Expectations are a strange beast when it comes to local products. Some saw Brandon Triche's epic high school games against Jonny Flynn and all of his success at Jamesville-Dewitt and anointed him the next savior of Syracuse basketball. Others looked at his three-star rating and determined that he was a local kid, and someone with family ties to the program who we had to take, but he was never going to be a great player for Syracuse. The truth about Triche's Syracuse career probably lies somewhere in between, but few quiet, unassuming, hard-working players have elicited such an array of opinions as Triche.
Heading into the 2009-2010 season, Jim Boeheim may have fallen into the first camp, naming the freshman Triche as his starter at point guard ahead of third year sophomore Scoop Jardine. While Jardine would go on to see a lot of the playing time in key situations, Triche put up some big games early in the season that revealed his potential...at least on a game to game basis. Triche scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting against a Cornell team that made a run to the Sweet 16, and a few weeks later, 27 points in just 20 minutes, hitting all six of his three-point shots.
Triche ceded a lot of his playing time to Jardine during Big East play, but was huge in one of the toughest games of the season for the Orange. On the road against #9 West Virginia, Triche took over the game after Andy Rautins fouled out, and finished with a team-high 16 points and five assists, hitting a few big threes and two clutch free throws down the stretch.
While he started every game of the season, Triche was essentially the seventh option on a team with two sixth-man of the year winners, a role that suited the freshman well. He was able to shine when he was hitting his shots, but when he was outmatched by some of the tough Big East opponents, Jardine and Rautins were there to pick up the slack.
Triche had a few nice performances in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 10 points against Vermont and 13 against Gonzaga, but like most of the team, came up very small in the Sweet 16 against Butler, scoring three points in 19 minutes.
I don't think I realized how solid Brandon's sophomore year was until I just looked at his game log again. He started the year quietly, but come Big East season he started putting together some serious consistency. In 20 Big East games (including the conference tournament), he scored in double digits 14 times, including 20 point games at Louisville, against West Virginia, and against a tough St. John's team in the Big East quarterfinals. However, down the stretch Brandon was quiet once again. He scored four points against eventual national champion UConn in the overtime game where Kemba Walker and Scoop traded ridiculous three-pointers back and forth at the end of the game, and then scored eight in each NCAA tournament game.
With the emergence of Dion Waiters, Brandon's playing time actually went down in his junior year, dropping from 28.8 to 22.5 minutes per game. His numbers saw a similar decline, although he posted career highs for most of his stats-per-40-minutes metrics. Brandon went for 20 points against #9 Florida at the Carrier Dome, and opened Big East play with four double digit games, but was up and down after that. He continued his streak of dominance against West Virginia (18 points in 24 minutes) and Louisville (18 points, four rebounds, four assists in the 58-49 home win), but no-showed far too often, with a one field goal game against Providence and an 0-for-6 night against USF.
Where in past years Brandon struggled in the NCAA tournament, last season Brandon came up with some big games. After struggling against UNC Asheville and Kansas State, Brandon scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Wisconsin in limited minutes, and was arguably the best player on the floor for the Orange in the loss to Ohio State. Brandon led the team in scoring with 15 points and made some big baskets which kept Syracuse in the game after Dion Waiters and James Southerland fouled out against the Buckeyes.
There was a lot of hope that Brandon would finally break out in his senior year, riding the momentum of the Ohio State game without having the spectre of Dion Waiters looking over his shoulder. For the most part, that was how the year started. Triche averaged nearly 14 points in non-conference play, opening the year with nine straight double digit games, and continued on that trajectory early on in Big East play. He dropped 25 points in the team's first conference game against Rutgers, and followed it up with 20 against South Florida. Triche kept Syracuse in the game at Louisville, dropping 23 points with 18 coming in the first half. Brandon went over 20 points seven times on the season, but was still marred with inconsistency, shooting under 30% from the field 12 times.
We all know how Brandon's career ended - with a bad charge call fouling him out in the waning minutes of the final four loss to Michigan. It's oddly appropriate that Brandon's time in Orange would end on a rash judgment call, it's a bit representative of how his career has been viewed by Syracuse fans.
Some accuse Triche of only showing up against weak opponents, but that's not entirely true. In his 13 20-point games during his career, the average opponent RPI was 63, which isn't great, but is far from representative of a group of terrible teams. He was inconsistent, and his game seemed almost completely dictated by confidence, but when he was on there weren't many players who were more dangerous scorers.
Looking back, Brandon Triche wasn't a great player, but he was very good, and he was a big part of perhaps the greatest four year stretch in Syracuse basketball history. While his career will likely be overshadowed by names like Rautins, Johnson, Jackson, Jardine, Joseph, Waiters, and Carter-Williams, no one played in or won more games in Orange, and Triche started all 147 of them. Through nagging injury and scrutiny and stretches of really good and really bad play, Triche suited up every day for four years, and no one can question his dedication to the program.