With three weeks to play in the regular season, it’s time to hand out the Syracuse basketball team’s mid-semester grades. The Orange has played itself to a top 4 seed, but has been wildly inconsistent over the past month. Here’s the Dean’s List for SU, and those who need some extra help.
Jim Boeheim: A-
SU has been in the top 10 all season, and is cruising toward another solid seeding. Wednesday’s 66-58 loss to UConn was not one of the season’s better moments, but overall the Orange has won more than its lost. Some of his lineup choices in the UConn game leave us wondering why JB didn’t insert C.J. Fair or Jerami Grant for James Southerland late in the second half, but it’s only one game. Boeheim’s team is 20-4 and 8-3 in the Big East. He also got his 900th win of the season on Dec. 17. Syracuse is 15-0 at home, and maybe this is the team that finally gets Jim his elusive 4th Final Four. He also knows how to call out media members and rally the troops. Will it work?
Michael Carter-Williams: B
MCW has looked at times to be the best PG in the nation, but he has also has spurts in turning the ball over too much and missing important free throws. His near double-digit average in assists during non-conference play deserves kudos, but in conference play, he hasn’t been the same. He still leads the Big East in assists at 8.2 per game and in steals with 3.1, but his 87 turnovers in 24 games averages over 3.5 turnovers per game. Sometimes we see great games from MCW, sometimes we don’t. He has been very good, but needs to have more games with 15 points, eight or nine assists and limit turnovers to one or two down the stretch.
Brandon Triche: A-
Triche has been the leader of this team. He’s the lone senior in the starting lineup and leads the team in points with 14.3 points per game. Although the Jamesville-DeWitt product is shooting just 16 percent from the three point line in his last five games, he has played crucial roles throughout the season and in big games. Triche gets a lot of credit for making five of seven long shots in the Louisville game, finishing with 23 points. He comes up in the big moment and although he has his struggles, most recently, he has helped the Orange win important games.
Jerami Grant: A-
He was an afterthought when the season started, but Grant is deserving of his high grade. He has been a great choice off the bench for Boeheim. The 6’8″ freshman from Maryland is only averaging 5.4 points per game, but he is a good option when starters aren’t playing well. He grabs big rebounds, including a career-high nine on Wednesday against UConn and seven on Jan. 21 against Cincinnati. Due to James Southerland’s suspension, Grant was Boeheim’s go-to man off the bench. When he started playing well and helping the team, Jimmy B gained enough confidence in him to play him 40 minutes against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
C.J. Fair: A-
He might not wow you, but he just does everything well. In his first year in the starting lineup, he’s scored just under 14 points per game and grabbed over seven rebounds per. He averages 33 and a half minutes on the court. Fair has scored in double digits in 14 straight games and is an 82 percent free throw shooter. Fair has helped this team in big ways. He is becoming more comfortable shooting a long jumper, and is shooting 42 percent. Fair has been solid, and has stepped up well following the departure of Kris Joseph.
Rakeem Christmas: C-
Orange Nation had very high hopes for the McDonald’s All-American but his main function on the court is winning the tip. Christmas has height, but often he doesn’t show it. SU needs production on the boards, but Rak only averages five per game. This entire season, Rakeem only has two double-digit rebound games. His best game of the season came on Jan. 9 against Providence, when he had 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. One of the biggest factors he brings to the court is his shot blocking. He’s a big man and very intimidating. He has 2.1 blocks per game, which is third in the conference. SU would love to have him step up during the stretch run.
Baye Keita: INC
Keita is very tough to analyze. He doesn’t score, but he isn’t supposed to. He’s supposed to do the dirty work. averages less than 15 minutes per contest, and has grabbed 3.7 rebounds and blocked about a shot per game. With Christmas struggling and freshman DaJuan Coleman out with an injury, Keita is asked to do a little more than he’s supposed to. Every great team needs its glue guys to do the little things, and Keita can help contribute more of that.
Trevor Cooney: C+
Fans thought Trev would be a three-point machine, but he hasn’t quite been that. The supposed start shooter is only making 32 percent of his shots, but at least is drilling 28 percent from behind the arc. He was hot during nonconference play and earned playing time when he was in double-digit scoring figures in early December. If he can be more effective shooting during games and not just in practice, that grade has the chance to increase.
James Southerland: B+
Every night, you never know what type of Southerland you’re going to get. You might get the Southerland who makes three early treys to get the team fired up. Or, you get the Southerland who is 0-for-5 shooting deep and his shot isn’t on. For 26 minutes on average, he’s scoring 13.6 per game and grabbing just under five rebounds. When he’s good, he’s great. When he’s not, it’s ugly. He had a 35 point game against Arkansas earlier this season. He had four consecutive games of at least 15 points from mid-November to the end. He just needs to be more consistant and know when to make the three pointer. When he was suspended it was an obvious loss for the Orange. He’s always the X-Factor. A hot, confident Southerland is a game changer.
Overall team grade: B
The Orange has found ways to win, even if it’s been ugly. Boeheim has admitted SU was fortunate to get victories in a few close conference games, and hasn’t truly played its best basketball yet. There’s been some maddening losses (Temple, UConn), but also impressive wins (at Louisville). With a wide open college hoops landscape, a team with SU’s talent can be very dangerous as long as it doesn’t beat itself.
Posted: Austin Pollack