In the past couple years, no matter what the circumstances are when Syracuse and Connecticut face off, there never seems to be a shortage of drama.
Last year in Storrs, Kristof "The Belgian Hitman" Ongenaet inadvertently took out one of UConn's top players (Jerome Dyson) for the year, possibly costing the Huskies a chance at a National Title. In New York for the Big East Tournament, I think we all remember what epic occurrence transpired.
This year? We hang on to get a nice win in a game that should have been a blowout, along with the pleasure of listening to Huskies fans whine about a controversial call for the next year (or at least until this year's Big East Tourney, should we meet up).
Look, I'm not going to go through the exact rules or specifics of a timeout call, since there are enough outlets that have already started
that debate. What I can do is give you my take on the entire debacle, in 3 points:
A. First and foremost, this entire situation (no Jersey Shore) never should have happened. If my memory is correct, we were blessed with a Rick Jackson rebound off of a very difficult Andy Rautins fallaway 3-pointer.
Rick got the rebound and kicked the ball out to Scoop with about 38 seconds on the clock, giving Syracuse a fresh :35 and a chance at taking basically the last shot of the game.
If you're a Division I basketball player, why in the world would you ever be so mindless as to drive into three defenders as quickly as possible and try for a layup at that point in the game? C'mon, this is the stuff they teach you in middle school ball.
I love Scoop, and for the most part he's a very smart player, which is why this baffles me even more. The right play is to regroup on top, wait to make a move until the clock gets to about eight seconds left, or call a timeout right away to set up a play. Why risk a miss/blocked shot in the first place?
B. Everyone keeps talking about the "blown call" by the referee since he granted Boeheim the timeout after UConn had already gotten the rebound. I understand this logic, but if you're going to talk about blown calls, what about the referee not acknowledging the fact that Boeheim wanted a timeout three seconds earlier?
Obviously in the heat of the moment, refs are focused on the game. However, it was apparent that Jimmy was running at the ref waving his hands and screaming for a timeout, which is something the official must have at least considered would be an option for SU, given the fresh shot clock.
This isn't even considering the fact that Scoop got smacked in the face by Gavin Edwards on the blocked shot (which I'm not complaining about, by the way. I agreed with the no-call, I'm just saying that if we're nitpicking supposed blown calls, it at least warrants mentioning).
C. For the small chance that like, three UConn fans are actually reading this, I get it. I feel for you. If this was Syracuse in the same situation with a call like that, no doubt I'd be just as pissed as all of you.
I'd probably even go off an a tangent and dedicate about four posts to it. But at the end of the day, that isn't going to change the end result of the game. Refs make tough calls like these all the time, and it just so happened this one went for the Orange and against you guys.
Nobody has to be reminded that this has shaped up to be a pretty special year for Syracuse, and sometimes, you get luck and stupid things like this to go your way. I can remember plenty of instances in which Syracuse had bad luck go against them (see, NIT in consecutive seasons).
This call happened to be one of the times that we caught a break, and that's that. At some point this year, a bad call is going to seriously "ruffle the feathers" of Syracuse fans, and everyone who tries to be objective once in a while will look back at this as one of the many breaks we've caught this year, and try not to make a huge deal out of it.
In summary, no matter how bad it may suck that the call went against you, there's no guarantee that UConn wins the game anyways. Yes, they'd have a chance at a last shot in a tie game, but they also played themselves into a 16-point deficit deep into the second half.
Sometimes with colossal comeback attempts, you can only come so close before things fall out of reach again.
So there's my take on that entire debacle, and I think everyone can agree to just move on. I don't want to be listening to Pat Forde discuss this minor detail of a long season come this March. Here's some things I found interesting about the rest of this game:
- Love the new uniforms. They're infinitely better than whatever the hell we've been wearing for the past two-plus years, even if at first glance they're only slightly tweaked. My main argument for the updated threads would be the fact that we are no longer wearing skin tight cutoff tops with shorts that are big enough to fit a keg inside each leg. As KShaw's brother Mike once pointed out during the unveiling of the previous uniforms during the 2007 Big East Tourney, "Paul Harris looks like he's 5'8 (in these new uniforms)" I thought that summed them up nicely. Good riddance.
