Candy and Nuts | Syracusefan.com

Candy and Nuts

SWC75

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There was a discussion on the radio about basketball recruiting and injuries and ‘what if’ various things had happened or not happened. I decided to go over things from memory for SU basketball. I’m just dreaming of the good things that could have happened or not happened. I don’t dream of the bad things. As Coach mac liked to say: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. (Thanks to Orange Hoops for a lot of the details: Orangehoops | Syracuse University Orange Basketball )


I started following SU basketball in Dave Bing’s senior year because the team was trying to become the first team to average 100 points a game, (they came up just short at 99.0) and Dave was battling for the national scoring lead. The following year he and Jim Boeheim were gone and nobody expected much. But the team pulled itself together and finished 20-6, ranking #8 in the country at one time. Four starters were back from that team for the 1967-68 season and the freshman team from the previous year had finished 16-0. 6-8 Wayne Ward had averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds a game while 6-1 Ernie Austin had averaged and even 30. The frosh had twice beaten a Niagara freshman team featuring Calvin Murphy, who averaged 49.8. We figured to have a powerhouse.

Ward had a decent sophomore year (13.0/6.2), struggling early but improving as the year went on. Austin only hit 36.7% of his shots but shot anyway, averaging 8.9 but losing his starting position by the end of the year. Both had academic problems. Ward illogically decided to join football player Oley Allen in a couple of armed robberies, ending both their careers. Austin had to sit out the first semester for the following year. We finished 11-14 in ’67-’68 and there was some sort of rebellion against Coach Fred Lewis, who resigned, leaving the team to assistant Roy Danforth.

But the ’67-’68 frosh had been nearly as good, going 15-1. 6-11 Bill Smith averaged 21.0/13/6. 6-7 Bob McDaniel topped that with 24.8/16.1. 6-4 Bill Finney averaged 18.3 and 5-11 Tom Green 14.0. I couldn’t find anything about assists but McDaniel, Finney and Green were all around 80% free throw shooters. But the guys from the Bing years were gone and McDaniel was academically ineligible, so it was basically the ’67-’68 frosh, without McDaniel, were the ’68-’69 varsity until Austin became eligible for the second semester. And some idiot had scheduled 10 of the first 11 games away from Manley, (three were in a Holiday tournament). We somehow managed to win three of those games. Four of the next seven were at home but we won only one of them. We then rebounded to win five of the last seven and wind up 9-16, our last losing record for 53 years.

The next year Smith, McDaniel and Austin combined for 57 points and 27 rebounds a game as SU scored 86.6 points per game – and gave up 86.4, finishing 12-12. Smith ended his season by punching a referee at West Virginia. Austin graduated, (I think) and McDaniel opened the 1970-’71 season with a 14/14 performance vs. Buffalo, skipped a couple of practices, was suspended and quit the team. Smith set our single game scoring record with 47 against Lafayette and led us to the NIT and a 19-7 record, the first of 51 consecutive winning seasons.

What has always haunted me is the image of a starting line-up of Smith at center, Ward and McDaniel at forward and Green and Austin the backcourt. This was a time when the typical college front line went 6-5, 6-7, 6-4. We could have had a dominant team, one that could have played UCLA for the national championship. (We wouldn’t have won – in those days having the honor of being the team that lost to UCLA in the championship game was the best you could hope for.) I just would have liked to have seen that line-up in action. That’s my first “What If?”

Then I jump ahead a decade. We did have nationally ranked teams in the Louie and Bouie Era. What we were missing was a good outside threat other than Marty Headd and a guy who could ‘feed the post’. We recruited Leo Rautins for the 1978-’79 season and it came down to us and Minnesota. He went to Minnesota but decided it was the wrong decision and transferred back to Syracuse. Under the rules of the time, he had to sit out a year before he could play and by that time Louie and Bouie were gone. Either the ’78-’79 or ’79-’80 teams could have won a national title with Leo, although the latter teams would have been more likely. There was no Larry Bird or Magic Johnson in that year and, even without Leo the 1980 team got as far as #2 in the country. With him, we could have gotten past Georgetown. A front line of Louis Orr, Roosevelt Bouie and Leo Rautins would have been another impressive one. That’s “What if?” #2

That delay set up Leo as the centerpiece of the “Tricaptains Era”, when he, Tony Bruin and Eric Santifer led the team. Jim Boeheim has often said that his #1 regret was that they couldn’t get Sam Perkins to come here, as we had everything we needed at every position except center and Sam would have made that position a big +. Instead, he went to North Carolina and played center for the teams that had Michael Jordan and James Worthy as the Tar Heels won a national championship. It was widely rumored that UNC gave Perkins’ girlfriend a scholarship and that tipped the scales in their favor. That’s #3.

Early in the 1985-86 season we blew out a pretty good Southern California team, (they had a top recruit we had wanted, Tom Lewis, plus Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble before they transferred to Loyola Marymount), 102-68 in the Dome. USC’s coach, Stan Morrison, called the Orange “the best college basketball team I’ve seen since the Walton Gang”. We weren’t the Walton gang but we won our first 13 games, all by at least 10 points, (average margin of victory: 26 points!) Included was an 89-67 sinking of Navy and their huge center, David Robinson in the finals of the Carrier Classic. It was an excellent defensive team, (I recall there were three or four games where they held the other team without a basket for 10 minute stretches), and an offensive team that could score inside and out. The keys to the outside game were Rafael Addison and Michael Brown, who bombed away with a bunch of what would be three point shots the next year. This was the year before the three point line.

At this point Michael Brown left the team over a disagreement with JB. I’ve heard that he later begged to be allowed back but was turned down. We lost games at Georgetown, (ugh!) and Louisville, then won another 5 in a row. The fifth of these games was a win at Seton Hall in which both Rony Seikaly, our 6-10 center and Addison were injured. Neither was quite the same the rest of the year. Addison lost his shot and with that our outside game disappeared. Pearl Washington took over and now our offense was about Washington driving to the basket to score. Addison had been our leading scorer in 11 of 20 games to this point and Washington just twice. The Pearl was our leading scorer in every remaining game.

