In a few weeks, when the semester ends here in the 315, every student will be awaiting grades. So before the academic GPA arrives for the spring, The Fizz looks back at our mid-semester grades and hands out end of the season marks for Syracuse hoops. SU made its unexpected run to the Final Four, meaning many of our grades were pretty complimentary. But not everything was smiles for Jim Boeheim’s team. Here’s our final marks:
Whenever a team makes a turnaround like Syracuse did in March, all eyes point to the head coach. What did he do differently? Boeheim went to his bench in important situations and found production. All season Baye Keita was just a tall, lengthy alternate option with minimal impact. He became a crucial part of the road to the Final Four, hitting clutch free throws and playing long minutes when other big men like Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman were struggling. Boeheim challenged this team at the end of the regular season, and sparked SU in its run through the Big East Tourney. Who foresaw any of this after the losses to Georgetown? The zone was at its historic best, and the Hall of Famer gave an A effort this season.
Even though MCW is going pro, he still has holes in his game that may hurt him at the next level. He still turns the ball over more than a point-guard should, but he used his size on the defensive side of the ball in March to take Syracuse to the Final Four. Having a 6’6” point guard at the top of the zone is something very few teams have. His defense against top players like Markel Starks of Georgetown and Victor Oladipo of Indiana is part of the reason those teams melted in March. But his performance against Michigan will always be a source of frustration for Orange Nation. After his Hamilton, Mass. home caught fire, MCW scored a career-high 24 points against Indiana, riding Syracuse to the Elite 8. Carter-Williams averaged nearly seven rebounds in the NCAA tournament. He helped defensively and offensively, but the turnovers were still a problem.
Triche was saved by his strong March. He was completely missing in the losses to Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown at the end of the regular season. He couldn’t hit a shot and was being blamed for lack of leadership and fire. Had SU lost early in March, Triche would’ve found himself with a much lower grade. But he found his shot in the Big East tourney and became comfortable driving this team in his final March.
Grant was very productive when he filled in for Southerland during his suspension earlier this season. He was a freshman providing big minutes. But when Southerland came back and had the hot hand, Grant was back to shorter minutes and therefore, less of an impact. The greatest compliment you can send Grant was that when he was on the court, he never hurt the team. He grabbed big rebounds in games against Montana and Michigan, and showed he has the real potential to be an important energy guy next season. He is a threat when given the minutes.
Fair is one of the biggest reasons the Orange got as far as it did. Before the Cal game on Fizz Radio we debated the go-to guy on this year’s team. Last year it was Dion Waiters. This year’s team didn’t have that but Fair was certainly a candidate. He was the most consistent player on this team all season, and his energy and physical play led to early points in games, thus creating confidence and early leads. He was practically the only player who showed up for SU in the Final Four. Had the rest of the team followed his lead, the Orange would’ve played for a title.
Orange Nation is still waiting to see what everyone raved about before Christmas’ freshman year. The McDonald’s All-American has mainly been used to win the tip-off but after that, he hasn’t been a factor, except for committing fouls in the worst possible situations. He played double-digit minutes in the NCAA tournament, but rarely made much of an impact. He grabbed some rebounds, but was never a huge threat defensively. His offensive game consists of nothing more than putbacks off misses. His grade declined because there’s so much more Rak can do to help this team. Just look at his contributions last year in the NCAA tourney when Fab Melo was lost.
A very solid grade for Keita. He doesn’t have the skill set to be a go-to guy offensively, but he always gets the most out of his ability. He was physical down low grabbing rebounds and trying for the put-back. When he was fouled, he made critical free throws. His overall numbers don’t stand out, but his minutes were key. Keita’s intelligence for the game is what made him such an important role player on this team He never did anything stupid and played the minutes Boeheim needed. If only we could combine Christmas’ talent, and Keita’s effort.
Cooney hasn’t yet lived up to expectations, but he also has three more years. MCW took a back seat to Scoop Jardine last year, and busted out in ’12-’13. Maybe Cooney has that type of rise next season playing alongside Tyler Ennis. Trevor needs to find consistency in his shot, and confidence in his game. If Cooney is going to be a productive member of this team, he needs to be a threat from behind the arc like Andy Rautins. His grade jump is mainly for one reason: A startling 10 points in the win against Georgetown in the Big East semifinals. Syracuse would not have won that game if Cooney didn’t play as well as he did. Unfortunately, he was in way over his head handling with the game in his hands in Atlanta.
There were times this season when Big Game James had his stroke and made every big shot at the right time. Then, there were times when he was absolutely soft and no factor. Southerland likes to have fun. He kept this team confident with his positive attitude and that’s a huge key to success. He was instant offense, but also instant disappearance in the Final Four. His attitude in the locker room helped Syracuse march to Atlanta, but in his final game at SU he was nowhere to be found. Overall though, SU would’ve been an earlier exit without him.
This team came a long way since the middle of the season. When Syracuse lost four of its last five in the regular season, Orange Nation was fed up. Triche, Southerland, the two key seniors, weren’t having any impact and looked like a quick March. But these guys didn’t let each other down. They found their swag inside Madison Square Garden, and then played lights out defense to carry SU to its first Final Four in a decade. This team had chemistry and built success on family. What a turnaround. Boeheim’s rarely in a good mood after losses, but following the elimination to Michigan he heaped praise on this team. That’s all that needs to be said.
Posted: Austin Pollack