My question coming out of Syracuse's 89-77 win over South Florida was one I don't have the answer for. Yet it is one that I think I have a different answer everytime I think about it. The question is relatively simple, yet the answer seems very complex. What I'm wondering is this: Is this basketball team setting me up?
You see everytime I see them, I think they get a little bit better. Everytime I see them, they seem to be more efficient, they seem to play better defense and they look like a team that could peak at the right time of the season. I have that feeling that this could be a real good team, I'm just not sure when. It might be next season for all I know. But with all the talent out there, its no doubt in my mind that eventually this team is going to be good. And I mean real good.
Donte' Greene led the Orange again yesterday with 21 points, but it was once again a balanced attack among the five starters. Paul Harris contributed 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Arinze Onuaku had 16 points and 12 caroms.
The Orange still is not a deep team, Rick Jackson and Kristof Ongenaet came off the bench to provide only 24 minutes. Ongenaet managed to foul out in his 12 minutes. But the first five all played well, and Ongenaet despite the foul trouble was serviceable.
The concern is that the recent loss of Eric Devendorf has made this team so thin, and so young that it won't be able to compete in the rigors of Big East play. And that is still possible. But I think that at times the loss of Devendorf has helped the team with its identity and helped to limit some of the problems.
With Devendorf out, freshman Scoop Jardine has been forced into the lineup. The commentators yesterday said that Jardine told them he wants to do whatever is necessary to help the team. That he doesn't have to score to do that. He seems to play that way as well. I liked Devendorf, and his jump shot may very well be missed and much needed later in the season. Yet, I don't his ill-advised jump shots. I don't miss his consistent turnovers. And I love the development of Arinze Onuaku.
The efficiency numbers make Jardine the best Orangemen on the floor yesterday. 14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and only 1 turnover. He had his best game of the season. In a reserve role early in the season, he wasn't very efficient. But he seems to be pressing less since being in the lineup. His total efficiency per possession numbers aren't close to those of Devendorf. But he has eclipsed Devo's average in 2 of the last 3 games as he now seems to feel comfortable.
In addition, Onuaku numbers have gone up and been above his Efficiency average in four of those of five games. It could be that having a non-shooter at the off guard slot has been beneficial for AO, or it could be that the big guy is just done shaking off the rust of sitting out all of last year with the injury. I recently raised the observation here that Onuaku was the best post player, I remember in quite some time for the Orange. Jim Boeheim has recently said that he's the best post scorer since Otis Hill. That's an interesting observation, I think Otis was better away from the basket, and might have been more polished in the total offensive game. But Arinze's total package might still offer more.
I liked where this team was headed before the Devendorf injury, yet I had questions then as well. The injury made a lot of people lose faith. I think that some of my faith has been restored after what I've seen since that point. Still, there are questions. And we'll start to get some more answers when the Orange goes on the road later this week.
This team is young and talented and exciting. They are fun to watch. They are getting better. I feel all of that. I still hope they aren't setting me up.