This past week Syracuse played three games. They were upset by Cleveland Stateafter a desperation half court shot dropped for CSU to give them the three point victory. It was Syracuse’s first loss of the season. In the next game the Orangewere able to rebound from the loss and handle Canisius.
Saturday night, the Orange got arguably their most valuable win so far this season, beating a talented Memphis team on the road. Syracuse played a tough 2-3 zone against a poor outside shooting team in Memphis and it worked to perfection.
Enough with the formalities, let’s start the questions. We got some great responses this week so thanks to everyone who participated. Feel free to respond to this week’s comments or answer the questions in the comment section.
Will the Cleveland State loss hurt Syracuse down the road?
Jameson: The CSU loss doesn't affect this team at all especially since they beat Memphis. If they take care of business in the Big East, the CSU loss won't mean a thing.
Jordan: I don't think the Cleveland State loss will hurt Syracuse down the road. They have non-conference wins over Florida, Kansas and Memphis and should win at least 10 Big East games, so they'll be safely in the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday.
Larry: I don't think the Cleveland State loss will hurt too much considering that Syracuse beat Florida, Kansas, Memphis and Virginia, including Memphis on the road and Kansas in Kansas City. Those will greatly overshadow the loss to the Vikings when they are put in the "key non-conference wins" column. Plus, I think Cleveland State has a chance to be an NCAA team.
Nick: If anything, I think the Cleveland State loss helped the Orange and exposed weaknesses. Syracuse dropped from 11th in the AP poll to 17th solely because of the Cleveland State loss. But I think the fashion that they lost in, combined with the win over Memphis, will lead voters and fans to believe that the loss was a fluke; which it was.
Adam: No. Although the loss was inexcusable, the Orange responded well two nights later against Canisius and then really seemed to validate their national ranking with an impressive road win against Memphis.
While it would have been nice to head into Big East play with an undefeated record, the Cleveland State loss served as a much needed wake up call for a team that hadn’t been playing as well as their record and ranking indicated. With the loss out of their system, look for Syracuse to continue to build off of the lessons learned from the defeat.
Ryan: I do not think the loss will hurt them at all because they immediately bounced back the next game with a great win over ranked Memphis. I agree with Adam that it would have been nice to go into the conference schedule without a loss, but Syracuse should pick up enough wins during conference play to make the tournament.
Where do you think Syracuse stacks up against the rest of the Big East from the games you have seen so far?
Jameson: Entering the season, I thought this was the fifth best team in the Big East behind UConn, Louisville, Pitt, and Notre Dame. But after the non-conference portion of the schedule, this team looks like it might be the third best team in the conference. In all likelihood this team actually finishes fourth.
Jordan: I think Syracuse is right at the top of the second tier in the Big East behind UConn and Pitt. The Orange is battling Notre Dame, Villanova, Georgetown, and Louisville for that third spot in the pecking order at this point, and if they can get Eric Devendorf back by the middle of January, they should be able to compete with those top two teams for a conference championship.
Larry: I think Syracuse has a chance to be a top four Big East team this year. I think that Pitt as always will give them trouble because they are so physical, and I think Notre Dame can shoot them out of the gym on certain nights. UConn will be tough to beat. But other than that, I see this Syracuse squad able to beat anyone.
Nick: I think Syracuse basketball, with Eric Devendorf on the court, is a top five Big East team right now. UConn and Pitt are still undefeated and remain the elite of the conference and the country. Notre Dame and Georgetown are beatable teams for the Orange so I rank ‘Cuse right up there with them.
I think the Orange is better than 7-2 Louisville, with Villanova challenging to be in that top five. The Wildcats just haven't faced quality competition like Syracuse has. The only ranked opponent they faced was sixth ranked Texas, a game they lost by nine.
Adam: As of now, Syracuse looks to be right up there with what I would describe as the second tier of teams in the conference. After Connecticut and Pittsburgh who are clearly the class of the conference, the Orange have the ability to just as good as Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova, and Marquette.
It’s been clear that talent wise, the Orange can be compared with any team in the conference, however their sloppy play and inability to hit free throws will be what separates them from their conference rivals in making a bid for their first regular season conference championship since 2002-2003 and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005-2006.