Then we lost by 4 to Notre Dame in the Dome, a game where the Irish attempted 48 free throws and we attempted 19, (four Orangemen fouled out to none). We won four more games in a row but by a total of only 14 points. The we lost in the Garden to St. John’s 79-86, despite Pearl’s 35 points. We closed out the regular season with a 75-58 win at Connecticut, (they would hire Jim Calhoun for the next season). We crushed Boston College 102-79 in the first round of the Big East tournament and beat Georgetown 75-73 in semi-finals. In the Finals, we led St. John’s most of the way until Ron Rowan hit a shot to make it 69-70. Pearl dribbled the length of the court and made it through the entire Johnnie roster to get to the basket – only to have Walter Berry’s hand swat the ball away.

In the NCAA’s we crushed the Ivy champs, Brown 101-52. In the next game, we again faced Navy and David Robinson. But now Brown was gone, Seikaly aching, Addison hurt and in a shooting funk and Pearl had to take it right to Admiral to score. He scored 28 points and Wendell Alexis 19 but Addison and Seikaly were 6 for 19 and totaled 15 points. Robinson had 35 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks. On top of that, the refs called 34 fouls on us to 19 and Navy attempted 53 free throws to our 20. Robinson was 21 for 27 from the line himself. We had four guys fouls out. The Admiral did, too – in the final minute of a 85-97 Navy win.

Our six losses that year were by a total of 37 points, three by 4 points or less. I’ve often wondered what we might have accomplished if Addison and Seikaly hadn’t been injured in that Seton Hall game. That’s #4.

I felt that the next year was a rebuilding year from ’86 but the freshman and Sherman Douglas were so good ’87 became our first national championship team – except they didn’t make their foul shots and Keith Smart, not known as a jump shooter, made one. That’s #5

Most SU fans recognize our 1988-89 team as our most talented team: Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson, Matt Roe, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. The 1989-90 team might have topped it – if Kenny Anderson, the top guard in New City, probably since the Pearl, had come here to take Sherman’s place. We’d been trying to get him to go here for a long time and it seemed it was between us and North Carolina but suddenly he announced for Georgia Tech, where he averaged 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.1 assists. We tried Stevie Thompson at the point and that just didn’t work. Then we went to a freshman named Michael Edwards and he a didn’t do badly (6.3p 5.0a) but he was no Anderson. The next year Kenny averaged 25.9/5.7/5.6. Imagine him with Billy Owens! That’s #6

The exact same scenario played itself out a few years later with Stephon Marbury, who could have been on our 1996 team that lost by 9 to Kentucky in the national finals. Kentucky had 8 future NBA players but led only by 5 with 1:05 to go when John Wallace fouled out. Stephon averaged 18.9/3.1/4.9 for Bobby Cremins’ Yellowjackets. That’s #7.

I’d talk about the 1996 recruiting class but the only guys who really did anything of note stayed and played for us.

The 2003 team had no ifs.

The 2010 team should have been our third national champion. We had the best team. But Arinze Onuaku went down hard in the Big East Tournament and was unable to play in the NCAA tournament. He was no superstar, but he was a very good player and an integral part of the team. He was a good rebounder and defensively he learned to keep his massive body between any driver and the basket. A lot of players thought they could score or get fouled and found they couldn’t even get a shot off. He also developed a fine back to the basket game and could work a nice two man game with the similar Rick Jackson.

We blew through the first weekend by hitting a lot of threes but against Butler, a fine defensive team, we couldn’t do that. We had 8 turnovers trying to get the ball to Rick, our only inside threat and lost a close game with a controversial out of bounds call at the end. After getting off to a dreadful 1-12 start, We actually held the lead for a while late in the second half but a nearly five minute drought allowed Butler to retake control and win 59-63. I have always believed that we win that game with Arinze. Butler beat Kansas State in the Elite 8 and Michigan State in the national semis before losing 59-61 to what I would describe as the worst of Duke’s national champions. I think that was our title to take if we had all our guys. That’s #8.

Two year later the same thing happened, sort of. You could argue that Fab Melo should never have bene a student at Syracuse University. But he got some help writing an autobiographical term paper and that resulted in a brief mid-season suspension we thought had resolved the issue. The NCAA didn’t agree and just before the NCAA’s, they suspended him again, (I think it was SU that had imposed the first suspension, hoping that that would be enough. Our only regular season defeat occurred during that first suspension. The only game we lost with Melo, a big 7 foot shot blocking center with a nack for drawing charges, (it seemed every player in the league could send him reeling), was against Cincinnati in the Big East tournament when the bearcats went off from three point range. We were ranked # from December 17th to January 21st when Notre Dame beat the Meloless Orange. Everyone wanted to see us play Kentucky, who took over #1 after that, (we had more weeks at the top than they did).

Then suddenly we were against without our big center going into the NCAAs. We were a #1 seed and got through the first weekend OK. We won a classic against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, a last second Badger shot rimming out in a 64-63 win. Then came Ohio State. In a game dominated by the refs, who called 28 fouls on us to 20 and put the Buckeyes on the line 42 times to our 25, we lost 70-77. The disparity in the numbers didn’t have as big an impact as the constant disruptions: we were a running team that wanted a free-flowing game. They were a halfcourt team that didn’t mind inbounding the ball or a lot of free throws.

Ohio State then lost to Kansas in the national semi-finals who lost to Kentucky in the finals. I think Kentucky was the better team that year. They had the player of the year in Anthony Davis and many other highly rated players. But I would like to have taken them on full strength just to see what would have happened. But Davis is still another recruit we were on early that got away from us in the late going. If he had come here, we would have been undefeated national champions. That’s #9.

I don’t think we’ve hit #10 yet. Our teams since have gone about as far as they could go. They didn’t get cheated by circumstance or fate. I look forward to when we can care enough and dream enough to be as disappointed as we have been in the past.
 
Awesome recap - sounds like we should have had 10 titles with a little bit of luck !!!
 
There was a discussion on the radio about basketball recruiting and injuries and ‘what if’ various things had happened or not happened. I decided to go over things from memory for SU basketball. I’m just dreaming of the good things that could have happened or not happened. I don’t dream of the bad things. As Coach mac liked to say: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. (Thanks to Orange Hoops for a lot of the details: Orangehoops | Syracuse University Orange Basketball )


I started following SU basketball in Dave Bing’s senior year because the team was trying to become the first team to average 100 points a game, (they came up just short at 99.0) and Dave was battling for the national scoring lead. The following year he and Jim Boeheim were gone and nobody expected much. But the team pulled itself together and finished 20-6, ranking #8 in the country at one time. Four starters were back from that team for the 1967-68 season and the freshman team from the previous year had finished 16-0. 6-8 Wayne Ward had averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds a game while 6-1 Ernie Austin had averaged and even 30. The frosh had twice beaten a Niagara freshman team featuring Calvin Murphy, who averaged 49.8. We figured to have a powerhouse.

