Orangemen 101: First Half Breakdown

Take your seats and pull out your pencils, class: school is back in session. While those words are at the root of many college student headaches this week as they begin the second semester, it seems fitting to hand out report cards to the SU Orangemen after completing their non-conference schedule and head into Big East play.

Here's a look at the first semester grades, category by category:

POINT GUARD: Nobody could have expected Gerry McNamara, in the absence of Billy Edelin, to shine the way he has so far...except maybe Gerry himself. He has taken the reins since day one of the regular season and played brilliantly. His play prompted coach Jim Boeheim to say after SU upset 11th-ranked Missouri, "Sometimes we're spoiled by him. He plays like a senior, and we expect him to play like a grad student. He's not perfect. By next week, he probably will be." And with Billy Edelin now back, McNamara will see less minutes, leaving his legs fresher down the stretch. Despite a shaky debut, at best, for Edelin, expect him to blend well with his teammates as the season goes on. GRADE: A

SHOOTING GUARD: Kueth Duany. We'll call him Jekyll and Hyde. One game, he'll put up 20 points, the next, he's a no-show. The lone senior contributor needs to be more consistent, something he struggled with last season. He needs to realize that he does not need to carry the team on his back, just do what he does best and be a leader. Consistency will be the key for Duany in Big East play. GRADE: B

SMALL FORWARD: Carmelo Anthony not only has proven to be a contender for Freshman of the Year, but he is quickly showing the country that he is a bonafide National Player of the Year candidate. Averaging nearly 24 points and almost 10 rebounds a game, Anthony has played at a level few freshmen can uphold. This phenom will be targeted heavily in conference action, and he will need to learn to let the game come to him and use his passing ability to help the team win. GRADE: A

POWER FORWARD: Hakim Warrick has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season for Coach Boeheim. Always known for his electrifying dunks, Warrick has learned some post moves and has developed a nice turnaround jumper to complement his explosiveness. His long arms have helped him to finish shots around the basket and grab rebounds over opponents. If he is able to work his defender down low, he is a tough man to stop. GRADE: A

CENTER: Craig Forth, hobbled by an achilles tendon injury to open the year, has shown signs of mobility in recent weeks. He has been more active on the defensive end, all while staying out of the foul trouble that has plagued him through his college career. The sophomore center needs to continue his progress against stronger foes, something that he has not yet proved he is capable of. Look to see more minutes from Jeremy McNeil if Forth doesn't prove himself. GRADE: C+

BENCH: Off the bench, the main contributors have been Josh Pace and Jeremy McNeil. Boeheim has shown that after the first few weeks of giving minutes to guys off the bench, he has tightened the leash and has gone back to his traditional 7- or 8-man rotation. That has left freshman Matt Gorman on the sidelines twiddling his thumbs. Pace, however, needs to develop a jump shot, something of which he has worked hard on, trying to correct a hitch in his stroke. McNeil needs to pose more of an offensive threat, while channelling his defensive energy, and staying away from silly fouls. GRADE: B-

COACHING: Boeheim has one of his most athletic teams in years this year, so he's able to sit back more than in past years and just let his players play. However, sometimes he has stayed in the 2-3 zone too long and allowed teams to pick it apart. That won't help them in the Big East, where every team knows how to dissect Syracuse's patented zone. However, Boeheim will always have his teams ready to play. GRADE: A-

OVERALL TEAM: As always, Syracuse's non-conference schedule was not very strong. Unlike most years, though, it might have been just what this young and inexperienced team needed to come together and gel as a unit. The real tests are yet to come, but they handled themselves very well against Missouri, and hung around in the Pittsburgh game. With time, this team could be tough to beat down the stretch. GRADE: A-

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