Sunday, January 20, 2008
Welcome to the Tim Higgins Show
On Saturday Villanova came into the Carrier Dome and dealt Syracuse a crushing loss, winning 81-71 in front of the biggest home crowd of the season. In addition to hard fought basketball game, 26,494 fans plus a national TV audience were treated to something a little extra - the Tim Higgins show.
Without a doubt, that was the worst "best officiated" game I have seen in a long, long time. Let me explain - the game was called extremely tight, with 47 fouls called in total. The number of touch fouls was astounding. Although the 5th foul on Donte Greene was a blown call, for the most part the game was called evenly and consistently, basically they were calling just as many ticky tack fouls on Villanova as they were on Syracuse. I'm not pinning this loss on the officials, because the calls were consistent and its up to the players to adjust.
Here's my issue - I don't watch basketball to watch some old, overweight guy and his colleagues blow a fucking whistle. If I wanted to watch that, I'd go to senior living center, give old man Jones a whistle and tell him to blow it every time he saw someone walking around without their teeth.
The players need to decide games, not officials who let their egos get in the way. The inconsistency between the way games are called is frankly unacceptable. If the games against Cincinnati and and West Virginia had been called like this one was, they'd still be playing. Calling a game like that destroys the flow, takes away aggressiveness, and makes the referee the center of attention - and the last time I checked no one was showing up to see Tim Higgins, although I'm guessing somehow he doesn't grasp that fact.
Now, onto the game itself.
The Axeman says this game welcomed SU to the Big East and he's right. As we said the other day, the Rutgers game didn't teach us much, but this one did. In analyzing this Syracuse team one third of the way through the Big East season, the words of the great Denny Green come to mind, they are who we thought they are - a young team with very little depth and a no room for error when playing good teams. This is starting to sound like a broken record, but the loss of Devo, Rautins and Wright is more to overcome than we can expect. If you didn't watch the game you can get full recaps at the links above, so let's get to the likes and dislikes.
What I Liked
* Overall the effort was very good - and I know there's a little bit of an uproar over Paul Harris' comments after the game, but I chalk that up more to a guy thinking before he speaks than a player tanking. He may have felt his effort isn't up to what he expects, but that wasn't his biggest problem yesterday, the turnovers were.
* Jonny Flynn stepped up. With Greene on the bench in foul trouble, Jonny did what he could to carry the load on offense, ending up with 23 points and 4 assists.
* The hustle and overall effort that the Belgian Waffle displayed off the bench. He brings energy off the bench, something every team needs.
* Scoop Jardine's offense. He demonstrated that he is a threat to score, when upcoming opponents are looking at film of SU they will have to account for Scoop, which bodes well for the future.
* Scottie Reynolds is a player. Obviously this isn't a positive for Syracuse, but you have to able to appreciate a guy as good as Reynolds.
What I Didn't Like
* There were some bad calls against Donte Greene, but a lot of his foul trouble this year stems from him being out of position and not moving his feet. While Donte has been taking some flak on message boards, I'm still high on this kid, however if this season has any hope of ending in a tournament with four letters instead of three, he needs to improve defensively. More effort and better movement will keep Donte out of foul trouble, so far there hasn't been enough of it.
* Turnovers, turnovers, and more turnovers. While Harris said he didn't try that hard, where it showed was in the turnover column. He's a good passer who was awful passing the ball. The same goes for Jardine, he cancelled out his 15 points by turning the ball over 8 times. Just devastating mistakes that SU can not afford to make.
* One more note on Harris, at this point in his career, he seems to be lost offensively. He's not big enough to be a force down low and his jumper isn't good enough to get him by. Boeheim is harder on him than any other player, he now has to figure out the best way get Harris back in the game mentally. If he's going to brow beat the kid to death, it might be time for a pat on the back.
* The defense and rebounding in general is not good enough to get this team by - if they fall behind they can't get the stops needed to get back in the game, and when they do get stops they don't get enough rebounds to limit the opponent's possessions.
* I love the Belgian Waffle's effort and hustle, but he HAS to give them something on the offensive end. He needs to find a way to get to the offensive glass and get 4-6 points a night on put backs and rebounds. Right now other teams do not have to account for him.
This team is good enough to beat the teams it should beat - and they aren't mature enough or deep enough to beat teams that are better. There are 12 Big East games left, they will all be a challenge and the promise of the preseason is quickly fading, leaving us with the reality that this is an extremely young team which may struggle more than it succeeds this year. Here's hoping they are young enough to not realize it.