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Charlotte - Syracuse Battle for Atlantis Preview

Syracuse students agree: We're all home watching this.
Syracuse is in the Bahamas, which is a pretty great Thanksgiving I would say. But it's Business Time, as Syracuse first takes on Charlotte. Syracuse should crush them. Syracuse beat Elon and Elon beat Charlotte. Seems flawless. Michael Gbinije is rolling for Syracuse, and even Trevor Cooney is contributing. Malachi Richardson is averaging 14 points as a freshman. Pretty good. Charlotte's best player is Andrien White is averaging 14.3ppg. But the thing is, the Syracuse defense has been playing excellent in the first three games. Despite having trouble in the rebounding department, Syracuse is limiting opponents to 56 points per game. Syracuse should be able to handily take out Charlotte, a team that doesn't have a ton of talent, and shouldn't be a sneaky pick to upset the Orange. I'll take Syracuse by 16. This game is available nationally on ESPN 2 at 2:30pm.

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Was Silent G the only one on the court?

The good thing about early season tournaments is that you won't have to win the opening games to advance. Nevertheless, it's good that Syracuse did on Saturday night in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis against Elon. Except, this game didn't have the excitement of being at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I've been there. The place is amazing. Go sometime if you have a chance. Anyway, Saturday night's game came on the heels of an awful Syracuse football loss where it seemed like the players had given up and Coach Shafer had as well, so I think we all wanted to retreat into the (relative) consistency of Orange Basketball. And it was as consistent as it's been this season: scary at times, lots of threes, but in the end a Syracuse victory, 66-55.

  • If we're lucky, we saw the emergence of Tyler Roberson: Offensive Juggernaut. If we're not, we only saw him score 20 points on 9-15 shooting, and pull down 16 rebounds (seven offensive) for a double double. As you would suspect, none of his points came beyond the arc (he didn't even attempt a 3) so his ability to get inside to score, or his short/mid jumpers, is an important part of Syracuse gaining balance.
  • Michael Gbinije had a good night with 16 points, including 3-3 from 3, and a perfect 5-5 from the line.
  • Malachi Richardson managed a 13 point effort despite being 1-7 from the floor. He made up for it by going 10-12 on free throws.
  • Trevor Cooney had another ho hum game.
  • The center position remains a work in progress. Starter Dajuan Coleman played only 10 minutes and was a perfect 1-1 from the floor. In his absence, freshman Tyler Lydon played 35 minutes. If you've been reading my recaps, you know I've been talking Lydon up in the previous two games, and he again didn't disappoint against Elon. While he can shoot and he can penetrate, it's not the offense where he'll shine -- it's the defense. He's active, he seems to know how the zone works, and that's just monumental for a freshman. The drawback is his size; listed at 6'8", 210 lbs., Tyler won't be intimidating any ACC drivers. For now, though, the Elons of the world are good practice for Tyler.
  • If Syracuse could get a sizeable lead for long enough in a game, it would be nice to get Coleman more minutes. He's in better shape, he's older & more mature, and he's in theory smarter about the game, so in theory he just needs to shake off the rust. And it's hard to do that on the bench. I think down at Paradise Island he'll have to play more, just due to the fact of playing The UConns or Michigans of the world.
  • Back to this game, Syracuse shot a meh 39.2% from the field, but a respectable 40.0% from three, and a rather amazing 80% from the charity stripe. They also had 15 turnovers which turned into 15 Elon points.
Syracuse hasn't dominated so far this season, so it'll be interesting to see what they can do in the Bahamas, particularly against the power conference teams. Well, to the extend the American Athletic Conference is power. Damn, it's gonna be so much fun if Syracuse gets to play UConn!

