Monday, January 16, 2012

Syracuse Scoops Pitt Out of the Dome

The number one ranked Syracuse Orange improved to 20-0 with a solid victory over Jamie Dixon's Pitt Panthers Monday night, winning 71-63. The victory moved Jim Boeheim into a tie with Adolph Rupp on the all-time college basketball victory list. Syracuse is now 20-0 for the first time in school history and the win is the program's first victory over Pitt since the Big East tournament in 2006.

All in all, it was a good day.

Syracuse received typically balanced scoring, putting five guys into double figures, but for my money, the story of the game was the play of Scoop Jardine. The senior point guard handed in a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds assists (brain cramp on my part) and only one turnover (which could be really been credited to Baye). Lost in the hoopla of this season is the very steady, strong play the team has been receiving from Jardine.

Hopefully people take notice because if you want to go far in March, you need steady play from your point guard and that's what Scoop has been giving this team. It's also not really fair to the guy since this fan base loves to lose its mind after one dumb pass from Scoop, yet it seems to ignore him when he's playing well -- and right now he's playing outstanding. So #TeamJardine, take notice - we see you out there and we appreciate what you're doing.


* Feb Melo had an up and down game. The down, he flat out didn't catch the ball well tonight. The up - just about everything else. You know you've got an intimidating big man when your opponent is missing point blank shots at the rim because they are afraid of getting their shot sent back. That's what Fab is giving this team. Even when he's not blocking shots he's lowering the opponents shooting percentage.

* As I noted about, Scoop is playing very well and Jim Boeheim recognizes it, as Scoop played a season high 37 minutes tonight. They were 37 well-deserved minutes.

* The Orange started quickly because they were able to get out in the open floor and get transition buckets. This team is deadly in those situations, as Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop, and CJ Fair are all fantastic finishers. There is not a team in the country that can run with SU. That's a fact.

* Dion Waiters had an amazing finger roll in the first half. For you youngsters out there, we're talking George 'the Icemam' Gervin style finger roll.

* As he did against Providence, JB employed an effective full-court press to change the tempo and get SU some easy buckets. I can't tell you how much I personally love it when this team presses. With big men that can run the floor and protect the rim, it is such an effective weapon and one they haven't been able to effectively employ in the past. I think SU would have pressed more but the half court offense bogged down and they couldn't get enough made baskets to set it up.

* As shown above, CJ Fair had the dunk of the year with his Hakim Warrick style throw down in the first half.

* Not to harp on this because I've mentioned it before, but Baye Keita is in a sophomore slump. He's not catching the ball and isn't a factor on defense. There was a good reason he only played 10 minutes tonight.

* In the second half the Orange went cold from the field and ironically didn't handle Pitt's 2-3 zone well. They fell into a trap usually held for SU opponents and took too many long threes, and didn't make many, finishing the night 5-18 from beyond the arc.

* The Orange continued its stellar defense, limiting Ashton Gibbs to only 10 points. Gibbs can really score and tonight the zone found him. It's something SU hasn't done in past years. Obviously this team is different.

* SU made 87% of its free throws tonight. Don't look now, but this team is shooting  70% from the charity stripe this year.

* Former SU quarterback Perry Patterson's younger brother Lamar plays for Pitt and fouled out, proving once and for all no Patterson ever plays well in the Carrier Dome.

* I would have have liked to have seen Brandon Triche some more, but with Scoop playing so well, he split minutes with Dion. What a fantastic problem to have.

The Go-To Guy

Let me wrap this up with a thought that might not be too popular with SU fans. At halftime on ESPN Hubert Davis said Syracuse didn't have a go-to guy. On twitter Orange fans immediately took umbrage and mocked Davis the rest of the night.

I'm no fan of Hubert and mocking him is always acceptable,  but I don't think he's totally wrong. It's true SU has multiple guys that can take over a game and get a shot in crunch time, but at this point in the season if a game comes down to one possession we have no idea which player Boeheim will dial up a play for. Loosely translated, that means SU doesn't have a true "go-to" guy.

Right now I think that guy is Dion, but that's far from decided, especially given the fact that the Orange have blown out so many of their opponents, so it's not totally unfair assessment. The fact of the matter is we don't know who SU is going to turn to in a tight game down the stretch, because we haven't seen it. It's not a fatal flaw and it's not something that can keep this team from winning a title, but it is a fact. There are a lot of teams playing right now that don't have an established go to guy.

I have a feeling the bitching about "no go-to guy" comment is going to have legs and frankly it's exhausthing. I'm siding with our friend Brent Axe who correctly stated that lack of respect we SU fans perceive from the media is a myth. Bitching about every perceived slight from the media only adds to that myth.

On the one hand it's a good thing that the season is going so well we can focus on such trivial matters, but I'm tired and have better things to do -- like mock Dickey Simpkins. What I don't have the time or energy for is fighting with Doug Gottlieb on twitter, castigating Ron Morris for his ridiculous AP votes, or mocking Hubert Davis for some "analysis" he made for 10 seconds at halftime on a Monday night and reason is simple -- none of it matters.

This is college basketball. The winner is decided on the floor, not by polls and computers. Talking heads and ill-informed voters have no bearing on who wins or loses the national title because thankfully this isn't college football.

So while I certainly think there are some dumb things said about Syracuse in the media, the uproar, outrage and indignation we show as a fan base are at times equally as dumb. This team is good. Really good. As of tonight they are historically good. SU has been ranked number one for six weeks in a row, so when something derogatory is said, we have the ultimate comeback -- the scoreboard.

People are trying to poke holes in this team because this team is on top. That's how it works. There's no sense in getting worked up like a bunch of amateurs and fighting with every person that looks cross-eyed at us. We are all better than that - and so is this team.

Go Orange.

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