In the college tradition, the first few weeks of the NCAA basketball season are all about learning. We watch the games to learn about the freshmen, changes in team strategy and whether any returning players are ready to make “the leap.”
But like that guy on your floor freshman year who was too concerned with refining his beer pong skills to bother to go to class, we Syracuse fans have come away from the first go-around having learning very, very little.
The Battle on the Midway, the San Diego edition of the Carrier Classic against the hometown San Diego State Aztecs, was a great event with some amazing scenes, but let’s just say it was a game unlike any the Orange will play for the rest of the year.
In honor of this unsatisfying experience, I present to you a list of seven things we definitely didn’t learn watching our favorite team this weekend.
1. What the Freshmen Look Like
I have to admit, I didn’t carve any time out of my schedule to watch the exhibition games, so the season opener was my first chance to get a look at the new guys on the squad, and I came away unsatisfied. I’m not talking about how they looked; I literally could not make out their faces with the low-angled sunlight that dominated the game. It was two-plus hours of forgetting to bring your sunglasses to the beach.
2. Whether Anyone Can Shoot
It became apparent in the second half when master rifleman James Southerland himself passed up a 3-pointer in the face of a sagging defender, that Jim Boeheim had threatened to hurl anyone into the ocean who tried to take a shot into the wind. As a result, Trevor Cooney didn’t see any time after intermission until Michael Carter-Williams fouled out, and attempted no shots. The CW himself had a number of turnovers due to his dedication to driving into double-teams in the lane instead of taking any 3s.
3. Whether Other Team Can Shoot on Us
Just as the lack of any outside jumpers from the Orange allowed the Aztecs to sag three, four, and sometimes five men into the lane, the 2-3 zone did not require the same level of movement necessary to prevent opponents from hitting easy looks. It hardly even required a wave of the hand. A little less crosswind will be necessary to determine whether the vaunted zone has maintained its range from last season.
4. How Horace Grant’s Nephew Would Look in Tinted Rec-Specs.
Seriously, the sun was ridiculous.
5. Whether Dajuan Coleman Knows How to Sub Into a Game
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In traditional Boeheim fashion, the freshman Coleman started both halves of the game, and never came back in. It have had something to do with the fact that the first line of the game in the play-by-play (as well as the third line in the second half) reads “Dajuan Coleman Turnover.” He showed good strength in the interior with a tip-in shot, and a fist pump that almost decapitated the Aztecs’ star player.
6. How Much We’d Like to Pick on Someone Our Own Size
It’s been noted that Syracuse ended up with 10 blocks in the game, five coming from Rakeem Christmas. While an impressive number, it was inflated by the lack of the threat of jump shots, and the fact that SDSU started no-one taller than a quite generous 6’8″. We’ll see if the interior defense is as sturdy against Jack Cooley or Otto Porter.
7. Who Our Walk-Ons are
Syracuse has a reputation for easing into the season (admittedly not without merit; the last three years have started with Fordham, a highly eroded Northern Iowa squad, and Albany) with games that tend to finish up in the hands of the practice squad. Beginning the year against a ranked team on the road and prevailing in this emotional match-up was a great start to what hopes to be another reloading season for the Cuse.