Syracuse's Balanced Depth Makes the Orange National Title Contenders

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IJanuary 26, 2010

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20:  Wes Johnson #4 and Arinze Onuaku #21 of the Syracuse Orange celebrate after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic on November 20, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Orange defeated the Tar Heels 87-71 to win the championship.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

SYRACUSE, NY—Once the football team left the court after spotting Georgetown two touchdowns, the depth and balance of Jim Boeheim's superior basketball team flattened its archenemy.

Syracuse's biggest strength spurred one of the greatest routs to take place this decade in this storied Big East rivalry. After Boeheim's starting five fell flat in the opening minutes, Arinze Onuaku and Brandon Triche got the hook and sophomores Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph took over the game.

Those two players essentially give the Orange seven starters.

"I've said it all year long, we have seven guys that can start," Boeheim said. "Some teams don't have five."

Those who have five don't have the depth to compete with the Orange's seven high-level players.

"They only have five guys," Onuaku said. "If you foul him [Greg Monroe] out of the game, it makes a difference in the game. So that's what we tried to do."

When Boeheim only played one big, two wings, and two guards, Monroe and fellow lumbering big Julian Vaughn couldn't handle the 'Cuse's quicker lineup. Joseph and Jardine exploded in the first half as a result.

Those two are just the latest example of why this Syracuse team might be the best "team" in the country.

On any given night, any of the seven members of the Orange's rotation can be the star, the game-changer, and the leader out on the court. Monday night, it was the two bench players (if you can really even call them that at this point).

"We call ourselves our energy guys," Jardine said. "To come off the bench to do what we did shows we got a really great team."

A lot of the time, the first guys off the bench are a step down in offensive efficiency, but that's simply not the case with this Syracuse team.

All seven players in Boeheim's rotation have an offensive rating between 110 and 116 and all seven players use between 18 and 23 percent of the team's offensive possessions. No one player is leaned on more than another.

Really, the only reason Wes Johnson leads the team in points by seven per game is because he plays 34 minutes per game while only Andy Rautins plays around 26 per game.

Johnson, as a player, is a superstar. As a teammate, he fits in as merely a role player, just like the other six players on the squad.

Together, they are the most unselfish team in America. After the game, each player is so quick to talk about everyone else. The first thing out of Jardine's mouth was about Andy Rautins. Wes Johnson brought up Kris Joseph immediately. Onuaku talked about Johnson. Jackson praised Joseph and Jardine.

Each player's unselfishness is what makes the offense go. A year ago, Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris dominated the offense by creating for themselves and rarely for the others (the exception being Flynn mostly on the fast-break).

It's that unselfishness that puts the Orange in a position to win two national titles in less than a decade.

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