Syracuse Orange Blogger Awards: Best Freshman

As one of the many first year blogs to join the Syracuse corner of the interwebs this past year, it is only fitting that a rookie present the SOB for “Best Freshman”. The winner of this year’s Best Freshman award will be following 2007 winner Paul Harris and 2008 winner Jonny Flynn (and by following, I don’t mean heading to the NBA Draft. I hope).

Here were this year’s nominees:

The 2008-09 Syracuse Orange Freshmen: Mookie Jones, Kris Joseph and Brandon Reese.

The 2008-09 Syracuse Orange Freshmen: Mookie Jones, Kris Joseph and Brandon Reese.

MOOKIE JONES: Mookie is a 6-6 small forward from Peekskill who didn’t get much playing time on a deep Syracuse team this season. Jones appeared in nine games, the last of which was the January 7th game against DePaul. His season was cut short by a hip injury that required surgery in February and will seek a medical redshirt for this past season (meaning he can become the first ever two-time S.O.B. nominee for Best Freshman!). He averaged 4.1 points in 9.9 minutes per contest, including season highs of 21 minutes and 9 points against Colgate.

KRIS JOSEPH: Joseph, or Kris-Jo as he calls himself, is a 6-7 forward who came to Syracuse from Montreal via Archbishop Carroll in Washington D.C. Joseph saw the most action of any freshman, appearing in 34 of Syracuse’s 38 games. Joseph’s best game was against Florida in the C.B.E. Classic in Kansas City- playing 26 minutes and finishing with 10 points and 5 rebounds against the Gators. He was also brought in as a center in the epic 6-OT game against UConn after sitting on the bench for nearly 3 hours.

BRANDON REESE: Reese is a 5-11 walk-on guard from Davie, FL who appeared in 16 games. His season highlight was playing in front of his family and friends in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Stephen F. Austin which was played in Miami.

With how the season played out there was very little debate. On to the results: Continue reading

The Orange Empire Extends It’s Tenticles To Detroit

Last night the citizens of Detroit voted for a new head of their city. And these wise citizens elected the greatest of all Syracuse greats, Dave Bing as their mayor. This is the second best thing to happen in Detroit this year (the first being UConn losing in the Final Four).

In all seriousness Bing has a tough road ahead of him. The last mayor resigned and later went to jail for lying in a civil trial regarding an affair with a staffer. Not only that, but apparently the Detroit economy is having a bit of a rough patch. I believe it was in the papers.

By far the best quote about this election:

“I don’t like either one; it’s like tossing a coin. But I’ll give Bing a chance,” Bonnie Brookslee, 78, said after voting.

This sounds like the point guard situation for SU next season. Are we sure Bonnie Brookslee isn’t really Jim Boeheim?

So Syracuse now can claim both the Mayor of Detroit and the Vice-Presidency as it’s own. Maybe if our favorite lawyer/blogger gets his act together, he can take over the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

It’s Like The Oscars For Syracuse Blogs

Its no Save Our Bluths, but these S.O.B.s are sure to entertain.

Its no Save Our Bluths, but these S.O.B.s are sure to entertain.

It’s May. Which means in the world of Syracuse athletics, nothing much is going to be happening other than Orange lacrosse. The football team has already had their spring workouts and the drama revolving around the basketball team is hopefully done until Jonny Flynn goes to a crappy NBA team.

But there is one big thing going on in the world of Syracuse blogging: the 2009 Syracuse Orange Blogger awards! This year’s S.O.B.s are sure to be entertaining after the Orange made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. And just like this version of the S.O.B.s, this years awards feature guest presenters like yours truly. I’m no Richard Belzer, but I will be presenting the results from the “Best Freshman” voting on Wednesday. So stay tuned for that and make sure to check out all the other awards as well.

The Orange Report Podcast- Episode One (Jeff Borzello)

This is the debut of ” The Orange Report Podcast”. In this episode you will hear from Jeff Borzello from March Madness All Season. If you don’t know about Jeff’s site, please check it out.

I spoke to Jeff about the UConn recruiting violations, the NCAA Tournament, and of course the upcoming Oklahoma-Syracuse sweet sixteen matchup. Listen to Jeff’s analysis on how to stop Blake Griffin and the Sooners.

-Also, this is my first attempt at the podcast, and for some reason the program I used to record the phone call left an echo. So try to ignore that and hopefully I will have it figured out for the next go round.

The Orange Report Podcast- Episode One (Jeff Borzello)

Sweet Like Bear Meat!

…To quote Tracy Morgan.

