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 report card and superlatives.
Some Syracuse fans were satisfied with a Big East regular season championship, just 3 losses and an Elite 8 appearance. But for others, falling short of the Final Four meant a disappointing season. Overall, the team did a lot of incredible things, but I understand the fan disappointment. This team’s depth and talent was impressive, but did the loss of Fab Melo warrant an early departure from the tournament?
There were times this season when the Orange offense struggled, especially against zone defenses. Near the end of the season, the Orange was taking over 20 3-pointers a game, including 29 against Cincinnati the in Big East Tournament loss. Settling for outside shots resulted in less penetration, which are strengths of guys like Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph.
The Orange were ranked 40th nationally in Scoring Offense and barely broke the top 50 in field goal percentage. One stat that really jumps out is Syracuse’s 137th ranked 3-point shooting percentage. It was obviously a weakness. But the Orange did find ways to score. The transition offense was strong for most of the season and the Orange’s speed gave opponents serious problems. Syracuse was also ranked in the top ten in assist to turnover ratio. The offense was efficient and rarely turned the ball over.
I was extremely impressed with the Syracuse defense this season. The team had a perfect mix of players to fill out the 2-3 zone really well. They were long, big, strong and a perfect fit for Jim Boeheim’s signature defense.
Inside was the 7-footer Fab Melo, who was a commanding presence. He was a big reason why the Orange was third in the country in blocks per game. At the top of the zone were Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters. They clogged the passing lanes and got steals to create transition opportunities. Syracuse was ranked fifth nationally in steals per game. Playing the wings were guys like Kris Joseph, CJ Fair and James Southerland. All three of those guys are long and can really get a hand in the defenders face. The Orange was ranked eighth nationally in field goal percentage defense.
Statistics aside, this defense was impressive and fun to watch. The one fault was that it gave up a good percentage from 3-point range but that is something that is typically associated with the zone defense.
I can’t help but give these coaches credit, both on and off the court. After being struck with a scandal early on in the season, these coaches were forced to regroup and focus on basketball, which is easier said than done.
Scandals aside, the coaching staff found a way to work a 10-deep rotation efficiently. You don’t see a 10-man rotation every day. Part of the reason for that is because it’s tough to get 10 good players, but the other part is that it’s hard to figure out a successful rotation to get all those players on the court. A lot of times, a player will be redshirted to shorten a rotation, but Syracuse had Trevor Cooney redshirted. The coaches worked that rotation and were regarded as one of the deepest teams in the country because of it.
The next challenge came the first time Fab Melo was taken off the team midseason. The coaching staff made some great adjustments and came out of that three-game stretch with just one loss. That’s impressive considering the Orange faced strong Cincinnati and West Virginia teams, both with competent big men. I think especially in the NCAA tournament, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita really stepped up and that’s a testament to the coaching staff.
Check in tomorrow as Ben Glidden hands out his superlatives for the basketball team.