Good Wins: 11/25 vs. Kansas (semi-away), 12/20 @Memphis, 2/4 vs. West Virginia, 3/7 @ Marquette, 3/12 vs. UConn (neutral), 3/13 vs. West Virginia (neutral)
Bad Losses: None.
1. Variety. The spice of life encapsulates Syracuse’s offense, the Big East’s best. How many different ways can they score on you? Let me count the ways. Andy Rautins can shoot. Jonny Flynn slashes and dashes. Eric Devendorf can do both. Arinze Onuaku tucks the ball into the hoop like handkerchief in a suit. More often than two-thirds of the time Onuaku shoots, he makes it. And Paul Harris truly rattles the rim with unmistakable flair. When an opponent steps into the bright lights, the attacks are coming from all angles. Just like a gladiator’s initiation to the mayhem of the Coliseum.
2. Endurance. Both physically and mentally the Orange persist, never more so than in their 6OT victory in the Big East quarters. Overall Boeheim’s boys are 5-0 in OT games. Fans should not be surprised that Jonny Flynn can run all day. The sprite with might trails only South Florida’s Dominique Jones in minutes per game at 37.3 mpg. His motor resembles the constancy of his hometown wonder, Niagara Falls. Former high school teammate Paul Harris displays uncanny dexterity. Last season, with a very short bench, the pair played huge minutes. Continuing the effort this year has been second nature.
1. Defense. At times, “The Zone” is pathetic and ineffective mostly because they don’t have the right body types to succeed in it. The current numeral, 72.2 ppg against, will not do. Flynn and Eric Devendorf challenge the passers well but tend to overextend, leaving a gaping hole at the free throw stripe. Harris, who plays the back line for his rebounding strength, often cheats up to the elbow making the 2-3 a fattened 1-2-2, or a kite-shaped mess.
2. Team Length. Syracuse is two-three inches shorter than Big East standards at every position but SG (Devo). Harris and Flynn are both tremendous athletes who can overcome defenders. The problem occurs on defense where deflections are down teamwide this year. The 2-3 deters much better with long-armed wings and forwards. Hakim Warrick, Terrence Roberts, and Damone Brown exhibited ideal body types for the corner spot.
Bench: Coach Jim Boeheim runs a 2-3 zone most of the time, which mitigates player fatigue. This factor and the exceptional fitness of the guards lead to heavy minutes from the backcourt.
The Departing: Sophomore Flynn probably returns barring a masterful NCAA Tournament run and Harris and Arinze Onuaku would be well served with another year of seasoning. The only senior getting real minutes is feisty Kristof Ongenaet (4.8 rpg).
Sweet 16. Syracuse can beat anyone in the country. They are athletic enough and fantastically strong-willed. An interesting line to watch is the #1 seed in Cuse’s bracket. If North Carolina draws the Orange in the Sweet 16, then the Tar Heels could blow them out of the building. This Orange team is less prone to an early round upset than recent editions, as they no longer over-rely on two scorers.