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The Battle of the Orange

As the smoke clears away from the NFL season, and the internet tries to survive Linsanity, March is quietly sneaking up on us. With that comes the most exciting three weekends of the year, as 65 college basketball teams play numerous games of Russian Roulette very competitive, high drama basketball that will surely give us many moments we will not forget. For the record, I considered boycotting this year’s tournament because there will be no Gus Johnson this year! For those of you who do not know how tragic this is, just watch this YouTube video and get back to me. However, after considering it for 23 seconds, I decided I couldn’t resist. (Sorry Gus, I will watch it with a bitter taste in my mouth as I cross out my brackets furiously.)

For those of you who have been otherwise occupied, here is what you have missed in college basketball. There is Kentucky, Syracuse, and everybody else. For the sake of this piece, we are going to focus on the Orange, who, while ranked 2nd in the nation behind the aforementioned Kentucky Wildcats, could also arguably be the #1 seed before it’s all set and done.

The Orange are off to an impressive 26-1 start, and there are mumblings that this could be the best Orange team ever, including Carmelo’s ’03 squad. Let’s take a look at how legitimate that case could be. I’m going to try to get through this without mentioning that they both have Melo’s on their teams. Wish me luck.


2002-2003 Syracuse Orange:

Carmelo and the Other guys. Who knew we’d be saying that for years to come beside everybody?

Starting Five: McNamara, Duany, Carmelo, Warrick, Forth

Depth: Edelin, Pace, Mcneil

2011-2012 Syracuse Orange:

Your college basketball post-Carmelo Denver Nuggets: A bunch of guys who can ball.

Starting Five: Jardine, Triche, Christmas, Joseph, Melo

Depth: Waiters, Fair, Southerland, Carter-Williams, Keita

Guards

As far as the guards are concerned, I consider Mcnamara and Jardine a wash. If you put a gun to my head, I would take McNamara merely because of his knack for hitting game-winners, along with the fact that Scoop tends to have some costly turnovers late in games. McNamara averaged five more points for the ’03 championship Orange team than Scoop has thus far, but that is because Scoop does not need to score as much as McNamara did. However, the assists are virtually identical, and to use “Scoop has other scorers around him” for the point differential would require Scoop to have a noticeable advantage in the assist category. That…is not the case.

However, Triche and Waiters is what sets the guards apart in this match up. Waiters could probably start on every other team in the nation, and probably should start for this team. Edelin and Duany were…nice players, but had nowhere near the skill set that Triche and Waiters possess night-in and night-out.

Advantage: 2011 Orange

Forwards

There is a constant debate with this year’s Orange team, and it is simply: Who is their best player? In my opinion, the answer is Kris Joseph, and it seems like coach Boeheim may agree. Joseph averages the most minutes on the team with 30.7 a game.. The closest player to him is C.J Fair, behind by over four minutes at 26.4.

Rakeem Christmas has the Thabo Sefolosha thing going for him; he starts every game, but finishes none. The aforementioned Fair is the James Harden to Christmas’ Sefolosha, constantly stealing his minutes in crunch time.

All that said, Joseph ain’t Carmelo, and Christmas/Fair ain’t Warrick. The pair of Anthony and Warrick accounted for a little under half of the team’s points per game. And oh yeah, one of them was CARMELO ANTHONY.

I don’t feel the need to take this further..

Advantage: 2003 Orange

Center

This one is a little closer than you’d think. Fab Melo commands the middle for the Orange this season, and that was never more evident than when he missed three games because of a “unresolved academic issue” AKA Mr. Melo forgot to hand in a paper or twelve during the fall semester. Melo averages three blocks per game, and would be in consideration for Defensive Player of the Year if a certain unirbrowed man-child wasn’t running away with every award in the country.

All that said, Melo has no one behind him, and is consistently in foul trouble. The ’03 Orange had a legitimate 7-footer in Craig Forth who really solidified the infamous Syracuse 2-3 Zone, and Jeremy McNeil was a above average shot blocker.

However, though it’s closer than most may think, Fab Melo still gets the nod.

Advantage: 2011 Orange

Depth

This is where this year’s Orange are starting to pull away in this debate. The Oranges’ depth this year is what has set them apart from much of the nation this year, and may be the difference in this hypothetical match up. This year’s team goes a legitimate 10-deep, and there have been talks that the bench may be better than the starters.

The ’03 Orange, like every team that Carmelo has played for since he was seven relied primarily on him. Fortunately for that team, Carmelo or bust resulted in Carmelo being victorious more times than not. Carmelo played an unprecedented 36.4 minutes per game, and truly carried that team on his back for the most part.

Advantage: 2011 Orange

Verdict

Okay, so I have a confession. I completely mislead you with the breakdown. I really don’t think this year’s squad would have an answer for ‘Melo and Warrick, and by ‘Melo and Warrick, I really mean ‘Melo. It would be a close game, and I could see this year’s team coming out of the gates hot behind good guard play.

However, when it came down to it, this year’s team would have the same problem that the post-Carmelo Nuggets had last year in the playoffs, and that is they have not yet established who their alpha-dog is. Who takes the last shot down by one with 10 seconds on the clock? We have seen them go to many different players in this situation depending on the hot-hand, which is fine except in the biggest of games, that pecking order has to be established.  Warrick was cause fits for Fab in the post, and I could easily see some early foul trouble for him, and once he went to the bench, Carmelo would take over.

It would be a very competitive, back-and-forth battle, but in the end, I think the difference is ‘Melo, Car-Melo that is.

 

By:Frank Santos — Lead Columnist

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