Syracuse is getting ready for Big East play as they host Rutgers. We checked in with our insider Brian Higgins who works with Syracuse All Access and was able to fill us in on the team’s status right now.
1) As we enter conference play, has your opinion on this team changed much?
No. The Orange are still a wildly talented team that is less experienced than a year ago. I think one non conference loss in four years isn’t exactly a reason to begin panicking. The Big East season will let us know which players are ready to play in expanded roles and which aren‘t.
2) How concerned are you with the free throw shooting and at times the rebounding?
If a normal amount of free throws had dropped against Temple, we’d still be talking about an undefeated team. Michael Carter-Williams’ misses in that game were disturbing at the time, but likely an aberration. I’m a bit surprised DaJuan Coleman’s percentage is so low since his stroke looks better than previous poor shooting bigs Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson. Stronger finishing at the rim by DaJuan and Rakeem Christmas would alleviate the free throw worries, just get the two to start with. Rebounding doesn’t feel like a significant concern with this team.
3) Talk about Coach Boeheim and his influence on this school.
Books can and have already been written on the topic, but 50 years in one place with a majority of the time in a high profile role? Coach Boeheim’s influence is as significant on Syracuse as any coach on any school in the country that I can think of. His name and Syracuse are long since synonymous.
4) Michael Carter Williams was under fire after the Temple game but bounced back in his next two games, Which player is he closer to?
He’s one of the most talented players in the country and I imagine a likely lottery pick. Cuse fans best enjoy him now. Does he have things he can work on? Certainly. His ball handling, shooting and decision making all have strides to make, but he’s so good already and so fun to watch play, it’s all a price worth paying. For now let’s write off the Temple game to one bad shooting day, because a walking triple-double waiting to happen is a pretty good piece to have.
5) Are the bigs Big East ready?
That is probably the biggest question now. Baye Keita and Rak know what the Big East is all about. DaJuan will at least get the chance to get going at the start of every game. The good news is the Orange aren’t remotely reliant on that group to score and because Syracuse plays mostly with only one on the court at a time, Boeheim can ride the hot hand as he sees fit.
6) How stunned are you at the Big East’s demise?
Not at all. In hindsight the writing was on the wall in 2003 when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College announced they were leaving. Historically the Big East was realistically a ticking time bomb because Penn State and the other northeastern schools never worked something out before the Nittany Lions joined the B1G. So saddened more than stunned. The Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden was truly special every year. That will be missed. Everything else will just move on. Regardless, who wants to watch UCF–SMU Big East basketball or Tulane–Memphis Big East Football anyway.