One of them is a team I have a particular fondness for. Duh.
Kris Joseph. You want me to depend nightly on Kris Joseph? Seriously? Seriously!?!?
Entering the season, I had tempered expectations. Maybe not to the tune of the Big East coaches - the Cuse were ranked preseason #6 - although I can't admit I figured them for such an impressive 22-1 start.
If you would have asked me which 5 issues were most pressing to the 2009-2010 edition of the Syracuse Orange, I might've sounded similar to this:
A) How do we replace three of our top contributors from last season (Flynn, Devendorf, & Harris) during a tougher-than-usual non-conference schedule?
B) Is Andy Rautins ready to be the on-court leader of this team?
C) Can Arinze Onuaku stay healthy during Big East play?
D) Who is this team's point guard and further more...who on Earth is the backup?
E) I've heard enough talk. How good is Wesley Johnson going to seriously be?
Fortunately, answers weren't as difficult as I thought they'd be. Even after the humiliation of exhibition losses to Le Moyne.
Rather than compiling answers on all 5, I'd be lying if I didn't admit the first question has lingered throughout the season first and foremost, until recently that is. The concept of addition by subtraction - especially with Devendorf and Harris - never rang so true for me.
A lot of eligibility was left on the table. Funny thing is, maybe their leaving (Devendorf, Flynn, & Harris) was the best thing for everyone involved. Even the Orange.
Devendorf and Harris were extremely gifted players, although the game didn't flow so smoothly through either of them. Devendorf was far too erratic off and on the court (to say the very least); meanwhile, Harris relied on physical talent, but lacked the mental toughness to ever truly be a standout. Both of them seemed to hinder the team as much as they helped it at times. Flynn was as talented a PG as this PG-rich school had ever seen. Problem was, he was a shoot-first point guard who didn't play a lick on defense. As soon as he was off, the team was in a funk they couldn't recover. Although I'll never forget their heart during Six in the City. Never.
Top Pro: The 2-3 zone looks as effective as it did in 2003.
Johnny Flynn, unlike Paul Harris or Eric Devendorf, certainly wasn't addition by subtraction on the offensive end. On defense though, Flynn isn't missed at all. Triche is strong and sturdy and Andy Rautins had better be a 1st-team Big East defender. The top of the zone is steady as a rock right now. Meanwhile, the post is clogged regularly by the extremely long and athletic Johnson, alongside big-men Onuaku and Jackson. Enter Kris Joseph's versatility and Jardine's quick hands and quicker feet and the Orange may be the best defensive team in the Big East. A far, far cry from a season ago.
Top Con: Depth. 7 deep and an injury away from trouble.
Pay already hinted at it earlier and he couldn't have been more right. Fortunately for Boeheim and Orange fans, their top 7 is pretty stacked. Especially if the duo of Jardine/Triche continues to play well at the point and Kris Joseph remains one of the nation's top reserves. I can't believe I just said that. If if I had to be picky, I wouldn't mind 5-6 minutes a night for Mookie Jones. Then again...
In the end, there's still far too much to learn in the next six-or-so weeks before tournament time officially begins. Nevertheless, I hope I can enjoy a few more of these from #4 along the way...