The 2014 Syracuse Men’s Basketball Team, What To Expect For The Rest Of The Season
The 2014 Syracuse Orange Men's Basketball team is off to it's best start in school history. In their first year in the ACC they are unbeaten with a record of 23-0 overall and 10-0 in ACC conference play. They are ranked number one, and appear as if they are impossible to beat. Going into this season the Orange were ranked 8th in the AP top 25 poll and 7th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. This was a great position to be in going into a new conference. A lot of questions remained to be answered after last year's, if i do say so myself, controversial Final Four loss to Michigan. What would the 'CUSE do without Brandon Triche and James Sutherland who were seniors and graduating? How would they fill the void at the point guard position with the loss of Michael Carter-Williams going to the NBA? Though some fans remained optimistic, I don't think anyone expected what has occurred so far this season.
No doubt one of the biggest stories is freshman point guard, Tyler Ennis.
Tyler Ennis #11, Freshman
Hometown: Brampton, Ontario
High School: St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.)
Weight: 180 lbs.
College Major: Sports Management
This season Tyler Ennis has amazed the college basketball world. He appears to have already mastered the fundamentals that make an ideal point guard. He's unselfish with the basketball, he is an excellent passer, and he has the ball handling skills necessary to drive to the basket and finish if need be. Ennis averages 34.4 minutes a game, 12 points a game, and just about 6 assists per game. His best scoring game this year was against California. He scored 28 points. It's no secret that if he continues on this path, he will be destined for NBA greatness. Let's hope Syracuse University can keep him around for at least another year. One other benefit of Tyler Ennis is his ability to stay extremely calm under pressure. Late in games is when he shines. He doesn't usually miss free throws if he gets fouled. If Syracuse needs a shot to spark a come-back late in the game, he can be trusted with the ball. The most important thing, he very rarely turns the ball over. Tyler Ennis is a God-Send and with a total of 226 points so far this season, he might just be the ACC freshman of the year. We can't forget the incredible shot made by him in that Pittsburgh game. The game winning three pointer at the buzzer.
When talking about this year's Syracuse Orange basketball team, the leadership, experience, and incredible talent of C.J. Fair, is not to be over-looked. He has only improved each year on this team.
C.J. Fair #5, Senior
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
High School: Baltimore City College H.S. / Brewster Academy (N.H.)
Weight: 215 lbs.
College Major: Child and Family Studies
C.J. Fair is no doubt the leader of this somewhat young but extremely talented Orange team. He was named the ACC preseason player of the year. In case you forgot, yes he was in the Big East last year. This has not appeared to effect his mentality on the court. He does not hog the ball and looks for the best possible play. Ever since his freshman year, I looked at Fair as being someone who would bring this team great success throughout his tenure. He has a dangerous mid-range shot that he can release at a moments notice. He also has this unimaginable ability to ignite a scoring run when his team needs it. For example, during the first ACC game Syracuse ever played, Miami University came in to the Carrier Dome and gave the 'Cuse a hell of a time defensively, not to mention they were shooting the lights out. When the game looked as if it was beginning to slip away from New York's college team, Fair hit a three point shot that ignited a run that led to a 49-44 victory.
One player on this incredible team that has improved drastically this year is Trevor Cooney. Cooney is a Redshirt Sophmore who did not perform up to expectations last year. This year however he's come to life and has been an essential part of the Syracuse offense, especially with that 3 point shot of his.
Trevor Cooney #10, Redshirt Sophmore
Hometown: Wilmington, Delaware
High School: Sanford School
Weight: 195 lbs.
College Major: Communications
Trevor Cooney in my eyes is the next Gerry McNamara. With McNamara now one of the coaches spending most of his time training and molding him into the ideal shooter, he's dangerous from beyond the arc. Cooney overall this year has been phenomenal. Occasionally he will have a game where he only scores 6 points. That does not matter; that is the beauty of this 2014 Syracuse team. If one element of the game is struggling whether it be the 3 point shooting, the foul shots (which is rare), or the points in the paint are low, some other aspect of the game kicks into over-drive to compensate. Take for example the recent match up between the 'Cuse and Notre Dame at the Dome. Notre Dame played an excellent game and the Syracuse offense struggled. If it had not been for Trevor Cooney having the game of his life, scoring 33 points, Notre Dame would have certainly won. I am very confident in the fact that #10 will be a huge contributor in big games especially closer to the NCAA Tournament.
I can not forget the spectacular play of Jerami Grant. Jerami is the son of former NBA star Harvey Grant of the Wshington Bullets and Wizards, Portland, and Philadelphia. His uncle is former Bulls and Lakers champion Horace Grant.
Jerami Grant #3, Sophmore
Hometown: Hyattsville, Maryland
High School: DeMatha Catholic
College Major: David Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics
Jerami Grant has the unique ability to do anything his hall of fame coach Jim Boeheim asks of him. He has an unbelievable mid-range shot and he can throw it down. Syracuse fans saw that during the historic game against Duke in overtime. He also, with his length and height, plays a key role in that 2-3 zone defense. Jerami might even be considered the sleeper player because teams are so busy focusing on the other 3 star players that Syracuse has. He's a great piece of this Orange pie. His best game by far this season was against Duke. He scored a total of 24 points and was 7-11 for field goals. Jerami Grant will be a valuable part of this team for hopefully two more years.
I can not forget the incredible inside presence and teamwork of Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita. These two have played spectacularly this season, especially with the season ending injury to Center, DaJuan Coleman. Rakeem Christmas lately has been getting the start at the Center position and Keita will come in with an average of about 16 minutes of play. Together these two have given something the 'Cuse has been looking for a long time and that is offensive rebounds and blocked shots. Rakeem Christmas alone averages just about 2 blocks per game and Keita 1. They may not be the most effective scorers of all time, but they do their fair share of scoring and help dramatically defensively with their size. Hopefully the injury to Keita is not to serious. Early reports indicate a sprained knee. That brings me to my next point about why I feel this Syracuse Orange team will go deep into the NCAA Tournament, their defense.
Jim Boeheim has always been known for molding young players into outstanding defensive players. He has used the 2-3 zone for years and it always seems to bring positive results, even more so now. This team collectively, even players who come off the bench such as Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson have the incredible talent to stop any offense and limit their presence inside the paint. That then forces teams to have to look for the 3 point shot. If you're not a team known for that like Duke, you can't win. If you put all the amazing offense this Syracuse Orange team has aside, they could win 75% of their games just with their defense and the turnovers they force.
So, What Can We Expect From The Rest Of The 2014 Season?
As much as some fans may disagree with me, I think getting a loss wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to this team. We see it all the time in major sports where a team wins for so long that they forget how to lose and it leads to a slump, or worse still what happened to the 2007 New England Patriots. They were 18-0 and only needed one more win, The Super Bowl title, to have the perfect season. That one loss came at the worst possible time. It's important for a team to get that loss under their belt so they can learn from it and grow. It's important also to get that loss during the regular season, obviously, because if you lose in the tournament your season is over. Let's not forget Syracuse has played a lot of home games thus far and that has been a huge advantage for them. The question now becomes, when will they get that first loss?
It most certainly did not come Wednesday night at Pittsburgh. Pitt is notorious for being a team that can penetrate the zone and score big. The Orange now have beaten Pittsburgh three time in a row, which is incredible. They're never an easy opponent. Earlier this season was the first time in over a decade that Syracuse beat Pitt two times in a row. At Pittsburgh? No problem. Trevor Cooney put the nail in the coffin with a buzzer beater 3 point shot to shock the fans of our long time rivals.
One team we will have to travel to play is Duke, February 22nd. They came in to the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago and played an incredible game. Going into overtime, two of their star players had fouled out and during overtime a third did as well. I know Syracuse fans are crazy, but they don't call them the Cameron Crazies for nothing. That game will be a true test for the 'Cuse. Let's not forget also that on Saturday March 1st, Syracuse has to travel to play the #2 team in the ACC, The University of Virginia. All four of the teams I have mentioned, including Clemson, are in the top 5 of the ACC. The schedule at the end of the year is generally the toughest and will definitely be a test for this Syracuse Orange team.
I believe that Syracuse will lose at least 2 games. In the ACC tournament I believe that they will put up a big fight, but will have trouble coming up with the title in their first year in the conference. Where they will really shine is in the midst of March Madness. Last year, they were a Final Four team and should have made it to the National Championship game but I won't dwell on that. This year I strongly believe, call me biased, that The Syracuse Orange will be the NCAA National Champions. The chemistry this team has is unlike any Syracuse team I have seen in a long time. The level of calmness they play with hardly ever puts them in a position where they commit stupid turnovers late in games. They also have at least four star players who can come up with a clutch play late in the game that leads to a huge scoring run. This Syracuse team was voted #1 in both polls unanimously and for good reason. All eyes are on Syracuse and teams that have still yet to play them, are spending most of their time preparing for the battle the Orange bring to each game they play. No matter what happens, us Syracuse fans have to stay true and always, bleed blue and orange. Go 'CUSE!!!