Ward had a decent sophomore year (13.0/6.2), struggling early but improving as the year went on. Austin only hit 36.7% of his shots but shot anyway, averaging 8.9 but losing his starting position by the end of the year. Both had academic problems. Ward illogically decided to join football player Oley Allen in a couple of armed robberies, ending both their careers. Austin had to sit out the first semester for the following year. We finished 11-14 in ’67-’68 and there was some sort of rebellion against Coach Fred Lewis, who resigned, leaving the team to assistant Roy Danforth.

But the ’67-’68 frosh had been nearly as good, going 15-1. 6-11 Bill Smith averaged 21.0/13/6. 6-7 Bob McDaniel topped that with 24.8/16.1. 6-4 Bill Finney averaged 18.3 and 5-11 Tom Green 14.0. I couldn’t find anything about assists but McDaniel, Finney and Green were all around 80% free throw shooters. But the guys from the Bing years were gone and McDaniel was academically ineligible, so it was basically the ’67-’68 frosh, without McDaniel, were the ’68-’69 varsity until Austin became eligible for the second semester. And some idiot had scheduled 10 of the first 11 games away from Manley, (three were in a Holiday tournament). We somehow managed to win three of those games. Four of the next seven were at home but we won only one of them. We then rebounded to win five of the last seven and wind up 9-16, our last losing record for 53 years.

The next year Smith, McDaniel and Austin combined for 57 points and 27 rebounds a game as SU scored 86.6 points per game – and gave up 86.4, finishing 12-12. Smith ended his season by punching a referee at West Virginia. Austin graduated, (I think) and McDaniel opened the 1970-’71 season with a 14/14 performance vs. Buffalo, skipped a couple of practices, was suspended and quit the team. Smith set our single game scoring record with 47 against Lafayette and led us to the NIT and a 19-7 record, the first of 51 consecutive winning seasons.

What has always haunted me is the image of a starting line-up of Smith at center, Ward and McDaniel at forward and Green and Austin the backcourt. This was a time when the typical college front line went 6-5, 6-7, 6-4. We could have had a dominant team, one that could have played UCLA for the national championship. (We wouldn’t have won – in those days having the honor of being the team that lost to UCLA in the championship game was the best you could hope for.) I just would have liked to have seen that line-up in action. That’s my first “What If?”

Then I jump ahead a decade. We did have nationally ranked teams in the Louie and Bouie Era. What we were missing was a good outside threat other than Marty Headd and a guy who could ‘feed the post’. We recruited Leo Rautins for the 1978-’79 season and it came down to us and Minnesota. He went to Minnesota but decided it was the wrong decision and transferred back to Syracuse. Under the rules of the time, he had to sit out a year before he could play and by that time Louie and Bouie were gone. Either the ’78-’79 or ’79-’80 teams could have won a national title with Leo, although the latter teams would have been more likely. There was no Larry Bird or Magic Johnson in that year and, even without Leo the 1980 team got as far as #2 in the country. With him, we could have gotten past Georgetown. A front line of Louis Orr, Roosevelt Bouie and Leo Rautins would have been another impressive one. That’s “What if?” #2

That delay set up Leo as the centerpiece of the “Tricaptains Era”, when he, Tony Bruin and Eric Santifer led the team. Jim Boeheim has often said that his #1 regret was that they couldn’t get Sam Perkins to come here, as we had everything we needed at every position except center and Sam would have made that position a big +. Instead, he went to North Carolina and played center for the teams that had Michael Jordan and James Worthy as the Tar Heels won a national championship. It was widely rumored that UNC gave Perkins’ girlfriend a scholarship and that tipped the scales in their favor. That’s #3.

Early in the 1985-86 season we blew out a pretty good Southern California team, (they had a top recruit we had wanted, Tom Lewis, plus Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble before they transferred to Loyola Marymount), 102-68 in the Dome. USC’s coach, Stan Morrison, called the Orange “the best college basketball team I’ve seen since the Walton Gang”. We weren’t the Walton gang but we won our first 13 games, all by at least 10 points, (average margin of victory: 26 points!) Included was an 89-67 sinking of Navy and their huge center, David Robinson in the finals of the Carrier Classic. It was an excellent defensive team, (I recall there were three or four games where they held the other team without a basket for 10 minute stretches), and an offensive team that could score inside and out. The keys to the outside game were Rafael Addison and Michael Brown, who bombed away with a bunch of what would be three point shots the next year. This was the year before the three point line.

At this point Michael Brown left the team over a disagreement with JB. I’ve heard that he later begged to be allowed back but was turned down. We lost games at Georgetown, (ugh!) and Louisville, then won another 5 in a row. The fifth of these games was a win at Seton Hall in which both Rony Seikaly, our 6-10 center and Addison were injured. Neither was quite the same the rest of the year. Addison lost his shot and with that our outside game disappeared. Pearl Washington took over and now our offense was about Washington driving to the basket to score. Addison had been our leading scorer in 11 of 20 games to this point and Washington just twice. The Pearl was our leading scorer in every remaining game.

Then we lost by 4 to Notre Dame in the Dome, a game where the Irish attempted 48 free throws and we attempted 19, (four Orangemen fouled out to none). We won four more games in a row but by a total of only 14 points. The we lost in the Garden to St. John’s 79-86, despite Pearl’s 35 points. We closed out the regular season with a 75-58 win at Connecticut, (they would hire Jim Calhoun for the next season). We crushed Boston College 102-79 in the first round of the Big East tournament and beat Georgetown 75-73 in semi-finals. In the Finals, we led St. John’s most of the way until Ron Rowan hit a shot to make it 69-70. Pearl dribbled the length of the court and made it through the entire Johnnie roster to get to the basket – only to have Walter Berry’s hand swat the ball away.

