With the Syracuse win over Kansas State, Jim Boeheim marches into the Sweet 16 yet again. But can he make it farther? The Fizz is following the Orange courtside throughout the tournament, and gets to return home this week to Boston. In an interesting moment of serendipity, K-State was also without its leading rebounder Jamar Samuels, who was held out due to eligibility issues. The blog with humble beginnings will be in D.A’s digs Thursday in the Bean. How’d we get there? Your Fizz 5:
1. SU cleaned the glass.
The Fizz described K-State’s enormous advantage on the glass. The Wildcats werre led by Jordan Henriquez, who had 17 rebounds and 11 on the offensive end. However in the second half, with Henriquez on the bench in foul trouble, Syracuse was able to outrebound Kansas State 16-14. Michael Carter-Williams told The Fizz postgame Rakeem Christmas may be the best rebounder on the team. He had a career high 11 and battled with the taller, longer Henriquez the whole night.
2. Freshman point guard + SU zone = Orange win.
Another point of interest was how Kansas State would handle the 2-3 with a freshman point guard leading the attack. Angel Rodriguez had his moments of brilliance, but struggled overall to get K-State consistently into its offense. He also turned it over 4 times. He was lost. The zone strikes again.
3. Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots… everybody!
What many didn’t account for was how poor of a defender Rodriguez was. Scoop Jardine abused him for 16 points and 8 assists and A-Rod had almost nothing to do with Scoop’s 6 turnovers. Jardine’s penetration led to tons of kickout 3’s and the result was the Orange going 6-9 from deep.
The decisions were much better behind the arc than against UNC Asheville. Unlike Thursday Syracuse avoided launching from three if it wasn’t falling. C.J. Fair was off against KSU however. He hasn’t hit a jumper in the postseason despite having some great looks. But as he and Triche struggled, Kris, Scoop, Big Game James and Dion had double digits. The depth came into play Saturday.
Jardine was dreadful in the first half, continuing his recent run of craptastic play. He only had two points at the break, and had made a ton of poor decisions. But an early three to start the second half set him off. Syracuse would be led by Scoop, good or bad. He set the tone in late, and SU cruised to a double digit win and a trip to the Sweet 16.
Everyone likes to talk about bi-polar Good Scoop and Bad Scoop. But this year there has been much more Good Scoop than most would like to admit. He’s quicker, more dependable, and in better shape. He’s also mentally strong. The Orange can’t expect to win if he has 6 turnovers like Saturday, but when he also tallies 16-8-5 (big rebounds), there’s a much better chance.
5. Rak City kid, Rak Rak City kid.
If we told you a Syracuse center had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks you would probably be satisfied. You would also think it was Fab Melo. That was Rakeem Christmas’s line Saturday afternoon. He wasn’t dominant like Melo has been at points this year, but he was very good. Rak was aggressive on the boards, and challenged follow ups when he didn’t rip down the rebound.
Just as importantly he was able to catch and finish on the offensive end. K-State left him open down low a few times and he was a guaranteed two points. He also set good screens, something missing from his game just a few weeks ago. No one ever got loose off a Christmas screen. Saturday he almost knocked Rodriguez cold.
The Syracuse team you saw against the Wildcats is capable of the Final Four. SU also avoids Vanderbilt which The Fizz envisioned as the nightmare matchup for the Orange. Ohio State in the Elite 8 would be a tough go with Deshaun Thomas playing very good basketball to go with Aaron Craft and Jarred Sullinger. For now it’s Wisconsin though. On to Boston.
Posted: Craig Hoffman