One of the biggest advantages Syracuse has over many teams in the Big Dance is the leadership of seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine. Both played at a high level all season, and have kept this team united despite the controversy constantly surrounding the program. However, since the Big East Tournament started this duo hasn’t shown up for a full 40 minutes.
Scoop and K-Jo were the second-half catalysts for a late push past a pesky UNC-Ashville squad, but for most of the game they seemed to go through the motions. Joseph said after the near upset the team looks to him and Jardine to bring intensity and urgency to both ends of the floor.
“Us being the senior leaders on the team, the team goes as we go.”
This is true, and it’s nice to acknowledge the responsibility, but you have to also live up to it. Although Dion can go into Incredible Hulk mode and carry Syracuse, the heart of this team beats with #11 and #32. Right now, though, these two are not clicking on all cylinders and that could spell doom for the Orange against Kansas State.
The key for the seniors to get back on track is to play Syracuse’s style of game. SU wants to play an up-tempo pace, and are nearly unstoppable in transition with playmakers capable of leading the break and finishing off easy buckets. Yet the Orange is often getting bogged down in the half-court where the offense stalls in one player’s hands. SU has looked passive, often standing around waiting for Waiters to come to the rescue.
Joseph spoke earlier in the season about championship aspirations, but now that the time is here he isn’t commanding the ball. He is SU’s leading scorer and needs the ball in his hands more. Although K-Jo’s shot isn’t falling (hitting just 6 of 24 shots in the last three games), he has at least been taking the ball hard to the rack and drawing fouls. KJ shouldn’t be discouraged with his shooting slump. The shots will fall, and when they do his drive will be even more effective. His jab step and initial burst to the basket is one of the best in the country, so keeping defenders honest with the jumper makes his game more effective. Joseph cannot be a bystander on the offensive end. When he is hungry and attacking the paint the offense opens up. Another silent game from the first team All-Big East player could mean a flight home from Pittsburgh.
As for Jardine, he just needs to play within himself and avoid doing too much. He is rekindling the “old Scoop” with inconsistent play plagued by turnovers and bad shot selection. Jardine is the true leader on and off the court. However, Boeheim can’t afford to leave him on the floor if he continues to turn the ball over. The Orange needs Scoop out there. He runs the offense best, and has calm, cool demeanor to carry this team through stretches when opponents make runs.
The seniors have to step up and lead this team in the right direction. They need to play Syracuse basketball and dictate the tempo of this game. If not we can see shades of last season and yet another early round exit for the Orange.
Posted: Dave Van Moffaert