Welcome back to the Syracuse basketball roundtable! This week... who cares! Syracuse beat Pitt on a last-second shot to remain undefeated and keep its hold on the top spot in the rankings (for now). Tyler Ennis is a god. I have no idea how to think at this very moment. No one wake me up from this season. Ever.
As is and will be the norm all season, we're chatting about Syracuse basketball, the ACC and anything else that might come up in the never-ending soap opera that is Jim Boeheim's Orange team. Join us below...
Given this year's injuries, has Rakeem Christmas become SU's most important player?
Chris Daughtrey: I see what you're doing there, Cassillo. No, Tyler Ennis is still SU's most important player. If things hit the fan, Jerami Grant can man the middle of the zone. And if things REALLY hit the fan, Chinoso Obokoh is a warm body attached to a pair of elbows with five fouls to give. Rak can be replaced by others. No one on this roster can do what Tyler Ennis does.
Lisa Nelson: Most important? No. Scariest to lose? Yes. The difference is that I think Ennis or Fair are still "more important" because of their play-making abilities (which includes getting Christmas the ball in great spots, and when necessary). But if SU loses Rak, and Jerami Grant is forced to play center, that's scary.
Jared Smith: No, I don't think so. For Syracuse to continue winning and be a threat to make the Final Four they need Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney to continue to play well. Sure, there will be a game where inside play will be a big difference in the game, but, as long as those guys are doing what they SHOULD do SU will be in and win games.
Matt McClusky: Most important? I don't know if anyone can have a bigger importance than C.J. Fair on a game-in game-out basis, or Tyler Ennis in end-of-game situations (Hello, Pittsburgh), but Christmas is certainly a key cog in the Orange machine. The thing is, he doesn't need to elevate his play too much, he just needs to STAY ON THE FLOOR. Which is why I guess you can make an argument that Christmas is the most important Orange man.
Jeremy Ryan: No. It's either Tyler Ennis or C.J. Fair. Ennis is the team's only true point guard, and Fair its only reliable scorer. Put it this way: would you rather see Jerami Grant playing significant minutes at center, Tyler Roberson at small forward, or Michael Gbinije at point guard? I thought so.
John Cassillo: This seems dumb in hindsight (question was written on Tuesday), but hear me out. As our only true big man, Rak has a huge responsibility to both a) defend the paint and b) stay out of foul trouble. If he can do those two things, it sets up the rest of the team rather well. And if the rest of the team fails to get going, at least he'd still be forcing opponents to beat us with the three. Of course, this was all before Tyler's game-winner last night. So might as well disregard all of my response prior to the last two sentences.
Jim Boeheim deserves to be the Coach of the Year this season, right?
CD: On the surface, it seems obvious. Most people not as intimately familiar with the Orange see him winning with a frosh at point, a two-guard who's seeing his first heavy workload, no real inside presence and a senior leader who is a very good college player but not the transcendent superstar you look for to lead a title team. Those of us intimately familiar with the Orange know that all of those players are more than they seem to be and that, together, the sum is greater than the parts. They're like a cross between Transformers and Voltron. Which isn't to say that Jim B isn't doing a great job. Just that the cupboard wasn't as bare as some might think.
LN: How about Coach of Every Year?
JS: I don't know if he deserves it, but if it comes this year to make up for 2011-12 when he didn't win it then I am down for it. I'd probably go with Wichita St.'s head coach at this point. Or, maybe, John Beilein at Michigan. Who thought those guys would be near the top of the Big Ten after losing all the guys they lost last season and Mitch McGary?
MM: At this point, I'd say it's a toss up between Boeheim, Steve Fisher and probably Jay Wright. But while Syracuse was expected to be good, no one thought, given what the players lost from last season, no one thought the Orange would rip through with just one or two losses. I'd give it to Boeheim.
JR: There's still a lot of season left, but I think the coach of the team that wins the ACC regular season will win coach of the year. There isn't a 'surprise' team this year that's an easy choice, so most voters will probably go with the coach of the best team. I can't say I disagree.
JC: New conference, several new starters, a bunch of tough non-conference matchups -- he's done his part. I'm not entirely sure who would/could be up for this award outside of Boeheim either.
Outside of the top teams, which remaining ACC game concerns you the most?
CD: I've always seen the game at FSU as a scary one. I know the 'Noles aren't of the caliber they were a couple years ago when they won the ACC, but they're still a tough defensive team that has a chance to slow Syracuse down just enough to steal a W. But, really, the only game I'm worried about is Virginia. It'd be really, really nice for Syracuse to win the ACC in its first outing. Rather than count on the Cavaliers to lose a couple down the stretch, let's just beat them and make it a moot point.
