Now that the 2012-13 season is over, it’s a good time to give out our grades for this year:
Michael Carter-Williams, A-: Carter-Williams ended up finishing third in the NCAA in assists (7.3), was great at the top of the zone (2.8 spg) and was an excellent rebounder for a guard (4.9 rpg). The season turned when MCW abandoned his outside jumper and started creating again for his teammates, which helped propel them to the Final Four. Carter-Williams could use another season to work on his outside shooting, as he was 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point land, but he’s a projected lottery pick, and will likely declare early for the NBA draft.
Brandon Triche, B: The mercurial guard went through one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, not hitting a 3-pointer for about three weeks, as the Orange lost 4 of 5 to close the season. But Triche, like the SU team, recovered in time for the Big East Tournament, and was solid throughout the Final Four run. Jim Boeheim always said Triche had the potential to be a star and a first round pick in the NBA draft, and not many people would disagree with that. But Triche could never quite put it together, and though he will conclude his SU career as the most winning player in school history, he never vaulted into that elite status that he could’ve been.
CJ Fair, A: Raise your hand if you’re excited to see Fair as a senior? He seems to have, as he puts it, transitioned from “fitting in” to “standing out.” Fair led the team in scoring at 14.5 points and rebounding at 7.0 rpg. Statistically, he was the best outside shooter on the team (46 3pt%) and was the most consistent player throughout the year. The only thing you’d like to see from Fair is for him to be more aggressive. He has the potential to be a First Team All-American next year.
James Southerland, B+: Southerland got his first chance to be a major contributor this season, so I wasn’t quite sure what SU would get from him. Turns out he was a fairly reliable shooter and, when he was on, there was no stopping him. Southerland was a huge reason for the team’s run to the Big East Title Game, and his performance against Arkansas won’t be matched for a long time. Still, his grade would’ve been higher if he had not lost games to academic ineligibility. He’s got an outside shot at the NBA – after all, how many players who are 6’8″ can stroke it like he can?
Rakeem Christmas, C: Defensively, Christmas was solid, though not spectacular (1.8 bpg), manning the middle of the zone. But offensively, he still has zero game to speak of, other than dunking. Normally, there is a big jump between the freshman and sophomore seasons for SU centers from the offensive end (see Fab Melo and Arinze Onuaku), but that same jump didn’t happen for Christmas this year.
Trevor Cooney, C-: This is a little unfair to Cooney. It’s difficult to live up to expectations when you’re billed as the next Gerry McNamara, and an absolute knock-down 3-point shooter. Cooney was definitely neither of these things, shooting 26 percent from distance, and looking timid and lost at both ends of the floor at times. But keep in mind that Andy Rautins took three years to become a major contributor to this team, and Cooney still has three more years of eligibility. Cooney still has the potential to be a big time player at SU.
Jerami Grant, B+: This is kind of the reverse of the Cooney grade, because there were low expectations for Grant at the beginning of the season. With Christmas starting the season at wing, Grant figured to be left out of the rotation with Southerland eating up most of the wing minutes off the bench. But Christmas became a full-time center, and when Southerland was ruled ineligible, you saw the tremendous potential Grant had. He played all 40 minutes against Notre Dame and his brother, Jerian, scoring a season-high 14 points and adding 6 rebounds. Even though he saw a huge cut in minutes once Southerland returned, he has superstar written all over him.
Baye Moussa Keita, B+: His hands still aren’t there yet, either as a rebounder, or off the pick-and-roll, but Keita was by far the best defensive center that Syracuse had. And there were spurts where Keita showed he has the ability to catch passes and finish. He also surprisingly became one of the team’s best free throw shooters in the last month of the season, raising his free throw percentage from 47 percent at the end of the regular season to 60 percent by the end of the NCAA Tournament.
DaJuan Coleman, C: A knee injury cost him the last month of the regular season, and all of his playing time in the post-season. You can see that Coleman has a good offensive repertoire in the lost post, but he still has to learn he can’t run over people in college like he did in high school. He also has a long way to go defensively, and it’s obvious that he can’t be used as a wing like he was in the early part of the season.
Jim Boeheim, A: Any time your team makes the Final Four, you deserve an A. Though Boeheim’s team may have seen a late season collapse, especially following the 61-39 loss to Georgetown, Boeheim did some of the best coaching of his career after that. No one expected the team to make the Final Four after that game, yet Boeheim got his team playing its best basketball in the Big East tournament and that carried into the NCAA tournament. And, A+ for the entertainment value of his post-game press conferences this season, with memorable spats with Andy Katz and Gregg Doyel. I think we’ve established whether Boeheim is coming back next season.