Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Aftermath of the William & Mary "Victory"


In the aftermath of an extremely upsetting 63-60 victory over the William & Mary Tribe, a school beat thoroughly by the likes of the University of Virginia Cavaliers and the Richmond Spiders, one has to step back and reflect upon what we have witnessed so far this season.

The first thing that jumps out at you is that this Syracuse team has no killer instinct. They simply can not put a team away. The Orangemen had an early 10 point lead in the game on Sunday, however allowed William & Mary to scrap back into it with missed shots, missed rebounds, and lackluster offense. The Orangemen would go into the half up just two points (32-30). Syracuse would also build a 9 point second half lead, which the Tribe turned into a 4 point lead of their own with under 3 minutes to play in the ball game.

If Syracuse wants to be successful this year, they are going to need to get a lead, and keep tacking on points. You simply can not let teams hang around, because they will start making shots and then the pressure is on the Cuse to respond. Jim Boeheim's squad got lucky on Sunday, with William & Mary stepping out of bounds in the final seconds with the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead. That most likely will not happen again.

Kris Joseph responded from an exceptionally poor game against Detroit last Tuesday with an 18 point effort on Sunday. Joseph finished 5-12 from the floor (0-3 from 3-point range) with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal and zero turnovers in 34 minutes. That's the effort Syracuse is going to need to get from Joseph if they want to win ball games this season. However it can't just be him. They need a balanced scoring attack, and they need to limit the 3-pointers.

Scoop Jardine, who had 27 points against Detroit, chipped in 11 on Sunday and shot just 4-17 from the floor, 3-10 from 3-point range. If you take out Scoop's 10 attempts, Syracuse shot 2-12 from long range. The more Syracuse misses 3-pointers, the more teams will play off them and allow the long range shot in favor of having numbers under the basket for the rebound. William & Mary did it, and successfully. The smaller Tribe team managed to equal Syracuse in rebounds for the game, 37 apiece. If the Tribe can figure it out, assume other Big East school's and Tom Izzo will figure it out as well.

Perhaps the Orangemen could use a road trip. A chance to bond as a team away from the distractions of the University and the wide sight-lines of the Carrier Dome. Luckily for them they have a chance to spend a weekend away from Syracuse beginning this Friday in the Legends Classic. Taking place in Atlantic City, Syracuse will meet the Michigan Wolverines Friday night at 8PM at Boardwalk Hall. They will then meet the winner/loser of the UTEP-Georgia Tech game on Saturday night.

I'd like to say that it's a given Syracuse will beat Michigan and play the late game Saturday night. Three weeks ago I would have. However, after watching Syracuse stumble all over themselves to a 4-0 season record, saying Syracuse can win on Friday night couldn't be further from a guarantee.

Michigan is 3-0 right now, with victories against college basketball powerhouses USC Upstate (66-35), Bowling Green (69-50) and Gardner-Webb (80-58). As bad as Syracuse fans want to believe the Wolverines might be, they haven't trailed at the half to any scrub teams, nor have they been losing with under 3 minutes left in a game to a team that had yet to lose by less than 20 points this season.

Whether or not Syracuse can find their offensive game this weekend in Atlantic City will be the turning point for the season. If the Orangemen were to fall to the Wolverines on Friday night, the remaining non-conference schedule could get ugly, and it won't be any prettier once the conference games begin. Confidence would be low, team morale might be lower, and many Syracuse fans across the country would be heartbroken.

However, if Syracuse can win big against both opponents this weekend at the Legends Classic, it might give them the confidence they will need to beat North Carolina State and Michigan St. and springboard them into the conference slate of games with some moxie and swagger that they desperately need.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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