The Louie and Bouie Show. A clean-shaven Headd. A kid with a bullet hole in his face. Yes indeed, folks, say hello to Syracuse, the all-around marvel of NCAA basketball, a team that always wins 20, never loses at home and usually goes blooey at the first whiff of a postseason tournament. That's the Orangemen. And now once again they are holding forth in their home in central New York State, plundering the Villanovas, Penn States, Temples and all the other paladins of Eastern basketball. So what else is new? Only that this time they've been doing their thing in ways they've never done before. For instance:
•Zooming to 14-0 by mid-January, their best start in 54 seasons.
•Proving they were no fluke when they dumped Purdue, then 10th-ranked, and its terrific All-America Center Joe Barry Carroll in West Lafayette, Ind. on national TV, by pressing the Boilermakers silly in a 66-61 upset in game No. 14.
•Whipping 10 straight opponents at Manley Field House to extend their home-win streak to a national-high 55 games. In fact, most opponents have been crushed. At week's end Syracuse's average victory margin was 17.1 points, second highest in the nation. At home it was even greater. So far LeMoyne has gone under by 46 points, Cornell by 41, St. Francis of Pennsylvania by 33 and Canisius by 32.
•And hanging tough throughout their lone defeat, at Old Dominion. First, Syracuse seemed to be cruising home; it led by 13 points with only 4:43 to play. Then, after Old Dominion surged ahead by three points with :49 left, the Orangemen exploded and regained the lead. Finally, they lost 68-67—on a Monarch basket that was or was not tipped in before the buzzer. If the game had been played at Manley, it would have been after and thank you very much.
Let's have Jim Satalin, coach of archrival St. Bonaventure, put Syracuse in perspective. In 1976-77, when the Louie and Bouie Show opened, Jim Boeheim was a rookie coach and Syracuse won 26 of 30 games. Next season it went 22-6. Last year the Orangemen were 26-4 again, and—for a delicious bit of trivia—Boeheim had suddenly become the college basketball coach with the best won-lost percentage (.861). "And all that happened while they were building for this year," Satalin says, "I've seen DePaul, Notre Dame and Ohio State, and the best team in the country is Syracuse."
He may be right. Following a surprisingly easy 89-69 victory at Providence last Saturday, the Orangemen, who had been ranked as high as No. 3 in the polls, were 19-1. Coupled with No. 2-ranked Oregon State's setback at UCLA plus the defeats of Big Ten leader Ohio State by Michigan State and Wisconsin, Syracuse seemed ready to soar to new prominence in this week's AP and UPI wire-service polls: up to second in both, another milestone for the Orange. And unless twice-beaten St. John's somehow ends its three-year losing streak to the Orangemen in New York on Feb. 16, or unless the sky falls and the rivers run dry, Syracuse will finish the season at 25-1 and go from there to walk with the giants of basketball—Eastern and otherwise.
The two main reasons for all this success are Louie and Bouie. Louie is senior Louis Orr, a 6'8", 155-pound wisp of a recruit out of Cincinnati who has developed into a 6'8", 190-pound defensive wizard and Syracuse's No. 2 scorer and rebounder. Though a lethal 57.8% shooter, Orr, a forward, is best known as a sort of on-court impresario, a rapier, a darting menace who often produces the teeny pass, unlooked-for steal or swift tip-in that turns a tight game around. By comparison, Center Roosevelt Bouie is a bludgeon, and has been ever since he ambled down the road from Kendall High near Rochester, N.Y. with his 6'11", 240-pound frame and amazing grace to be Syracuse's "first quality big man."
Off the court Bouie is a placid fellow who fishes, grows houseplants and likes to drop in on children's dance recitals at a local elementary school. Boeheim says Bouie rarely knows who Syracuse's next opponent is. "If Rosey had just average ability, basketball would never have entered his life," says Orr. "He'd be happy as the world's tallest petunia grower."
But Bouie's ability is far better than average. As a shooter, he was limited at first but he kept improving. From scoring 10.9 points and 10.5 points a game as a freshman and sophomore, respectively, Bouie hit 15.2 last season and is averaging 17.8 now. Two weeks ago he rung up a career-high 29 points against Connecticut and topped it in his next game, a 30-point outing against Temple. In three of his last four games, Bouie has scored more than 25. "I'd been doing things too fast," he says. "Now I'm thinking through my options."
Which he's been doing all along on defense. A big factor in Syracuse's success has been its pressure defense. Orange opponents are shooting just 43.6% from the floor, and though they average 68.4 points a game, that total is really quite low, considering that Syracuse's philosophy is run-and-gun, never slow things down. Without Bouie back there protecting the basket, the Orange is just another team. In 3¾ seasons Bouie has blocked some 311 shots, and Lord knows how many guards there are who penetrated, got stuffed once and thought twice about penetrating again. "When a guy's coming he can pass or shoot," Bouie says. "I like to fake him, look in his eyes and guess which he'll choose. Usually I guess right." And then? "And then you just put it down in the ledger."
