Syracuse 101 - with Professor Nunes Magician

Sean Keeley wears a variety of different hats. Blogger. SB Nation editor. Published author. Starting this summer, he'll be donning a tweed jacket with elbow patches - adding to that lengthy resume the title of adjunct professor at Syracuse University, in the process joining the esteemed ranks of RoboCop (no, really) and other such luminaries. That loud crashing sound you just heard was of a thousand bespectacled Brooklynites throwing themselves from the top of their brownstones. All in all, it's a pretty swell deal for a regular old kid from Old Bridge.

The two of us caught up yesterday at the George Street Chipotle with Sean en route to his latest book signing. I could only get a few minutes in with the throngs of press and fans, light bulbs seemingly snapping by the second. Our moment was all too brief, but sparks definitely flew. There was some real magic there, as should be clearly evident by the following transcript.


OtB: Explain the current fan sentiment towards Scoop Jardine. Is he failing to meet expectations, or actively hurting the team?

TNIAAM: I've likened Scoop to Brett Favre a couple times. And not great mid-90's Brett Favre, I mean mid-00's Brett Favre. He's going to make some great plays and he's going to win you a game or two but he's also going to make some mind-numbingly horrible decisions and cost you just as many games.

The thing with Scoop is, last year when he came off the bench he was a nice addition. He change the pace of games, he created offense and he made some good plays. Since his playing time was somewhat more limited, it also limited his mistakes. This year there's nowhere to hide from them. He might be getting a ton of assists each game but he's also racking up turnovers and bone-headed plays.

Our issue is that Scoop says he's a veteran of this team, and he is, but sometimes he plays like a freshman. And that doesn't seem to change. So Orange fans have two choices...accept that Scoop is Scoop or continue to get frustrated by his mental mistakes. It's hard to accept the former so we usually end up doing the latter.

He's a good player and he can make big plays for us, but I seriously question putting the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

OtB: The Big East is tough, but that doesn't explain going 3-6 over the past month. What gives?

TNIAAM: It's easy to point to Syracuse's first 18 games and say "well, they didn't play anyone" and that's that. We beat a pretty good Notre Dame squad as well as fiesty St. John's during that golden era.

There's been a lot of rumors, as you know, of off-the-court issues. The less-salacious ones involve the fact that you've got a lot of guys who like to call their own number (Scoop, Dion Waiters) and a bunch of leaders who aren't really leading (Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph). Last year Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku kept this team in check, being the emotional leaders when needed. That's just not there this year.

Also, the defense just isn't what it was last year. There's a reason the Orange played so many close games early on. Yes, a lot of teams are having hot nights from three-point range against us, but that's not a coincidence.

It's all about adjustments and this team needs to fight through and make them. It's starting to happen but I think we now know this is a good team but it's not a great team.

 
OtB: Your website has had a lot of fun at Pat Forde's expense for ranking Rutgers-Seton Hall as a top rivalry without mentioning Syracuse-Georgetown. Last week you got on Andy Katz for hyping Rutgers-St. John's as a new recruiting rivalry (not really true, but sort of a point there). Who's next in our world tour of destruction? The Globetrotters?

TNIAAM: Rutgers-TCU? I'm guessing that's what Katz or Forde will say when asked what the Horned Frogs' new Big East rival will be when asked.

Please don't let Rutgers basketball get too good, we have too much fun with you guys.

In all seriousness I get that Rutgers has great potential to be a good program in a sweet location with a great home court surrounded by possible rivals. But come on, to make lists about "red-hot" rivalries that have "villains," it seems dubious every time the Scarlet Knights show up there.

 
OtB: Isn't it like, really screwed up how the Rutgers and Seton Hall basketball programs basically self-immolated last year on a historic level, and no one even talks about either meltdown any more? Is that just a function of both having diminished stature in the conference? I feel like both would still be really big news at more popular programs.

TNIAAM: Absolutely. The Bobby Gonzalez fiasco went away way quicker than I thought it would. Same for Rutgers, which became a nightmare towards the end. Had either of those situations gone down at a Kansas or North Carolina, it would have sent shockwaves through the sport.

I suppose that's the benefit though of being where both programs were. It's a lot easier to build from the ground up when there isn't a lot of rubble blocking the way. And both programs are better off with the guys they have now.

 
OtB: Should the Big East encourage Villanova to upgrade its football program to the FBS level and join the conference?

TNIAAM: I say yes but the Big East shouldn't bank of that meaning anything in terms of prestige or reputations. Villanova won't be able to join the conference until at least 2015, which is an eon away in college football years. It's irrelevant to what the conference needs right now, which is immediate impact.

That's why adding TCU was so critical and that's why adding UCF is a much more important move than adding Villanova right now. Central Florida can be in conference with a decent football (and basketball) program by 2012. They'll compete immediately, compared to Villanova who probably won't be competitive until 2018, at best.

I would like to see the Wildcats join because they're a long-standing member and because they bring the Philly market with them, but I'm not going to feel like we missed out on something if they don't.

 
OtB: Personally and professionally it's been a big year for you, between moving to Seattle, publishing a book, and working as an editor at SB Nation. How's everything going? Any plans for the next big project?

TNIAAM: Every time something happens because of this blog, I think I've hit the ceiling. I started working for SBNation.com alongside folks like Spencer Hall and Chris Mottram and I thought that was great. Then I wrote How To Grow An Orange, something I never thought I'd do. Now Syracuse University has invited me to teach a class on blogging there. It's all a little surreal. I'm very excited for where things are going because my goal is to self-sufficient with writing (getting there). The best part is that writing the blog is still a lot of fun and I still feel challenged and excited to do it every morning.

Note: at this point Sean had to leave on urgent business, suddenly being tasked with scouting out sites for future Syracuse home games in Helsinki and Kuala-Lumpur. I thank him for his time, and apologize in advance for the horrendous Route 18 traffic.

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