Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Big East Preview: #7 Syracuse

Posted by Zach on October 21, 2008

7. Syracuse Orange– Coach: Jim Boeheim (33rd season)

PG- Jonny Flynn (SO):
Flynn was the most valuable player for coach Boeheim as a freshman and will continue to fill that role as a sophomore. With injuries mounting and an unwavering dependence on Flynn’s scoring and passing, Boeheim played his freshman star 39.2 MPG in Big East play last season, including a stretch of games that lasted nearly a month where Flynn never left the court. For a senior leader, this number is somewhat understandable. For a freshman point guard who must run the offense, it’s completely unheard of. Boeheim knows that Flynn can be one of the top players at his position this season in what could be his last in Syracuse. The return of shooters Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf should spread the floor and allow for Flynn not only more assist opportunities but also lanes to use his excellent penetrating ability and find the basket for easy layups.

SG- Eric Devendorf (JR)
: When junior leader Eric Devendorf tore his ACL in the tenth game of Syracuse’s 07-08 campaign, all of the experience the Orange had on their roster disappeared in a flash. Devendorf played his junior season with two years of starting and double-digit scoring experience under his belt, and his presence allowed Flynn more lanes to score and fellow freshman Donte Greene more open mid-range jumpers. Losing Devendorf also meant their best three-point shooter would now be on the shelf for the remainder of the season. It was a trying injury, but Devendorf is now back at full strength and ready to lead the Orange. His driving ability is unmatched in the Big East and his range from behind the arc, along with Rautins, gives Syracuse a two-headed weapon from outside.

SF- Paul Harris (JR): Harris is, hands down, the best rebounding small forward in the country. Nobody attacks the rim with the amount of ferocity and passion as Harris, who is listed at 6’5 but admits he’s even shorter. Starting in all of the Orange’s contests last year gave the junior valuable experience, something coach Boeheim feels is vital. Often a maddening player due to head-scratching turnovers and questionable shot selection, he just needs more and more minutes to make those mistakes and learn from them. Some felt Harris may be a one-and-done player when he arrived on campus. Although that was far from the truth, the talent is flowing and the production is tremendous for young Paul Harris.

PF- Kristof Ongenaet (SR)
: What Ongenaet brought to the table for Syracuse was clear: rebounding, toughness, defense and height. Never in my wildest imagination could I imagine he’d start for Cuse at any point in his career for one simple reason: he could not score. While Ongenaet was your classic post player who planted himself in the paint and clawed hard for every rebound and block, his game on offense was too much of a liability to start on a regular basis in the Big East. Then late February and early March rolled around and something clicked. In his last six games, Ongenaet averaged 8.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG and made 17 of 26 FG attempts. Now, Syracuse might have a two-dimensional force at the four spot.

C- Arinze Onuaku (JR): The superior play of Onuaku may mark the difference between a bubble team and a Big East title contender this season. The coaching staff got more out of their junior big man last year than they could have ever expected: 12.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG and the highest field-goal percentage in the Big East at 63%. While free-throw shooting is a mystery, Onuaku could emerge as one of the top post players in the conference this year, even as the third or fourth scoring option. When Onuaku played fellow top centers in the Big East, he more than held his own.

Bench: I mentioned in the Villanova preview that bringing a long-range weapon like Corey Fisher off the bench could be a huge factor. Sub Andy Rautins in for Fisher and Syracuse in for Villanova and you have the same story. Rautins tore his ACL playing for the Canadian Senior National Team in August of 2007 and never saw the court last year. His 41% against Big East opponents from deep in 06-07 gave Syracuse a one-two punch with Devendorf from outside, and they sorely missed his shooting last season. Rick Jackson should battle Ongenaet for playing time at the four. His versatility is needed, but Jackson needs to be aggressive and make his presence known on the court. Freshmen Kris Joseph and Mookie Jones are talented swingmen; Joseph is athletic and versatile while Jones is a surprisingly good shooter for his size. Scoop Jardine redshirting hurts the depth of the backcourt.

Backcourt: A-
Frontcourt: B
Bench: B-
Coaching: B+

Bottom Line:
Can Syracuse really miss the NCAA Tournament three years in a row? Not since the early 80’s has that occurred, and I don’t see it happening again this year. They’ve got a strong backcourt with Flynn capable of running an excellent point and Devendorf returning healthy to provide a multi-dimensional look. I like Onuaku to emerge as a fantastic center if he can stay on the court at the end of games. Paul Harris is still maturing and still producing. They just need to avoid losing games to Atlantic 10 teams at home and they have enough talent to make it back to March Madness. Rautins off the bench could be huge for this team; expect him to knock down some game-changing shots.

Key Non-Conference Games: CBE Classic vs. Florida, 11/28 vs. Virginia, 12/15 vs. Cleveland State, 12/20 @ Memphis
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Notre Dame, 1/28 @ Providence, 2/7 @ Villanova, 2/14 vs. Georgetown
Most Valuable Player: Jonny Flynn
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Round of 32)

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3 Responses to “Big East Preview: #7 Syracuse”

  1. Paul said

    Suck it Trebek ! Awful.

  2. Kevin said

    Actually a very good review of Syracuse. Extremely accurate. The only thing I disagree with is Scoop Jardine’s redshirt hurting the depth. He is redshirting BECAUSE they have so much depth. He would not have played much this year with Flynn, Rautins, Devendorf and Harris as guards, along with frosh Mookie Jones.

  3. Zach said

    Good point Kevin. Their guard depth is very strong, especially with Harris a capable 2/3.

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