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Elon - Syracuse Battle for Atlantas Preview

Syracuse students agree: We're already on break.
Syracuse is 2-0. One game they dominated. The other they had to come back. But really, the difference has not been shooting or scoring, it has been the fundamental things basketball players are expected to do. That is, boxing out and rebounding. Syracuse kept the rebounding margin close against Lehigh and they ran away with it. Bonaventure dominated the boards and SU had to crawl back to win the game. If Syracuse keeps the rebounds close with Elon, they will have a good chance to win this game. Elon is a pretty good 3 point shooting team. They have hit 35.4% from long range this season. If SU can rebound off missed 3s and get some transition offense, they should be handily in control. If Elon managed to get hotter than they usually are, SU might be in trouble. Either way, with 2-3 Zone, SU will be begging Elon to shoot. If Syracuse can get some shots to fall, this should go their way. I like SU in this one by 9. This game is an internet only affair at WatchESPN at 7:00pm. A nice change from the football game.

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NC State Quick Predictions

It's sorta like our logo. Sorta not.
Syracuse fared pretty well against #1 Clemson in the Dome. But now Syracuse is on the road again. Syracuse surprised NC State a couple years ago. Can they do it again and keep some of that momentum and good will from keeping it close with Clemson? Scott Shafer is hoping so.
Zach Mahoney is again at the helm. It should be a little easier moving the ball against NC State than it was against Clemson. He did fine enough, but he's probably not going to set the world on fire. Just take care of the ball and I'll be happy. NC State is not very deep at the Running Back position with players getting dismissed, injured, etc. That means that QB Jacoby Brissett will have to make throws. Well they may be in luck, as we know how bad the SU Secondary has been. If Syracuse can manage to pressure the QB, Syracuse could get lucky with bad throws and tip a pass here and there. I think if Syracuse is able to force some turnovers and move the ball even half the time, they should be in this game. I think we'll have a close one today, but I can't count on SU to get it done on the road when they have proven they can't do it at home. I'll take NC State over the Orange in a tight one 31 to 27.
This game is available regionally at 12:30. Check your local listings here. For everyone else not blacked out (by the way, WatchESPN can't even make a map right), it's available on the interwebs via ESPN. Both John and I are in the home office (my football season is done finally) so enjoy our tweets.

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When a coach does this, it usually costs 15 yards.
It was a good effort, but of course the Orange came up short. It was kind of stunning that they were just a score behind late in this game, but Clemson kept the game out of reach as the seconds ticked away. Clemson was your winner 37 to 27.
Zach Mahoney (8/21, 80yds, 0 TD, 0 INT, 2 Rush TD) did the bare minimum though the air, but made it happen with his feet. The rest of the rushing attack fared pretty well also. The real issues were only 15 first downs and 3/13 on 3rd down. Otherwise, not bad.
The secondary was typically bad, but everyone overachieved playing the #1 team, who let Syracuse hang around deep into the 4th quarter. Not much to say. They overachieved. Can't hate that.
Special Teams
#DixonForHiesman. Sadly, Cole Murphy was only 2/3 on FGs, however, his long was 48. Pretty good.
You can hate pass interference flags and argue judgment there. I get that. But arguing a hands to the face flag is pretty dumb. And then you get an extra 15 added on. Not smart. Granted it didn't really affect the outcome. But still. It's not wise. Additionally, I wish Shafer went for it on 4th Down late in the game when they were only down a score. You're playing #1. You're already not making a bowl in all likelihood. Why wouldn't you just try and play spoiler and go for the win at home against #1?
B- (2.68)
All in all, another fine effort from the kids. Unfortunately, these kind of games provide little to feel good about when the team then goes on to get blown out by far lesser teams. Either way though, this is about as good as you could have hoped for, other than a win. I can't hate how the team played all that much in this one.
Syracuse hits the road one more time this next weekend. At least the final two teams aren't ranked.

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"When I shoot game-tying threes, it feels like the hoop is THIS BIG!"

These two upstate schools first played each other in 1923 and are separated by just a three-hour drive. But in spite of that, they're really only "rivals" because Jim Boeheim said so. From 1977 to 1987, Syracuse and St. Bonaventure played annually, sometimes more than once. They've just played occasionally since then, with the most recent tilt in 2009. Syracuse owned a 23-3 head to head record going into Tuesday's game, and the Bonnies had never won in the Carrier Dome. So, sham rivalry. BUT, this is a game that needs to be back on the schedule every year. More on that later. Bonas jumped out to a quick start, led 35-29 at the half, and carried a lead until a Tyler Lydon 3-pointer tied the game at 54 with 9:03 to go. From there, Syracuse took over and won 79-66.

