You'll be hard-pressed to find a college basketball player currently competing with more court awareness than Michael Carter-Williams. The spectacular Syracuse point guard torches opponents on both ends of the court, spearheading his squad's chase for a championship in the Big East and beyond.
As the regular season winds down, it's fair to wonder whether Carter-Williams is capable of leading Syracuse (21-4, 9-3 in Big East) to its first Final Four appearance since 2003. The sophomore has passed several tests to this point and continues to keep company with the nation's elite playmakers.
Carter-Williams, a 6'6" specimen, physically outmatches most of the young men he's gone toe-to-toe with this season. He gives the Orange a top-tier ball distributor and perimeter defender.
The Massachusetts native is second nationally in both assists (eight per game) and steals (3.1). This season has been a coming-out party for Carter-Williams, who played just 10 minutes per contest as a freshman.
Although he was identified as one of the nation's most coveted high school point guards during his senior season at St. Andrews School (Rhode Island), Carter-Williams was patient enough to wait for an opportunity to lead the Orange offense for Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.
My most important thing, that me and my parents discussed, is how I was going to get better every day. I didn’t think I was one of those players coming into college demanding that I start. I expected to get more playing time than I did, but that’s just how it worked. That’s how [coach Jim] Boeheim runs his program, which is great, because look where I am now.
Since Boeheim handed point guard duties to Carter-Williams, the dynamic first-year starter hasn't looked back. He has picked up his play, excelling through the rigors of Big East regular-season action.
Carter-Williams registered 13 or more points in eight of the last 10 games. He also racked up seven three-plus steal performances during that span.
The rising star has eight double-double efforts this season. Though he has yet to register a triple-double this season, Carter-Williams twice came within one assist or rebound of the feat.
The one element of the Syracuse standout's game that leaves you wanting more is his outside shooting touch, or lack thereof. Carter-Williams is connecting on just 37 percent of his field goal attempts, including an ugly 23-of-90 (29 percent) mark from beyond the three-point arc.
Still, Carter-Williams doesn't lack for confidence.
“If I’m open I’ll shoot the ball,” he told SNY reporter Wesley Cheng.
If Carter-Williams can become a more efficient shooter, Syracuse moves up a few slots among the nation's premier challengers to take home a national title. It would also improve his NBA draft prospects. He is already viewed as a potential 2013 lottery pick.
Syracuse has proven it can beat top teams when Carter-Williams is superb (16 points, seven assists, four steals versus top-ranked Louisville) but it remains to be seen what happens when he has a rough night.
The Orange have lost the last three games in which Carter-Williams turned the ball over three times or more. Teammates Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair provide Syracuse with reliable offensive options, but neither player will ultimately determine how long this team lasts in March.
It's the Carter-Williams Show in Syracuse. Stay tuned.