In the NCAA’s we crushed the Ivy champs, Brown 101-52. In the next game, we again faced Navy and David Robinson. But now Brown was gone, Seikaly aching, Addison hurt and in a shooting funk and Pearl had to take it right to Admiral to score. He scored 28 points and Wendell Alexis 19 but Addison and Seikaly were 6 for 19 and totaled 15 points. Robinson had 35 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks. On top of that, the refs called 34 fouls on us to 19 and Navy attempted 53 free throws to our 20. Robinson was 21 for 27 from the line himself. We had four guys fouls out. The Admiral did, too – in the final minute of a 85-97 Navy win.

Our six losses that year were by a total of 37 points, three by 4 points or less. I’ve often wondered what we might have accomplished if Addison and Seikaly hadn’t been injured in that Seton Hall game. That’s #4.

I felt that the next year was a rebuilding year from ’86 but the freshman and Sherman Douglas were so good ’87 became our first national championship team – except they didn’t make their foul shots and Keith Smart, not known as a jump shooter, made one. That’s #5

Most SU fans recognize our 1988-89 team as our most talented team: Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson, Matt Roe, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. The 1989-90 team might have topped it – if Kenny Anderson, the top guard in New City, probably since the Pearl, had come here to take Sherman’s place. We’d been trying to get him to go here for a long time and it seemed it was between us and North Carolina but suddenly he announced for Georgia Tech, where he averaged 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.1 assists. We tried Stevie Thompson at the point and that just didn’t work. Then we went to a freshman named Michael Edwards and he a didn’t do badly (6.3p 5.0a) but he was no Anderson. The next year Kenny averaged 25.9/5.7/5.6. Imagine him with Billy Owens! That’s #6

The exact same scenario played itself out a few years later with Stephon Marbury, who could have been on our 1996 team that lost by 9 to Kentucky in the national finals. Kentucky had 8 future NBA players but led only by 5 with 1:05 to go when John Wallace fouled out. Stephon averaged 18.9/3.1/4.9 for Bobby Cremins’ Yellowjackets. That’s #7.

I’d talk about the 1996 recruiting class but the only guys who really did anything of note stayed and played for us.

The 2003 team had no ifs.

The 2010 team should have been our third national champion. We had the best team. But Arinze Onuaku went down hard in the Big East Tournament and was unable to play in the NCAA tournament. He was no superstar, but he was a very good player and an integral part of the team. He was a good rebounder and defensively he learned to keep his massive body between any driver and the basket. A lot of players thought they could score or get fouled and found they couldn’t even get a shot off. He also developed a fine back to the basket game and could work a nice two man game with the similar Rick Jackson.

We blew through the first weekend by hitting a lot of threes but against Butler, a fine defensive team, we couldn’t do that. We had 8 turnovers trying to get the ball to Rick, our only inside threat and lost a close game with a controversial out of bounds call at the end. After getting off to a dreadful 1-12 start, We actually held the lead for a while late in the second half but a nearly five minute drought allowed Butler to retake control and win 59-63. I have always believed that we win that game with Arinze. Butler beat Kansas State in the Elite 8 and Michigan State in the national semis before losing 59-61 to what I would describe as the worst of Duke’s national champions. I think that was our title to take if we had all our guys. That’s #8.

Two year later the same thing happened, sort of. You could argue that Fab Melo should never have bene a student at Syracuse University. But he got some help writing an autobiographical term paper and that resulted in a brief mid-season suspension we thought had resolved the issue. The NCAA didn’t agree and just before the NCAA’s, they suspended him again, (I think it was SU that had imposed the first suspension, hoping that that would be enough. Our only regular season defeat occurred during that first suspension. The only game we lost with Melo, a big 7 foot shot blocking center with a nack for drawing charges, (it seemed every player in the league could send him reeling), was against Cincinnati in the Big East tournament when the bearcats went off from three point range. We were ranked # from December 17th to January 21st when Notre Dame beat the Meloless Orange. Everyone wanted to see us play Kentucky, who took over #1 after that, (we had more weeks at the top than they did).

Then suddenly we were against without our big center going into the NCAAs. We were a #1 seed and got through the first weekend OK. We won a classic against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, a last second Badger shot rimming out in a 64-63 win. Then came Ohio State. In a game dominated by the refs, who called 28 fouls on us to 20 and put the Buckeyes on the line 42 times to our 25, we lost 70-77. The disparity in the numbers didn’t have as big an impact as the constant disruptions: we were a running team that wanted a free-flowing game. They were a halfcourt team that didn’t mind inbounding the ball or a lot of free throws.

Ohio State then lost to Kansas in the national semi-finals who lost to Kentucky in the finals. I think Kentucky was the better team that year. They had the player of the year in Anthony Davis and many other highly rated players. But I would like to have taken them on full strength just to see what would have happened. But Davis is still another recruit we were on early that got away from us in the late going. If he had come here, we would have been undefeated national champions. That’s #9.

I don’t think we’ve hit #10 yet. Our teams since have gone about as far as they could go. They didn’t get cheated by circumstance or fate. I look forward to when we can care enough and dream enough to be as disappointed as we have been in the past.
Regarding the 1996 class, Winfred Walton was always a big “what if”. 6’9 PF who could do it all, including shoot the 3. He dominated the McDonald’s game and was set to continue the legacy of wearing #44. As a matter of fact, no SU player has worn #44 since.
 
There was a discussion on the radio about basketball recruiting and injuries and ‘what if’ various things had happened or not happened. I decided to go over things from memory for SU basketball. I’m just dreaming of the good things that could have happened or not happened. I don’t dream of the bad things. As Coach mac liked to say: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. (Thanks to Orange Hoops for a lot of the details: Orangehoops | Syracuse University Orange Basketball )


I started following SU basketball in Dave Bing’s senior year because the team was trying to become the first team to average 100 points a game, (they came up just short at 99.0) and Dave was battling for the national scoring lead. The following year he and Jim Boeheim were gone and nobody expected much. But the team pulled itself together and finished 20-6, ranking #8 in the country at one time. Four starters were back from that team for the 1967-68 season and the freshman team from the previous year had finished 16-0. 6-8 Wayne Ward had averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds a game while 6-1 Ernie Austin had averaged and even 30. The frosh had twice beaten a Niagara freshman team featuring Calvin Murphy, who averaged 49.8. We figured to have a powerhouse.

Ward had a decent sophomore year (13.0/6.2), struggling early but improving as the year went on. Austin only hit 36.7% of his shots but shot anyway, averaging 8.9 but losing his starting position by the end of the year. Both had academic problems. Ward illogically decided to join football player Oley Allen in a couple of armed robberies, ending both their careers. Austin had to sit out the first semester for the following year. We finished 11-14 in ’67-’68 and there was some sort of rebellion against Coach Fred Lewis, who resigned, leaving the team to assistant Roy Danforth.

