Syracuse Basketball: 5 Things We Learned About the Orange This Week
Syracuse's 85-67 win over the University of Connecticut was a lot closer than the score indicated for the most part, but a game that was once at 63-61 after a quick 6-0 run by the Huskies was quickly quelled by a 19-3 run which began with two big threes by Scoop Jardine to force the Huskies into a timeout.
While Jim Calhoun wasn't on the bench due to medical reasons, this is still an impressive win considering UConn has as much talent as any of the Top 10 teams in the country. With wins against No. 11 Georgetown and the Huskies, the Orange reign as the No. 2 squad should obviously continue, but two upcoming matchups with Louisville, a constant nemesis for Syracuse, will test this team's mental toughness greatly.
With that in mind, here are five things we learned about the Syracuse Orange this week.
No. 1: Jim Boeheim Is Never Satisfied
"I was very disappointed this time of the year to get beat on the boards. We’re not a very good team because we can’t rebound. Earlier in the season, we were keeping it close on the boards. But when the margin gets to 10, 15, 20, you have to be concerned."
These close games against great Big East competition in which the Orange can easily say they can perform a lot better keep the players listening to Boeheim, as today's clutch run in the last five minutes showed. Boeheim trusted his team when they were about to lose an eight-point lead that went down to two, but did not take a quick timeout, and Scoop Jardine proceeded to make two quick shots.
Speaking of Scoop...
No. 2: Scoop Jardine May Have Gotten His Big-Shot Swagger Back
With four big three-pointers, 21 points and six assists, Scoop Jardine had by far his best game of the season and may have proven to Jim Boeheim that he can be the consistent point guard in the clutch needed for the Orange to keep leads late.
The lack of a true point guard for the Orange with Jardine not converting at the free-throw or three-point line like he has in the past two seasons makes a lot of people nationally, including Doug Gottlieb, look at them as too weak at that position and in rebounding to be a national title contender.
However, Scoop has maybe 10 games if you include the Big East Tournament to prove himself worthy. The end of today's game, where he began and led the final rally to end the Huskies' hope, may be the starting point of that proving ground.
No. 3: C.J. Fair Has Developed His All-Around Game
Playing 38 of 40 minutes today, Fair scored 14 points on 6-of-8 from the field, racked up 12 rebounds and made three assists. He has made him self so valuable in Boeheim's eyes that he plays with just about any lineup on the floor at either the small or power forward spot.
With the further development of his body has come a post-up game to go along with a mid-range game. For only a sophomore, Fair picks his spots to make an impact as well as any bench player in the country, and gets better with every game that he plays. Fair's improvement is almost as good as another sophomore wing player.
No. 4: Dion Waiters Has Become a Third Ball-Handler to Rely On
With Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche not quite developing into the elite backcourt combo many expected them to be, Dion Waiters has been a great leader on the fast break and has set up open shooters. His pass in transition to C.J. Fair showed great vision and control, and was one of four assists to only two turnovers to go along with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
If Waiters continues to be the Kris Joseph of two years ago for this team, and Fair is an Andy Rautins in terms of his scoring prowess, the Orange will have double the scoring ability that they have ever had on the bench.
No. 5: 30-1 Is Very Achievable
There is a matchup on Monday night at No. 23 Louisville, then a game at Rutgers next Sunday, home against South Florida on February 22, at the Huskies on February 25 and the final regular-season game versus Louisville on March 3.
With this in mind, anything but ending the regular season on a 10-game winning streak would be a disappointment, and that would give Syracuse a great amount of confidence in the Big East Tournament. The Orange haven't lost with Fab Melo in the lineup, and this is the deepest Jim Boeheim team ever.
That being said, one bad game similar to the one at Notre Dame could leave the Orange susceptible to defeat against mediocre squads, as Doug Gottlieb of ESPN indicated after Boeheim's post-Georgetown press conference.
If veterans like Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine can perform consistently with games similar to the career games they had this week, Syracuse will be the best team in the tourney in March.