There's one order of business before I leave for upstate New York - the latest installment of Know! Your! Foe!. Joining me to discuss the sixth-ranked Orangemen is Sean Keeley (hopefully not pictured above, but one never knows...) of comprehensive Syracuse site Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.
Keeley is also the author of How To Grow An Orange.
My questions and his answers follow after the jump. I know this is a busy week for all of us, so I really appreciate the quick turnaround and the detailed nature of Keely's responses.
If you cover any of the teams that Princeton will be facing in 2012-13, get in touch! Would love to interview you.
Hello! Welcome to the site. It's been eight years since Princeton last visited Syracuse. Hakim Warrick has long since graduated and Gerry McNamara's has slid down the bench a few seats as an assistant. Tell me about this year's model of the Orangemen.
This year's team is pretty typical of Syracuse's recent system. We've got a lot of athletic guards who can make plays, combined with long, athletic wings that can shoot from the outside and drive inside and a bevy of bigs that clamp down in the center of the 2-3 zone. You might not be able to find a superstar in the line-up but you will find 6-7 guys that can each take over a stretch of any game at any given time.
This game seems to be a potential perfect storm of bad for the Tigers based on the small sample size of the year's first three matchups. Syracuse plays what Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson referred to as not a zone but "The Zone" and the Tigers have struggled significantly when seeing said defense through three games. I'm no meteorologist but how accurate does this forecast seem?
All depends on how well you shoot. If you can shoot the lights out from three-point range, you've got a good chance to beat us. Look at the San Diego State game. They went 1-18 from three. They lost.
The zone is in good shape again with a veteran up top in Brandon Triche, solid wings in C.J. Fair and James Southerland and big guys Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman plugging it up down low. It's a nice mix of size, length, experience and ability.
We're only two games in but tell me about ways the 2012-13 Orangemen appear to differ from last season's 34-3 squad.
I wonder if this season's squad is as much a "team" as last year's. Say what you will of Scoop Jardine as a player but he was a consummate leader and he and Kris Joseph really were the glue that made everyone else buy-in. Right now, Michael Carter-Williams is adjusting to his new leadership role and Triche is more of a silent assassin than outright leader. It's going to be interesting to see how they can co-exist in tough games.
The lack of a guy like Dion Waiters, who can suddenly take over a game at a moment's notice, is going to be felt as well.
Brandon Triche is the only significant contributor returning. How would you describe his game?
Triche is a hometown guy, grew up in Syracuse. He's started every game he's ever played in four seasons with SU and he's unquestionably the leader on the floor. He had to sit back a little bit and watch Scoop and Dion take over last year but this is his year to shine. He's a talented guy who can play point as well as shooting guard and he's full capable in both capacities. He was third on the team in scoring last season and is good for 100 assists each year. He's also quietly a very good three-point shooter.
Second in defensive efficiency, third in effective defensive FG%, tops in percentage of opponents' shots blocked. Yikes. What's the weakness guarding the ball? Is there one?
Like I said, if you can find a hot hand from the outside, ride it all the way home. If not, work the inside and try to get one of our big men into foul trouble. Coleman is a freshman and still adjusting. Rakeem Christmas is the guy we're counting on to replace Fab Melo. And Baye Moussa Keita is a solid defensive player. But if you take one out of the equation, we tend to pucker up and that's when bad things (for us, good things for you) can happen.
How much have the stellar defensive numbers masked the offensive execution? 26.1% from three as a team, 65.2% at the line and 18 turnovers/game are figures that stand out but it might not matter if you're able to block 10 shots a game! It also could be partially due to playing one of those two basketball games outdoors on a boat, I would imagine...
Yeah the Midway game against San Diego State really needs to be thrown out for statistical analysis. Also, the second half of the Wagner win was mostly throwaway time. That said, there are serious areas of improvement for this team. Carter-Williams has a ways to go in sorting out his shot selection and decision making. And while you never quite know who's going to spring for 12-15 points on any given night, there's also usually one guy who has a horrendous evening and drags everything down with him.
Turnovers have long been an issue for Syracuse and, like you said, they've been able to mask it with defensive prowess, but it's still an issue.
Syracuse vs. Princeton is actually a meeting of the school with the tallest average height and the school with the second-tallest average height. (That's not a question, but it is still unexpected.)
That's what makes this game so interesting. SD State aside, we've towered over everyone in exhibition and regular season games so far. It will be a very good test to see how our bigs match-up when there are a lot of equally-tall players around them. We'll be keeping a close eye on that match-up.
Fill in the blanks: Syracuse takes care of Princeton and improves to 3-0 if...
They limit their turnovers, make smart decisions from the guard spots and play their game at their tempo.
Princeton stuns upstate New York (and the rest of the nation in the process) if...
Syracuse gets into foul trouble, the Tigers get red-hot from three-point range and Michael Carter-Williams implodes on the court.
I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving. Before I go, please let people know some more about your site and more importantly, what's the best non-chain coffee to be picked up in Syracuse before heading home Thursday morning?
If you've never heard of my site before and the name of it confuses you to no end, you can find out where it comes from here.
As for coffee and snacks for the ride home, you'll want to head over to the Marshall Street area, which is our version of Nassau Street (my mom lives in Princeton so I know it well). Technically this is a chain but Brueggers Bagels should get you sorted if you just want a coffee and bagel. If you've got time for a sit-down meal, Faegan's is a great pub with a fine beer selection and The Varsity is our old-timey, classic campus pizzeria.