Edge not there for Orange this yearBy Ryan Day
Friday, January 18, 2008 9:33 AM EST
Remember Carmelo Anthony?
The smile. The headband. The game.
Nobody has forgotten.
'Melo had the entire package as a player - he could score inside and outside, he was a tenacious rebounder and he made all his teammates better by just being on the court.
But 'Melo had something else. Behind the swagger, there was something darker.
There was an edge.
Every time he laced up the sneakers, Carmelo Anthony was the best player on the court. He could have easily gotten by on natural ability alone. But that wasn't enough for him.
Opponents learned quickly - don't tick off Carmelo.
If you talked smack in his general direction, 'Melo would torch you. If you threw an elbow, he'd throw one back, then proceed to score the game's next 10 points.
Basically he was the New England Patriots before they were. A unmotivated Anthony was better than you. A fired up Anthony was better than you and was he going to make it his mission to embarrass you.
In the 2003 East Regional final, Oklahoma's Kevin Bookout body-checked Anthony out of bounds while the referees weren't looking.
What happened next was as predictable as a Bill Belichick press conference.
Carmelo dunked on Bookout's head, then scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Orangemen to a lopsided 63-47 victory and a berth in the Final Four.
He had a fire.
This year's team - I'm not sure they do.
That's what's missing.
Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn are two of the most talented freshmen in the country.
Plus, they're easy to like.
There's a reason why the entire student section is throwing up “Dynasty” signs. These guys are entertainers.
They fill the highlight real, they pump up the crowd and they actually look like they're having a good time.
But are they mean?
When Syracuse was getting trounced by Cincinnati and West Virginia, I never saw any anger. I saw disappointment. I saw a loss of confidence. But I never saw that mean streak that good teams possess.
This is where they miss Eric Devendorf.
Forget his 17 points per game, Devo brought an “I'm better than you” demeanor to every game. While his antics sometimes wore thin on SU fans, it's become quite clear -that edge is now missing.
On Sunday, West Virginia's Joe Alexander dunked on Arinze Onuaku then stared down the 258-pound behemoth.
Let's get one thing straight, A.O. could snap Alexander in half if he wanted to.
But on this occasion, he just turned the other way. No yapping. No payback.
He did nothing.
What do you think Devo would have done?
Arinze isn't a trash-talker. Off the court, he's as soft-spoken as can be. On the court, he lets his work do the talking.
And that's fine. Every team needs a pacifist, a cool head.
But every team also needs a fiery personality - someone who takes things personally.
In this case, Alexander completed the three-point play and the Mountaineers went on to an 81-61 victory.
Devendorf took things personal. So did 'Melo. Even G-Mac had a vengeful personality on the court.
Right now, I don't see anyone on the Syracuse men's basketball team who has that edge.
The Orange has boatloads of young talent. But when they get pushed around, when they get embarrassed on national television, how will they respond?
This team is easy to relate to. We see the smiles and laughter. We see the goofing around on the bench and during player introductions - all stuff we saw during 'Melo's tenure.
This team is just missing one key ingredient. They need that fire.
Either they development an edge now, or they'll get tired of smiling through blowout losses.