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Why Do I Have To Keep Feeling Embarrassed?

Does it? It does. Or does it?
Syracuse University does a lot of things well. At the very least that was the case when I went there between 2001 and 2005. Of course, that was a time before social media and Twitter. Hell, there wasn't even Facebook until my senior year, and even then it was campus e-mails only and you could only friend people at your school. Maxwell was highly regarded. Newhouse was highly regarded. Both still are. Syracuse Athletics was highly regarded, with Jake Crouthamel the chain smoking, Patton-like leader. While programs' success go up and down, overall SU is still a highly regarded institution of higher learning and athletics. So they why have I had to be so embarrassed by the things it's done over the past few years?
Yesterday was just the latest example of how things have gone so wrong on the hill. Syracuse on Tuesday pleased a good chunk of the football fan base by saying that #44 was coming out of retirement and will possibly be granted to a player in the future, should they be deemed so qualified by a panel in the Athletic Department. One of the most famous 44's, Floyd Little, will help decide. Sounded good for me. While I wasn't too upset they retired it back in 2005, I was definitely excited by the fact they brought it back. Undoing something DOC Gross did wasn't the worst idea at this point really. But then Kevin Quinn, who works at Syracuse University and not in the Athletic Department, made some comments to "clarify" the restoration of the number. He basically said the same thing the Athletic Department did the day before, but in a way that made it seem unclear. And it was totally unnecessary to do anyway. We got it the day before. Just let that excitement build. Of course, you should also be aware that Donovan McNabb, probably the school's most famous football alumni of the last 20 years, PTI, and Kieth Olbermann ripped the restoration too. Was Quinn responding to the media backlash of it all? If so, why? Why clarify? Why do anything but let the alumni and fans enjoy it?
Syracuse has a long recent history of making massive, embarrassing moments. A good number have happened on Twitter. And it has been both the Athletic Department and SU's Twitter accounts. A few off the top of my head include the Athletic Department's Twitter not knowing that a touchback on a kickoff put the ball at the 25, not knowing that Jerry McNamara wasn't a person despite Gerry McNamara being an assistant on the team, and committing NCAA Violations like tweeting out you should buy an "Ennis" jersey or tweeting at unsigned recruits. Nothing unfixable, but still stuff that shouldn't happen.

Then there was the ridiculous "Bowie" situation when Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie both had their jerseys retired, but the commemorative jersey given to Bouie was misspelled. The excuse that came out was that one employee was in charge of ordering them and no one thought to check it. Seriously?!? No organization exists like that anywhere!

While the Twitter stuff probably didn't reach any further than the Twittersphere (you know, except the stuff SU had to report to the NCAA as secondary violations [and believe me, I can take the heat from UConn fans who think they are smarter than they really are]), the "Bowie" incident made Syracuse look like a joke of a department on a national level for at least the day. And then we all complain online about how embarrassing it is and how stuff like that shouldn't happen. BUT IT KEEPS HAPPENING!!! Am I, and a select few of you out there, the only people left with common sense? It seems like no one working at SU has some. You'd think after the first or even second Twitter gaffe you wouldn't let student interns tweet from the account of a major university and their athletic department unchecked. You'd think that someone, ANYONE, would double check the spelling of two major icons at your school you are honoring before ordering them. Or maybe just the one person doing it double check via Google before pressing send on that order? But no, this stuff keeps happening and happening and happening over the last 3-5 years. And there is no reason for it.

Syracuse needs to either restructure things internally so that someone with brains is making some decisions on things, or pony up a check book and hire people dedicated to making sure this stuff doesn't happen. Or all of it. Or ANY OF IT. I don't have any PR background, but I'm at least smart enough to know whatever SU is doing isn't working and hasn't worked for some time. And until things change they will just keep making me have to be embarrassed.

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Orange::44 Lacrosse Bracket Bonanza 2015

 It's time for May Madness again!
The brackets were announced. Your Syracuse Orange are the #2 seed. They have their traditional late Sunday game for the first round. Ben Williams is a stud. The offense is rolling. The defense... well they're doing their best. But I like Syracuse's chances. This is a Syracuse blog so I'm not sure how surprising it is that both John and I picked SU to go all the way. But as the #2 (who probably should have been #1) it isn't crazy that we both picked them. They are the hottest team heading into the tournament after winning the ACC Tournament and holding off Conference Champion Colgate in a close battle on the road. They are primed and ready to win 4 games and hoist the trophy. My bracket above. John's below. Tune in here for recaps of the Tournament games, and check out CollegeCrosse.com for our old friends Glaude and Ryan's coverage. As always, click to enlarge (wink).


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Orange::44 Bracket Extravaganza 2015!

