It’s clear that until the leg of the Bernie Fine investigation that pertains to the university’s and Jim Boeheim’s knowledge (or lack thereof) is resolved, any game played on the court will provide little more than a couple hours of respite from all the chaos that has enveloped the program. My plan is to keep this blog basketball-related unless new developments in the story keep me from doing so. You won’t find much speculation here about what Bernie Fine did or didn’t do, what Jim Boeheim knew or didn’t know, what the school uncovered or didn’t uncover in its internal investigation, the credibility of the accusers, and on and on. That’s because if you read this blog, you probably know of other places to find that sort of thing. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion or that I’m going to ignore it because it casts the program in an unfavorable light, because I won’t, but just know what to expect when you come here as things drag on.
The holiday last week, along with the news of Bernie Fine’s firing, sort of jammed up my opportunities to reflect at length on the games at MSG, so I thought it appropriate to use today to unleash a few bullet points on what I saw at the Garden last week.
- Though these games should not have been close, considering the disparities in talent, I have to admire the persistence showed by the Orange in both comebacks. It’s impossible to tell whether the investigation affected the team’s play or if it was just the fact that the level of competition was kicked up a notch, but it was nice to see the team respond and hang around before separating itself both on Wednesday and Friday.
- In Wednesday’s game, I really enjoyed the lineup that was responsible for the comeback against Virginia Tech. Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo were terrific and all five players were productive on both ends as the Orange finished the game on a 30-16 run. As much as I like Baye Keita’s defensive intensity and Rakeem Christmas’ shot-blocking ability, I’d rather see more well-rounded players who are fully capable on both ends instead of specialists who only excel in a more limited set of skills.
- The NIT Season Tip-Off final against Stanford was one I’d like to forget due to all the turnovers and the poor shooting from the first half, but it was memorable from an offensive rebounding standpoint. SU rebounded 47.1% of its misses, Friday, which is a mark that the Orange doesn’t hit very often against competitive teams in non-con play. Since winning the national title in 2003, only three other times has Syracuse rebounded so many of its missed shots against a Power Six team outside of the Big East, and only one other time in the regular season. Advanced stats advocates say that offensive rebounding is one of the four biggest components to winning games, so it was good to see Syracuse clean up in that department.
- One of the other big factors trumpeted by the Pomeroys and Gasaways of the world is turnover percentage. After all, it’s tough to score if you can’t hold onto the ball (how’s that for analysis?). Syracuse put up a similarly remarkable performance in that category, but for the wrong reasons. In the same sample used for the OR percentage (against non-Big East Power Six teams since the start of the 2003-04 season), only once has Syracuse turned the ball over more than 28.6% of the time, as it did against Stanford. Ironically, the other occasion – against Oklahoma State in 2006 – also came at the Garden. Obviously, that sample is somewhat limited when you recall that Boeheim doesn’t make a habit of scheduling big-conference teams in non-con play and that Syracuse hasn’t advanced deep enough into the Tournament to go up against many teams of that level, but I found it interesting anyway.
- Those who come here even semi-regularly are familiar with my irrational favoritism of C.J. Fair, so I hope you we’rent expecting me to let much time go by before I praised him for the first double-double of his career, which he posted against Virginia Tech. It really speaks to his versatility and improvement that he can do something like that against a decent team on a neutral (ok…semi-home) floor in just his second season. If you really wanted to, you could pick at a flaw or two for everyone on the team, but it’s really hard to find something missing from Fair’s game. As his perimeter capabilities continue to develop, it’ll become even tougher to nitpick.
- In the only point related to the Fine allegations that I’ll discuss today, it’ll be interesting to see the extent to which Rob Murphy comments on the situation tonight, assuming he discusses it. A quick Google search didn’t yield any P-S articles that included quotes from Murphy on what’s going on (though if readers know otherwise, please send them my way in the comments section), though I imagine he’s thankful to be coaching 500 miles away from the mess. With the allegations front and center, I’m sure he’ll be asked about his reactions, and I doubt we’ll learn anything beyond what other former assistants and players have already said about Fine, but I can’t help but think about how crazy it is that the narrative of Murphy’s return to the Dome will take on a meaning completely different than the goodwill tone when the game was first scheduled.