Syracuse students agree: A bearcat is a fun animal.
Now that Syracuse has finished off Indiana and the Maui Invitational, the schedule is a little easier in the near future until the start of ACC play. Binghamton is not a powerhouse. Their team is not that tall, talented, or in a position to upset Syracuse. The only question is will most of Syracuse's points come from CJ, Ennis, Cooney, or will someone else magically emerge like Christmas or Coleman. Either way, Syracuse should roll. Syracuse by 26. This game is available online only at Watch ESPN.
0 Comments Published on 12.05.2013 by John Brennan
|This is what a mid-air flagrant 2 looks like|
In the Spring of 2008, Indiana hired Tom Crean to be its new head coach, after Crean had shown great success building the Marquette program. At the time, I thought very highly of Crean, and thought that would be a great hire for the Hoosiers. And I still think that. But even Crean has his kryptonite: the 2-3 zone defense. Only eight and one half months ago, Syracuse embarrassed Indiana in the Sweet 16. Nothing could get going against that 2-3 zone. So you'd think that when it was announced that Indiana would travel to Syracuse to play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Tom Crean would, oh, maybe devote a little more time to trying to figure out what to do against the zone. Several months is better prep time than five or six days, after all. But once again, the Syracuse zone was locked in, and Indiana's offense struggled as a result. Spurred by a crazy run in the second half, Syracuse rolled against the Hoosiers and won one for the ACC, 69-52.
- Trevor Cooney came to play. Again. My wishes from the first game have, for the most part, come true. Cooney played well in Maui, and that continued back here on the mainland: 21 points on 6-12 from the floor, 5-9 from three, 4-5 from the line. He was also active on defense, grabbing four steals.
- One of those steals led to a Cooney fast-break, and as he drove through the lane towards the basket, as if to either slam the ball or lay it in, he was fouled hard from behind by Austin Etherington. Officials immediately called in a flagrant foul, but consulted the replay monitor to ultimately determine it was a flagrant 2: two shots and possession for Syracuse, ejection for Etherington.
- Tyler Ennis continued to play not like a green freshman, but a season veteran: 17 points on 6-8 shooting, seven rebounds, eight assists, and four steals. 38 minutes out of your starting freshman point guard with offensive and defensive contributions like that is phenomenal.
- CJ Fair. Senior. Leader. Leads by example. 15 points on 5-10 shooting, 5-7 from the line, four rebounds. Steady as he goes.
- The rest of the team? Well, offensively, there's a lot to be desired. Baye Moussa Keita is a huge liability on offense -- he can't catch a pass, he can't hit a layup. DaJuan Coleman still doesn't seem comfortable under the basket. Rakeem Christmas has a hard time creating position for himself to score. Michael Gbinije just seems too hesitant and lacking the confidence to step up and make things happen. At one point, both he and Ennis were on the floor, and Silent G just seemed out of sorts as a shooting guard.
- Defensively, though, those same players each had their contributions. You can't argue with the length those players give you in the zone, and when they shift properly, you can see how a zone-inept team like Indiana can get shut down.
- Syracuse shot 51.1% from the floor, compared to Indiana's 36.6%.
- We all remember how well Syracuse shot from the free throw line in Maui. Well, those numbers came back to reality in this game, as Syracuse only hit 15-25 for 60%. While it obviously wasn't a game changer here, you just know there will be a big game coming up where the free throws will bite Syracuse.
There are certainly a lot of aspects of the game that Syracuse can improve, but any Orange fan must really like what they're seeing out of this team, this early in the season. And it's not just against the traditional "cupcakes" but Syracuse is looking impressive against ranked teams. This team will definitely be battled-tested before the gauntlet of the ACC. As for Indiana, they have some big talent losses they need to overcome if they want a chance at making it back to the Sweet 16. That talent loss was evidently too much for one female Hoosier fan to handle in section 317 the other night. But I can assure my fellow 309 fans that under no circumstances will I strip down to my underwear during any Syracuse basketball game.
Syracuse has one more game -- against Binghamton on Saturday night -- before breaking for a week for finals. The Orange needs to maintain its high level of play against the inferior Bearcats, or else face the wrath of Jim Boeheim. And bloggers, probably.
0 Comments Published on 12.03.2013 by Brian Harrison
Syracuse students agree: Beating Indiana twice is nice.
