The Case For Optimism | Page 2 | Syracusefan.com

The Case For Optimism

Zelda Zonk

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Predictions are always problematic, given that there are so many known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns that always show up.

On the one hand, we have those college basketball fans who are quite concerned about being overly optimistic in their expectations, fearing they could end up being revealed as not being "realistic" after the season has been played out. I'm not sure why this is such a horrifying fate to dread, unless you're a media CBB 'expert' with a reputation to protect.

I'm one of those fans who is eager to find reasons to be optimistic about the forthcoming season and it doesn't scare me at all that my optimism might end up being revealed to have been misplaced, due to some unknowns I was unaware of. If this year's team is more flawed than I'm hoping it will be, I will simply adjust my expectations as the season unfolds. No problem.

Right now, I'm thinking that this team could be better--maybe even significantly better--than the team we saw last year in the NCAAT.

Offense: I think having three 3pt snipers on the court could--if they are ideally exploited--make this team capable of beating any other team in the country. Most of the best teams we will face will feature multiple Future NBA Big Men who will prove to be difficult to stop and/or match in the paint. But with Cole, Buddy, and Joe, we have weapons that can fully negate those front court advantages that those Super Teams have.

Crucially, I expect that Joe will prove to be a far better PG this year at least in part because there are now two other guys who can shoot the three as well as he can. I think Joe has felt the past two seasons that he needed to score from deep in order for the team to win so he was consciously looking for his shot opportunities. But that's all changed. I think Joe now sees that he will earn supreme praise if he is able to achieve ridiculous assist totals while at the same time always nailing his open three-pt opportunities as they come, in rhythm, late in the shot clock.

Boeheim knows that getting his team to fully exploit his shooters and the spacing it will create will be his most powerful weapon when taking on the best of The Best. So far, it seems like they're getting the message.

Defense: I think this team has the potential to be significantly better on defense than last year. Improved play by Jesse and Frank will be one of the important factors in that equation. I expect they'll continue to improve over the course of the season, making protection of the rim one of the team's defensive strengths this year.

I think most of last year we were working with undersized forwards, though QG definitely showed that he could grab enough rebounds to win games for us. Yes, he and AG were superior athletes but my impression was that neither of them really had the sense of how to attack the passing lanes (Robert did) the way our forwards need to in order for the zone to become the turnover-forcing machine we've seen in past editions.

In one of the exhibitions I saw Jimmy read a pressured pass from the corner and was able to break it up from the weak side, which encourage me to think that he'll be making those kind of plays for us this season. I don't know about Cole yet (I'm hopeful) but I do know that Benny has the skill/instincts to become a terror on defense for us.

The zone turns into a real monster for us when everybody's anticipating the next pass. Sure, athletic ability helps a lot, especially to recover when you're out of position, but even less athletic players can make the zone fearsome if their anticipatory instincts are well-honed. I'm hopeful that this is the case this year...we shall see.

I expect to see incremental improvement in Joe's and Buddy's defense at the top of the zone this year. Two years ago it was atrocious; last year (by the end of the season) it was much better. This year I expect they'll be solid.


Overall, I'm expecting to see improvement in both offense and defense this year over what we saw at the end of the season last year...mostly because of the Jim Boeheim variable. On paper, Syracuse isn't any better this year than probably 40 other teams across the country. LOTS of teams have 4-star players and the most highly-ranked have multiple 5-star players on their teams. If we simply look at the rosters of teams and the rankings of their players, Syracuse should expect to be on The Bubble once again.

But the same was true of last year's team, which had zero 5-star players. But then we ended up in the Sweet Sixteen anyway. In my opinion, last year was one of Boeheim's greatest coaching achievements. By the 2nd week of January, no one was expecting to see the team playing in the Sweet Sixteen. The criticism was loud and there was 'internal dissension' on the team. But Jim listened to his own counsel, developed his team his way, and the result was supremely gratifying.

The ultimate reason I'm optimistic about this season because of the Jim Boeheim factor. Because I've seen him do it time after time, I fully expect to see him develop this year's team to where it is defeating Top Ten teams by the end of the season, possibly even sooner. Sure...things could go wrong...but sometimes they don't.

I intend to enjoy this season with high hopes right from start. If things go south, then it is what it is and I'll adjust my expectations accordingly. But in the meantime, I'm ready for lots of celebrations...
Happy Brad Pitt GIF
I’m gonna suggest that optimism, objectivity, pessimism rarely have anything to do with end-of-year-reflection or reputation. It’s merely a factor of how people are: including what they perceive about the team—accurately or inaccurately, whether they would rather operate on faith or fact, their assessment of players, past experiences and disappointments, and how an individual feels internally when they are wrong. Do you enjoy a pep rally or a critical analysis? Do you want all your discussions and interactions about the team to ‘make you feel good’ or are you comfortable with possibly harsh truths? It’s not even a binary thing. Most people are somewhere along the scale, much like the line from conservative to liberal.

No one goes into a season thinking we are going to go undefeated. Looking at the Izzies, it seems like, at this stage, we are mostly optimistic, with a tinge of realism. That’s the way it always starts, and then as we get more and more information as the season plays out, adjustments to perspectives are natural.

