Big East Game 1: Syracuse 81 – Providence 74

-I think that it is important for me to preface my critique of this game by presenting my expectations for Tuesday night’s Syracuse-PC match up.  Providence had played only one true road game before last night, which resulted in a loss at Boston College.  Other than that game, they played two games on a neutral court in Cancun and their remaining ten games all took place at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.  So, how did you expect a team that is comprised thirteen freshmen and sophomores to only three seniors to play on the road in their first Big East game against the #5 team in the country in Syracuse?  Well, to be blunt, I didn’t expect much.

-As I mentioned in a previous post, Marshon Brooks may be the most frustrating player that I have ever watched play basketball (besides Charlie Burch of course).  Marshon looked to be scoring at will in the first half, posting 17 of PC’s 32 points.  Brooks was the sole reason why the Friars were still in the game.  I was encouraged that Brooks was getting to the rim instead of making his living on the perimeter.  After halftime, Marshon looked like a completely different player.  He was stagnant offensively, not getting open of creating for others.  Marshon made a critical fast-break three pointer to put the Friars within five late in the second half, but the shot that he took was terrible.  On the break, there were two Friars cutting to the hoop for easy buckets, but Brooks pulled up at the hash mark and launched a three.  These are the exact instances where Brooks frustrates the hell out of me.  He passes when he should shoot, and he shoots when he should pass.  I’m said to say that Marshon just doesn’t get it.

-The Friars are not going to win many games when they shoot under forty percent from the field (39.7%) and under thirty percent from beyond the arc (26.7%).  Keno Davis has notoriously struggled to find a way to crack the Syracuse 2-3 zone, and last night was a perfect indicator of those struggles.  On countless possessions down the stretch, the ball was passed from the point to the wing, back to the point and to the other wing.  Working the ball around the three point line is not helpful in breaking a 2-3 zone, especially when your team can not hit a three.  Council split the top two defenders a few times which led to easy dump-down buckets for Bilal Dixon and Brooks, but it didn’t occur at a high enough frequency for my liking.

-Aside from PC’s offensive woes, the Orangemen, who are not known for their three point shooting (many believe that is the weakest part of their game), shot over forty percent from beyond the arc.  Forward Kris Jospeh was 4-6 from three, and when he is hot like that, there are few teams in the country who could compete with Syracuse.

-Looking back on the game, I can honestly say that I was happy with what I saw on Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome.  Many of the young Friars did a lot of growing up against the Orangemen.  After a dreadful first half, Gerard Coleman showed the skills that made him a top 50 recruit nationally, when he scored points on three straight possessions for the Friars to get them back into the game.  Vincent Council looks like he is ready to lead this team alongside Marshon Brooks is Brooks takes a little side step to let Council blossom.  Duke Mondy played “starter minutes” off of the bench for Keno Davis and hit a big three towards the end of the game to keep it close.  Kadeem Batts is slowly learning what Bilal Dixon was taught last season, being undersized in the Big East is not fun but it is necessary that foul trouble is avoided in order for your team to be successful.

-Keno Davis used only a seven man rotation in the loss to Syracuse (eight players actually saw game time, but Dre Evans played just one minute so I’m not counting him).  In my opinion, one of the biggest strengths for this Friars team is their depth.  I’m well aware that unlike Syracuse, Keno can’t pull three or four 6’9” guys off of his bench and throw them into the game, but keeping guys like Council, Coleman, and Brooks fresh is what is going to lead this Friars team to some big wins.  Even squeezing just a few minutes out of a guy like Dre Evans, Ron Giplaye, and Lee Goldsbrough will be huge in terms of the starters’ effectiveness.

NEXT GAME: Saturday January 1st vs. St. John’s (7pm)

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