Another year, another edition of the best sports tournament in America.
It's the time again where we here at Orange::44 post our brackets for the world to see, judge, or tear apart. Both John and I only fill out one bracket a year and these are it for this year. Coincidentally and independently, both John and I have Kentucky over Duke for the National Championship with the score being 78-74. Insanity. How did that happen? We're good friends but not THAT good. Either way, you can enjoy my bracket above (with brief commentar), and John's below. Click to enlarge of course.


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Syracuse - NC State Preview

Syracuse students agree: A win would be really, really nice.
So the hammer dropped yesterday. We knew something was coming, which is fine and valid. But the NCAA smacked Syracuse around. And for an NCAA report that actually cleared Boeheim from a lot of wrongdoing, because he's the man in charge of the team a lot of the weight fell on him. Amid all that, the team now plays their last game of the season at NC State. NC State who is very much on the bubble needs a win. Syracuse has no tomorrow. Rakeem Christmas will be the best big man in the game. Unfortunately, NC State will probably put 2-4 players on him to guard him, and unless Syracuse can hit some jump shots (of which over the last few games SU has been the worst in the league) they will lose their final game. The key for Syracuse is to feed Christmas and hope he can pass it out to a cutter or a shooter. And those shooters better be hot, because otherwise it's not looking good. In a fitting end to this season, I'll say the Wolfpack win by 12. This game is available nationally on CBS at 12:00pm. I'll be watching. With a heavy heart, but I'll be watching. John too. And we both hope you have a great weekend.

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Virginia - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR Dome Closer

Rak walks off the home court one last time

After traveling to Durham for Saturday's game against #4 Duke, Syracuse had a quick turnaround Monday, facing #2 Virginia in the Carrier Dome. For as good as Syracuse's defense can be, everyone knew Virginia's was just dominant this season, and likely would be against Syracuse. It was an excruciating start: neither team scored until Rakeem Christmas hit two foul shots at 17:12, neither team scored a field goal until Tyler Roberson's layup at 14:35, and Virginia didn't scored until 11:42. In fact, Syracuse led as much as 13-2 as late as 6:06 remaining in the first half. And then it all escalated quickly. Virginia remembered how to score, and Syracuse forgot. The Cavs took a 23-20 lead into halftime, and just turned it on in the second half, to beat the Orange 59-47.

  • The leading scorer for Syracuse was... Trevor Cooney with 14 (5-12, 2-8 from three, 2-5 from the line). 
  • Tyler Roberson and Rakeem Christmas each scored ten. 
  • Not that Syracuse shot the ball well in this, because they didn't (38.3%), but rebounding was clearly the issue. Virginia out-rebounded the Orange 42-20. Virginia had 15 second-chance points, and 32 points in the paint.
  • Despite the slow start, Virginia ended the game shooting 46.2% -- but I guess when you're taking so many high percentage shots in the paint, your game total will look pretty good.
  • Chino Obokoh entered the game for Rakeem Christmas with one minute remaining in the game, so Rak could get a final standing ovation from the Carrier Dome crowd. It was obviously a frustrating moment for Rak, who didn't play his best game and would rather have walked off with a win.
  • For the first time this season, Kaleb Joseph did not start the game. In his place in the starting lineup was BJ Johnson, putting the point guard responsibilities on Michael Gbinije. It's clear Boeheim isn't happy with Joseph's play, effectively removing him from the Duke game and only playing him for three minutes against Virginia.
  • The move to point I think had a negative effect on Gbinije's offensive production -- he only scored eight points, despite taking eleven shots from the floor. While it's too early to say who will have ball-handling duties next season, what's clear is that Gbinije needs to be able to score the way he has for the majority of this season.
And so, the home slate ends. Props to SU Athletics for properly spelling Rak's name on his commemorative jersey & plaque, and for featuring him on the senior night game ticket. I guess they can get some things right. Syracuse closes out its regular season (and, indeed, its entire season) on Saturday at NC State.

As this recap is being composed on Friday, March 6, I'd be remiss to not at least briefly mention the report issued by the NCAA Committee on Infractions today. The COI found Syracuse committed a number of major infractions, and instituted sanctions including five years probation, a loss of three scholarships for each of four years, a nine-game suspension of Boeheim effective at the start of conference play next season, vacating of several program wins (exact number yet to be determined), and financial penalties (and acceptance of the school's self-imposed postseason ban for this year). I've read the entire 94-page report. Many of the violations are not in issue -- they were admitted by the University. But it's clear that the biggest disagreements between the school and the NCAA center around institutional control and extent of sanctions. The written response by the school, as well as individual responses from the chancellor, athletic director, board of trustees, and Boeheim, all seem to indicate that the University is all but certain to exercise its right to appeal the decision. And of course, after any appeals, this case will inevitably end up in court where, if precedent means anything (looking your way, Penn State), a settlement will result in a decrease in scholarship loss, a (partial) restoration of vacated wins, and a lessening of financial sanctions. But maybe we're getting way ahead of ourselves.