Ryan: In my mind, Syracuse is third behind the two remaining undefeated teams Connecticut and Pittsburgh. They have beaten three ranked opponents while only having one fluke bad loss. Louisvillehas two losses to unranked teams, including a loss to Western Kentucky.
Villanova has a loss to Texas which is not bad but they have not beaten anyone good yet. Notre Dame is also up there in the elite of the Big East with their two losses both coming against undefeated teams, North Carolina and Ohio State.
What are your thoughts or reaction on the Memphis game?
Jameson: Syracuse won that game as product of Memphis' shortcomings which is no point guard or three point shooters. The free throw shooting was horrendous and there were a lot of turnovers. The offense was able to produce points against a very good Memphis defense which is probably the most important thing to take away from this game. I didn't like the decision to bench Kristof Ongenaet for literally one second.
Jordan: I was very impressed by Syracuse's win at Memphis. The Orangecame in as nine-point underdogs and minus their starting point guard, but were still able to pick up their third road/neutral win over a ranked opponent this year. SU did it with a solid 2-3 zone that was perfect against the poor outside shooting Memphis club.
Cusemay not be as lucky against better shooting teams in the Big East, however, so they'll have to find a way to score more points on the offensive end, which may be difficult without Devendorf. I don't think it will be Andy Rautins making up for the loss of Devo, though, because he's only a spot-up shooter. Instead, I think freshman Kris Joseph will have to pick up the slack.
Larry: The Memphis game showed that Jim Boeheim wants to play Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku together, and Jacksonlooks better than Onuaku. I think that Joseph was knocking on the door, and he showed that he can slash and hit jumpers and has a huge presence on D. If Jackson and Joseph can emerge, and Devo gets back, and everyone stays healthy, I think this team can make the Final Four. But Jackson has to become a monster and Joseph has to emerge as a star for that to happen.
Nick: Georgetown and Louisville both depend on superstar freshmen, Greg Monroeand Samardo Samuels respectively. Memphis also relies on freshman Tyreke Evans averaging 15 points per game, who posed to be a match-up problem for the Orange. However, Syracuse held Evans to just five points and forced him to turn the ball over six times, matching his highest total of the season.
Syracuse's two-three zone really caused problems for Memphis' offense and their inexperienced freshman. The 'Cuse defense only gave up 65 points to Memphis, their lowest allowed to a ranked opponent this season. Memphis is not a hot shooting team but if the Orange can play the zone like they did on Saturday, they should be able to find a strong balance between man and zone defense this year.
Anyway, the Memphis victory was huge for Syracuse because they did it without Eric Devendorf and they were coming off a tough loss to Cleveland State.
The win at Memphis gives the Orange three big non-conference wins and already makes a great case fro an NCAA tournament birth. It also gives them the confidence they need to win without Devendorf for the time being. Most of all, it gives Syracuse nation-wide credibility in college basketball. They have now beaten both of last year's national championship participants already.
Adam: Once again, the Orange struggled with turnovers and free throws, however Coach Jim Boeheim returned to the two-three zone almost exclusively and held Memphis in check from beyond the three point line. Behind a strong effort from an injured Jonny Flynn, Syracuse stepped up on the road, without suspended guard Eric Devendorf.
This game showed that having the kind of roster depth they lacked last season can be a real difference maker, as they got significant contributions from backup center Rick Jackson (who started in place of Kristof Ongenaet) and freshman Kris Joseph.
The win should offset the loss against Cleveland State as the Orange were nine point underdogs and won away from the Carrier Dome for the third time this season. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a solid road victory for a team establishing an identity for itself as one of the premier teams in the Big East.
Ryan: It was a great game for the Orange and very important game to bounce back from a tough loss to Cleveland State. One thing that worried me from the game was how poorly they shot from the line. That kind of shooting is not going to help them win close games in conference play.
It was nice to see Rick Jackson and freshman Kris Joseph help out in the win. They played the two-three zone to perfection, forcing a very poor three-point shooting team to shoot threes. Memphiswas horrible from behind the arc (except the guy Roburt Sallie) and the defense helped Syracuse make up for the poor free throw shooting and many careless turnovers.
Want to participate in next week’s Orange Opinions? Email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.