It’s not easy watching Syracuse University’s “Orange Madness” event from way the heck down here in Texas. The basketball team’s annual “kickoff” event for the upcoming hoops season is always interesting, since it gives the public its first look at the new faces and enables fans to see how the returning players have changed both physically and in terms of effectiveness.
I’m never one to criticize the hard work that goes into things like this, considering what my day job is, but I do admit to being a little bit baffled by the fact that the SU athletics department decided to charge for people to be able to watch Orange Madness. I’m just going to get that out of the way right now, because anyone who has ever watched Orange All Access knows that they’ve had some…issues…in the past. I know a lot of people had trouble with the streaming feed tonight, and for my part, I couldn’t get it to work at all on my MacBook, and when I did get it working on my iPad, the design of the mobile version of Cuse.com blocked off the controls to the actual video player so I couldn’t expand the picture to fill my screen.
Just a suggestion to the SUAD: I feel your pain more than most people when it comes to streaming video, believe me. But I’ll never get why you’d charge your fans to watch a glorified practice, when you should really be trying to entice those without subscriptions to become subscribers by offering a high quality product.
That said, let’s move on to the actual observations from the fairly brief scrimmage, shall we?
It’s tough to come away from events like this with any legitimate sense of who can do what, and you should never think that who does and doesn’t produce in a scrimmage, for fans, that heavily favors guards, is any legitimate indicator of what will happen when the season actually kicks off. But I do have some observations on a few players…
Last year, Joseph was thrust into a role he never expected to inhabit when he committed to the Orange. Jim Boeheim came right out and said that he wasn’t physically or mentally ready last year, and it certainly showed. Tonight, he looked like a much different player, and it all starts with confidence.
Joseph reportedly packed on 16 pounds of muscle and vastly improved his outside shot, and tonight he was the most confident I’ve ever seen him, never hesitating to attack the basket or pull up for a long jumper (of which he hit a couple). He looked good tonight, and far more aggressive and assertive than he was a year ago. Even if he winds up coming off the bench this year, I expect him to be much more effective than he was a year ago.
Coleman looks as fit as he has since signing with the Orange, and ran the floor well tonight. He didn’t show any real ill effects of his nagging injuries, but he and the other big men didn’t really get a chance to show anything else, either. Scrimmages like this don’t really do any favors for post players who rely on other players to get them the ball, but the good news here is that Coleman looks to be in very good shape, and was moving well on the floor.
My biggest takeaway from watching Malachi Richardson, the lone McDonald’s All-American in this year’s freshman class, is that he’s physically advanced for his age and is much more athletic than I anticipated. He showed some good quickness and explosion tonight, which I wasn’t counting on. He’s always had a reputation as a shooter, but he definitely showed better strength and athleticism than I was anticipating. He’s ready to mix it up with ACC players right now.
Heading into this season, everyone has basically just penciled in Frank Howard as the odd man out in this year’s rotation. I watched him play once or twice on TV last season, and it was easy to see that he clearly has athleticism and talent but was still raw, and his jumper looked shaky and inconsistent.
Well, I came away from that scrimmage thinking that Howard is a lot closer to contributing than I thought. Like Richardson, he’s looks great physically, and he’s clearly got athleticism to go along with great size for a combo guard. But the thing that really jumped out is that his jump shot looks vastly improved over a year ago. If he can start knocking down shots (and making smart decisions – when I watched him, the other thing that jumped out was his tendency to be a little reckless and overly flashy with the ball), he could find a spot in the guard rotation right away – especially with the strong possibility that Richardson could wind up playing small forward.
Look, you know I love Tyler Lydon’s game, if you’ve been reading this website for any length of time. I’ve been screaming from the mountaintop for months and months that he’s the most talented player on this roster, and has the best NBA potential of anyone on the team. He didn’t get to show off his complete game tonight, and he obviously still needs to add more muscle and strength, but nothing tonight made me change my mind about his long term potential.
Lydon has an incredibly well rounded game – he can elevate and attack the rim, he’s got a solid handle, and he can knock down jumpers. He’s got a terrific motor (he was pretty easily the most active player all game) and once he starts bulking up a little bit more, watch out. He had three dunks tonight, but that’s not even the important part. It was fun just watching him play because of his relentlessness, but also because he’s clearly a smart basketball player who knows where to go with the ball on offense. He’s going to be a fun one to watch.