For as bad as we all think this is (and, yes, it's pretty bad), let's remember a few things. Syracuse faces no postseason bans other than this season. Syracuse retains its 2003 National Championship. Syracuse didn't get a death penalty. Even if the current sanctions stay in place, Syracuse can still put together phenomenal teams that can compete at the highest level. Syracuse can get through this.

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Virginia - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Thanks for all the work Rakeem.
The time for the final home game has come. Senior Rakeem Christmas (and walk on senior Carter Sanderson) is playing his final home game in the Carrier Dome. Always a bitter sweet night, who always want to leave on a good note. With no postseason ahead for the Orange, this will be the last time Christmas will wear the home whites of Syracuse in his college career. And a great career it has been, capped off by an All-ACC year. Looking to the game, Syracuse will have its hands full against #2. The simple fact of the matter is that Virginia has the best defense in the ACC. Defense wins championships, as you know. And while Virginia's biggest offensive star is out injured, and another one is playing with a broken nose, you can reliably get solid contributions from all the players, making it a true team effort on offense for the Cavaliers. Despite what should be a big night for Christmas, and probably even Cooney or Gbinije, Kaleb Joseph will probably be flustered by the tough defense of Virginia, and to a lesser extent Patterson or Roberson. I just see this Syracuse team creating turnovers or just not getting the biscuit in the basket even with quality looks, except for Christmas. The Virginia defense will just end up too tough for Syracuse to withstand, even if Syracuse creates a Virginia offensive drought. An unfortunate way to go out but they can't all be wins. But that won't take away from what Christmas has accomplished or the potential at the next level. We here at Orange::44 wish him the very best. Tonight isn't the night for the true Orange though. UVA by 14. This game will be available nationally on ESPN  at 7:00pm. John will be in the Dome. I'll be on the couch. Let's finish this home season right.

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Syracuse - Duke Postgame Reactions OR Perspective

Orange::44 -- bringing you inside the huddle

Last year, a much better and much deeper Syracuse team kept things close and interesting while playing Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This year, reasonable expectations would dictate otherwise. Despite its loss of talent and short bench, Syracuse has played its heart out as of late, particularly against good, top ranked teams; so I think we expected to see that type of effort Saturday night, but didn't exactly expect a win. Unfortunately, we didn't really see that effort; instead, we saw one of the worst games of the season for Syracuse. The Blue Devils were too much, beating Syracuse 73-54.

  • My statistical recap will be abbreviated, in lieu of my personal observations from Cameron.
  • I guess player of the game goes to Tyler Roberson. He led the Orange with 16 points on 5-9 shooting, 6-7 from the line, nine rebounds, and a couple assists in 38 minutes on the floor. He was able to exploit Duke's added pressure on Rakeem Christmas by hitting open mid-range jumpers and driving to the baskets.
  • Trevor Cooney (13), Michael Gbinije (12), and Rakeem Christmas (11) were the other double digit scorers for the Orange. Considering the only other scorer was Ron Patterson's deuce, you can tell how offensively challenged Syracuse was.
  • Honestly, it was a decent start to the game, with Syracuse hanging with Duke for the first ten minutes. Then Duke gradually pulled away and, as of 9:45 to go in the first, never relinquished the lead.
  • Syracuse shot 30.6% in the game, and a putrid 3-20 (15%) from three. As Coach Boeheim noted, you can't put up numbers like that and expect to beat a team like Duke at Duke.
  • Duke, meanwhile, shot 48.3% in the game, 34.8% from three, and simply dominated where they needed to dominate: 38 points in the paint, 17 points off 15 Syracuse turnovers, and 16 second chance points.
I was lucky enough, thanks to my cousin Shawn who obtained tickets through a golf contact, to attend the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium and sit in Row F behind the Syracuse bench (oh, and the Syracuse bench is considered Row A). I was in the company of Daryl Gross, Katie McNamara, and close enough to essentially be in the team time-out huddles (though, as close as I was, I still couldn't hear anything Boeheim said). Since you're reading this, I assume you're a college basketball fan; go to Cameron Indoor. Put it on your bucket list. For as great a college basketball environment the Carrier Dome can be, Cameron is just as good (in a different way, though).

