposed
this idea to Sean. Sitting in an Internet cafe on Sunset Boulevard a little before midnight last Saturday, I somehow managed to eloquently type up a proposal asking him for a chance to write about the Orange. (first draft of that email began along the lines of "yo let me dtype a post for you") In my brain, which at the time was reminiscent of one kept in a scientific lab except instead of formaldehyde mine was soaking in a brine consisting of Jack Daniels, Coors Light, and a couple of shots of something called "Blood of Satan," I concocted the idea that once the season was over I would write something about the state of the Orange. Comparing and contrasting how the season went according to original predictions and ideas. How players had matured, how freshmen overcame inexperience, how the team played overall. And the best part of all that was that I wouldn't even have to start until they were done playing for the year.

I hate you, UMass.

Part I: The Past
A recent study found that a school winning the National Championship increases enrollment 8 to 9 percent. As the drama in 2003 unfolded, my college choice was down to two: Pitt and Syracuse. At the beginning of the National Championship game, those two schools were about even in my eyes. But by the time Hakim Warrick skyed out of nowhere to make a block for the ages and I saw Boeheim throw his hands awkwardly in the air, I had a good idea my decision had been made for me. (That, and a creepy kid from high school had chosen Pitt and mentioned the word "carpool" to me earlier in the week. That increases enrollment elsewhere by a factor of more than 8 to 9 percent, I can guarantee you.)

After the disappointing conclusion of my senior year's team, I heard the rumblings about the similarities to 2003 for next year's team. About how that team was in the NIT the year before. About how that highly ranked class had a greatly talented blue chipper from Maryland coming in. I heard jokes about how SU would have won the year before we came and will have won the year after we left. Obviously, they weren't serious discussions about
the National Championship... but they weren't completely joking either.

Part II: The Present

As I watched my first SU game as an alumni, it felt strange. Compounded by the fact
that 75% of the team I had watched for four years was gone, it was quite literally a different team. I couldn't tell Scoop from Jonny, or Donte from Arinze. I also told myself that in time, I would learn. After Jonny Flynn took an ill-advised three-pointer from way downtown to win the game, I thought I had an idea about what this team would be like: a talented team that would get by on their talent for the first few months before really coming together. They could play up to the elite in the nation, as well as down to the not so elite. With that information, a solid idea for the rest of season was formed: We could be a team in the top three of the Big East as well as a team that could get consideration for the top 25 once we get into the heart of Big East play. We'd have games where we'd get hot at the onset and absolutely blow out a team, or we'd start slow, but through sheer talent claw our way back into things. As far as young, freshman-laden teams, it was an aggressive yet feasible idea.

Until D-Day. Things happen throughout every season. Roles are reduced, goofy white guys come out of nowhere, Bernie Fine thinks about gettin
g his sports jacket washed. This season, unlike those in the past, injuries happened. When Devendorf went down, expectations for this team changed. Once we heard his injury would keep him out of action for the year, we said, "Hello NIT." A team without a leadership quality cannot succeed in a conference like the Big East.

But that's only what we
said. Am I the only one who assumed this was a team that could, and would, make the tournament? We had a top five freshman in Greene. We had a steady point guard in Flynn. An underrated center in Onuaku and a dominating presence in Paul Harris in addition to those two could make for not only a tournament team, but a team that could win a game or two there. But we wouldn't say that out loud. And when the team finally gelled and won a bunch of games in the Big East, our thoughts were confirmed: This is a good team.

The first Georgetown game was the first barometer for what this team really was. We could play with any talent in the conference, with or without Devendorf. Playing with and winning, though, are two different things. And close loses were an unfortunate staple of this Big East schedule. Any of which could have provided the team with the necessary wins to get into the tournament. Another characteristic was the inability to put a foot to the opponent's throat.

Pittsburgh and UMass both came back against pretty comfortable leads for SU, mostly as an inability to perform in the final two minutes of a game. All of these shortcomings can be chalked up to inexperience. And as disappointing this season may have been, it was probably better for the long run. The return of starters from this year along with Andy Rautins and Devendorf could prove to put this team in the top 25, and possibly even higher.

Part III: The Future
I was thinking about what the lineup next year would look like besides the obvious at center. Jonny Flynn is the prototypical point guard, so it's safe to pencil him in there too. It became apparent this year that Paul Harris' most dominant place on the court is as a shooting guard. He may not have the shooting touch, especially from outside, to warrant this but his rebounding totals skyrocketed along with his overall performance. So, where does that put Devo? If his knee is fine, there's no reason to have him on the bench either. Would Boeheim run a 3 guard lineup? I didn't think so either. So that would probably push Paul Harris back to forward.

As for Donte'? Who knows. Looking at his struggles against superior talent in the conference, you would think that NBA teams would choose to go elsewhere after a proven commodity. But in games like this, nothing is guaranteed. In my heart of hearts, I believe he is staying.

That leaves a pretty deep bench: Rick Jackson, Kristof!, Scoop Jardine, and Rautins along with the freshmen coming in, all tentatively small forwards. Even that lineup on the bench alone would be worthy of a few out-of-conference wins. A starch departure from this past year, huh?
All in all, that is a very good team coming back. Now because of that depth, don't be surprised to see someone decide to transfer. (The early money is, unfortunately, on Scoop) If restructured ACLs hold up, and this past year doesn't take a toll on players next year, I think we're looking at a top 25 team and one of the premier teams of the conference. As disappointing as these past two years have been, it is exceedingly possible next year makes up for them.


After I made my final decision and sent in the paperwork to upstate New York, I asked my dad what he thought the odds of a school winning the national championship twice in five years were. He responded, "Probably not very good. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the ride." Looking back at my time in Syracuse, I did see some amazing things. Two Big East championships, one of which came in the most amazing way possible, a bunch of Georgetown wins, three great years of G-Mac, and a lifetime of hatred for UConn, Vermont, and Texas A&M.

I think one thing we as fans can take away from this season was just how amazing that 2003 team was. It was the perfect combination of experience, talent and luck.
I heard people my freshman year reminisce about Carmelo and how it was nearly a given that he'd carry the team and take over a game when down 8 or 10 points. As good as Donte' was this year, he wasn't Carmelo. He didn't put the team on his back. And as for Gerry's ability to hit big shots at the end of games, besides Jonny coming within an inch of doing so in DC and the second game of the season, we never really had a go-to guy for those types of shots. And that's not a knock on those guys at all. It is, put simply, a testament to Carmelo, Gerry and the rest of that team.

So, after this monstrous post, I'll try to summarize. I'm not sure what the odds are of two championships in a five year period. But they aren't as good as the odds of two championships in a six year period.

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