Having the opportunity to witness Syracuse’s season-opening victory over San Diego State firsthand aboard the USS Midway was a true privilege. Calling the game for WAER was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever had. Seeing the event unfold in person, here are my Fizz Five observations from The Battle on the Midway.
- Basketball is an indoor sport for a reason
For everyone who’s blamed a missed jumper in your driveway on the wind, this was your validation. Thankfully, the wind was far worse during practice on Saturday than it was on gameday, but throughout the weekend it made shooting from long range difficult.
The first thing I saw when I stepped aboard the aircraft carrier on Saturday was the wind push a Nick Resavy corner three halfway out to the foul line. During the game on Sunday, the teams shot a combined 2-22 from three-point range. Even the 2-3 zone doesn’t put up defensive numbers like an ocean gust.
- The ugly game benefited Syracuse
SU was smothering on defense, holding San Diego State to 27% shooting, and a paltry 1-18 from downtown. The Aztecs are a veteran-laden team with several skilled shooters, and the Orange took them completely out of their comfort zone. The reigning top two scorers in the Mountain West, Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, looked out of sync all afternoon, and finished a combined 6-25 from the field.
Syracuse made the collective decision not to take jump shots, attempting only four three-pointers. The recipe for SU was defense and attacking the rim, which set an excellent precedent for the rest of the season. This game proved the Orange can win without shooting the ball well, and more importantly, relying on the outside shot isn’t necessary.
- Key players are raising their games
Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams, and C.J. Fair were all instrumental in SU’s efforts to take the ball to the rack. With Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, and the Brazilian-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named all gone, the core returning players have to be more than what they were last season. Early indications show they will be.
Triche has been ultra-aggressive through two preseason games and the opener, just as he should be. The shooting guard admittedly has a tendency to settle for jumpers and play passively. Don’t expect too much of that during his senior season, now that it’s finally his team. MCW surpassed his previous career scoring high in both exhibition games and against San Diego State. Fair piled up 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Sunday. With his smooth midrange game, he’ll no doubt be a consistent scorer this year.
- The Freshmen aren’t ready yet
Perhaps this will change by conference play, but the rookies were not a factor against the Aztecs. DaJuan Coleman, Trevor Cooney, and Jerami Grant each played less than 10 minutes. An early Coleman bucket represented the only points for the trio.
We all know Jim Boeheim has a short leash with his freshmen. We saw it last year with Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas, the year before with Fab Melo, and certainly plenty of times before that. If you’re ready to contribute, regardless of your class, Boeheim will play you, but he’s not going to give out minutes just because he likes a player’s “potential.” The freshmen have to earn their time on the floor.
The frosh now have an entire non-conference slate of much easier opponents to refine their games against. Here’s betting Coleman and Cooney become fixtures in the rotation, while Grant ultimately receives limited playing time during the heart of Big East play.
- Let’s do this again!
Yes, two of the three aircraft carrier games this year were cancelled, and it easily could have been three for three (if not for moving the Battle on the Midway from Friday to Sunday). The game was a logistical nightmare in many respects.
But being there was awesome. It was a magical event, getting to see basketball being played aboard an aircraft carrier on Veterans Day, looking out onto the San Diego Bay.
It wasn’t the greatest TV event, and the game was affected by the wind and sun. But as Boeheim said, his team has 30 more regular season games to play. This was just one. What a 180-degree about face from the coach that used to by schedule lesser opponents at the Dome to protect every non-conference game like the Crystal Skull.
I’d take this every time over another dreary November game against a Patriot League school.
This was more about the players and the school than the common fan. It was more about the event than the game itself. But in 31-game season, who really cares?
Posted: Andrew Kanell