|The KFC Yum Center was as welcoming for Syracuse as KFC is to diners|
After watching the Louisville Cardinals defeat the Syracuse Orange 73-69 yesterday at the KFC Yum Center there's no doubt every Syracuse fan on the planet has a bad taste in their mouth. Syracuse lost for the 6th time in 8 games and a season that a few short weeks ago was filled with promise is quickly collapsing into a 7 seed and first round exit in the NCAA tournament.
Like many of the teams that have beaten Syracuse recently, Louisville utilized some good ball movement to get open shots against the 2-3 zone and then they knocked them down. Rick Pitino understands how to beat his old boss' beloved defense -- as evidenced by his 7-1 record against Boeheim since taking the Louisville job.
And speaking of the zone, it does make it easier for opponents to prepare for SU because they only have prepare for one type of defense. Boeheim simply isn't going to attempt to play anything else, stating a few weeks ago that this team "can't play man to man." Frankly it's a premise I reject. Every team in the country can play man to man - yet Syracuse can't? We are supposed to believe that? Every guy on the SU team played man in high school. They played man in AAU ball and they play man in every pick up game they've ever played. Show me a pick up game where guys are playing zone and I'll show you flying monkeys. No one is saying they need to play 40 minutes of man, but being able to mix in for 5-10 minutes a game would be a nice luxury to have.
Speaking of the zone, it appears like appears the players don't always believe in it. Especially after a team makes a couple of long threes, guys don't appear to be buying in to the concept. Now no one will admit that and might not even be true -- but that's what it looks like to me when I watch this team play.
Let's do a quick run down of the individual performances.
Brandon Triche: Simply put, this was his best game at Syracuse. I was down on him earlier in the year, but he has picked his game up tremendously. He's the team's most consistent three point shooter, he's steady with the ball (zero turnovers yesterday) and he works his ass off. He made a great hustle play to race back down the floor and prevent a sure Louisville lay up at one point in the game when it would have been easier to turn the guy loose. By the time he's a senior I think we're looking at a 15-17 ppg guy.
Scoop Jardine: The mercurial point guard started the game hot and made some threes down the stretch. Overall I thought be played pretty well -- but of course at the end of the game went ahead made a couple of ill-advised passes. Again. In crunch time.
Kris Joseph: I don't know what's going on with him right now. I talked about this after the last game, but his defense has been horrible lately and yesterday was another shining example. If he wants to be the leader of this team he needs to at least make an attempt at that end of the floor. Right now he isn't. He's regressing at a disturbing rate. It got so bad that Boeheim benched him for James Southerland - who had been benched a few games ago because he wasn't rebounding or playing defense. Joseph had 2 rebounds yesterday.
Baye Keita: He's going to be really good and he's giving some great effort out there. 7 rebounds in 15 minutes of play is pretty good. On the downside, his hands are really bad and the wrist injury he's playing with isn't helping matters.
Rick Jackson: Louisville immediately doubled Rick every time he touched the ball and he did a nice job of finding some open guys. However his game is really limited by the fact that he can't turn, face and make a 12 footer. On offensive he's only effective with his back to the basket.
Dion Waiters: It was Brandon Triche's best game at SU - this was Dion Waiters worst. He contributed more against Marquette.
James Southerland: He got a little action in the second half when Joseph decided defense was optional. He's still developing and limited offensively (its a jumper or bust for James) but he did grab 3 rebounds in 8 minutes - which was more than Joseph grabbed in 30.
CJ Fair: Another excellent game for CJ. He's active, doesn't need the ball to score and he's always attacking the basket. He's been a revelation this year and he's an easy guy to root for. I'm really excited to watch him develop.