We count down 5 observations while sitting courtside in Pittsburgh.
The Fizz warned you Syracuse’s matchup against UNC Asheville had the potential to be close. We by no means thought it would be this close. There’s only one way to recap it, a Fizz 5 observations from media row in Pittsburgh:
1. Yes, the ref’s were awful – but it cut both ways.
The officiating stunk worse than Scoop Jardine’s free throw percentage on shots in which lane violations were called. UNC Asheville coach Ed Biedenbach suggested it cost his team the game, and Bulldog players said the best team did not win. Jim Boeheim had a beautiful volley, “that’s why they invented scoreboards.” But late calls against the Bulldogs obviously hurt their chances. The two major, high-profile decisions went against UNC Asheville, but that’s not why the Bulldogs lost. And the calls weren’t as bad as many thought.
The lane violation is tough. That whistle in that spot takes extraordinary onions for the referee, but it was the right call. In college, you can’t break the lane (or in J.P. Primm’s case the 3-point line) until the ball hits the rim. If you’re dumb enough to let the ref make that call, that’s on you. Stay out of the lane and there’s no problem.
The Triche out of bounds call was wrong. However, the refs also missed Brandon being tackled. In the final minute, Dion Waiters was also tackled on the press break, resulting in an SU turnover. No call. There were missed goaltends both ways (again). It was bad both ways. If UNC Asheville thinks a perfectly called game goes its way, the Dogs are wrong.
2. James Southerland loves games like this.
Southerland was a monster during the softest parts of Syracuse’s non-conference schedule while playing teams like UNC Asheville. His big shots were essential as Southerland was the only SU playing hitting from the perimeter. He loosened the zone and swung the game for Syracuse. Southerland can expect to see more playing time if he continues to hit. He’s rebounding well and is a better defender than given credit for. If C.J. Fair remains cold, Southerland is a no-brainer. It’s a total reversal of the middle of the season when Fair never missed and Southerland couldn’t hit make a basket if his life depended on it.
3. Bad offense + missing shots = even worse offense.
Syracuse incredibly took 23 shots from beyond the arc even though they weren’t falling all day. That’s how Kentucky’s 5 first-round picks lost in the Elite 8 two years ago. Teams that survive on penetration can’t settle for bad days from outside, and that’s exactly what Syracuse did. Credit UNC-A for playing the zone well, but SU could’ve penetrated far more. Eventually the Orange figured it out in the second as Jardine, Triche and Waiters all got in the lane. But there had to be a better way to utilize Syracuse’s insane size advantage and it never happened.
Also, don’t confuse huge production from Dion with good Syracuse offense. He gets his points often when the offense goes awry. He kept SU afloat when everyone else was inept. In the second half he barely scored and the offense had better flow. Yes, Waiters is an enormous x-factor, but huge numbers from him doesn’t necessarily translate to Orange success. Boeheim stressed the need for balance after the shaky win. Remember, Waiters had 28 against Cincinnati in a loss. But he only scored in single digits when they beat the Bearcats on the road without Fab Melo mid-season.
4. Where are the senior leaders?
Kris Joseph wasn’t active, engaged, impactful nor productive. He was dreadful for most of the afternoon. Scoop wasn’t much better. Both players seemed lost against a zone they’ve played themselves their entire careers. In the 2nd half, they were better. Scoop hit a big trey early and Joseph finally realized he was taller than everyone else and crashed the offensive glass for a couple of huge plays late. Production from both is essential to this team surviving beyond Saturday.
5. Free MCW.
For the second straight game, Michael Carter-Williams didn’t make it off the bench despite Syracuse being in need of his spark. He also joked on Twitter about his lack of playing time. Is JB running the risk of losing him mentally for March? It’s baffling considering the last time we saw him on the floor against UConn he dropped 4 assists in 8 minutes. He creates shots for his teammates that others don’t. When you are shooting 2-13 from 3 in the first half, someone who can create good shots sounds like a great idea.
Posted: Craig Hoffman