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Non-Conference Report Card for Syracuse’s Starting Five

Grading Syracuse’s starting five as the Orange gets set for conference play to start.

Trevor Cooney (35.7 Minutes Per Game): B

The season has been pretty simple so far: when Cooney plays well, SU has won. When Cooney disappoints, SU has lost. He is averaging 13.1 points per game on 41 percent shooting, second best on the team.  But, his value goes far beyond the numbers.  Cooney has been flexible enough to be a reliable shooter, a primary ball handler, and a wizard from the free throw line.  He started the season out cold, but has since improved and varied his play, complimenting his deep ball with drives to the hoop.  The Orange would have a lot more than four losses without Cooney on the floor for 36 minutes a game.

Kaleb Joseph (33.1 MPG): C

The jury is still out on Joseph’s non-conference performance.  As a true freshman, fans can’t expect too much from the young guard.  At times though, he has flashed his potential.  On the other hand, he has made poor decisions and some turnovers that have cost SU some games.  Currently, averaging 5.5 assists per game, he is turning the ball over at an alarming rate for a starting point guard (3.5 per game).  As the only true point guard on the roster, Joseph may be the most important player on the roster, and his game should round into form as he becomes more and more confident with the ball.  His mid-range jump shot is already becoming better through just twelve games, and as soon as he starts making safer decisions with the ball, the Orange’s offense will look much more fluent.

Chris McCullough (31.3 MPG): B

Like his freshman counterpart, the jury is still out on McCullough.  After starting the 2014 season on fire, his game has cooled significantly.  He began his collegiate career with eight straight games of double-digit scoring, but he hasn’t done so since the loss to St. John’s.  In addition, McCullough has been in foul trouble as of late, fouling out in two of the team’s last four games.  He too turns the ball over (2.6 times per game), but also is averaging almost eight rebounds per game and over two blocks per game, which has been huge on the defensive end.  If McCullough can get the mid-range jumper to start falling and stays out of foul trouble, he can get back to early season form.

Rakeem Christmas (30.2 MPG): A

Rakeem has been the hero of the 2014 SU squad.  With very few significant players returning after last season, Christmas has become the unquestioned leader for the Orange.  Currently, he is averaging a team leading 17.2 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game.  He is also blocking more than two shots per game.  Christmas’ contribution also goes beyond the numbers.  Anchoring the middle of the zone, the Orange looks immensely better defensively when Christmas is on the floor.  He does have to cut down on the fouls, so he can stay out there longer.

Michael Gbinije (28.9 MPG): C

Gbinije single-handedly won the game for the Orange last weekend against Long Beach State with a huge 24-6-8 line.  On the season, he is shooting 49 percent from the floor and has scored in double digits in five of the last six games.  He has been horrendous from the free throw line, though, at just 50 percent.  While he has been wildly inconsistent, if he can continue to score from behind the arc and play a utility role in nearly every part of the zone, Gbinije will be invaluable for the Orange down the road.

Posted:  Jason Weingold

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