Scoop Jardine. Say that name right now to Syracuse fans and you're guaranteed to receive a distinct reaction. Probably not a good one, which is a shame considering who the guy is. As we know, it's all about what you do on the court. And right now, the way we feel about Scoop on the court is too negative to counter the positives we think of him off the court.
Let's start with the big issue. I don't know if there's a plus/minus stat out there for college basketball. Some kind of statistical analysis that determines whether or not a player is helping or hurting their team whenever he is out on the court. I have a feeling that doesn't exist. But if it did, I'm guess Scoop Jardine would be about a -583 based on his work from last week.
While he had a few moments here and there, it felt like every time Scoop Jardine touched the ball, something bad happened. And that's not the feeling you want to get from your starting point guard who is in his fourth year.
In the Pittsburgh game, Orange fans were counting on Scoop to step up in the absence of Kris Joseph. Instead they watched him shoot 4-13 for 12 points, dish out four assists and turn the ball over twice. Not horrible but not good. And not what we needed.
The Villanova game was the perfect opportunity for Scoop to make up for it. We were home, the crowd was going to be a sea of orange and he was going to lead SU to victory. So it was that much more disappointing to watch him force his way through a 1-8 shooting performance (0-3 from three) that also include two turnovers and three fouls. Jardine, who fancies himself a leader of the team, spent the last six minutes of the game on the bench. That the Orange made their comeback run and almost stole the win during that time did not go unnoticed. Neither did the fact that he was replaced by a true freshman.
The immediate reaction was clear. Scoop Jardine is not good. He's impatient. He forces shots. He only creates for himself and not for the rest of the offense. He's a liability. He plays like a freshman. Hell, I was thisclose to writing a post questioning whether or not Scoop will be a starter next season. And to be honest, it's still a question worth asking. As Triche continues to improve and Waiters becomes more reliable, who's to say Scoop keeps his starting job just because he'll be a senior?
To his credit, Scoop owned up to everything post-game. From that honest, mature response came Bud Poliquin's reactionary piece on Monday pointing out what a classy guy Jardine is.
The truth is, Bud's right. Scoop is a good guy. In fact, I'd say he's the most personable, relate-able and human players on the team. There's a reason he's had his own "show" on Syracuse.com for three years now. His smile is infectious, he's the best tweeter on the squad and he's probably the one player you'd most like to hang out with if given the chance.
He's already got one catchphrase that's made it big and he's got a second on on its way. No other player can say that? All Brandon Triche has is a disturbing large library of abdomen photos on Facebook.
It's made all the more impressive when you factor in what a redemptive story Scoop's career has been at SU. By all accounts he shouldn't still be here. Between CheesesteakGate, the sexual assault claim and his subsequent tweeting incident, a lesser university would have booted Scoop long ago. Yet he'd survived all of that, plus an injury that knocked him out for a year, to become a leader on this team. It's impressive stuff.
And look, say what you will of the end result but don't tell me Scoop's not trying out there. We all saw how hard he worked to get in shape before last season. We all know what kind of pressure he's under, with Triche gobbling up minutes at the point and cousin Dion grabbing even more minutes as the first guard off the bench. With the impending arrival of Trevor Cooney and the assumed growth of Mookie Jones, minutes aren't going to get any easier to hold onto next year. Question Scoop's decision-making but don't question his desire.
So where does that leave us? I'm not quite sure. This week is a critical time for Scoop. Not to prove anything to us, specifically. But to prove something to Boeheim that he's still capable of leading this team, not just being the one trying to do everything himself. Therein lies the first step. Understanding that he is not The Guy.
I'm reminded of last year's Butler game (yuck). I remember watching Scoop launching three-pointers late, thinking to myself, "what the hell is going on here?" Why is the ball in Scoop's hand when things matter most when there's at least three other guys on the court who should have it first (Wes, Andy, Kris)? It was a trend that had flown slightly under the radar all season. We allowed it because the team was winning.
This season, nothing's changed in that regard. Scoop has improved in some areas but not in his "Being-The-Guy-Ability." Scoop Jardine is not the guy who should have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. Point blank period. Kris should have it. Or Rick. Or even Triche. But not Scoop. Scoop's job is to find them, facilitate the offense and not make mistakes.
Ideally, he's our Trent Dilfer on the Ravens. We want Scoop to do what he needs to do so that the team's scoring stars can win the ballgame. Scoop can still get his shots when the time is right and he can still call his own number when its necessary. But he's not The Guy and he needs to learn that. He's The Guy Behind The Guys. And he could be a great Guy Behind The Guys. Every team needs a great Guy Behind The Guy.
Scoop is a leader of this team off the court. He's a fan favorite in interviews, appearances and on the web. The only area he's not getting it is on the court. The sooner he figures it out the sooner he gains the trust of Syracuse fans, and more importantly, coaches. Let's hope he does. Scoop deserves to be a critical member of this squad this season and next.
It's up to him.