I promise I’m not bitter (not much anyways). Saturday night Syracuse came within a few missed calls and missed jump shots from playing for the national championship. It’s hard to say what would have happened if they made it to Monday nights game. Many feel Louisville was a team of destiny, particularly after the horrific injury to Kevin Ware. But, they are also a team that lost to Syracuse earlier this season when they held the number one ranking (and with Syracuse missing key player James Southerland). If the two teams had played on Monday it would have been the fourth meeting between the two this season, (with Louisville holding a 2-1 edge in the series) and it is a well documented fact that it is extremely difficult to beat a team three times in one season (just ask Georgetown). Personally I liked our chances in the title game, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. I won’t blame the refs, even though they certainly didn’t help. Outside of a great performance by CJ Fair, and a late surge by Brandon Triche, the offense was fairly anemic the entire game. Carter-Williams, who had played brilliantly up to this point in the tournament disappeared, (he and Burke essentially cancelled each other out and were non-factors) scoring just 2 points on 1-6 shooting and dishing only 2 assists in comparison to 5 turnovers. Southerland also picked the wrong time to cool off, going just 2-9 from the field and 1-5 from 3 point range after being red-hot coming into the tourney (granted his one three was a huge shot that brought the deficit to 1 with 42 seconds remaining). Following Southerland’s made three, Trey Burke hit one of two from the line making the score 58-56 with 28 seconds to go, that’s when the refs decided it was their time to impact the game. The scene pictured above unfolded. Triche drove to the basket, and collided with Michigan’s Jordan Morgan, the refs called a charge, Triche fouled out, and with the DQ of Carter Williams roughly a minute earlier, the game was essentially over. Upon review, all but a few commentators (I’m looking at you Dickie V.) agreed the refs got the call wrong, this was a block, not a charge. Michigan again went only 1 of 2 from the line and left the door opened for Syracuse to tie it up, but things looked bleak. With Triche and Carter-Williams both on the bench, the game was left up to seldom used freshmen Trevor Cooney. The play was supposed to go to Southerland, but when Cooney couldn’t get him the ball, he instead drove to the basket and threw up a shot that missed rather badly. Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. rebounded the ball,and in classic Michigan fashion committed a travel that wasn’t called (I’m looking at you Chris Webber). Hardaway heaved the ball ahead to Jordan Morgan for a dunk as time expired. Game over, 61-56 Michigan. Honestly, for a team that few if any expected to get this far, it’s hard to be too heart broken over this loss. It did, however, feel like there was some justice in the world when Michigan was the victim of some bad officiating in the title game (a clear goal-tend by Gorgui Dieng in the first half, and the much talked about Trey Burke block late in the game).
Overall, my feelings on this season (like most seasons) are that I’m sad to see it end, but happy to have experienced it. I’ll miss Brandon Triche, a player who came in without a lot of acclaim, and leaves as the winningest player in school history. I’ve always felt he was incredibly steady and dependable, and feel he did his best in a scorers role that he was never really suited for. I’ll miss Carter-Williams as well, (it seems a forgone conclusion he isn’t returning, although no officially announcement has been made) but I feel entering the NBA draft this year is the right decision for him. His size and passing ability provide him with a lot of potential, and this years draft class is expected to be exceptionally weak, which favors players like Carter Williams, who are somewhat of a risk. The final question hanging over mine, and all Syracuse fans heads at the close of this season is: will CJ Fair return for his senior year. Fair was also non-committal immediately following the Michigan game, but most feel he will return. As opposed to Carter-Williams, I think Fair would benefit from another year at Syracuse. Fair is not projected to be a particularly high draft pick, if he is selected at all, and probably reminds teams too much of other recent Syracuse alums with limited NBA success (Wesley Johnson for example). The move to the ACC next year will certainly be more difficult if Fair decides to leave school. I plan to keep my fingers crossed until April 28th – the early eligibility deadline for the draft. (On a side note, here is a list of important NBA draft dates, and players who have declared for anyone who is interested, link). Even with the return of Fair, next year looks like it may be a rebuilding year for the Cuse. This is at least in the back court where Trevor Cooney will be the only returning player to a team that seemed to be bursting with guards just a season ago. Cooney will be joined by star point guard recruit Tyler Ennis and Duke transfer Michael Gbinije next season. Next season should also bring continued development for Syracuse big men Rakeem Christmas and Dajuan Coleman. As well as the blossoming of potential future star Jeremi Grant, who looked very impressive at times this past season while playing limited minutes behind Southerland. The ridiculously early predictions have Syracuse as #11 in the country next year, hopefully we can prove them right.
Finally, on an entirely unrelated note that will only make you feel better if you are the rare combo of a Syracuse fan and a Red Sox fan, (such as myself) the Sox are totally killing it to start off this season. After a season I’m pretending just didn’t happen last year, Boston has come out of the gates strong, something it has failed to do recently. I’m well aware of all the flaws this team has, and John Lackey last about two seconds before he injured his pitching arm again, but I’m soaking up this time in first place while I can. Nothing makes you feel better about one of your teams losing than having another team you root for destroy an opponent the next day, and led by a dominating performance by Will Middlebrooks that is exactly what the Red Sox did on Sunday. The next Red Sox game is tonight at 7:10, and will feature Ryan Dempster, looking to improve on a mediocre first outing for the Sox going against Jake Arrieta and the Baltimore Orioles.
That’s all I’ve got for right now, see you tomorrow for a recap of tonight’s episode of The Real World, and sometime in the next week or so for another update on the Red Sox, plus any news on Syracuse that might come out. Here is this years version of One Shining Moment, (aka the only reason I still watched the game on Monday after Syracuse lost) to hold you over until then.