Going to overtime, at home, against Rutgers? I know the Big East is ridiculously strong this year, and anyone can win on any given
night afternoon, but Rutgers? Really?
The crazy part about that game was that it seemed like SU was actually playing reasonably well. There weren’t any glaring problems. Rutgers wasn’t draining ridiculous threes. SU shot well in the first half and, when they went cold, hit the offensive glass in the second. The defense stayed keyed on Mitchell, forcing him into 6-17 shooting. SU had 13 turnovers, which is… medium. And obviously the free throw shooting was solid (72%), and voluminous. So how come this game was so close — closer than, say, the West Virginia home game a couple weeks back?
The answer, as far as I can tell, is that Rutgers just played well too. SU hit six threes but most of them were open looks on defensive lapses; when RU got out and challenged the shooters, they forced a lot of misses. (Side note: seems like SU ran the “Rautins curl” for a top-of-the-key three way more in this game than usual this season. It worked a few times, but missed quite a few more. Keep practicing that one, fellas.) They made Rick Jackson work hard for his points inside, and — smartly — sent him to the line as much as possible. They fought for every rebound. And on offense, they did an excellent job of taking what the defense gave them. SU was keying on Mitchell, and as a result Rutgers guys had some room to work in the paint. They hit a number of floaters and short jumpers. They didn’t try to force it inside, at least not when Rick was at center. (They did get a few power moves working against Baye, particularly that tank-looking dude.)
So, Rutgers played well, and played hard, and played smart. Who would have thought that was even possible? It’s not what they do, historically. Mike Rice for Coach Of The Year, I guess. What concerns me more is this top-ten recruiting class that they’ve got coming in next year. The Big East already has eleven other teams that I need to worry about when we play them. Now I have to start being wary of Rutgers too?!? I don’t know if I can handle this. TCU can’t get here soon enough.
As for this year, though, I’ll take the win. (Duh.) But I’m officially worried about the ever-shortening SU rotation. It’s basically shrunk to 6 guys, and the more Baye gets pushed around in the post the more it is looking like 5 guys. I know these are 20-year-old kids with limitless energy and supreme conditioning, and that zone is less taxing than man, and that Jim will only play the guys he thinks can help the team, egos be damned. And I’m not suggesting he change his patterns, and play guys just for the heck of it. Not at this stage in the season. I’m just worried, is all. It’s a sign that the team is not healthy, not in a “physical injury” sense but in the same way you might say the economy is unhealthy. It’s not as robust as it ought to be. Five players played 92% of the minutes for Syracuse on Saturday. That is a discouraging sign.