But the ’67-’68 frosh had been nearly as good, going 15-1. 6-11 Bill Smith averaged 21.0/13/6. 6-7 Bob McDaniel topped that with 24.8/16.1. 6-4 Bill Finney averaged 18.3 and 5-11 Tom Green 14.0. I couldn’t find anything about assists but McDaniel, Finney and Green were all around 80% free throw shooters. But the guys from the Bing years were gone and McDaniel was academically ineligible, so it was basically the ’67-’68 frosh, without McDaniel, were the ’68-’69 varsity until Austin became eligible for the second semester. And some idiot had scheduled 10 of the first 11 games away from Manley, (three were in a Holiday tournament). We somehow managed to win three of those games. Four of the next seven were at home but we won only one of them. We then rebounded to win five of the last seven and wind up 9-16, our last losing record for 53 years.

The next year Smith, McDaniel and Austin combined for 57 points and 27 rebounds a game as SU scored 86.6 points per game – and gave up 86.4, finishing 12-12. Smith ended his season by punching a referee at West Virginia. Austin graduated, (I think) and McDaniel opened the 1970-’71 season with a 14/14 performance vs. Buffalo, skipped a couple of practices, was suspended and quit the team. Smith set our single game scoring record with 47 against Lafayette and led us to the NIT and a 19-7 record, the first of 51 consecutive winning seasons.

What has always haunted me is the image of a starting line-up of Smith at center, Ward and McDaniel at forward and Green and Austin the backcourt. This was a time when the typical college front line went 6-5, 6-7, 6-4. We could have had a dominant team, one that could have played UCLA for the national championship. (We wouldn’t have won – in those days having the honor of being the team that lost to UCLA in the championship game was the best you could hope for.) I just would have liked to have seen that line-up in action. That’s my first “What If?”

Then I jump ahead a decade. We did have nationally ranked teams in the Louie and Bouie Era. What we were missing was a good outside threat other than Marty Headd and a guy who could ‘feed the post’. We recruited Leo Rautins for the 1978-’79 season and it came down to us and Minnesota. He went to Minnesota but decided it was the wrong decision and transferred back to Syracuse. Under the rules of the time, he had to sit out a year before he could play and by that time Louie and Bouie were gone. Either the ’78-’79 or ’79-’80 teams could have won a national title with Leo, although the latter teams would have been more likely. There was no Larry Bird or Magic Johnson in that year and, even without Leo the 1980 team got as far as #2 in the country. With him, we could have gotten past Georgetown. A front line of Louis Orr, Roosevelt Bouie and Leo Rautins would have been another impressive one. That’s “What if?” #2

That delay set up Leo as the centerpiece of the “Tricaptains Era”, when he, Tony Bruin and Eric Santifer led the team. Jim Boeheim has often said that his #1 regret was that they couldn’t get Sam Perkins to come here, as we had everything we needed at every position except center and Sam would have made that position a big +. Instead, he went to North Carolina and played center for the teams that had Michael Jordan and James Worthy as the Tar Heels won a national championship. It was widely rumored that UNC gave Perkins’ girlfriend a scholarship and that tipped the scales in their favor. That’s #3.

Early in the 1985-86 season we blew out a pretty good Southern California team, (they had a top recruit we had wanted, Tom Lewis, plus Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble before they transferred to Loyola Marymount), 102-68 in the Dome. USC’s coach, Stan Morrison, called the Orange “the best college basketball team I’ve seen since the Walton Gang”. We weren’t the Walton gang but we won our first 13 games, all by at least 10 points, (average margin of victory: 26 points!) Included was an 89-67 sinking of Navy and their huge center, David Robinson in the finals of the Carrier Classic. It was an excellent defensive team, (I recall there were three or four games where they held the other team without a basket for 10 minute stretches), and an offensive team that could score inside and out. The keys to the outside game were Rafael Addison and Michael Brown, who bombed away with a bunch of what would be three point shots the next year. This was the year before the three point line.

At this point Michael Brown left the team over a disagreement with JB. I’ve heard that he later begged to be allowed back but was turned down. We lost games at Georgetown, (ugh!) and Louisville, then won another 5 in a row. The fifth of these games was a win at Seton Hall in which both Rony Seikaly, our 6-10 center and Addison were injured. Neither was quite the same the rest of the year. Addison lost his shot and with that our outside game disappeared. Pearl Washington took over and now our offense was about Washington driving to the basket to score. Addison had been our leading scorer in 11 of 20 games to this point and Washington just twice. The Pearl was our leading scorer in every remaining game.

Then we lost by 4 to Notre Dame in the Dome, a game where the Irish attempted 48 free throws and we attempted 19, (four Orangemen fouled out to none). We won four more games in a row but by a total of only 14 points. The we lost in the Garden to St. John’s 79-86, despite Pearl’s 35 points. We closed out the regular season with a 75-58 win at Connecticut, (they would hire Jim Calhoun for the next season). We crushed Boston College 102-79 in the first round of the Big East tournament and beat Georgetown 75-73 in semi-finals. In the Finals, we led St. John’s most of the way until Ron Rowan hit a shot to make it 69-70. Pearl dribbled the length of the court and made it through the entire Johnnie roster to get to the basket – only to have Walter Berry’s hand swat the ball away.

In the NCAA’s we crushed the Ivy champs, Brown 101-52. In the next game, we again faced Navy and David Robinson. But now Brown was gone, Seikaly aching, Addison hurt and in a shooting funk and Pearl had to take it right to Admiral to score. He scored 28 points and Wendell Alexis 19 but Addison and Seikaly were 6 for 19 and totaled 15 points. Robinson had 35 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks. On top of that, the refs called 34 fouls on us to 19 and Navy attempted 53 free throws to our 20. Robinson was 21 for 27 from the line himself. We had four guys fouls out. The Admiral did, too – in the final minute of a 85-97 Navy win.

Our six losses that year were by a total of 37 points, three by 4 points or less. I’ve often wondered what we might have accomplished if Addison and Seikaly hadn’t been injured in that Seton Hall game. That’s #4.

