Now that the roller-coaster ride that was the 2011-2012 Syracuse Orange basketball season has come to an end and I have cooled down a bit, it’s time to hand out the season superlatives.
Most Valuable Player: Dion Waiters
Waiters was often a spark to the offense that couldn’t always get going. When he was in the game, the offense had someone who could get to the hoop and score. But where Waiters was most valuable was on the defensive end of the ball. He forced turnovers and was the reason the Syracuse transition game was so highly touted this season. He is a creator on the court and it’s no surprise that he’s headed off to start his NBA career.
Most Improved: Fab Melo
Academics aside, Fab Melo made an incredible leap from his freshman to sophomore year. He went from being a non-factor to absolutely dominant inside for the Orange. He went from averaging nine minutes a game to 25 minutes a game. This year, he averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game and his absence clearly hurt Syracuse. Melo’s shoes will be tough to fill next season.
Biggest Upside: CJ Fair
Fair made a statement this season that he was here to make a difference. We saw shades of Fair’s talent last season, but this season he really came out of his shell. He averaged 8.5 points per game but disappeared toward the end of the regular season. He is the player I most look forward to watching next season. I think he will be a difference maker and a leading scorer for the Orange.
Biggest Disappointment: Baye Keita
This was probably the toughest superlative to pick, mainly because no one really disappointed me on the court. I think Keita has some upside and will keep improving, but I just didn’t like what I saw from him this year. He only averaged a couple points a game, but his biggest weakness was his ability to hang on to the ball. A guard would feed it into the post and he would lose it, making him a liability on offense. With Melo’s improvement from freshman to sophomore year, I expected Keita to make more of a developmental jump than he did.
This is Part II of Ben Glidden’s season awards. Check out his report card for the team.