Cameron is small; its capacity is just over 9500. There's not a bad seat in the place; even the "nosebleeds" aren't that far away. In fact, the TV cameras are in the rafters; all other seats are closer than the cameras. They cram in as many seats as possible; the entire lower bowl is benches -- opposite the team benches is where the undergraduate seating is, where they cram in as many students as possible. More student seating is on each baseline and a little bit on the team bench sideline. And the students bring it. The band plays great music, and gets to play a lot. There's great interaction with all the fans in the arena. Because the place is so small and fans are really crammed in there, it's loud. Like, Boeheim was ten feet away from me the whole game and never once did I hear a word he said.

At Syracuse, I spent five years in the Sour Sitrus Society and one year in the student section, so I had six years about 40-50 feet behind the basket. So that's one perspective. Since then, I've been in my season tickets in section 309, which is right behind the Syracuse bench, but in the third tier about five rows from the top. At times, I've sat in various other seats in the Dome (or at Tourney games), but never five rows in back of the bench. That's a unique perspective.

From that perspective, I noticed a different Syracuse team. Rakeem Christmas is a workhorse. Yeah, we knew that, but the jockeying for position seems so much more intense from that perspective. On the flipside, Kaleb Joseph is a freshman. There's two games left, but he's still a freshman. He seems hesitant, he gets those big "deer caught in headlights" eyes quite often during the game, and if you're underwhelmed watching him on TV, I can't even describe how it is in person up close like that. Boeheim was asked what he saw from Joseph to take him out of the game. Boeheim's response: "Nothing." That says it all. I really hope he learns over the summer, or else we're in trouble at the point guard position.

Many of the shots that Cooney, Gbinije, and Johnson put up I knew weren't going in -- you could tell right off the fingers. Most of them missed, badly.

Oddly enough, the court and the spacing between the players seems so much smaller when you sit right behind the bench. Maybe I've gotten used to the "big picture" perspective from TV and from 309.

Cameron Indoor Stadium is a mecca for college basketball. Attached is a Duke Hall of Fame, featuring a history of the program, conference and national championship trophies, and features from the women's team as well as all other sports. I know Syracuse has its Hall at Manley/Melo Center (or thereabouts, who knows where stuff is now?), but I thought it was great having it attached to the place the games are played -- and it's open to the public even if you don't have tickets to the game. The concourses at Cameron are big enough for the capacity it sees. To get to and from the lower level seats, you enter from the baseline tunnel, AND WALK ON THE COURT. Yeah. Coach K Court. The general public walks on it. Crazy. At your seats on the lower level, there's very little leg room, you have to sit on your coat (if you bring it), and it gets quite warm. But it's an experience you walk away from smiling, even when your team loses. (I'll note that if you have upper level seating, you have an actual seat).

Looking around Cameron on Saturday night, it was, as expected, a sea of blue. Near and in front of me, I obviously saw the highest concentration of orange. Throughout the stadium, there was a smattering of orange -- a couple people together here and there. It was nice to see. The Blue Devil fans there were surprisingly polite and accommodating. Not once was I heckled or given any grief. It was the perfect mix of southern hospitality and respect for the game. Duke fans, you were great.

So yeah, I get it. I get how special Duke is, and how special Cameron Indoor Stadium is, and why these fans love everything about this school and this team so much. I probably take for granted how special of a thing we have at Syracuse and at the Carrier Dome, because I'm there so much. Maybe my experience at Duke can help me appreciate Syracuse more. Physically, they're opposite structures. But inside, both buildings can bring out the passion of college basketball fans in ways that I think very few venues across the country can.

In short, put Cameron Indoor Stadium on your bucket list.

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Syracuse - Duke Preview

 Syracuse students agree: Syracuse just needs to try.
Another trip to Durham. The last one ended so well. Legendary I would say. CJ Fair was called for an offensive foul (STILL NO), Jim Boeheim reacted accordingly, and was thrown out for the first time in his career. This was after the legendary OT game in the Dome earlier. This year, Syracuse played hard and had a halftime lead, but Duke ended up winning in the Dome by eight only a couple weeks ago. The prime matchup in the game is the Centers again. Rakeem Christmas versus Jahlil Okafor. Okafor earned 23 in the first match and Christmas only had 11. The big players in the game for Syracuse were Gbinije and Roberson of all people. I'm sure Duke will do the same strategy and double and triple Christmas. Gbinije should have another good outing. Cooney had a quiet 11 in the first game and I think Syracuse will have another game about the same. It will be close, especially at the half, but unless Duke slumps and Syracuse keeps scoring, it will end up about the same. Duke over the Orange by 9. Beat the spread! John is actually in Cameron for this affair so look for special updates from him tonight. As for me, I'm off the grid for this one and will be catching up on DVR later. Enjoy. Another upset would be fantastic. Especially for John's sake.

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