During the season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: Syracuse forward James Southerland is out indefinitely due to an eligibility issue. What are we to make of this?
Two of our contributors, Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng gave their thoughts:
Bierman: Southerland’s indefinite loss is a head-scratching development to the hoop team
We do not know the issues involved obviously; the university is not allowed to provide details.
As in the multiple Fab Melo situations last season we heard from various sources that seemed to paint the picture that Melo himself alluded to once he left the program on route to being a first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics; based on timing then and now, it’s an academic-related issue.
The quietest transaction to the Syracuse coaching staff was the unusually-timed, Dec. 19 in-season resignation of Stan Kissell as director of basketball operations after seven plus years. In fact, Kissell’s departure only came to light when Tim O’Toole’s hiring to replace him was quietly announced on Jan. 2, the day of the Big East opener against Rutgers.
O’Toole, who left a three-year assistant’s spot with Coach Boeheim for one with Coach K in 1995, is a great addition to the program with his coaching resume including an eight year run as head coach at his alma mater Fairfield. The director of operations position is traditionally the program’s liaison to the university’s Academic Services Department.
Whether or not any changes made were as a result of two players losing eligibility or simply a choice Boeheim and likely Mike Hopkins made to make the program’s academic-compliance better with O’Toole’s availability isn’t known, but the ramifications of these apparent academic-related situations are likely to be felt for the rest of this season and maybe longer.
Cheng: Syracuse could really use Mookie Jones right about now
Mookie Jones would’ve been a senior this season, and boy, could the Orange use him right now with Southerland out. Teams game-planned around Southerland, and having him floating around the perimeter helped keep defenders honest and allowed Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche to drive. Villanova immediately packed in the zone and dared Syracuse to beat them from the perimeter. You saw how well that worked for the Orange in the first half.
Jones shot 41 percent from downtown his sophomore year, and 44 percent in his freshman year. He only played 38 minutes in his junior year when he shot 29 percent, so that’s not really a good indicator of his shot. But even in his worst season, he’d still be better than the 28 percent that Trevor Cooney is shooting from beyond the arc right now. How big would it be for Syracuse to have a fourth guard available that is a red-shirt senior and is unafraid of launching jumpers?
Now, Mookie wasn’t a particularly hard-nosed (sorry, I had to use this phrase) defender, but Cooney has been struggling in this department as well. With Mookie available, Syracuse wouldn’t lose as much in the perimeter shooting department, would get better floor spacing, and would still probably be at least similar on defense than his replacement.
Syracuse needs Mookie right now. File that under ‘Things I never thought I would say.’