  • The leader of the SU offense once again was Michael Gbinije, with 23 points on 8-14 from the floor, 3-7 from three, and 4-6 from the line. Mike also had six assists and four steals for a really solid game.
  • Also in double digits were Trevor Cooney (18, 4-12, 2-8, 3-11), Malachi Richardson (15, 5-11, 2-7, 3-5) and Tyler Lydon (13, 3-5, 2-2, 5-5).
  • Lydon was nothing but consistent in this one with a very productive 31 minutes. He may be a freshman, but he ain't playing like one through two official games.
  • Bonas really hit the boards, with 43 rebounds -- and 24 off the offensive glass. That translated to 29 second chance points.
  • The Bonnies got good production from their players, particularly Jaylen Adams with 16 points and Dion Wright with 13. As a team, Bonaventure 36.4% from the floor, to 46.2% for Syracuse. I'd put the Bonas percentage lower on account of all the missed shots but offensive rebounds & put-backs they had. There were a few possessions with 3 or 4 offensive rebounds. Keeping the ball away from Syracuse was a good strategy for a long time.
This was a great game. Bonaventure came out wanting to win, while Syracuse seemed to come out expecting to win. And that showed for a large part of the game. Credit to the Orange for never letting it get too far out of hand, but I swear there were points where I openly wondered if Syracuse could come back. Then when they did, it seemed like they couldn't get through that 5-point deficit and Bonas would widen the gap again. Once Syracuse was able to bust through that, tie the game, and then take the lead, you could tell that the pendulum had swung to Syracuse's side and it just wasn't going to swing back before the game was over.

I've been watching a lot of Bonaventure basketball in recent years, because my brother Andy went there for his bachelor's degree and his MBA. I've seen them do some great things in the A-10, I've seen them make the NCAA Tournament, and I saw one hell of a game at the Reilly Center last year against VCU where Bonas won at the buzzer. They're a fun team with some great talent, and despite not being a power school in a power conference, they can still play. I would consider them a mid-major on the rise. Because of this, and because of how exciting Tuesday's game was, I think Syracuse needs to do what it can to keep this game on the schedule every year. Maybe now they're a sham rival, but why not make them a real rival? They've played Syracuse tough the last few meetings, and even if they never quite get to the point of beating the Orange, they make for better games than Colgate or Cornell have been recently. That would be a good retirement gift for Boeheim, the establishment of an annual game. We could play for some weird made up trophy or something, I don't know.

Or maybe I just want to be able to rub it in my brother's face every year. 

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St. Bonaventure - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: St. Bonaventure isn't that big a rivalry.
For some reason, this is considered a rivalry. The schools are close enough in Upstate NY that it makes sense, but that's about the only reason. Syracuse is 23-3 lifetime against St. Bonaventure, with the last win for the Bonnies coming in 1980-81 season. So... not really a rivalry I would say. However, they come in a tough team in the A-10. They have some talent, and they can make this a game. Syracuse has committed to living a dying by the long ball. We're playing like Villanova, just throwing in four shooters and seeing what happens. While Syracuse showed flashes of getting the ball inside via some nice passes down low after double screens, it's mainly going to be a chuck fest. That is upsetting. While that can be very fun to watch when the balls are going in, it will be absolutely brutal if they are not and/or the team is behind. Bonaventure has a couple talented scorers in Dion Wright and Syracuse native Denzel Gregg. But if Syracuse isn't turning the ball over, Bonaventure will find the game is out of hand for them fairly quickly. Syracuse has to take care of the ball, sure, but they also need to keep the defense honest by going inside a few times, either to DeJuan Coleman or Tyler Lydon. Gbinije and Cooney also need to head to the hoop now and then as well. That will cause the defense to crash inside, and allow drive and kick shots from 3. I can't say that the X's and O's analysis will change much game to game this year. Either way, unless Bonaventure is shooting lights out, I like the Orange by 14. This game is a Brennan Family Civil War, with John going to SU and his younger brother Andy going to Bonaventure. They'll be in the Dome tonight together. So therefore, we wish John all the luck in the world. And feel free to make that car ride home miserable. This game is available regionally at 7:00pm. Check your local listings here. Available on WatchESPN for everyone else, or for all on the ACC Website.

