People who grew up watching professional wrestling are no doubt at least vaguely familiar with Barry Horowitz. He was a wrestler in the WWF, back before panda bears stole the F and made them become WWE, and then also wrestled for WCW around the turn of the century. His role in the WWF? Basically, it was to lose. Horowitz became famous for being a jobber: a wrestler whose job was to lose to more talented guys that the company wanted to become bigger stars. Basically, he was like the Washington Generals of the WWF. He’s also a Florida State alum.
Syracuse can’t exactly boast any superstar wrestlers, since our best pro grappler was Mike Rotunda, but let’s not focus on Syracuse here. Let’s focus on Horowitz, and what it means to be a jobber, because it kind of relates to tomorrow’s game between the Orange and Florida State. A jobber is a guy that people pad their resumes against to gain a higher profile, and outside of a couple decent years here and there, that’s exactly what Florida State’s role has been in the world of college basketball.
And that’s what Syracuse is hoping to use the Seminoles for in the Carrier Dome tomorrow: earn a win to pad the win column and develop a better resume come tournament selection time. This young Syracuse team is hoping to be an up and comer looking for a spot in the main event, and it needs to work over a few jobbers along the way to do that.
So what kind of team is Florida State this season? Well, they enter tomorrow’s game with a record of of 9-6 overall, including a 1-1 mark in ACC play. They lost by 20 to Notre Dame but recently beat Virginia Tech 86-75. However, it should be noted that earlier this season they struggled like crazy during an apparent New England tour, losing consecutive games to Northeastern, Providence, and UMass.
The team was dealt a pretty sizable blow when 6-foot-5 guard Aaron Thomas, who had been leading the Seminoles in scoring with 14.8 points-per-game, was ruled ineligible back in December. The Seminoles boast a pretty huge lineup – no one under 6-feet, six guys who are at least 6-foot-8, including three 7-footers. Montay Brandon is kind of the “next man up” now that Thomas is gone, in terms of production. The 6-foot-8 swingman is averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 boards, and shooting 58.3% from the field.
With Thomas out, FSU still has three guys scoring in double figures, including Brandon. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 6-foot-4 guard, averages 12.4 points and has dished out a team-best 66 assists this season, but he’s also turned the ball over 57 times and is only shooting 23.9% from long range despite taking by far the most three point attempts on the team.
A guy Syracuse will have to be a little more mindful of when it comes to three point shooting is 6-foot-3 guard Devon Bookert, who averages 10.3 points and shoots 42% from the perimeter. Basically, if someone is going to go off for five or six three pointers, Bookert is the most likely candidate. In his last two games, he’s knocked down 8-of-13 attempts from deep.
If you’re looking for someone to come off the bench and randomly light up the Orange, that guy might be 6-foot-4 freshman guard Robbie Berwick, who has a reputation as a lethal perimeter shooter that he hasn’t really lived up to through his first 15 college games. Berwick is averaging just 3.3 points and has hit only 11-of-40 threes, but Syracuse fans are all too familiar with guys like that – sparse production but big reputations as shooters – coming out of nowhere to have a career day from long distance against the 2-3 zone.
Despite all of the team’s size, the Seminoles don’t have anyone pulling down more than 5.5 boards and have been fairly even with their opponents on the glass this season. And much like Georgia Tech, the team Syracuse supposedly played earlier this week in a game we’re choosing to ignore despite victory, the Seminoles turn the ball over a lot more than they dish out assists. Florida State comes into the game with 185 assists against a whopping 215 turnovers.
The way the Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech games have played out, it’s impossible to predict what to expect from the Orange as they take on FSU tomorrow night on ESPNU. But just like a rising superstar in the WWE, the Orange desperately need to keep beating up on the middling fighters if they want any hope of getting into the spotlight of Wrestlemania — er, March Madness. Oh, who am I kidding…with the pageantry involved these days, they’re basically interchangeable, aren’t they?