Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bold Predictions for the Syracuse Men's Basketball Team

February 10 2010: Syracuse Head Coach, Jim Boeheim, during NCAA action between the Syracuse Orangemen & the Connecticut Huskies at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. Syracuse defeated the Huskies 72-67.

I was going to attempt some sort of preview of the Syracuse basketball season that officially tips off Friday at 7 pm v. Northern Iowa. However, the Post Standard did their usual comprehensive job, the talented fellows at Cuse Country are back with a ton of great basketball insight, and there are 8 million mainstream media sources and other blogs that provide actual information on this upcoming season -- so really there's no point in me rehashing a bunch of info that's already bouncing around the intertubes.

However, the season is about to start and that's something to get excited about. So here are some predictions about what we'll see this year from a guy whose been watching this team for over 30 years....and once all these predictions are wrong, Champ will personally come to your house and give you a full refund.

Jim Boeheim will use a 10 man rotation this year -- just not in the same game. Traditionally the Hall of Fame coach settles in on 7 or 8 (usually 7) guys he trusts and rolls with them all year. However, this year is different. This team is deep. It's talented. It's young. The five guys on the bench all have different skill sets. Dion Waiters can beat guys off the dribble. Mookie Jones can shoot. James Southerland can do a little bit of everything, including running around like a maniac. Baye Moussa Keita provides needed size off the bench. C.J. Fair provides offensive talent on the baseline and around the rim that Southerland does not possess.

I've looked at this 100 times and there's no way to predict which guys will be the key contributors off the bench, so here's what I think will happen -- Boeheim will use them all, just not in the same game. Matchups and hot hands will depend who gets in a game on any given night. Every guy won't play every game, but I don't expect to see 2 or 3 guys racking up 12-15 DNPs in Big East play this year. Of course, I'm probably wrong.

Fab Melo will spend more time on the pine than we want. I love this kid - he's big, talented, runs the floor like a deer and provides a shot blocking presence SU hasn't had since Mookie Watkins graduated. However, he's young, and young big men struggle with foul trouble. Guys in the Big East will know how to take the ball right at him. Scoop and Brandon will gamble at the top of the zone. He will be attacked. Melo will absolutely be a great contributor this year, but there will be nights -- probably more than we want -- when Timmy Higgins has him on the bench with two fouls before the first TV timeout.

The Orange will press more. I'm basing this solely on the 2 exhibitions games, which is incredibly stupid on my part, but you can see how Boeheim loves putting James Southerland along the baseline pressuring the in bounds pass. I think when he goes to the bench, he'll mix in some pressure and use it as a weapon this year.

Scoop Jardine will take the most crunch time shots. Scoop had a tremendous season last year. It got a little lost with all the success Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins had, but he's improved his shot, he can get to the rim on most guys, and he's the most fearless guy on the team. While Kris Joseph will have a great season and some big games, in crunch time Scoop will be the guy with the ball in his hands. And he won't be afraid to take the big shot. I wouldn't bet against him.

Mookie Jones arrives. Everyone's favorite long range triggerman Mookie Jones begins his third year at SU. He's more mature and more active on defense. He's a pure shooter and this is the year he will emerges as a reliable scoring presence off the bench. At some point he'll get incredibly hot and put up at least 25 points on some unsuspecting team. There will be other games when he won't get much run, or comes in, misses a couple of quick threes and gets the hook, but I've got a feeling this is the year Mr. Jones gets his chance.

Syracuse goes to the Final Four. I think throughout the early part of the year the Orange will be trying to find themselves, but that should happen by the time the Big East rolls around. The core of this team, Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche were all instrumental last year. They are battle tested. They've been to NCAA tournaments and understand the pressure and what it takes to win. In today's college basketball environment, these guys are veterans. By season's end the younger guys will be comfortable and the experienced quartet will carry SU to it's first Final Four since 2003.....and we all know if Jimmy B can get to the Final Four, he's getting to the Championship game.

Enjoy the season everyone. If these predictions pan out, I'll constantly remind you of them. If they don't, this post will be forgotten quicker than a NYS politician being deposed in a corruption case.

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