But to dismiss Syracuse as strictly a Louie and Bouie spectacular would be folly. It's a nine-man gang. Guard Eddie Moss is a standout playmaker and defender. Boeheim only wishes he'd shoot more. Against Seton Hall, Moss tried one field goal, which is one more than he tried against Baltimore and Old Dominion. Luckily, Moss' backcourt mate Marty Headd is fully unreluctant to let fly. He is also a 58.2% shooter who canned 9 of 11 shots against Villanova, 9 of 13 against Temple and a last-minute 17-footer to beat Illinois State. "Nothing affects him," Boeheim says fondly. Indeed, in November Headd shaved his head bald, and just as traces of his former locks began to reappear, he shaved it again two weeks ago. "How's it look?" he asks.
Quality depth, normally unheard of around Syracuse, is supplied in part by Guard Hal Cohen and Danny Schayes, a 6'11" forward-center who is the son of Dolph Schayes, the perennial NBA All-Star for the old Syracuse Nats. Both are white, Jewish and contemplating careers in medicine. Both are high on the dean's list. Schayes, a junior, is majoring in chemistry. Cohen, a senior, has already applied to study for his M.D. at Upstate Medical Center. Both starred for the U.S. team in the 1977 Maccabiah Games in Israel, a first for two players from one college team. "It helped that my dad was the coach," says Schayes. Cohen, who averages about 13 minutes a game, pumped in 24 points at Temple last year and was named the Palestra's most Outstanding Visiting Player. He's a shooter. Schayes is no slouch in this department, either. He's a 48.5% shooter, though he sends up a lot more 15-footers than lay-ins.
Among the gentiles is freshman Tony Bruin, a former All-America at Mater Christi High in New York City's borough of Queens, who has an astounding 42-inch vertical jump and the kind of temerity that lets a young man turn down UCLA and North Carolina, among others, to enroll at Syracuse. Why go out of state, he figured, when "you can have it so good at home?" To Boeheim's dismay, Bruin merely dabbles in defense. But not so on offense. In a 99-64 romp over Cornell, Bruin scored a game-high 20 points and rammed home several breathtaking thunderdunks.
More impressive still is freshman Erich Santifer. In a preseason exhibition against the U.S.S.R. national team, the high-jumping forward jammed in the winning basket and has been averaging double figures ever since. Two weeks ago, against Old Dominion, he moved into the starting lineup, replacing Ron Pay-ton, who is 6'5", 200 pounds but plays with such intensity that his teammates nicknamed him Six-Nine, Two-Eighty. Santifer is the guy who was shot in the face. Four years ago he was sitting on the bottom step of a friend's house in Ann Arbor, Mich. On the top step a friend was waving a .22 pistol. Santifer says he told the friend to put the gun away. The friend said, "Why, it isn't loaded." The next thing Santifer remembers is a loud noise. The gun had gone off, and a bullet had struck him square on the cheekbone. Once you've been shot in the face, he reasons, why get excited about starting as a freshman, even on a team that's a championship contender.
The man in charge of this group, the 35-year-old Boeheim, first came to Syracuse in 1962 as a walk-on basketball player. Upon graduation, he played briefly for the Scranton (Pa.) Miners of the Eastern Basketball League. He returned to Syracuse as Coach Roy Danforth's assistant in 1969. "I only think about basketball," he says. Though Boeheim is decidedly professional in appearance, the only book on the sport he has read is John Wooden's Practical Modern Basketball. If he's not coaching, or scouting a game, or watching basketball on TV (a friend Betamaxes games that Boeheim can't catch live), he's probably in his office, taking in a game film. When the season ends in March, Boeheim will get into his Pontiac Bonneville and spend the best part of the next two months traveling to high school all-star games in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, D.C., Ohio—anywhere. He says he enjoys it. He even likes recruiting. "If a kid wants to talk, he'll talk," says Syracuse SID Larry Kimball. "If not, Jim will just sit in the kid's living room for 10, maybe 14 hours and say nothing."
Now, critics might argue that the current Syracuse schedule is soft; that if Bouie has foul problems, the Orange go up in smoke; that the Orangemen lack the discipline to flat put away a crumbling opponent, as evidenced by the loss at Old Dominion or the 72-70 overtime defeat of Illinois State, a game they seemingly had iced. Not so, says Boeheim. "Two things can hurt us: a team with two tall great-shooting guards or a team with three big All-America caliber frontcourtmen." And really, now, what college team has either?
"Sure, we're not unbeatable," says Boeheim, who's withstanding the pressure of his most successful season with no visible tension. "But unlike before, we can match up with anybody."
So we shall see. Three years ago in the NCAAs, Syracuse was waxed by UNC-Charlotte 81-59. The next year the Orange succumbed to Western Kentucky, a team with a 16-14 record. Last year, in losing to Penn, they fell behind early and never got back into the game. "You can't judge a team by what it does in the NCAAs," Boeheim argues. "Everybody loses. Every team but one."
You can put it down in the ledger. This year that one team might be the Orangemen of Syracuse.