Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Syracuse - Michigan State: Sad Tom Izzo Observations

Sad Tom Izzo did not enjoy his night in the Garden

Well, well, well. It seems the the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team was sleep walking through their first eight games of the season because in game number 9 -- against the 7th ranked Michigan State Spartans, a different Syracuse squad showed up. And that squad was damn good.  As in, a 72-58 win over the number 7 team in the country good.

Behind a smothering defense and an absolutely dominant performance from Rick Jackson in the middle, Syracuse took control early and was in command the whole game against a team many expect to make the Final Four in March.

As you can see from Tom Izzo's expression above, it was a rough night for the Spartans, but it was rough because Syracuse MADE IT ROUGH for them. The defensive effort was outstanding. In the first half I tweeted that the Orange were moving around on defense like a coke-head who had just chugged 5 four lokos -- and that might have been downplaying how hard they worked.  Simply put, the zone was more active than it had been at any time this year.

On the offensive end of the floor, shot selection was better than it has been in the past.  The team worked hard at getting the ball into the paint and Rick Jackson was just relentless. He's attacking the glass like a Zombie attacks a victim's brain, and no one has a bullet to stop him. Sorry for that reference, I've been hooked on the Walking Dead.

Onto the observations:

* Rick Jackson, Rick Jackson, Rick Mother F*%king Jackson. I used the word relentless above and I'll use it again. He's simply out-working people right now. Rebounding is all about effort and Rick's been giving this team every ounce of effort all year. 17 points and 16 rebounds is quickly becoming a routine day at the office for Rick.

* The 2-3 zone has actually been pretty solid all season, especially at the end of games. Tonight it was outstanding. After a couple of quick lapses and one Boeheim eruption later, SU kicked up the effort on D. The team rotated well, found shooters and rebounded the ball. Even with offensive issues, if this team can play defense like that all year, they will be in every game they play.

* They held Michigan State - a team shooting 43% from behind the arc this season, to under 30% from three point range (7-24).

* I loved Baye Moussa Keita's effort tonight. His stat line wasn't impressive but the effort and presence was. He had a couple of OUTSTANDING (please say that in your Ron Jaworski voice) blocks and of course the pass to Ricky for a dunk late in the second half demonstrated a court awareness of a 5th year senior. He's got a shot to be better than Fab Melo when it's all said and done.

* Kris Joseph did a nice job of both getting to the free throw line and then actually making his free throws. If SU can ever find someone to make a few perimeter shots, his scoring numbers will go up. Right now everyone is playing him to drive, so he's got nowhere to take the ball.

* Scoop Jardine had 19 points and infinitely better shot selection tonight. You have to give the guy credit, when he gets the ball to the rim, he's a great finisher.  I can't remember the last time he missed a lay up - and everyone misses lay ups.

* SU only took 10 three pointers - making two.  Give the guys credit for not forcing shots they haven't been making all year.

* C.J Fair had another highlight reel dunk. He brings some great energy off the bench. I'm giddy at his potential. The same can be said for Dion Waiters.

* Not to be negative, but this team has to get more out of Brandon Triche. Right now he's a shooting guard that can't shoot. He's made 5 three pointers all year - and has now gone 6 games without a made three point shot. That's awful.

* On that point, Syracuse has to find a couple of guys who can make some perimeter shots. Given how the rotation settled, it needs to be one of the top 8. Either Triche or Kris Joseph need to start shooting it better, or they need to run Dion Waiters off screens like they did Andy Rautins and turn him into a shooter this year.

All in all, it was an excellent effort and a great win for a Syracuse team that had all of nervous. There will be games this team gets beat because they can't make a shot, but they proved tonight that their defense is good enough to beat any team in the land on a given night.

Now let's enjoy some highlights:


Furman said...

Loved the defensive play last night by the Orange, and on most offensive possessions, they made that extra pass to get it to someone who would be wide open underneath. If they can keep this up, they'll at least be in every game they play (and win almost all of them).

I like your point about finding someone in the current 8 man rotation to shoot the 3, too. I really wish JB would expand it to 9 and get Mookie some minutes, since he might give them that outside presence they need. Is he going to be the Marcus Sales of the basketball team?

Russianator said...

I'm 100 percent with you on Mookie, but it's pretty clear he's not getting off the bench this year. My guess is he rides out this year and then transfers somewhere.

I do think he's earned a shot at PT, but Boeheim doesn't trust him.

Anonymous said...

Mookie is probably where he belongs. When him and Southerland are on the floor our defense suffers and our rhythm gets lost. It was VERY apparent in the Cornell game.

Mookie never developed into a consistent threat, plays lazy D, and even though hes been better this year, hes been eclipsed by younger talent already. Hes essentially a one-trick pony.

If he transfers, there is zero loss in my mind. Perhaps Southerland can take a cue and try to improve his game so he can get more playing time next year.

We definitely need a deeper threat, but if that means the defensive dynamic changes every time for the worse when they are on the floor, Id rather just have them keeping taking it inside.

Russianator said...

For the first 8 games of the year the rythym on offense has been lost. Last night it was much better. Last night they got by without having to shoot it from deep. Last night they didn't need Mookie and I'm not arguing he should have played, because there was no need. That won't always be the case.

The "mookie is lazy on D" thing is a rep he'll never shake. Was he lazy on D earlier in his career? Absolutely. He's played 40 minutes this year - that's it. In those 40 he's been active on D - he's 6'7" and has long arms and is tough to shoot over. The claim that he's killing the team defensively is a myth.

Up until last night - Dion has been just as bad, if not worse, in the zone. Last night he was good - but until that point.....

Izzo isn't a guy that believes in zones and packing it in, other teams will. When that happens, this team will need someone to shoot the ball. Especially since Triche can't hit the broad side of the barn this year. When your 2 guard hasn't made a 3 in 6 games, that's bad.

There's not much point in arguing this, as I said in the post, someone the top 8 will have to shoot better because Mookie isn't going to get much run. I still think you play him 10 minutes a game and see if he can heat up, but it's not my call.

As for Southerland, he's athletic and active, but lost confidence in his shot early, which led boeheim to sit him down. Don't think we'll be seeing much of him this year.

Cuse A&S 2012 said...

Mookie is terrible. Overrated by far too many fans. I'm with Boeheim on this one, Mookie is where he belongs, riding the proverbial pine.

Russianator said...

Mookie is a lightning rod, that's for sure.

I'm not saying he's the answer or should be playing 35 mpg - but he has the one skill this team will need - perimeter shooting. Especially against BE teams that will pack it in tight.

If not Mookie - then either Triche, Joseph, or Jardine HAS to shoot it better for success to coninue.

Josh said...

Sad Tom Izzo = Happy Orange fans, it's a zero-sum game

The great Mookie debate doesn't seem to be going away, I'm starting to find it amazing that the guy elicits such strong opinions from so many fans. I think it's time for a full-on debate, blogstyle.