Syracuse Basketball: Why James Southerland Is the Key to Orange's Success

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIIJanuary 2, 2013

SYRACUSE, NY - DECEMBER 3: James Southerland #43 of the Syracuse Orange smiles as he stands on the court in between plays during the game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at the Carrier Dome on December 3, 2012 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)
Nate Shron/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange are currently 12-1 heading into the Big East portion of the schedule. Much of the Orange's early success can be attributed to senior James Southerland. The forward comes off the bench in Jim Boeheim's rotation, yet plays a key role night in and night out.

Of course, anyone who watches Syracuse on a regular basis knows that it all starts with the guards. Senior Brandon Triche is the floor general and sophomore Michael-Carter Williams sets up the scoring. Carter-Williams leads the nation with 10.2 assists per game.

The being said, it's the spark that the Orange get off the bench that plays a vital role to their success.

Southerland adds depth down low and gives Boeheim the luxury of rotating several solid frontcourt players into the lineup. That depth will bode well for Syracuse as the schedule wears on and March Madness begins.

Playing 25.2 minutes a game, he is fourth on the team in average minutes.

An early favorite for the Big East Sixth Man of the Year award, Southerland is one of two leading scorers on the team.  He and Triche both average 13.8 points a game.

Sure, in most cases it would be tough to argue that a player who never starts is the key to team success. However, that's exactly the case at Syracuse. How many teams can bring their leading scorer off the bench?

Aside from his scoring ability, Southerland is also a solid defender and rebounder. His 6'8" frame helps to extend 'Cuse's famous 2-3 zone and comes in handy under the basket.

Through 13 games, he is tied for fourth on the team with 64 total rebounds, averaging five per contest. Fellow reserve Baye Keita and Carter-Williams also average five rebounds.

Fans of the Orange may be a bit surprised to see Southerland play such an important role on this team. During the 2011-12 season, he played just 16 minutes a game and averaged 6.8 points, half as many as he is scoring this season.

Having a player who is good enough to lead the team in scoring and play solid defense is a great asset for any team to have. Boeheim can use Southerland as he wishes to try to create the most favorable matchups during a game.

The 2012-13 Syracuse Orange would be a good team without the services of James Southerland. However, his presence and ability make the Orange a team to look out for later in the season.