LN: Wait. So that leaves me with the likes of NC State, Boston College, and Georgia Tech? And I have to decide that one is concerning? Fine. Boston College. But only because if Syracuse loses to BC in the Dome, we'd never hear the end of it.
JS: N.C. State, I guess. That's not a very fun place to play. I watched FSU the other day and those guys can't score at all. Ugly.
MM: At Maryland could easily be a "trap" style game for Syracuse. The Orange is going to be batter and bruised playing so many roadies over the next month, that game against the Terps could prove to be a punch to the face for a team looking ahead. But after Wednesday night, who knows anything, really.
JR: Probably Florida State. SU plays the Seminoles in the last game of the season. The Orange could be looking to wrap up the conference regular season title, and the 'Noles could be on the NCAA bubble trying to claw their way in. That type of desperation can be tough to handle.
JC: At Maryland, if only because the Terps have been sneaky enough to stick around .500 in league play despite having zero quality wins, so they'll be desperate for one in a last-gasp effort to make the tournament. I don't think we'll lose the game, mind you. But it's certainly a concern heading down to College Park and I'm at least a little cautious of our chances.
If you had to pick your Final Four right now, who are the four teams that make it to North Texas?
CD: Syracuse, Duke, Michigan State and San Diego State. Syracuse because Tyler Ennis. Duke and Michigan State because, despite some early hiccups, I trust Izzo and Krzyzewski to have their teams playing top level ball when it matters most. San Diego State because, why not?
LN: Syracuse. Everyone else forfeits. You think I'm crazy? Did you watch the Pittsburgh game??
MM: Syracuse, Michigan State (at this point, even if it's not healthy by March, I'll still take Sparty), Kansas and Duke. Personally, I don't think the field is too wide when it comes to potential national champions this season. Right now, I see about five or six teams that really could cut down the nets, and the cream of that crop seems to be the Orange, Spartans, Jayhawks (who, despite youth, are about to roll through the rest of the Big 12 and be red hot come next month) and Blue Devils
JS: Syracuse, Arizona, Florida and Wichita State -- I wish there was room for Iowa, which I'd have as my dark horse.
JR: Syracuse, Florida, Kansas, Michigan State - if the Spartans are healthy.
JC: Syracuse, Arizona (why is everyone just ignoring that team at this point?), Florida, Duke... Michigan State is hanging around on the outside just because of the continual injuries they've suffered. I think Duke ends up in their bracket (due to the rule separating a league's top three teams into different regions). You may also be able to talk me into Michigan, Virginia or Wisconsin. Really depends on matchups.
What's your biggest takeaway from the win vs. Pittsburgh?
CD: I was thinking about this question while watching the last couple minutes of the game. My answer would have been the same, win or lose. Syracuse is the best team in the country. Period. They can beat anyone, anytime, anywhere. Everything that Pitt needed to win was there; tons of offensive boards, stifling defense, timely shooting. Everything. Yet Syracuse still have a zero in the L column. If they can win this game, they can win any game.
LN: The Goonies : Finding One-Eyed Willy :: The Orange : The Final Four. And Goonies never say die. That is all.
JS: I freakin' hate Pitt and feel so good for beating them like we did. I was so angry at the Panthers for ruining the game of basketball with their awful brand of hoops and because they can't score they blew a late lead; and because karma finds a way, Tyler Ennis was able to make the luckiest shot ever. Love it. LOOOOOVEEE IT. Man, I feel so good typing that. To steal that game, in that way, made up for the 40 minutes of awfulness I witnessed on Wednesday night.
MM: AHHHHHHHH!!! The other big take, besides this ending reaffirming how much I love college basketball, is that Tyler Ennis kid is pretty good. Really, not just his hitting that improbable 3-pointer, but his canning the clutch free throws just seconds before proved this kid just has that "it" quality. He's special and is the perfect leader at point for this Syracuse team. I'm still sure the Orange will eventually lose, but it's going to take one amazing forty-minute effort to take down Ennis, C.J. Fair and the rest of the team. There's something really really special going on.
JR: I can't remember anything that happened Wednesday night. I think I blacked out right around 9:00. Who won?
JC: That Tyler Ennis is a demi-god? That this team refuses to lose in any way, shape or form? That this defense can shut down just about anyone? There's also (on the negative end) this matter of not being able to score much. But that's nothing new.