I felt that the next year was a rebuilding year from ’86 but the freshman and Sherman Douglas were so good ’87 became our first national championship team – except they didn’t make their foul shots and Keith Smart, not known as a jump shooter, made one. That’s #5

Most SU fans recognize our 1988-89 team as our most talented team: Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson, Matt Roe, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. The 1989-90 team might have topped it – if Kenny Anderson, the top guard in New City, probably since the Pearl, had come here to take Sherman’s place. We’d been trying to get him to go here for a long time and it seemed it was between us and North Carolina but suddenly he announced for Georgia Tech, where he averaged 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.1 assists. We tried Stevie Thompson at the point and that just didn’t work. Then we went to a freshman named Michael Edwards and he a didn’t do badly (6.3p 5.0a) but he was no Anderson. The next year Kenny averaged 25.9/5.7/5.6. Imagine him with Billy Owens! That’s #6

The exact same scenario played itself out a few years later with Stephon Marbury, who could have been on our 1996 team that lost by 9 to Kentucky in the national finals. Kentucky had 8 future NBA players but led only by 5 with 1:05 to go when John Wallace fouled out. Stephon averaged 18.9/3.1/4.9 for Bobby Cremins’ Yellowjackets. That’s #7.

I’d talk about the 1996 recruiting class but the only guys who really did anything of note stayed and played for us.

The 2003 team had no ifs.

The 2010 team should have been our third national champion. We had the best team. But Arinze Onuaku went down hard in the Big East Tournament and was unable to play in the NCAA tournament. He was no superstar, but he was a very good player and an integral part of the team. He was a good rebounder and defensively he learned to keep his massive body between any driver and the basket. A lot of players thought they could score or get fouled and found they couldn’t even get a shot off. He also developed a fine back to the basket game and could work a nice two man game with the similar Rick Jackson.

We blew through the first weekend by hitting a lot of threes but against Butler, a fine defensive team, we couldn’t do that. We had 8 turnovers trying to get the ball to Rick, our only inside threat and lost a close game with a controversial out of bounds call at the end. After getting off to a dreadful 1-12 start, We actually held the lead for a while late in the second half but a nearly five minute drought allowed Butler to retake control and win 59-63. I have always believed that we win that game with Arinze. Butler beat Kansas State in the Elite 8 and Michigan State in the national semis before losing 59-61 to what I would describe as the worst of Duke’s national champions. I think that was our title to take if we had all our guys. That’s #8.

Two year later the same thing happened, sort of. You could argue that Fab Melo should never have bene a student at Syracuse University. But he got some help writing an autobiographical term paper and that resulted in a brief mid-season suspension we thought had resolved the issue. The NCAA didn’t agree and just before the NCAA’s, they suspended him again, (I think it was SU that had imposed the first suspension, hoping that that would be enough. Our only regular season defeat occurred during that first suspension. The only game we lost with Melo, a big 7 foot shot blocking center with a nack for drawing charges, (it seemed every player in the league could send him reeling), was against Cincinnati in the Big East tournament when the bearcats went off from three point range. We were ranked # from December 17th to January 21st when Notre Dame beat the Meloless Orange. Everyone wanted to see us play Kentucky, who took over #1 after that, (we had more weeks at the top than they did).

Then suddenly we were against without our big center going into the NCAAs. We were a #1 seed and got through the first weekend OK. We won a classic against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, a last second Badger shot rimming out in a 64-63 win. Then came Ohio State. In a game dominated by the refs, who called 28 fouls on us to 20 and put the Buckeyes on the line 42 times to our 25, we lost 70-77. The disparity in the numbers didn’t have as big an impact as the constant disruptions: we were a running team that wanted a free-flowing game. They were a halfcourt team that didn’t mind inbounding the ball or a lot of free throws.

Ohio State then lost to Kansas in the national semi-finals who lost to Kentucky in the finals. I think Kentucky was the better team that year. They had the player of the year in Anthony Davis and many other highly rated players. But I would like to have taken them on full strength just to see what would have happened. But Davis is still another recruit we were on early that got away from us in the late going. If he had come here, we would have been undefeated national champions. That’s #9.

I don’t think we’ve hit #10 yet. Our teams since have gone about as far as they could go. They didn’t get cheated by circumstance or fate. I look forward to when we can care enough and dream enough to be as disappointed as we have been in the past.
Anthony Davis who was Orange before a $200k bag appearance by Kentucky
 
Anthony Davis who was Orange before a $200k bag appearance by Kentucky
Similar to Nerlens Noel.
By the way, here’s a “what if” that actually worked in our favor: Julius Hodge picking NC State. Just think about the chain reaction that caused: Hodge to NC State, Hakim to Syracuse over Providence and Ryan Gomes to Providence.
 
Regarding the 1996 class, Winfred Walton was always a big “what if”. 6’9 PF who could do it all, including shoot the 3. He dominated the McDonald’s game and was set to continue the legacy of wearing #44. As a matter of fact, no SU player has worn #44 since.

Nobody's asked for 44.

Kids dig the single digit numbers now.
 
SU doesn't retire numbers.

They hang jerseys.

Otherwise, Mintz, Bell, Patterson, Owens, and Hima would all be running around naked.
I thought 44 was different though. On the football side at least hasn’t it been talked about that the number itself is retired?
 
Most SU fans recognize our 1988-89 team as our most talented team: Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson, Matt Roe, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. The 1989-90 team might have topped it – if Kenny Anderson, the top guard in New City, probably since the Pearl, had come here to take Sherman’s place
Also big WHAT IF on this team would have been Karlton Hines.
 
There was a discussion on the radio about basketball recruiting and injuries and ‘what if’ various things had happened or not happened. I decided to go over things from memory for SU basketball. I’m just dreaming of the good things that could have happened or not happened. I don’t dream of the bad things. As Coach mac liked to say: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. (Thanks to Orange Hoops for a lot of the details: Orangehoops | Syracuse University Orange Basketball )


I started following SU basketball in Dave Bing’s senior year because the team was trying to become the first team to average 100 points a game, (they came up just short at 99.0) and Dave was battling for the national scoring lead. The following year he and Jim Boeheim were gone and nobody expected much. But the team pulled itself together and finished 20-6, ranking #8 in the country at one time. Four starters were back from that team for the 1967-68 season and the freshman team from the previous year had finished 16-0. 6-8 Wayne Ward had averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds a game while 6-1 Ernie Austin had averaged and even 30. The frosh had twice beaten a Niagara freshman team featuring Calvin Murphy, who averaged 49.8. We figured to have a powerhouse.

