What a refreshing feeling to be back in the Carrier Dome once again to witness some Syracuse basketball in person. I was in attendance at the Cincinnati football game, but that experience just doesn’t measure up to watching my #1 favorite sporting squad of all time in action.
Let’s get to the personal highlight of the night — I caught one of the “tees for threes” that get tossed into the crowd every time SU hits a triple. Got it on a brilliant left-handed snag (full extension!) near the end of the first half after Triche popped one from the corner. The front is the year’s slogan “FAMILY: it runs deep” above an image of the Dome, beneath which it says “Syracuse Basketball 2011-12″ and then, because Dr. Gross requires it, a small “New York’s College Team” at the bottom. (Side note: I counted during the last football game. The slogan “New York’s College Team” appears around the Dome bowl more than 100 times on the orange ‘wrap’ that they’ve put in. Daryl, just because you say it over and over doesn’t mean it’s true. I’d rather see a list of the school’s bowl games and NCAA tournament appearances, both of which have vanished from the Dome displays in recent years.)
Anyway, I was excited to get the shirt. I’d show you a photo of it but — alas! — I don’t have it anymore. I stowed it in my jacket (draped over the bench in front of me) and thought no more of it for the rest of the game. This was my downfall because it left my mind — and I didn’t think of it again until afger the game when I was already halfway across the quad. Either it fell out of my coat when I put it on (and I failed to notice it drop) or someone sneakily snagged it when I was in the beer line. Either way I hope it brings joy to somebody this Hanukkah.
As for the game itself, hopefully you saw it. It was similar to the Bucknell game, in that Tulane played at a very methodical pace and did their best to limit SU’s fast break, forcing them into a half-court game as much as possible. Note to future opponents: this strategy will work for a while but eventually SU will hit like 6 threes in a row and you’ll lose. Nobody on Syracuse really played a great game. The best individual performance was probably from Dion Waiters, who scored a number of impressive points, but they were mostly one-on-one efforts. He had only one assist (although he should have had two, but MCW blew the dunk on what would easily have been the best play of the night). Kris Joseph had a couple nifty assists and did a lot of damage at the foul line but also made several poor decisions on offense, resulting either in turnovers or missed, contested shots. (He also spent much of the end-of-halftime warmups jumping rope at midcourt.)
I did like most of what James Southerland brought to the table tonight. He hit a couple threes, sure, but he also — gasp! — dribbled the ball into the paint when Tulane finally got up in his face on the perimeter, with one bounce and two long strides getting him past his defender and drawing help, at which point he dumped the ball to Keita for a slam. And he had a great offensive rebound and put-back which drew loud appreciation from the crowd, knowledgeable as we were about his need to hit the glass. And the box score gives him 4 blocks on the night. I don’t recall that many, but there were several times where he and either Fab or Keita were doubling a guy in the paint whose shot was altered. I guess I assumed it was the center doing the altering, but it turns out it was Jimmy South.
Additionally, I am enjoying watching the growth of Michael Carter-Williams, aka “The Beast”. He’s much more confident with the ball and he is playing much better defense. His game (particularly his outside shot) still needs some polishing but he’s going to be a good one. And I thought Rakeem Christmas had some good minutes tonight, particularly when playing center. Two nights after Boeheim said he was “too nice” Rak threw his weight around a bit down in the paint. In particular, he rebounded very well. At this point he is a better rebounder than Keita, or maybe I should say he is rebounding better than Keita is right now. BMK may be a better overall defender and shot-blocker, but his rebounding has not been good for quite a few games in a row. Tonight Rak showed excellent instincts on the glass while playing center in the 2nd half. I’d like to see him get some more time there going forward (as game circumstances warrant, of course) to give him a chance to contribute without having to score.
And of course, Matt Tomaszewski took another successful step on his path towards being the next Elvir Ovcina. And I love that the 2nd-string walk-ons got into this one too: Hart, DeRemer, and Nasser. Being the last non-conference game, it may have been the last chance for any walk-on time this year. They possibly could get into a Big East blowout if there is one, maybe against USF or DePaul (though the latter is on the road and I don’t know whether the entire walk-on roster will travel to Chicago) but it is likely that this was it. So I’m happy that they all got some playing time in what could be their final chance to do so this season.
OK fellas. Stage 1 of the season is now complete, and it could not have gone any better. Literally. 13-0 and a #1 ranking. Every goal from this portion of the schedule has been achieved, short of turning Fab Melo into Dwight Howard. Overall I’d say Stage 1 went something like this:
Now, on to Stage 2. It gets quite a bit tougher now. Let’s see you go take care of it.