Syracuse is somewhat familiar with UNR/#23 Indiana. Over the years Syracuse has played them to various infamous degrees. But in the recent past, Syracuse managed to beat them in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange essentially shut down the Hoosiers by creating turnovers and having a ferocious defense. Syracuse had 12 steals and 10 blocks while Indiana had 18 turnovers in the game. They also managed to shut down star guard Yogi Ferrell, who had zero points in that game. This team is a little different and more guard oriented than when they had Cody Zeller patrolling the middle of the paint last season. Yet, strangely enough, the Hoosiers lead the nation in rebounding. They average 50 a game. That is a staggering number. If they manage to pull that many rebounds down and use them to get second chance points this will be a close battle. But, Syracuse seemed to manage to handle the slightly bigger and athletic post presence of Baylor just fine in Maui. This should be a guard battle. Farrell versus Tyler Ennis. Whichever guard plays better is who's team will probably win the game. A little more hot shooting from Cooney, Grant, and of course CJ would be welcomed as well. But this should be a guard orientated battle. Whichever guard limits turnovers and makes good decisions should lead their team to victory. I see that being Ennis again as I think he will fair a little better against the Indiana defense than Ferrell will against the zone. I'm not convinced that Tom Crean has figured out how to defeat the 2-3 just yet. He was outcoached by Boeheim in the Tournament last year and I think the same will happen this year. I'll take Syracuse by 12. This game is available nationally on ESPN / Watch ESPN at 7:15pm.
0 Comments Published on 12.01.2013 by John Brennan
|Because of this, the Orange live to play another game in 2013|
At 5-6, Syracuse was in the proverbial "win-or-go-home" situation. Lose, and you finish at 5-7 and no bowl game. Win, and you're 6-6, bowl eligible, get some extra practices, and get a nice bowl trip out of it. Not to mention, the Scott Shafer Era and ACC Era would be judged on how they started, and a losing record wouldn't be acceptable. Syracuse rose to the occasion against Boston College on Saturday, leading for much of the game but giving up the lead in the third quarter and having to battle back. The drama, of course, came on a Syracuse drive starting at the its own 25 yard line with 2:08 left to go in the game, with the score BC 31, SU 27.Orange QB Terrel Hunt, cool and collected, and almost without any sense of urgency, marched his offense down the field and scored a touchdown on a beautifully executed pass to Josh Parris with six seconds left. That would prove to seal it for the Orange, who won 34-31.
This may have been the best all-around offensive game for the Orange all season. 480 total yards - 270 through the air, 210 on the ground. Leading the charge was Hunt, who arguably played the best game of his young career: 29 completions on 43 attempts (67%) for 270 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 90 net yards rushing including a touchdown of his own. With so many key injuries, offensive coordinator George McDonald was forced to change up his game plan from last week, which resulted in a heavier reliance on the passing game and for Hunt himself to run the ball more. While some of those rushes were reads, it was clear a good number of them were designed rushes -- and they worked. Hunt was able to spread the ball around to ten different receivers -- but to be fair, one of them was himself, as he foolishly caught a tipped pass for a loss of 16 yards. He made up for it the next play on a long completion, though. One of my biggest complaints about the offense is its continued under-utilization of Ashton Broyld.
The focus of the Boston College offense is RB Andre Williams, who came into this game a potential Heisman candidate. Though he was limited by injury for much of the game, the Syracuse defense mostly held him in check before he got hurt. Williams was stuffed in the backfield several times, and if it weren't for the long touchdown run he had, his stats would have been completely pathetic. So, major props to the Syracuse D for stepping up big against big competition. BC quarterback Chase Rettig did his best to slice up the Syracuse secondary, but in the end only passed for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Just another solid game for this defense, which is what we come to expect these days.
Conventional wisdom is to dog pile on Ryan Norton. On the plus side, he successfully hit all his point after attempts and two field goal attempts; on the minus side, he missed a field goal attempt early in the first, sent a kickoff out of bounds, and routinely purposely kicked the ball short. I didn't quite understand that logic, because it seems like it really gave up some good field position. Interesting stat: Syracuse only punted twice; Riley Dixon kicked for 97 yards, including a booming 52 yarder.
As I mentioned earlier, George McDonald called a much better game on the offensive side of the ball than he did last week. Except for the predictable run up the middle on first down, and the option making its way back onto the field a couple times, many of the play calls were spot on. With the confidence that this injury-plagued squad gained in this win, hopefully this gives the coaches the drive to really open up the playbook during these extra practices in preparation of a bowl game. I challenge them to use Ashton Broyld more -- he's a playmaker who can catch the ball, run with the ball -- and even throw the ball (remember, he was recruited as a QB!). We have the ability to see some stunning plays at the end of December if the coaches can make the best out of the personnel they have.
