As The Fizz’s resident hoop scout, I was given (and gladly accepted) the task of analyzing the Orange opponents throughout the NCAA Tournament. Should SU win its opening game over Indiana State, scouting a potentially dangerous Sunday matchup against Xavier or Marquette will be easy. I’m in Cleveland. I get to watch each team in person. There’s game film available online because they play in prominent basketball conferences
Before we get ahead of ourselves though, stands the Sycamores, winners of the Missouri Valley Conference tourney. Yes, Scoop Jardine, and everyone else knows Larry Bird began his legend there. But that was over 30 years ago and doesn’t help us know ISU now. Neither does the fact the school’s official athletic site features the same amount of information as dialing the sports information department intern in 1979.
Games are available on-demand, but the website (beware of the “splash page!”) features no video highlights. YouTube only brings up cell phone quality video. Thus, the scout of the Sycamores will be done on paper. To the Sycamore season stats!
The first thing that jumps out for most is their leading scorer, Dwayne Lathan, puts up only 11 ppg. But the season state line for Jake Odum is the first thing I notice. He’s ISU’s big point guard at 6’4”, 170 and may be the only player who can create offense for others. He’s got 133 assists, the next highest total on the team is just 54.
By comparison, Scoop Jardine leads Syracuse with 190 helpers and Brandon Triche is second with 97. For some perspective, Dion Waiters would be third on Indiana State in assists. That means the Sycs get no ball movement – lots of isolation and post-ups. If you shut down Odum and keep him out of the lane their offense is going to have to come from self-created shots. That’s not exactly ideal against a matchup zone where the help is built in.
Lathan’s paltry 11 ppg seems like a low number, but not as small as you might think. Indiana State rotates eleven guys. Jim Boeheim might not play eleven in three years. Those eleven Sycs all average 9+ minutes per, and only one player (C. Walker Myles) has started every game.
This makes scouting Indiana State a tad harder than The Per’fessor and his staff want it to be. You have to keep track of a lot of players coming in and out. In a zone that job becomes even harder because you can’t just match up man on man. The Fightin’ Larry Birds have six guys that shoot 34% or better from three-point range, so it’s imperative for the Orange to locate those shooters as they move in and out of the lineup.
Last bit of paper fun – the Sycamore’s tallest player (that actually plays) is 6’8”. Theoretically that means James Southerland could play in the pivot and be standing eye-to-eye with their actual center. It means Rick Jackson should gobble up every rebound that comes off iron and Fab Melo has a great chance to continue his solid play. Fab will be a head taller than anyone else in the arena outside of Baye Keita and Len Elmore.
On paper this looks like a great matchup for the Orange. But it should. Syracuse has a three next to its name on the bracket and Indiana State a fourteen for a reason. But 14-seeds have knocked off 3’s before. It’s vital the Orange comes out, executes, and puts the Sycamores away quickly. After all, Gus Johnson IS calling the game, so you just never know what might happen.
Posted: Craig Hoffman