Two-Headed Monster Starting to Turn Heads

They are not Batman and Robin. Not even close to Simon and Garfunkel. Could not even compare them to David Robinson and Tim Duncan. But Craig Forth and Jeremy McNeil are beginning to learn their roles on the Syracuse basketball team. Their adaptations have brought some production in the paint for the Orangemen.

Both are relatively quiet. But that is where the similarities end between these two middle-men. Forth is a sophomore, McNeil a junior. McNeil is a human eraser, blocking would-be-baskets in the paint. Forth is more of a fundamental post player. Forth is able to step out to the top of the key and be an effective passer. McNeil has trouble even catching the ball at times.

Much maligned for their inconsistent play, the two centers have shown flashes of brilliance in past weeks. In the loss against Rutgers, McNeil played his best game in three years as an Orangemen, tallying ten points, seven rebounds, and seven blocks. Against Pittsburgh, McNeil sank two free throws in the final minute to tie the game, and tipped in the game-winner with three seconds left. Of the free throws, coach Jim Boeheim said that he's never made two of those in three years of practice. McNeil's free throw percentage is 28.6% for the year. Forth has begun to utilize the dribble penetration to get his shot off. The success from his latest offensive move has brought the SU fans to the games with signs proclaiming, "May the Forth be With You" and "Craig Nasty." Responding to the crowd enthusiasm when he scores, Forth said, "Anytime a slow white guy who has no game at all can score like that, maybe it lifts people up a little bit." Don't be so full of yourself, Craig.

The combined stats do not jump out at you: 38.1 mins, 9.3 points, and 8.2 rebounds per game. Compare that with Georgetown center, Mike Sweetney's, stats against them Monday night: 39 mins, 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocks. Even if their stats came from one guy, they are not the stats that All-Americans are made of. One statistic that they do have an advantage over any single opponent that they will play: twice as many fouls to give. And they use them like they are going out of style. It is possible they think fouls are going out of style quicker than cowboy hats in New York City.

Boeheim is not asking for Rony Seikaly and Etan Thomas. He just wants two guys who can compete and bang bodies with the rest of the Big East. And Boeheim is beginning to get what he's been looking for the past two years.

Will and Grace: no. Mantle and Maris: let's not get carried away. But Forth and McNeil, and the rest of the Big East, are beginning to realize that there are strength in numbers.

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