- I couldn't get over the fact that UConn basically has four players, yet somehow almost pulled off one of the bigger upsets in college basketball this year. I'm talking about Stanley Robinson (lottery pick), Kemba Walker (NYC handles), Jerome Dyson (terrific scorer), and Gavin Edwards (great hustle guy), who combined for a whopping 61(!) of UConn's 67 total points. Seriously, every other guy on that team this year sucks.
- Speaking of Stanley Robinson, how freaking athletic is he?! I know we love Wes and his ups, as he can jump with the best of them, but dear Lord, I don't even think he's on Stanley's level! Not only did he have about three alley-oops over the top of our zone, but that reverse dunk he had in transition after faking out Rautins was just absurd. Since the multiple windmills he threw down against Syracuse last year, I officially jumped on the Stanley Bandwagon for no other reason than his ridiculous dunking ability. I'm calling it right now that if given the chance, he's winning the college dunk contest this year at the Final Four and the NBA's dunk contest next season.
- Great game for Rick, as he continues to hum along and quietly finish every shot within 6 or 7 feet of the basket. His 15, 7 and 3 blocks in only 28 minutes are fantastic numbers. Also, Kris Joseph continued his hot streak of late as the super-sub of the year in the Big East. I think he's going to really take off next year when he cracks the starting lineup with our departures.
- I liked Brandon Triche's aggressiveness in the first 10 minutes, and I thought he was really playing well. However, he started making some turnovers later in the game and promptly cooled right off in the second half. We need to see a little bit more of the Brandon who came out of the gates that game, as it'd be huge to have him contribute like that in March.
- FOUL SHOOTING! In a story that's as surprising as any, the Orange knocked down 23 of 28 free throws, which is basically unheard of from a Syracuse basketball team of the past 20 years. Seriously, at least for my short lifetime, I don't remember ever shooting that well with that many attempts in a game. It may have happened, all I'm saying is I can't think of it off the top of my head. Huge FTs by Wes and Kris down the stretch (they combined to go 10-of-10), as well as Big Rick stepping up and hitting 3 of 5 with his new form from the line! Gotta love that. Let's hope they can build on this showing and continue the hot-streak down the stretch run of the season.
I'll end with this one final tangent, and it's something I feel strongly about. If you had told me I'd be saying this 5 years ago, I would have absolutely thought you were insane, but here I am saying it: Andy Rautins is far and away the key to the Syracuse University Men's basketball team, and how far we go in March will be directly related to how far Andy carries us.
Coming out of J-D, I didn't go as far as some did and think Andy was somewhat of a legacy kid, just thrown a scholarship because of who his Dad was. But I NEVER saw it coming that his impact on the Orange would be as enormous as it has been this year.
Wes Johnson may be the All-American candidate, star savior and future top-5 pick in this year's draft, Rick and Arinze may anchor the frontcourt with their sheer size and length, and Kris Joseph may be the out-of-nowhere surprise and star-in-waiting, but Andy Rautins is easily Syracuse's most valuable player.
Anyone who completely disagrees or doesn't understand this honestly must not have played competitive basketball in their life.
While all of the aforementioned players are obviously a HUGE part of Syracuse's amazing team this year, none of this is possible without the leadership of Andy.
He does all of the little things that ensure Syracuse wins, as evidenced by the complete collapse of Syracuse's lead last night when Andy went to the bench with four fouls.
He may have only scored eight points on the night, but the intangibles he does don't show up in a box score.
Next time SU plays, focus solely on Rautins' every move for a few minutes. He talks on defense, he makes the extra pass, he gets the rest of his teammates pumped up, he is always in the right place at the right time, and he's not afraid to take the big shot when we need one.
If we're going to make the Final Four run that so many of us are already starting to plan for, then we need 2 things from Andy: his health, and him to stay out of foul trouble for every tournament game.
If you don't agree that Andy makes this team go, I don't know what to tell you. He's going to really be missed next season.
Check back later this week for the return of SU Basketball Lookalikes and a new podcast featuring a special guest. Until then, let's enjoy the hard-fought win!
- Jake the Snake