Yes, Syracuse is back in the Sweet 16 after defeating Arizona State today. I don’t have time for a full recap of today’s game, but I wanted to look at the three keys to victory that I mentioned earlier on ASU blog House of Sparky. The Orange hit on all three today in their win:

1. Get Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson involved early.

This was obviously something that Coach Boeheim stressed to his players before the game, because the Orange had an inside presence from the beginning. The two big men combined for 10 of the first 20 Orange points, and both finished with double-digit scoring efforts. This was a key to getting open looks for Devendorf and Rautins against the ASU match-up zone.

2. Knock down some threes.

No problems with the outside shot today. Devendorf had five triples and Rautins added three threes of his own. 9-20 (45%) effort from long distance today, compared to the 2-16 showing in the first round. If the Orange shoot like they are capable of from outside, they can be a challenge to any team in the country.

3. Score, score, score!

I wrote that the Orange are 18-3 on the year when the reach the 80 point mark, and only 9-6 when they don’t. Well, they only got to 78, but against a team that was only giving up 60 points per game, 78 is a huge number. The Orange kept the pace where they like it and weren’t bogged down by ASU’s zone. Great offensive day for Syracuse.

Cory from House of Sparky was right on with his assessment on how to beat the Sun Devils. Pendergraph was forced out of the game with about ten minutes left (why did Herb Sendek leave him in there?) which eliminated any inside presence ASU had. While we did allow Kuksiks and Abbott to get open looks we kept the defensive pressure on ASU the eintire game, and limited the damage of James Harden. We also did a great job working inside-out on their zone.

All told, it was a very solid performance by the Cuse hoopsters. Next up is Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners.

How To Lose/How To Win Against ASU

After reading Sean’s great interview with House of Sparky over at Nunes, I contacted Cory from H.O.S. and asked him how Syracuse can beat Arizona State, and how ASU can defeat the Orange. His responses are below. I provided the Syracuse versions to this question on his site as well. Enjoy.

Three Ways ASU Can Beat Syracuse

Arizona State plays a 2-3 matchup zone that tries to limit interior scoring at the expense of leaving a fair amount of threes open for the opposition. Against a Syracuse team that shoots 34.3% from beyond the arc, this is a tricky proposition.

1. Extend the zone, forcing Arinze Onuaku to make plays.

With Jeff Pendergraph playing solid defense in the paint, Onuaku will be hard-pressed to shoot 66% from the field, like he has been doing all year long. Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf are far too dangerous to leave open from downtown, so the extended zone will look to force the ball inside.

2. Stay out of foul trouble, Jeff Pendergraph.

Leading us to our next point. Without Pendergraph in the game, our defense takes on a different dimension, with backup center Eric Boateng down low. He’s not very good. He has very little control of his body once he gets some positive momentum, and is prone to hard fouls. Boateng is not a scorer, either, limiting our options on the offensive end.

Let me make this very clear: without the impassioned play of Jeff Pendergraph for at least 35 minutes tomorrow, Arizona State is in huge trouble. Pendergraph takes pressure off of James Harden on the offensive end, and is a force on defense.

3. Revive James Harden’s ailing game.

Harden hasn’t looked like himself since the Pac-10 Semifinal matchup against Washington. Against USC in the Pac-10 title game and Temple on Friday, Harden was focused on finding the open man instead of looking for his own shot. Are defenders catching on to his subtle nuances and shutting him down? I certainly hope not.

When he’s on, Harden has the ability to singlehandedly beat any team in America. He lacks motivation at times, but there will be no shortage of enthuasism tomorrow morning. With a fiery player like Eric Devendorf on the court, Harden will undoubtedly step up his game.

Three Ways To Beat Arizona State

1. Get Pendergraph out of the Game

ASU can be beat when you play with the right mindset. The first step is getting Jeff Pendergraph into foul trouble, as I mentioned before. We are paper thin in terms of size. With Pendergraph on the bench, the zone can be attacked by Onuaku and the strong drives of Jonny Flynn.

2. Keep the defensive pressure on/allow no open looks

Once this objective is complete, Harden now feels the increased pressure of scoring the lion’s share of points for ASU. Give him no room to make anything happen. Force Jerren Shipp and Jamelle McMillan to shoot when they are in the game.

Pressure Derek Glasser in the backcourt, as he is prone to turnovers when the full court press is on. Defensive intensity will help you. Be careful not to give Rihards Kuksiks, Derek Glasser, or Ty Abbott open looks from three, as they will make you pay.

3. Work inside out on offense

Finally, break the zone from the inside. After the matchup zone sags to protect the basket, Devendorf, Flynn and Rautins will be able to find an open shot from outside the arc. From a percentage standpoint, playing Syracuse is a logistical nightmare for Arizona State. From three or from the paint, the high field goal percentage plays into the hands of the Orange.

Thanks to Cory for the insight. Check his blog later more great post-game analysis.

