I thought about writing this after the season was totally over, which includes the NCAA tournament, but changed my mind. For me, with this being the last in the Big East, I felt it was more important to write about that than whatever happened in the big tournament. And if Syracuse happens to win it all… I’ll be back. 🙂

dunk!In my opinion this was Jim Boeheim’s best coaching effort in a very long time. We went into the season with really only two tested starters, that being Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair. We had no idea what we were going to get out of anyone else on the team; that’s the truth.

What did we discover?

We learned that we had a diamond in the rough in Michael Carter-Williams who, when he’s on his game, is quite spectacular. Unfortunately, he might as well have been a freshman because he wasn’t on his game as much as we needed him to be. That’s not really his fault, but comparison’s have to be made.

Early in the season national pundits had him suddenly being a top 10 lottery pick. I was missing that one; was he as good at Pearl or Jonny Flynn or, even Sherman Douglas? For that matter was he as consistently good at one of his coaches on the bench, Adrian Autry? My opinion, no; if he stays another year and improves his shooting, possibly. He’s not NBA ready; if he leaves he’s done.

We learned that we weren’t going to get any offensive help from the center position. DaJuan Coleman was Fab Melo all over as a freshman; too big, too gawky, and too slow to fit in the defensive scheme. Our hope is that he develops as Fab did for year two because, truthfully, he’s got the most offensive skill out of the 3 men who play center.

It was amazing what Baye Keita did in the Big East tournament but I’m not sure I believe he’s going to be an offensive threat yet; the dude’s got the weakest hands in the league. And Rakeem Christmas… man, I don’t want to pile on the guy, but I had expected some improvement from his freshman year & this team didn’t get it.

We learned that when James Southerland is on the floor Syracuse has a chance to beat anyone… when his shot is on. He had an up and down season which included those missed games in the middle and I think if he gets an NBA look it’ll be because he showed some other talents this year which the team needed; rebounds and an inside game. His ball handling is a liability but in the NBA, they have people who handle that a lot better.

C. J. Fair is going to come out next year as someone who’s going to be gunning for a top 10 look in the draft. He’s the most consistent player Syracuse has had in years and his game has gotten better every year. He’s the guy inside I think we all thought Christmas was going to be, the most overlooked forward in the nation,and I think he’s going to be a star next year, if not in this year’s big tournament.

Trevor Cooney… dude’s got to get his confidence because as it is right now he’s starting on this team next year. One good game in the Big East tournament doesn’t equate to a season. Gerry McNamara, someone who should know, says he’s lights out in practice; he needs to have a killer instinct, be tougher, and prove he can do it in a prominent program. And Jeremy Grant… he played like a freshman with talent, and I see him taking over Southerland’s spot and bringing a different dynamic to the position next year. If he adds 15 pounds… watch out.

Finally I’ve got to talk about my man Brandon. For 3 years I watched him make a mistake and then hang his head and I always cringed seeing that. This year he stopped doing that, and for 3/4ths of the year, he was the man in my opinion. Then his confidence went after a magnificent game against Louisville on their home court; I’ve never seen that before. He kept trying but when you’re pulling up on almost every shot you take, that’s nerves. I kept “willing” him to greatness; guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Still, with all of this the Coach got them to 26-9 and, in what I considered as the true final Big East game, beat the hated Georgetown Hoyas from my past, although today’s kids seemed to think our biggest competitor was Connecticut; p-shaw!

Just imagine what this team would have been had both Dion Waiters and Fab Melo come back. Of course, every year we say something like that don’t we? In the end this team had heart and I was happy to see that, regardless of the Louisville debacle. Coach Boeheim helped them find their heart, and that was great to see. This was also one of the best defensive teams I’ve ever seen; that served them well as it gave them a chance in all but 2 games this season.

A fitting end to a more than 30 year run in the Big East. Next year we tackle the southerners along with Pitt and Boston College (who?). It’ll be competitive for sure but it won’t feel the same. So I’ll cherish this year’s version of the Orange for their grit and wish them well in the big tournament.