Ward had a decent sophomore year (13.0/6.2), struggling early but improving as the year went on. Austin only hit 36.7% of his shots but shot anyway, averaging 8.9 but losing his starting position by the end of the year. Both had academic problems. Ward illogically decided to join football player Oley Allen in a couple of armed robberies, ending both their careers. Austin had to sit out the first semester for the following year. We finished 11-14 in ’67-’68 and there was some sort of rebellion against Coach Fred Lewis, who resigned, leaving the team to assistant Roy Danforth.

But the ’67-’68 frosh had been nearly as good, going 15-1. 6-11 Bill Smith averaged 21.0/13/6. 6-7 Bob McDaniel topped that with 24.8/16.1. 6-4 Bill Finney averaged 18.3 and 5-11 Tom Green 14.0. I couldn’t find anything about assists but McDaniel, Finney and Green were all around 80% free throw shooters. But the guys from the Bing years were gone and McDaniel was academically ineligible, so it was basically the ’67-’68 frosh, without McDaniel, were the ’68-’69 varsity until Austin became eligible for the second semester. And some idiot had scheduled 10 of the first 11 games away from Manley, (three were in a Holiday tournament). We somehow managed to win three of those games. Four of the next seven were at home but we won only one of them. We then rebounded to win five of the last seven and wind up 9-16, our last losing record for 53 years.

The next year Smith, McDaniel and Austin combined for 57 points and 27 rebounds a game as SU scored 86.6 points per game – and gave up 86.4, finishing 12-12. Smith ended his season by punching a referee at West Virginia. Austin graduated, (I think) and McDaniel opened the 1970-’71 season with a 14/14 performance vs. Buffalo, skipped a couple of practices, was suspended and quit the team. Smith set our single game scoring record with 47 against Lafayette and led us to the NIT and a 19-7 record, the first of 51 consecutive winning seasons.

What has always haunted me is the image of a starting line-up of Smith at center, Ward and McDaniel at forward and Green and Austin the backcourt. This was a time when the typical college front line went 6-5, 6-7, 6-4. We could have had a dominant team, one that could have played UCLA for the national championship. (We wouldn’t have won – in those days having the honor of being the team that lost to UCLA in the championship game was the best you could hope for.) I just would have liked to have seen that line-up in action. That’s my first “What If?”

Then I jump ahead a decade. We did have nationally ranked teams in the Louie and Bouie Era. What we were missing was a good outside threat other than Marty Headd and a guy who could ‘feed the post’. We recruited Leo Rautins for the 1978-’79 season and it came down to us and Minnesota. He went to Minnesota but decided it was the wrong decision and transferred back to Syracuse. Under the rules of the time, he had to sit out a year before he could play and by that time Louie and Bouie were gone. Either the ’78-’79 or ’79-’80 teams could have won a national title with Leo, although the latter teams would have been more likely. There was no Larry Bird or Magic Johnson in that year and, even without Leo the 1980 team got as far as #2 in the country. With him, we could have gotten past Georgetown. A front line of Louis Orr, Roosevelt Bouie and Leo Rautins would have been another impressive one. That’s “What if?” #2

That delay set up Leo as the centerpiece of the “Tricaptains Era”, when he, Tony Bruin and Eric Santifer led the team. Jim Boeheim has often said that his #1 regret was that they couldn’t get Sam Perkins to come here, as we had everything we needed at every position except center and Sam would have made that position a big +. Instead, he went to North Carolina and played center for the teams that had Michael Jordan and James Worthy as the Tar Heels won a national championship. It was widely rumored that UNC gave Perkins’ girlfriend a scholarship and that tipped the scales in their favor. That’s #3.

Early in the 1985-86 season we blew out a pretty good Southern California team, (they had a top recruit we had wanted, Tom Lewis, plus Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble before they transferred to Loyola Marymount), 102-68 in the Dome. USC’s coach, Stan Morrison, called the Orange “the best college basketball team I’ve seen since the Walton Gang”. We weren’t the Walton gang but we won our first 13 games, all by at least 10 points, (average margin of victory: 26 points!) Included was an 89-67 sinking of Navy and their huge center, David Robinson in the finals of the Carrier Classic. It was an excellent defensive team, (I recall there were three or four games where they held the other team without a basket for 10 minute stretches), and an offensive team that could score inside and out. The keys to the outside game were Rafael Addison and Michael Brown, who bombed away with a bunch of what would be three point shots the next year. This was the year before the three point line.

At this point Michael Brown left the team over a disagreement with JB. I’ve heard that he later begged to be allowed back but was turned down. We lost games at Georgetown, (ugh!) and Louisville, then won another 5 in a row. The fifth of these games was a win at Seton Hall in which both Rony Seikaly, our 6-10 center and Addison were injured. Neither was quite the same the rest of the year. Addison lost his shot and with that our outside game disappeared. Pearl Washington took over and now our offense was about Washington driving to the basket to score. Addison had been our leading scorer in 11 of 20 games to this point and Washington just twice. The Pearl was our leading scorer in every remaining game.

Then we lost by 4 to Notre Dame in the Dome, a game where the Irish attempted 48 free throws and we attempted 19, (four Orangemen fouled out to none). We won four more games in a row but by a total of only 14 points. The we lost in the Garden to St. John’s 79-86, despite Pearl’s 35 points. We closed out the regular season with a 75-58 win at Connecticut, (they would hire Jim Calhoun for the next season). We crushed Boston College 102-79 in the first round of the Big East tournament and beat Georgetown 75-73 in semi-finals. In the Finals, we led St. John’s most of the way until Ron Rowan hit a shot to make it 69-70. Pearl dribbled the length of the court and made it through the entire Johnnie roster to get to the basket – only to have Walter Berry’s hand swat the ball away.

In the NCAA’s we crushed the Ivy champs, Brown 101-52. In the next game, we again faced Navy and David Robinson. But now Brown was gone, Seikaly aching, Addison hurt and in a shooting funk and Pearl had to take it right to Admiral to score. He scored 28 points and Wendell Alexis 19 but Addison and Seikaly were 6 for 19 and totaled 15 points. Robinson had 35 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks. On top of that, the refs called 34 fouls on us to 19 and Navy attempted 53 free throws to our 20. Robinson was 21 for 27 from the line himself. We had four guys fouls out. The Admiral did, too – in the final minute of a 85-97 Navy win.

