Hey there, folks. How are we feeling this fine Wednesday on Thanksgiving Eve? Thankful? Is Thanksgiving Eve an actual thing people say? It’s probably more accurately described as “the night everyone goes back home and gets hammered at the local bar while using ‘seeing old high school friends’ as the excuse for excessive alcohol consumption.”
Of course, I won’t be doing that. Part of working in college athletics is that… well, you have to work actual college games. Today, I’ve got a basketball game that I’ll be working in about two hours, and another on Saturday, meaning I’ll be staying down here in Texas for turkey day rather than hopping on a flight up to Boston. I could have said “shipping up to Boston” and I didn’t, and for that, we should all be grateful.
Anyway, one other thing that working in college athletics causes? Missing Syracuse games. This year, thanks to my schedule so often conflicting with Syracuse football and Syracuse basketball’s schedule, I’ve barely been able to watch any of either team. In fact, of the four hoops games so far, the Cornell game is the only one I’ve had a chance to actually watch, relying on Twitter and a barrage of text messages from my dad and brother to keep me apprised of how Syracuse is looking.
But tonight, I’ll have a chance to watch Syracuse take on Toledo in what is a jam-packed week of games for the Orange. The
Mudhens Rockets come into the Carrier Dome with a record of 3-0, with wins over Saint Joseph’s, Ohio Northern, and Oakland. Yes, that’s the same Oakland team that Syracuse just beat by 24, while the Rockets won by 13.
Looking over Toledo’s stats, the first thing that jumps out: this is not a deep team. Seven players get the bulk of the minutes, while four guys do the bulk of the scoring. Two of those players – Jaelen Sanford and Tre’Shaun Fletcher – average better than 20 points-per-game, with Sanford scoring 23.3 and Fletcher right at 20.0 PPG.
The Rockets don’t have the size to match up with Syracuse across the board, but that doesn’t mean they’re undersized, either. Luke Knapke is a 6-foot-11 center averaging 12.0 points and 9.3 rebounds-per-game, while shooting better than 54% from the field. He’s also hit 7-of-8 free throws this year, meaning he could make Syracuse’s big men pay at the line, and he’s got the ability to step out and knock down triples (3-of-7 on the year).
Sanford checks in at 6-foot-4, and Fletcher is listed at 6-foot-7 and also averages 8.3 rebounds-per-game. The senior swingman is also a strong free throw shooter, hitting 18-of-21 attempts this year. Interestingly, neither Sanford or Fletcher has been connecting from deep this year – just 25% for Sanford and 28.6% for Fletcher. Don’t let that fool you, though; last season, Sanford hit 39.2% from deep (on 166 attempts).
Fletcher, meanwhile, is seeing his first real action for the Rockets, having transferred in from Colorado and sitting out last season. He shot 40% from three in his final season at Colorado, so like Sanford, his current shooting numbers are a little misleading. Both guys can be dangerous from deep.
So far this year, Nate Navigato – a 6-foot-8 forward – has been the most reliable three point shooter for the Rockets, hitting 38.1% from deep and scoring 16.0 points-per-game. Again, the Rockets aren’t particularly deep, but they have a strong quartet of players to lean on and produce. So far this year, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Personally, I’m just glad that I finally get another chance to sit down (or stand up, or I suppose I could lay down if I’m feeling sleepy) and watch the Orange play again, at seemingly long-last. The last time I got to watch the team, I was 36 years old, and now I’m 37. Boy, it really has been a long time.
Well, 12 days. But I just wanted to make you all feel guilty about not getting me any birthday presents. Ungrateful jerks.
That said, let’s see what the Orange can do. Syracuse can’t afford to drop any non-conference games to mid-majors if they want any hope of getting into the NCAA Tournament, so picking up a win tonight against a solid Toledo squad is essential when it comes to the ol’ resume. Let’s see what our boys have got, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for a win when the clock strikes 9 PM. Hopefully.
Oh, and let’s also be thankful for the greatest gift that Thanksgiving brings with it: the chance to watch the Cowboys lose twice in the same week. Fly, Eagles, Fly!