Personally, I have no clue how we are going to do this year. As in the last ten years or so, I just don’t pay attention to what the other teams are doing, who they have, etc., so my look at ‘us’ is completely without context. I think we have flaws, but we also have the three best shooters we’ve ever had at one time, and a center I feel is poised to be a difference-maker for an entire season. Those are exciting elements.
 
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CardiacCuse

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i saw a clip of JB talking about this is gonna be a fun team to watch this year!

i agree - feelin' a lil jazzed about the potential of this squad...

i think bare minimum its gonna be good basketball, team basketball and max effort...which is always good.

excited to see how they do against a good team.
 

SUFan44

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Really, the only thing I am currently worried about is rebounding. We were not a good rebounding team last year and we have not set the world on fire off the boards in our two exhibition games.

If we could get some points off the bench from anyone not named Benny that would be a nice plus too.
There isn’t anyone off the bench that can score except Benny. Frank & Symir are non factors at that end.

I am, however, optimistic that we can be better than an 11 seed. We will see.
 

CardiacCuse

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There isn’t anyone off the bench that can score except Benny. Frank & Symir are non factors at that end.

I am, however, optimistic that we can be better than an 11 seed. We will see.
rather have a whole starting lineup that can score + a 5 starf orward o the bench...

than what we've seen in recent years = ony a few of the starters can do anything offensively.
 

AngryOtto

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JB’s “ fun team to watch” is all I need to hear. No W/L expectations. Makes life less stressful.
There isn’t anyone off the bench that can score except Benny. Frank & Symir are non factors at that end.

I am, however, optimistic that we can be better than an 11 seed. We will see.
If Frank and Symir can give us limited production it will really elevates the team.
Symir - 4 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in 10-15 min.
Frank - 4 points 5-6 rebounds in 10-15 minutes.
The starters and Benny will provide the bulk of the scoring but it would be nice if the other two could add 8 points and 8 rebounds total a game together. Seems doable.
 

721Comstock

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If Frank and Symir can give us limited production it will really elevates the team.
Symir - 4 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in 10-15 min.
Frank - 4 points 5-6 rebounds in 10-15 minutes.
The starters and Benny will provide the bulk of the scoring but it would be nice if the other two could add 8 points and 8 rebounds total a game together. Seems doable.

I think you're a smidge low on Sy on dishes (since that'll be Job One for him, and he'll have some combo of Buddy/Cole/Benny/JBIII/Jesse to get the ball to-
and maybe a tad high on boards for Frank, given his limited minutes.

But I do agree that we need not just minutes from those 2 guys, but some minimal baseline of productivity in those minutes, such that they earn those minutes, and it's not just so JB doesn't play 5 guys for 40.
 

two3zone

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If Frank and Symir can give us limited production it will really elevates the team.
Symir - 4 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in 10-15 min.
Frank - 4 points 5-6 rebounds in 10-15 minutes.
The starters and Benny will provide the bulk of the scoring but it would be nice if the other two could add 8 points and 8 rebounds total a game together. Seems doable.
If Symir or Frank were averaging that in 10 min they’d be starting.
 

Ceerqqq

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With the season starting tonight I thought I'd offer a few last hopeful thoughts before Reality takes over completely.

Not offering any predictions, just some wistful "what if" musings...

Everyone pretty much agrees that this team has a realistic potential to be a very effective, possibly dominant Offensive force this season. It is the team's projected Defensive potential which makes most observers doubtful that this year's team will be able to exceed last year's achievements in terms of wins, losses, tournament success.

This concern is all very understandable. We know 1) what the Elite Athleticism variable can do to turn a team's defense into something special, and 2) that this team's expected starting five features few players whose athleticism can be described as "elite."

Without a doubt in my mind, QG and AG possessed superior athleticism compared to Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim. But when I've reflected on how QG and AG played their roles in the zone, neither forward exploited the zone's passing lanes the way other athletic SU forwards had in the past. By the end of the season, Quincy was doing better & Alan was essentially replaced with Robert.

Based on the exhibition games and the emphasis I heard JB placing on defense in the last "Storied" episode, I think there's a possibility that Jimmy & Cole will be able to exploit the passing lanes better than QG & Alan did. Benny figures to be a powerful defensive weapon in the zone when he's in the game, based on his athleticism and his interest in helping the team with defense and rebounding.

No doubt, athleticism can make up for a lot of mistakes when you're out of position, or don't really know when to expect that next pass, but Jimmy and Cole have length and what appears to be a higher "BB IQ" than QG & AG. All in all, I think there's a reasonable chance that this year's forward trio will be able execute the zone better than last year's team was able to at the end of the season.

So I ask myself, somewhat whimsically, what if this year's team is 1) every bit as good offensively as many expect, and 2) actually better defensively than anyone is expecting? What if we come out of the gate with our defense looking like a major team strength?

The answer: the fan base will explode with optimism and with justification. Suddenly, we will appear to be a threat to beat Baylor, Villanova, and any other opponent on the schedule. Hmm...

I am so ready for this season...

Pray Game Show GIF by ABC Network
 

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