Our six losses that year were by a total of 37 points, three by 4 points or less. I’ve often wondered what we might have accomplished if Addison and Seikaly hadn’t been injured in that Seton Hall game. That’s #4.

I felt that the next year was a rebuilding year from ’86 but the freshman and Sherman Douglas were so good ’87 became our first national championship team – except they didn’t make their foul shots and Keith Smart, not known as a jump shooter, made one. That’s #5

Most SU fans recognize our 1988-89 team as our most talented team: Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson, Matt Roe, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. The 1989-90 team might have topped it – if Kenny Anderson, the top guard in New City, probably since the Pearl, had come here to take Sherman’s place. We’d been trying to get him to go here for a long time and it seemed it was between us and North Carolina but suddenly he announced for Georgia Tech, where he averaged 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.1 assists. We tried Stevie Thompson at the point and that just didn’t work. Then we went to a freshman named Michael Edwards and he a didn’t do badly (6.3p 5.0a) but he was no Anderson. The next year Kenny averaged 25.9/5.7/5.6. Imagine him with Billy Owens! That’s #6

The exact same scenario played itself out a few years later with Stephon Marbury, who could have been on our 1996 team that lost by 9 to Kentucky in the national finals. Kentucky had 8 future NBA players but led only by 5 with 1:05 to go when John Wallace fouled out. Stephon averaged 18.9/3.1/4.9 for Bobby Cremins’ Yellowjackets. That’s #7.

I’d talk about the 1996 recruiting class but the only guys who really did anything of note stayed and played for us.

The 2003 team had no ifs.

The 2010 team should have been our third national champion. We had the best team. But Arinze Onuaku went down hard in the Big East Tournament and was unable to play in the NCAA tournament. He was no superstar, but he was a very good player and an integral part of the team. He was a good rebounder and defensively he learned to keep his massive body between any driver and the basket. A lot of players thought they could score or get fouled and found they couldn’t even get a shot off. He also developed a fine back to the basket game and could work a nice two man game with the similar Rick Jackson.

We blew through the first weekend by hitting a lot of threes but against Butler, a fine defensive team, we couldn’t do that. We had 8 turnovers trying to get the ball to Rick, our only inside threat and lost a close game with a controversial out of bounds call at the end. After getting off to a dreadful 1-12 start, We actually held the lead for a while late in the second half but a nearly five minute drought allowed Butler to retake control and win 59-63. I have always believed that we win that game with Arinze. Butler beat Kansas State in the Elite 8 and Michigan State in the national semis before losing 59-61 to what I would describe as the worst of Duke’s national champions. I think that was our title to take if we had all our guys. That’s #8.

Two year later the same thing happened, sort of. You could argue that Fab Melo should never have bene a student at Syracuse University. But he got some help writing an autobiographical term paper and that resulted in a brief mid-season suspension we thought had resolved the issue. The NCAA didn’t agree and just before the NCAA’s, they suspended him again, (I think it was SU that had imposed the first suspension, hoping that that would be enough. Our only regular season defeat occurred during that first suspension. The only game we lost with Melo, a big 7 foot shot blocking center with a nack for drawing charges, (it seemed every player in the league could send him reeling), was against Cincinnati in the Big East tournament when the bearcats went off from three point range. We were ranked # from December 17th to January 21st when Notre Dame beat the Meloless Orange. Everyone wanted to see us play Kentucky, who took over #1 after that, (we had more weeks at the top than they did).

Then suddenly we were against without our big center going into the NCAAs. We were a #1 seed and got through the first weekend OK. We won a classic against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, a last second Badger shot rimming out in a 64-63 win. Then came Ohio State. In a game dominated by the refs, who called 28 fouls on us to 20 and put the Buckeyes on the line 42 times to our 25, we lost 70-77. The disparity in the numbers didn’t have as big an impact as the constant disruptions: we were a running team that wanted a free-flowing game. They were a halfcourt team that didn’t mind inbounding the ball or a lot of free throws.

Ohio State then lost to Kansas in the national semi-finals who lost to Kentucky in the finals. I think Kentucky was the better team that year. They had the player of the year in Anthony Davis and many other highly rated players. But I would like to have taken them on full strength just to see what would have happened. But Davis is still another recruit we were on early that got away from us in the late going. If he had come here, we would have been undefeated national champions. That’s #9.

I don’t think we’ve hit #10 yet. Our teams since have gone about as far as they could go. They didn’t get cheated by circumstance or fate. I look forward to when we can care enough and dream enough to be as disappointed as we have been in the past.
Best post of all time!
Thanks Steve
 
Regarding the 1996 class, Winfred Walton was always a big “what if”. 6’9 PF who could do it all, including shoot the 3. He dominated the McDonald’s game and was set to continue the legacy of wearing #44. As a matter of fact, no SU player has worn #44 since.

I remember being at practice with Igor when Walton was here waiting on the NCAA decision. He was in street clothes, jeans and a Tshirt, watching practice. When it was over, he went on the court with a team manager and proceeded to make 17 straight 3 pointers. True story.
 
I was going to mention this. The difference is that Walton had to sit out for over a year and got out of shape. Had he stayed at SU and not been suspended/dismissed, his career could have been vastly different.

It takes more than talent.
 
Anthony Davis who was Orange before a $200k bag appearance by Kentucky
We were #3. That bag prevented him from going to Ohio State. Pair the brow with Jared Sullinger in the same front court... and Fab or no Fab, we would have gotten buried. That team with Davis would have been unstoppable.

The real "what if" to that season is... What if we gave the ball to MCW a year earlier? We all loved Scoop and he was great, but I've always felt that team could have been even more special had our guard rotation been Triche, Dion and MCW instead of Scoop. Despite what anyone says, he was ready and while we might not have won as many games, we would have been better by end of year.

Great post. Really enjoyed that read at the airport while flight is delayed.
 
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Imagine we had Winfred for 4 years. His senior year would have been the Etan Thomas/Jason Hart freshman year. Doubt we would have gotten all of them, but a frontcourt of Ryan Blackwell, Damon Brown, Preston Shumpert AND Winfred Walton would have been crazy.
 
Marcus Liberty was coming to SU. Signing day he called (coach Morgan, I believe) and apologized, saying Illinois was going to take care of his whole family.
 

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