Syracuse Stacks Up Well With Classic Florida Teams
by Robert Ferringo - 1/26/2010
Obviously, I’m feeling pretty good about Syracuse right now. I think that they are the best team in the country right now and that’s coming from a guy that is always quick to take a pessimistic stance on his alma mater.
The reason that I think that they are the best team and, right now, the favorite to win the National Championship, is that I think that they have every single aspect covered that a championship team needs. They have an NBA go-to player (Wes Johnson). They have one of the best shooters in the country (Andy Rautins). They have at least three guys that can knock down the three consistently (Johnson, Rautins, Brandon Triche). They have power underneath (Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson). They have quality point guard play (Triche and Scoop Jardine). They have the spark off the bench guy (Kris Joseph). They have a great coach with a proven track record (Jim Boeheim) in big games. They are experienced, with three starters back from a Sweet 16 team last year and five of their top seven players I mean, they have it all. There is no weakness.
(I do wish that they had Gritty Glue Guy as the third big man off the bench. But that’s probably 10th on the list of 10 Things A Championship Team Needs. And when one of the bigs goes out or gets in foul trouble they don’t lose that much when Joseph comes in at the back of the zone.)
Looking at this Syracuse team and the fact that they don’t have an apparent weakness and looking at the obvious chemistry that they display when they suit up I couldn’t help but conjure up images of The Gold Standard of the previous decade: the 2005-2007 Florida Gators.
The Gators won back-to-back titles and, at the time, were so unstoppable because they had no weakness. If you go down the same list I just offered up about the Orange – NBA player on the wing, top shooter, good point guard, power and bodies underneath, good coaching, sparks off the bench, etc. – the Gators had all of the proper pieces to put together not one, but two title runs.
So I thought, let’s compare the two teams. Below is a man vs. man comparison of the players that got on the court for Florida in the 2007 national championship game win over Ohio State compared with the top eight players for the Orange this year. As you can see, the similarities are pretty noticeable. Now, Syracuse may not experience the same glory as Florida did. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t compare favorably to those Gators teams, matchup-wise, right now.
(One other thing, that Florida team elevated to champions a year after dumping a bunch of talented underachievers that played sloppy basketball with no chemistry. Looking at the guys that Syracuse lost last year to this year I think that comparison is apt as well.)
Here’s a look:
Point Guard: Taureen Green vs. Brandon Triche
Green: 13.3 ppg, 2.4 reb., 3.7 assist, 1.37 assist-to-turnover, 44.4 shooting, 84.9 free throws, 40.4 3-pointers.
Triche: 10.1 ppg, 2.0 reb., 3.0 assist, 1.31 a/t, 53.7 shooting, 61.4 free throws, 42.6 3-pointers.
Florida has the edge here because Green was much more experienced than the Syracuse freshman. But if you look at the numbers the drop-off isn’t really that steep. Triche has all of the potential and will likely end up being better than Green was. But Green was such a steady hand and such a clutch player that he has to get the nod.
Lee Humphrey vs. Andy Rautins
Humphrey: 10.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 a/t, 47.5 FG, 69.2 FT, 45.9 3-point.
Rautins: 10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.0 a/t, 44.2 FG, 77.8 FT, 40.7 3-point.
Humphrey was one of the best college shooters that I think I’ve ever seen. He made tough shots and was absolutely lethal for this team. That said, there is no doubt that Rautins is a better player on both ends of the floor. Rautins is an excellent defender and is an exceptional passer, where Humphrey was more of a one-not guy (even if it was a great note). Rautins is also a better shooter off the dribble and I think if he only took catch-and-shoot threes then his percentage would be even closer to Humphrey’s. Again, advantage Syracuse.
Corey Brewer vs. Wesley Johnson
Brewer: 13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.9 steals, 47.5 FG, 72.3 FT, 33.6 3-point.
Johnson: 17.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.8 steals, 55.6 FG, 75.0 FT, 44.6 3-point.
Brewer was an exceptional player for Florida and there was nothing on the court, on either end, that he couldn’t do. But Johnson is a National Player of the Year candidate and is clearly more advanced at this stage. It was critical that Florida had a great swingman. The Orange do as well, only theirs is better.
Joakim Noah vs. Rick Jackson
Noah: 12.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 blocks, 60.5 FG, 66.3 FT.
Jackson: 9.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.2 blocks, 59.4 FG, 52.7 FT.
This one is an edge for Florida. As much as I hated Noah, he was a leader and he was an elite college player. Jackson is a very good college player and is actually more talented than his numbers suggest. Noah was a much better passer but Jackson is more stout on the defensive end.
Al Horford vs. Arinze Onuaku
Horford: 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.8 blocks, 60.8 FG, 64.4 FT.
Onuaku: 10.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.9 blocks, 66.7 FG, 45.1 FT.
This is the one area where Florida has the clear edge. Horford was a stud and, like Noah, was a talented passer as well. Onuaku and Jackson don’t work off one another the way that Noah and Horford did. That said, Onuaku has seemed to regress a bit this year. His numbers from previous seasons compared much more favorably to what Horford did. But there’s no doubting that this is an edge to the Gators.
Walter Hodge vs. Scoop Jardine
Hodge: 5.7 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.26 a/t, 54.5 FG, 63.6 FT, 50.0 3-point.
Jardine: 8.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.1 a/t, 50.9 FG, 77.4 FT, 30.0 3-point.
Hodge was a better shooter and played his role well with Florida. That Gators team worked inside out whereas Syracuse likes to get out and run and attack from the perimeter. There’s no doubt that Jardine is a much better player than Hodge (although Hodge went on to have a nice career) mainly because Jardine is a better scorer, playmaker and he has the ability to run a team.
Chris Richard vs. Kris Joseph
Richard: 6.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 69.0 FG, 62.7 FT.
Joseph: 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assist, 51.0 FG, 70.9 FT.
This one is hard to compare because while these two players are both the No. 7 men in their team’s seven-man rotations they are two completely different players with two differing roles. Richard was Florida’s third big man off the bench and was there to spell Horford or Noah. He was a brute and was effective in his niche. But there’s no doubt that Joseph is the better player. Joseph is, essentially, our third big man because he spells Jackson or Onuaku. But he’s clearly more of a slasher and scorer.
Marreese Speights vs. Mookie Jones
Speights only played about six minutes per game and averaged about 4.1 points. Jones plays around eight minutes per game. But neither appeared in every game and both freshmen were mainly pieces for blowouts. But Speights saw time in the national title game and went on to be a good player. Not sure what is in store for Jones, who is a perimeter player compared to the Florida forward.
So when it comes down to it Syracuse has a significant edge with their four perimeter players compared to Florida’s. However, the Gators have the clear edge with their two forwards.
It’s a little trick to compare the teams because Florida was an inside-out team that threw the ball into Horford and Noah, let them play off one another, and then kicked the ball out to the shooters when teams realized that they couldn’t stop Florida underneath. Syracuse is a team that attacks from the perimeter and its guards create their own shots or find their bigs more with dribble penetration.
It would be interesting to see how the Syracuse zone handled the Gators. Noah and Horford were excellent passers and they would be able to attack on the inside and the shooters that Florida had would have made it impossible for SU to pack it in at all. On the other side, I don’t think that Florida’s guards could stop our perimeter play when we have the ball and I think that we’d be able to get what we wanted. The Brewer vs. Johnson matchup would be a good one, but I think Wes would be able to get his points in the post.
I can’t say definitively who would win. But just the fact that I think that we can draw such an apt comparison between this year’s Orange and one of the top college basketball teams of the last 20 years (at least judging by their accomplishments) is a huge compliment to the Orange.
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