5 Questions on Syracuse with Orange:44

It's time for another 5 Questions post... this time with Brian from Orange:44, who lovingly covers Syracuse athletics with a dollop of humor and some far-reaching Georgetown dislike. Man, the Georgetown dislike is strong in the Big East.  Anyhow, I asked him these questions in anticipation of Wednesday's matchup in Madison Square Garden:

  1. What's the secret behind the Orange’s 3pt defense?
  2. Can the Orange shoot jump shots? Who are the dangerous scorers?
  3. What's the key to stopping or slowing the Orange? What's the key to beating them?
  4. Can Syracuse go undefeated or at least far in the NCAA Tournament?
  5. Tell us about Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita, and the other youngsters.
  6. When will Mookie Jones threaten to transfer again? Should he have just gone to St. John's?

And the raw, unvarnished answers, after the jump.

1. What's the secret behind the Orange’s 3pt defense? Is it just that opponents take a lot?

Opponents definitely take a lot of shots. That’s typically what the 2-3 zone creates for opponents. This is nothing new and will be the case with the 2-3 until the end of time. But much like last year’s edition, this 2-3 zone has players with long wing spans that are quick. They cover the floor well, can put hands in faces, and they rotate well. That means even good 3 point shooting teams do not find as much success as they normally would. Case in point: Seton Hall went 0-17 in the first half against SU on Saturday.

2. Can the Orange shoot jump shots? Who are the dangerous scorers?

Any good team in college basketball can hit jump shots. Pretty much anyone on the floor that starts can hit jump shots except Rick Jackson. He is more of a post player and will be the one that puts up hook shots and back down defenders. But Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, and Brandon Triche shoot jump shots about as much as they drive to the basket. They all can hit midrange jumpers in traffic and on the move as well. Look for James Southerland to come in off the bench and shoot from behind the arc as well.

3. What's the key to stopping or slowing the Orange? What's the key to beating them?

An insane above the board shooting day from behind the arc would be a start, but that is obviously fairly unlikely. Honestly the best way to beat Syracuse is to take a lot of time on offensive possessions to limit Syracuse’s touches, and attack the interior and paint. If you go at Syracuse they have enough young players that the opposition can get Syracuse into foul trouble and get free throw attempts. Additionally, you have to stay aggressive on the offensive and defensive glass. Earning second and third chance opportunities by getting offensive rebounds off misses is huge for a team trying to outscore Syracuse.

4. Can Syracuse go undefeated or at least far in the NCAA Tournament?

It’s a possibility just because anything is. But do I think Syracuse will finish a Big East schedule undefeated? I’m assuming that is highly unlikely. Especially since it is the strongest conference in the league and Syracuse is eventually going to have an off night enough to affect the outcome against one of the league’s top teams. As for the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse was a Sweet 16 team last season and I see no reason why they will not achieve the same this season. I see this team doing just better than last season and I think the basement for this team is a likely Elite 8 trip.

5. Tell us about Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita, and the other youngsters.

Melo is a seven foot power player. But he can also step back and hit a jump shot, which is new for a Syracuse big man. He has had trouble adjusting to the college game though, so he will only be playing the first few minutes in each half as his defense will be a liability. Keita will enter and he has proven a tough defender that is able to get blocks and put in baskets around the hoop. He has especially been quick in picking up the 2-3 zone. CJ Fair has seen some pretty good playing time and is a forward player that can shoot the three, but also put the ball on the deck and take it to the hoop. He has also shown to be brilliant in the SU transition game. Dian Waiters has seen some time playing the point and is also able to shoot. He hasn’t really shown too much ability to drive to the basket but is good at driving and dishing to other players with some nifty passes.

5a. When will Mookie Jones threaten to transfer again? Should he have just gone to St. John's?

Hilarious. It could happen at any time, but as one of the foremost experts on Jones I honestly think if he was going to transfer he would have done it before this season. I think he is probably in it for the long hall, or at the absolute minimum the rest of this season. Jim Boeheim only plays eight or nine players and Jones is once again just outside of that number to play on a regular basis. He really only sees playing time during blowouts at this point. If his defense was better he would probably play, but he focuses on his shooting instead of rounding out the rest of his game. Should he have gone to St. John’s? I think he would have rather been on a Big East winning team last season than treading water in the mediocre soup of St. John’s under Norm Roberts.

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