Syracuse played a good game. BC did not, for much of the game. Syracuse did its best to capitalize on BC's ineptness, but some early miscues kept this game a lot closer than it should have been; Syracuse had the opportunity to score at least 10 points, yet failed to hit the field goal and score a touchdown. But the Orange led for a great portion of the game, and when it mattered during the two-minute drill, Syracuse was able to make things happen and pull ahead for the win.
What a great way to win for the seniors on Senior Day. While the Eagles aren't cream of the crop ACC, they were an already bowl eligible team at 7-4 heading into this game, and was favored to win. Give credit to the Syracuse fans who showed up for this game, kept energy high and allowed the team to feed off that enthusiasm. While a good number of those in attendance participated in the wave DURING THE GAME WHILE SYRACUSE HAD THE BALL, Syracuse was forced to punt and shortly thereafter gave up the lead. Many of those wave-promoting fans left the game early, so karma didn't allow them to see the awesome end to the game.
Syracuse now waits around until the bowl matchups are announced next week, likely on Sunday, December 8. The Orange became the 11th bowl eligible team from the ACC, so they might not even end up in an ACC bowl, so stay tuned on what craziness might happen with bowl selections.
Reminder: Boston College isn't actually in Boston.
The Orange let chance after chance slip through their fingers against Pittsburgh. But not all the chances. Syracuse has one more game in the season and one more opportunity to get back to a bowl game, after most people predicted them to only get four wins. Sadly, this is an uphill battle.
Boston College is not that great a team. But, they are a pretty good team. They do have an absolute stud in RB Andre Williams. He is the main strength of the team. They have overachieved in some games, and beat some teams they probably shouldn't have hung with. And they are currently better than Syracuse, especially when you consider that most of the starting offense is listed as out for this game. While Terrel Hunt is clearly better than Drew Allen, he still is not a top flight quarterback. Nor does he have that many people that are talented to throw to. The Syracuse receivers really can't create that much space and Hunt can't thread the needle that often. He might have exhausted his last big play of the season on an amazing TD throw in the last game. Jerome Smith will be his usual workhorse self, and he should have some nice runs in this game. But the Syracuse offense is just not good. They can't consistently move the ball down the field and score. The defense bends and doesn't break that often, but bending still lets the other team score on occasion. Sadly, Syracuse's best chance to go bowling was last week against a beatable Pittsburgh team. Despite the fact Syracuse is in the Dome, the students are gone and I'm guessing most of the community, despite the 3:30 start, will be in a Thanksgiving haze. I wish it weren't the case, but Syracuse will probably lose this one. The Eagles over the Orange 38 to 17 (yes, I'm saying they manage to get 2 extra points and not have them blocked, or maybe the only make one and somehow convert on the other).
This game will be on the ACC Network at 3:30pm on Saturday. Check here to see the local network coverage. For those out of the coverage area, you can see it on Watch ESPN. Blackout map here. John will be in the Dome. I'll be watching later. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. On yeah, basketball is pretty good.
0 Comments Published on 11.28.2013 by John Brennan
|This pretty much sums it up; no other caption needed|
Winning the EA Sports Maui Invitational, in the big scheme of things, is nice. It gets you some nice hardware; it looks nice on your resume; it gives you the opportunity to hang out in some nice weather. Nice. But in the moment, it's so much more. So this is what was on the line Wednesday night, as the Baylor Bears and the Syracuse Orange battled it out for all those niceties. Syracuse got out to a quick start, but Baylor battled back, hitting some deep threes. In fact, much of the first half proceeded in like fashion, with each team going on runs. But each time Syracuse ran, it would increase its lead a bit more, making it that more difficult for Baylor to even the score. Indeed, it would be too much in the end, as Syracuse hung on for the victory and the championship, 74-67.
- One of the things I take away from Syracuse's performance in Maui is that these guys are playing as a team. They have some great playmakers who are putting up some great stats, but it's the playmakers' teammates who are creating the situations for those playmakers.
- CJ Fair. ACC Preseason Player of the Year. He sure looks like it. In Wednesday's title game, CJ scored 24 points on 10-17 from the floor, 2-3 from three, and 2-2 from the line. He also grabbed three steals.
- Jerami Grant continued his great play, with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. He is just such a dynamic player, and I think him being on the court makes everyone around him better.
- Tyler Ennis had another great performance. 11 points, nine assists, four steals, playing all 40 minutes. Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough noted this during the broadcast, and Jim Boeheim confirmed it after the game: Tyler Ennis isn't playing like a freshman anymore.
