Thursday, December 9, 2010

Down the Stretch of Non-Conference Games

With the Orangemen win on Tuesday over the #8/#7 Michigan State Spartans Syracuse is now over the difficult hump of the non-conference schedule. There are four remaining non-conference games left on the schedule and all of them will be played in the Carrier Dome.

These final tune-ups will give Syracuse a chance to stretch their legs on offense and try out some new looks. For those fans who want to see Mookie Jones and James Southerland on the floor, this will be your chance (and their chance as well) to show Jim Boeheim whether or not they should be considered for minutes once the Big East Conference slate of games begins on December 28th.

In the first of four games Syracuse will host crosstown "rival" Colgate Raiders who have jumped out to an 0-7 record this season. They lost a few close games early, most notably a 2 points loss to Binghamton, a 3 point loss against St. Francis PA and they dropped a 5 point game against University of New Hampshire. The Raiders also got rocked by #1 Duke 110-58 in their 3rd game of the season.

Assuming the Orangemen's defense utterly obliterates whatever Colgate can throw at them and Syracuse can take an early lead and keep it, this will be the first chance Mookie Jones and James Southerland will have to take the floor for Syracuse since November 30th against Cornell when Syracuse won by 20 points.

If Jones and Southerland want to stay on the floor once conference play starts, they will both need to play solid minutes starting with the Colgate game on Saturday. They need to show Jim Boeheim that there is more to their games than just taking 3-pointers, especially for James Southerland.

Southerland is a big body (6'8" 205 pounds), however he has to stop camping out at the 3-point line on offense a la Donte Greene. Considering how poor a jump shooting team Syracuse is, Southerland needs to get himself under the basket and get to the offensive glass. It's not as if Southerland is a machine from long range either, he has knocked down 3 of his 16 3-point attempts. Unfortunately, he has also made 4 of 11 shots from inside the arc, giving him 25.9% accuracy from the field. James also has 11 total rebounds in 6 appearances, a figure that must improve if he wants to see some playing time once conference play begins.

In Mookie Jones' last appearance for Syracuse against Cornell he shot 1 of 5 from beyond the arc and was 4 of 4 from the foul line. He grabbed 2 rebounds and had 1 steal in the game as well in 11 minutes. I know Mookie wants to make shots when he's on the floor, but taking five 3-pointers in 11 minutes of action means he was attempting one every 2:12 on the floor. With that rate of shooting, you better make more than 1 shot, especially if you want to sniff some playing time once the Big East schedule starts.

Aside from making shots its important for these two players to show they can play sound defense within the 2-3 zone defense. Positioning and rebounding will be keys for both players if they want to earn their way out of Boeheim's bench. In games that Jones has played he's averaged 8.6 minutes per game. Southerland is averaging 11 minutes per game when he gets off the bench. Boeheim used him for at least 15 minutes twice in the first 3 games of the season, so clearly he wanted to give him a chance.

There's no doubting that over these next four games against Colgate, Iona, Morgan St. and Drexel that there will be opportunities for both these players to show what they have got. Hopefully they take advantage of the minutes they get and try to showcase more than just their 3-point stroke.

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