Well, we’ve just about got another year under our belts and to be quite honest, 2014 is probably one a lot of Syracuse fans would like to forget. We fizzled out in the tournament, the lacrosse team was bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and let’s not even get started on the football team. Sure, the men’s soccer, field hockey, and cross country teams were strong, but we need to end the season on a positive note for one of our major sports. Enter: Cornell.
The Orange have been showing signs of turning around the season, to the point where even Seth Davis said earlier this week that it’s a good time to buy stock in this team. I guess that’s what happens when people actually start knocking down shots, particularly guys named Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije. Throw in the consistently strong play of Rakeem Christmas, who last week was named the ACC Player of the Week because I’m guessing in addition to his good numbers, the people doing the voting thought it’d be hilarious to have Christmas win on Christmas, and you’re starting to get a recipe for success at exactly the right time.
There’s still been a bit of a mixed bag for the Orange, however, since Chris McCullough has endured some recent struggled, and Kaleb Joseph continues to run entirely hot and cold. At this point, Joseph should just be nicknamed the Flash, because not only is he lightning quick, but about the best that can be said about the way he’s progressing is that he’s showing flashes of being a very good college player.
Tyler Roberson has been coming on strong as well, at exactly the right time. No longer does he look completely skittish whenever he touches the ball, and his aggressive rebounding has paid huge dividends for Syracuse, particularly as the team’s only other option at small forward, BJ Johnson, continues to struggle both with his shot and in mastering the 2-3 zone.
After dropping our road game at Michigan, I think most people expected us to finish the non-conference portion of the schedule with a record of 9-4. After nearly pulling off the road upset at Villanova (don’t even get me started on the “woulda coulda shoulda” there), it looks like that’s exactly where we’re headed. Considering Syracuse hasn’t lost to Andy Bernard’s alma mater in more than 45 years, 9-4 is almost certainly exactly where the Orange will find themselves as 2014 comes to a close.
So, what is there to know about Cornell? For starters, they’re coming into today’s game having lost two of the last three, against Saint Peter’s and Radford. In other words, this is not the same Cornell team that only a few years ago made a Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen.
Last season, Cornell went an embarrassing 2-26, so I guess boasting a record of 6-6 at this point is something they should be proud of. Of course, their schedule hasn’t exactly featured a lot of world beaters. Against power conference teams, the Big Red are 0-2 with losses against South Carolina and Penn State.
Leading the way for Cornell this season is Shonn Miller, a 6-foot-7 forward who can do a little bit of everything. He enters today’s game averaging 16.8 points and 8.4 rebounds, both highs on the team, and he also leads the Big Red with 22 blocked shots and is averaging more than a steal per game. Miller is also a threat to score anywhere on the court, with a shooting line of 45.6/35.9/85.2, which are impressive numbers against any level of competition.
Over his last three games he’s been even better, averaging 26.0 points and 11.7 rebounds.
Some of the other key players for Cornell are the tremendously unfortunately named Galal Cancer, Devin Cherry, and Robert Hatter, whose nickname had sure as hell better be “Mad” because if it isn’t, so help me…
Hatter is second on the team with an average of 12.9 points per game, and the 6-foot-2 guard from Houston has more three point makes (22) than anyone else on the team. Cancer is the third leading scorer at 10.0 points and also boasts the best assist to turnover ratio on the team, handing out 38 assists against 28 turnovers. The 6-foot-2 senior from Albany is also shooting 39.1% from long distance, though he averages fewer than two attempts per game, so while he won’t look to shoot all that often he’s one of the team’s best threats to actually make it when he actually launches.
Cherry, a 6-foot-3 senior, leads the team with 44 assists but has serious trouble hanging onto the ball, having given it away a staggering 55 times already this year. The fifth starter is 6-foot-9 post player David Onuorah, a sophomore from Atlanta who averages just 2.7 points per game and struggles from the free throw line, hitting just 6-of-19 attempts all year.
Overall, this is a Cornell that shoots it at a decent clip, hitting 33.8% from deep and 71.7% from the free throw line, though they’ve been outrebounded on the year and have turned the ball over significantly more than their opponents. As a team, the Big Red have 119 assists…and 177 turnovers. Yikes. That, friends, is not how you take care of the ball, and against a vastly bigger, more athletic, and defensively active Syracuse team, it’s a recipe for disaster when you combine the subpar rebounding (only 94 offensive rebounds all season) and the team-wide struggles to hang onto the ball.
In other words, we should fully expect the last Syracuse players to see action in 2014 to be walk-ons. If the Orange don’t win by at least 25, it’ll be a disappointment.