Friday, March 23, 2012

Syracuse will go as far as Neon Dion takes them

Some slices of Orange as SU prepares for its Elite Eight matchup against Ohio State Saturday night:

• Top seed Syracuse is going to need a huge game from Dion Waiters if it is going to knock off the second-seeded-but-favored Buckeyes and advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. And that’s not an impossible expectation because Waiters has been magnificent under the bright lights of post-season. The 6-foot-4 Philly Phenom is averaging 17.8 points in five tournament games (two Big East; three NCAA). He is shooting a blistering 53.6 percent from the field and has converted all 12 of his free throws in the NCAAs. Waiters can beat you with his high-arcing 3s or his spin-move drives. And he can be one dogged defender. At one point this season he led the nation in steals. The job he did shutting down Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor on the Badgers final possession was a game-saver Thursday and the reason SU was able to advance to the Elite Eight. The Orange will go as far as Waiters takes them. For Syracuse to win it all – still a long-shot – Waiters is going to have to play the way Carmelo Anthony played during the 2003 title run.

• Enjoy Waiters while you can because he’s definitely declaring early for the NBA draft after this season ends. The most optimistic projections have him as a mid-first-rounder. At worst, he goes somewhere in the mid-20s overall. It’s too bad he won't return because he could play himself into a position where he would become a lottery pick.

• Syracuse is going to have a very difficult time matching up with Ohio State center Jared Sullinger, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the Buckeyes Sweet 16 victory against Cincinnati. When Sullinger’s on – as he was Thursday night – he’s as dominating as any college player in America, but he has also been prone to bouts of inconsistency at times. This clearly will be an enormous challenge for Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita. We might have reached that point where Fab Melo’s absence is really felt.

• Interestingly, this is only the fifth time in Jim Boeheim’s illustrious coaching career that he had reached the Elite Eight. If you are looking for an encouraging historical note, the Orange are 3-1 in those games.

• Boeheim after SU’s one-point win vs. Wisconsin: “I think that’s the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn’t beat us.”

• The Badgers were on fire from beyond the arc, nailing 14 3’s. But give Boeheim credit for making adjustments. He extended the 2-3 zone and Wisconsin made only 1-of-8 3-point shots down the stretch.

• C.J. Fair picked a great time to become C.J. Fair again, with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. They’re going to need him to play big again vs. Ohio State.

• Senior forward Kris Joseph also is going to have to snap out of it if SU wants to advance to the Final Four. He played passively against Wisconsin and it resulted in just seven points and two rebounds in 39 minutes. Not exactly the type of performance one would expect from a guy who was just named second-team All-American.

* For more of my take on SU hoops, please check out my column on Channel 8's website:

• One final shameless, plug: Syracuse basketball fans who want to relive the program’s shining moments should consider purchasing the DVD Orange Glory: The 20 Greatest Moments in Syracuse University Basketball History. The 90-minute documentary features compelling footage of the 2003 NCAA title run, the great games with Georgetown, Pearl Washington’s half-court shot and vintage black-and-white clips of the great Dave Bing in action. There also are numerous interviews with Syracuse hoops legends, fans and members of the media, including yours truly, who covered many of the great performances and performers through the years. The DVD retails for $19.95 and can be purchased at or at And if you want to earn even more points with that SU hoops fan in your life, why not twin the DVD with a copy of the book, Color Him Orange: The Jim Boeheim? (Sorry again for being a huckster, but when you are a starving author you have to hustle product every chance you get.)

No comments: