Syracuse beats Florida to remain unbeaten
Despite the vast amount of negative attention the Syracuse men’s basketball program has encountered off the court in recent weeks due to the allegations surrounding recently fired assistant coach Bernie Fine, on the court the team has gotten off to a flawless start to their 2011-2012 season. This continued Friday night at the Carrier Dome, as the #4 ranked Orangemen defeated the #10 ranked Florida Gators 72-68.
Syracuse began this season high on many prognosticators respective lists as a team of capable of competing for the NCAA championship, and so far they haven’t disappointed. Although the Orange struggled from the field Friday night, with legendary alum Carmelo Anthony in the attendance they showed why they will be a force in the Big East and a tough out in the NCCA tourney this year.
The improvement and transformation of Fab Melo continues to amaze me. Just a year ago he could barely make it through two minutes before getting winded, and now he is one of the most active players on the court – blocking shots, taking charges, hitting jumpers, hammering down dunks, running down loose balls. He played 26 minutes against the Gators, and his final box score numbers of nine points, five rebounds, and one block doesn’t do justice to the overall impact he had on the game.
Scoop and Triche appear to be one of the best backcourt tandems in all of college basketball. Syracuse fans have always had a love/hate relationship with Scoop, and although he drives me crazy at times (and I personally believe Dion Waiters is more talented), tonight he played a great all-around game. In addition to some clutch baskets as the game tightened up in the 2nd half, his active defense led to four steals and fast-break opportunities for the Orange. Triche led Syracuse with twenty points, and by the time the season is over he might just surpass Kris Joseph as the team’s leading scorer.
After receiving only two minutes of playing time, one has to wonder if highly touted recruit Rakeem Christmas is this year’s version of Fab Melo. Much like Melo last year, Christmas started the game, was quickly yanked, and didn’t return. Hopefully he will get more productive minutes in coming games, as Syracuse is going to need his size and athleticism as the season progresses. While Melo has been playing great, they will need Christmas (along with Baye Keita) to contribute more against the likes of long, athletic teams like Connecticut, Pittsburgh in the Big East, and North Carolina and Kentucky if they run into them in the NCCA tourney.Looking ahead, the Orange should cruise through the next five games on their schedule before they begin Big East play. Syracuse’s size and athleticism should make their patented zone defense a nightmare for opposing team’s all year, and although they shot horribly from the three point line (3-17) against Florida, the Orange proved they can beat a quality opponent by excelling in other facets of the game. It also doesn’t hurt to have talent, and this year’s Syracuse team has plenty of it.