Baye Keita perfectly embodies my feelings about the start of another Orange basketball campaign.
As much as I enjoy the agony that is the Syracuse football roller coaster, it’s well-known that I’m a basketball fan first and foremost. Football season is just a space for me to bide my time until hoops finally starts up again. So, it was with great relish that I tuned into the Orange‘s first exhibition game against the Pace University Setters on Thursday night.
It was everything I expected it to be. The dunks were dunktastic. The threes were swisheriffic. The rebounds were reboundonkulous. And Syracuse cruised to a 30+ point victory over a Division II opponent.
Normally this is the part where I pour over the stats and draw conclusions about what they mean for the Orange. But there’s really no point in going too in-depth into the shellacking of the Setters. The Orange could have (should have) won by 60, yet they took their foot off the gas on both ends and allowed Pace to keep the game respectable in the second half. the Orange’s 99 points don’t mean much. Their 55 rebounds are the norm when playing against a team who only has one player over 6’6″, and he only played 12 minutes. The same goes for the Orange’s 14 blocks. Syracuse had the overwhelming size advantage and it showed, rendering statistical analysis pointless. Instead, we’re left with the good ol’ eyeball evaluation. First, the good.
The first thing that stood out to me was young DaJuan Coleman. Clearly, the freshman is a big boy. It’s worth repeating. He’s a BIG boy. But he’s not fat. He’s listed at 288, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s actually closer to 27. He looked quick and agile, defending the wing well in the zone, getting himself in position for rebounds and running the floor well. He also played 20 minutes, most of which came in extended stretches. Regardless of size advantage, getting himself up and down the court and playing hard at both ends is the same whether you’re playing Pace or Georgetown. It remains to be seen if he can maintain that energy as the season hits the 20 and 30 game mark, but the young man’s conditioning looks good so far. Oh, and DC 2.0 was 5/5 from the free throw line. He’s going to get fouled a lot, so have a big guy who isn’t a liability at the line is an unheard of luxury for the Orange.
Then there was C.J. At first, I was a bit disappointed in his performance. I wanted him to flex some and drop 30 on the poor Setters. I liked that he showed more confidence in his long range jumper (2-3 3PT) and made some strong moves going to his off (right) hand. But it seemed to me like he was still playing the secondary role. Until I looked at the box score. His eleven shot attempts were most on the team, but still showed is characteristic attacking style with only the three 3PT attempts. C.J. being a stat ninja is great. I just hope he has it in him to put the pedal to the metal and be dominant when it’s needed.
After that, nothing really stood out. James Southerland rained threes. Micheal Carter-Williams was solid, if a bit loose with the ball (5 TO) at times. Baye Keita got his garbage buckets. It was everything you’d expect. Continue reading