Getting to Know the Sun Devils

As Syracuse gets ready to take on Arizona State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, I exchanged in some Q&A with Justin from the excellent ASU blog, Pitchfork Nation. His answers are below, and my answers to his questions are here. Enjoy.

James Harden is being touted as a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft. Can you break down his game for us?

James Harden is certainly a unique talent; something that fans in Tempe have never seen before and may never see again, so we’re definitely savoring every minute of The Super Soph/The Beard (as we call him on PFN) until he most likely takes off for the draft after this season.

The best way to describe Harden is “complete” but with just a little bit of immaturity still in his game. James uses a mixture of speed and dexterity to extend defenses. He’s deceptively fast and can go from zero to “by you” before you can blink, making him very dangerous in the transition game. For an example of how well he moves off defensive rebounds, take a look at the game film from the ASU/Washington Pac-10 Semifinal. When you let him get loose, he becomes a deadly slasher and gets to the tin in no time. The one drawback of that is, and it goes back to some of his immaturity, he tends to get a little bit out of control and is prone to taking offensive fouls when he gets overexcited. He did it with less than a minute to play against USC, a play that most likely cost Arizona State a conference championship.

Pac-10 POY James Harden will try to get the Sun Devils past Syracuse in the second round on Sunday.

Pac-10 POY James Harden will try to get the Sun Devils past Syracuse in the second round on Sunday.

Harden can also be a very deadly shooter. His range is about 19-20 feet. However, as you probably noticed against Temple, he tends to be hesitant to shoot in the early stages of games when his first few attempts don’t fall. It’s something that shocks the hell out of every announcer and journalist that doesn’t follow ASU regularly, but we all know not to worry. Harden is smart enough to know that forcing shots isn’t going to help his team, so whenever he can, he’ll force the ball down low to Jeff Pendergraph or act as a decoy to open up guys like Derek Glasser and Ty Abbott.

You twice beat UCLA and had a win over Washington in the Pac-10 tournament. How did the rest of the Pac-10 slate go? Did ASU exceed or fail to meet expectations?

It was a very, very strange Pac-10 season for ASU. It went from incredible to frustrating to incredible to incredibly frustrating on a week to week basis almost. The Devils started off with a frustratingly regular 3-2 record after five games, then went to USC and got run up and down the floor by DeMar DeRozan. That game was the only one in Harden’s career thus far in which he was held without a field goal. It would have been panic button time in Tempe had it not been for an unreal defensive performance (1 FG allowed in the final 13+ minutes) that allowed ASU to get their first win at UCLA in six seasons.

The next week, ASU went down to Tucson and took an unprecedented 2nd straight win over Tucson in a game where the first team to 40 literally won. It really looked like we were on the right track until the Washington schools came to Tempe and shot the lights out. The losses to UW and WSU really exposed Herb Sendek’s matchup zone and provided a blueprint to how to beat ASU: hit your outside shots and play in-your-face defense. They rebounded with two nice wins on the road at the Oregon schools and then came home to sweep the most pivotal three-game stretch for the program in 20 seasons: three straight wins over UCLA, USC and Arizona at home sent the Devils to the top of the standings.

Then came a stretch of basketball that would crush a weak minded team: back to back overtime losses in Washington and at Washington State and then a miserable shooting performance at home against lowly Stanford sent the Devils spiraling. Luckily, a strong Senior Day win over Cal paced the Sun Devils into their run to the Pac-10 title game.

Harden struggled in the first round against Temple, but Pendergraph and Glasser stepped it up. How important is it for Harden to pick up the pace, or can the other players carry the team on his off nights?

It’s not the biggest concern, but as the Tournament wears on, they’ll definitely need him because Derek Glasser isn’t going to score 22 again like he did today. Harden is surrounded by a tremendous supporting cast of Pendergraph, Glasser, Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks, all who can put the ball in the hole with the best of them. As I mentioned earlier, Harden knows to adjust his own game when he’s not hitting from the outside, and it’s up to those four to pick up the slack. However, the Sun Devils have not played a team this season as rangey and athletic as Syracuse, so as if this wasn’t already going to be a true test, it’s going to be even more difficult for Arizona State to win if Harden doesn’t score.

Who are the “wild-card” players that Syracuse should look out for?

If Ty Abbott hits his first shot of the game, look out. Abbott is one of the most schizo shooters in America…he either hits everything or nothing at all. Earlier this year, he went on about an 0-35 shooting slump during the early stages of the Pac-10 season. Then, inexplicably, he almost couldn’t miss in the conference tournament. I feel like Abbott, against that stingy Jim Boeheim zone, will be a key cog for Arizona State if they want to pull the minor upset.