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Syracuse shooting the three: get used to it

Friday night was the season opener for the 2015-2016 Syracuse Men's Basketball Team. This year's campaign began against Lehigh in the Carrier Dome, and seemed to be a continuation of what we had seen in the two exhibitions leading up to the real deal: Syracuse will shoot more threes than you think they should. We'll get to that in a minute. The first half of this game was dominated by Syracuse, who shot decent enough on the offensive end of the court, but really played active, shut it down defense at the other end. In the second half, the defense let up a bit, and the offense sputtered at times, but the Syracuse lead never shrunk to fewer than six. At the final horn, Syracuse emerged victorious 57-47.

  • Senior leader Michael Gbinije lived up to his role and led the team in scoring with 16 points on 5-13 shooting, 2-9 from three, and 4-5 from the line. He also ran the point for much of the game. I'd have to check to see if he shot better when he moved to forward for parts of the game, but ball movement and shooting looks were good while he ran the offense.
  • Call it hard word, call it playing with a chip on his shoulder, call it whatever you want, but Kaleb Joseph played 14 minutes and did some good things with it. Eight points on 2 of 3 shooting (all from three), a perfect 2-2 from the line, and an assist and a steal. The lineup with Kaleb running the point is quite small, so you won't see it often, but if he can keep up quality play like that, you'll appreciate the minutes he does end up getting.
  • In his college debut, Malachi Richardson played well: 14 points on 5-12 from the floor including 4-9 from three, He pulled down six rebounds and came up with three steals, but turned the ball over five times. His game's far from perfect, but he's got raw talent and you have to be excited about where he could take this team.
  • One of the biggest questions I had going into this season is how this team would adjust -- particularly offensively -- without Rakeem Christmas? And would DaJuan Coleman help fill that void? The answers seem to be by shooting threes and not really, respectively. Syracuse had virtually no inside game to speak of. Ten points in the paint. Shooters were getting open and taking good shots -- and making 32.4% of them from beyond the arc. That's good enough against Lehigh, evidently, but it won't be good enough against a better defense or a better offense. The Orange will have to establish an inside game so that there are other scoring options, particularly if the shooters are having a bad night; plus, the existence of an inside threat helps open up the shooters. I tweeted it during the game and I feel this will be the thing to really look at: offensive balance is key.
  • Back to Coleman... he only played 13 minutes due to foul trouble and overall ineffectiveness. I imagine he's still kicking off quite a bit of rust, so he's getting the benefit of the doubt for the next several weeks. But certainly come conference time, he needs to be back. In the meantime, Chino Obokoh and Tyler Lydon will get a lot of time at the center of the zone. Friday night, Tyler showed us why he might be one of the more underrated freshman on this team, if not the conference or country. The kid can play! Though his offense wasn't anything fancy, he played really active on defense, with a couple of blocks, three steals, eight rebounds (eleven total), and a presence on the floor you won't see a stat line for. He's gonna become a lot of fans' favorite player as his career at Syracuse continues.
  • Lehigh shot nine percent in the first half. A better second half brought the total game shooting up to 28.8%. 
All things considered, a very acceptable season opener. There were some bright spots, and some things to work on, but a win is a win. The team does have some great shooters, so if they're all on for a given game, there could be some obscene scores. If you want someone smarter than me to recap things for you, check out Coach Boeheim's postgame presser here.

Up next for the Orange is a Tuesday night tilt against longtime (but not so much recently) rival St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies. My brother's school. Brian will have that preview shortly.

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