- Trevor Cooney keeps coming up big, too, with 11 points. The confidence he is playing with now is so important for him to continue his success.
- Even Rakeem Christmas had a better game than he has had in a while. While he only chipped in seven points, he grabbed five rebounds and found himself involved in a lot of plays at both ends of the court in 31 minutes of play. Boeheim recognized that if Baylor had a chance to win, it would have to get good looks at the basket from outside -- and that keeping Christmas in for his length would be an asset for the Syracuse defense.
- Another big thing to take away from Maui: free throw shooting. Traditionally a wart for Syracuse, the Orange followed up Tuesday's outstanding free throw performance with an almost equally impressive one: 10-11 for 90.9%. I'm not sure what has inspired the team in this regard, or if the rims in Maui really were soft, but let's all hope this trend continues!
- Syracuse was again out-rebounded, 33-21.
- Syracuse ended with 36 points in the paint, against a tough Baylor defense with a lot going on under the basket. Some of the plays -- notably Jerami Grant catching the ball under the basket, chucking it up behind him while he was fouled, and made the basket -- were exciting to watch.
- Baylor's 20 turnovers led to 24 Syracuse points.
So there you have it. Syracuse University wins the Maui Invitational. CJ Fair wins tournament MVP. Jerami Grant makes the all-tournament team. Big props to everyone! But I think it's fair to state that the Syracuse team to leave Maui is a much better team than the one that arrived in Maui. That momentum needs to continue into a tougher-than-usual December, with the likes of Indiana, St. John's, and Villanova on the schedule before we jump into ACC games.
And on behalf of Brian, I thank you all for reading Orange::44, for your fandom of Syracuse, and wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!
0 Comments Published on 11.27.2013 by John Brennan
|Jerami Grant was everywhere - including the floor|
Syracuse has never played against California twice within less than a nine month period. In fact, Syracuse had only played California two times before: 2009 at the 2K Sports Classic, and this past March in the NCAA tournament. So all of a sudden, Cal is a frequent opponent (if you consider three meetings in four years frequent). At any rate, this game was for the right to play in the Maui Invitational title game. The Orange got some good news before tip-time, when Cal announced that Richard Solomon would not play, after having been on the business end of an eye poke the night before. Good news, because Solomon did a number on us back in March. This game evolved much like Monday's game: a lot of back and forth in the first half, and an eventual pull-away by Syracuse in the second. In the end, Syracuse beat California 92-81 to advance to the title game.
- 92 points of offense means something was clicking. A lot of players contributed a lot. Let's highlight a few of them:
- Leading scorer was point guard Tyler Ennis, who had a career high 28 points on 9-12 shooting, 2-3 from three, and 8-8 from the foul line. I mean, good God! And it's not like he was a ball hog either.
- Trevor Cooney continued his nearly unconscious shooting, finishing with 23 points on 7-11 from the floor, 5-8 from three and 4-4 from the line.
- Jerami Grant had a great game off the bench: 19 points on 7-11 shooting and 5-6 from the line in 28 minutes. Though he had probably the best dunk on the season thus far for Syracuse, he gets the dubious honor of being the only Orange player to miss a free throw in this game. More on that in a minute.
- How would CJ Fair play after getting stitches in his cheek? Turns out it was a pedestrian 14 point performance. The 5-17 from the field is what doesn't give you the warm fuzzies. It's OK for him to have an off-night from time to time (and given his effort on Monday, we'll let it go) -- as long as others step up like Ennis and Cooney did.
- What are we getting from Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman? Why are they still starting? Wouldn't it make sense for Grant & Baye Moussa Keita to start instead? Not that I'm suggesting Jim Boeheim do this, lest he go on a rant about how he must not know anything about basketball. But, just some pre-Thanksgiving food for thought.
- On a bright note, 23-24 is the stat of the night. 23 made free throws on 24 attempts. This stat doesn't belong to the Boeheim on Basketball instructional video from more than 20 years ago. That stat belongs to the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team in Maui against California. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
- Cal actually out-rebounded Syracuse 30-26.
- Cal committed 13 turnovers, leading to 19 Syracuse points.
So Cal gets to play in the third place game, and Syracuse gets to play in the title game. We're all OK with that. And it looks like it's the Baylor Bears waiting for Syracuse at 10pm Wednesday night. For all the leis, all the luaus, all the mai tais, all the blue Hawaiians, all the poi, all the volcanoes... I'm done here.