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Syracuse - North Carolina Preview

Syracuse students agree: This would be a very big win for Syracuse.
With the way Syracuse is these days, these previews really aren't that complicated. Either Syracuse plays like they want to win games, or they don't. Syracuse will need the defensive intensity they had against BC and Pittsburgh if they want to win. They will also have to hit three pointers. Syracuse got away with poor shooting from outside the arc against BC. But UNC is not BC. Syracuse will need to make 3 pointers, as well as continue to assist and find easy buckets inside. Syracuse will also have to limit turnovers to prevent easy buckets for UNC, which is a big part of their offense. However, most important is shooting 3s and finding UNC shooters, specifically Joel Berry. He went off for 26 against FSU the other night. He's capable of doing the same against Syracuse if they come with the Defense they brought to VTech. Syracuse is capable of winning this game and I'd be thrilled if they did. But nothing so far has indicated that Syracuse can play well on both ends of the floor in an away game this season. So I'll take UNC at home by 11. This game is available on ESPN / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. We'll see you out there.

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Boston College - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Getting revenge on BC at home is imperative.
Syracuse laid a stinker against BC in Chestnut Hill (not in Boston) on New Year's Day. Now BC makes their way to the Dome. Can Syracuse get a little bit of redemption. They need to. It all depends on which Syracuse team shows up. The one that turns the ball over, can't score, or play effective defense, or the one that played Pittsburgh. Syracuse needs to shut down Ky Bowman, who went off for 30 points against Syracuse. SU must guard the arc, but additionally, they must also GUARD AGAINST BACK DOOR CUTS. They allowed a ton of easy buckets in both the BC and the VTech games. Syracuse never had the lead in those contests, in part because teams were able to get easy baskets early. Syracuse at home should play better than on the road. Whether that means Syracuse will win is a different story. But they have shot better at home than on the road. Only because they are at home, I'll take the Orange by 8. Why not, right? This game is available regionally at 4:00pm. Check your local listings here. For everyone else, check WatchESPN. John is in the Dome. I'm at home. Here's hoping we don't see another stinker.

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Syracuse - VTech Postgame Reactions OR New Normal

We just pull up our pants, and do the rockaway...

I think Orange Nation was pretty excited about what they had seen in the Carrier Dome against Miami and Pittsburgh. Rightfully so. That was the Syracuse team we thought we'd get this year. But you didn't think the team had quite turned the corner until they could show that success on the road. So, in many ways, Tuesday's game in Blacksburg was the most important game of the season to this point. And, well, the Orange failed. It was another uninspired defensive effort. It was a decent offensive effort, but offense doesn't win games. You can score 100 points, but if you give up 101, you lose. Exaggeration, but you see my point. The Hokies beat the Orange 83-73.

  • Freshman Taurean Thompson was your leading Orange scorer, with 18 points on 7-13 shooting. He's a fantastic offensive player, and he probably has room to improve there. But Good God, he's clueless on defense. I'm not gonna sit here and rag on him because a freshman hasn't grasped the intricacies of the 2-3 zone by the second week of January. But it's his Achilles Heel. Until he does get it, he'll be a defensive liability, and Boeheim will have to do a cost/benefit analysis on whether or how long to keep him out there.
  • Speaking of Achilles, we had another "lower body injury" scare from Tyler Lydon. It appeared he rolled the same ankle he had issues with earlier this season, and was visibly bothered by it for the remainder of his minutes on Tuesday. By the time Boeheim pulled him, he had scored just two points while grabbing seven rebounds in 29 minutes. After the game, Boeheim lamented he should have taken him out earlier, but Lydon -- always the team player -- had said he was fine. He echoed those comments after the game, as well.
  • Lydon really has to walk a fine line between being a team player, and protecting his future. It's no secret he's probably bolting for the NBA after this season, and continuing to play on a hurt ankle could lead to a worse injury. Of course, NBA teams draft hurt players all the time -- because it's all about potential anyway -- so maybe this isn't even a concern.
  • Andrew White and Tyus Battle scored 15 and 13 points, respectively, each playing all 40 minutes. Again, solid offensive efforts. Andrew White's shooting was off again (as sometimes happens) but he still finds ways to rack up points. So, whatever.
  • Tyler Roberson had a double double, 14 points and ten rebounds. And that was only in 19 minutes. He's got a short leash from Boeheim, so even if he makes the most of his minutes, enough mistakes gets him pulled. Attribute some of this to lineup considerations, too.
  • Frank Howard got 13 minutes of action. And that's all I have to say about that.
  • With the zone being uninspired, VTech's already good game plan to exploit it was that much more effective. The Hokies shot 49.1%, 40% from three, and had 20 assists. Lots of great passing, high/low, baseline cuts. Frustrating for an Orange fan to watch.
  • Buzz Williams kept most of his clothes on for most of the game. So, that speaks volumes.
It's become abundantly clear that the success of this team depends on whether, and to what extent, it decides to play active defense. It can usually score. It can usually hang close enough to make a comeback. But it all goes back to defense. As goes the defense, so goes the Orange. But at this point, I have no idea what the fix is, or why we can see the defense play so well and so inspired for two straight games, and then see it all disappear. All I know is that they better decide to play that inspired, active defense on Saturday in the Dome against Boston College. It was bad enough watching Syracuse lose at Conte Forum in person; I don't think I could handle another defeat in the Carrier Dome. So, Syracuse, please help me out.

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Sometimes basketball is fun still.
Syracuse was down in the dumps. But then Pittsburgh came to town. Syracuse shot the lights out, especially in the first half. And Pittsburgh seemed to have trouble. And it resulted in a huge Syracuse win that they dominated from start to finish. Despite the close score at the end, this one was really never in doubt. Syracuse over Pittsburgh 77 to 66.
  • Andrew White led the team in scoring with 21 points on 7-14, 4-8 shooting, adding 3-4 free throws and seven rebounds. A really solid shooting day for a guy who should always shoot lights out, but hasn't done so lately.
  • John Gillon might have played the best game of his career. Not only did he score a quite 20 points, but he had 11 assists and only four turnovers. He passed the ball magnificently, and Syracuse has found the point guard and distributor they have been desperate for.
  • Tyus Battle had a solid shooting day, adding 15 points on 6-9, 3-5 shooting.
  • Tyler Lydon had a quiet day by his standards, but shot 5-9 from the floor and picked up 13 points and five rebounds.
  • Tyler Roberson came off the bench and played 36 minutes. But it might be the most productive 36 minutes you'll ever see while only scoring four points. He had ten rebounds, but he really allowed Syracuse to grab more because of his play. More importantly, he had six huge blocks.
  • Syracuse shot 51.9% both overall and from three. They were 14-27 from distance. They also shot 87.5% from the free throw line.
  • Syracuse limited Pittsburgh to 35.1% from the floor.
  • Syracuse went on a 32-4 run in the first half. Insane.
Syracuse now travels to take on a very tough Virginia Tech team at home, but I'll relish this win for a while. It was the best Syracuse has played all year against a team anywhere close to talented. And it was super fun to see again. Especially after sitting through that Boston College game in person on New Year's Day.

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Syracuse - Virginia Tech Preview

Syracuse students agree: Beating Buzz is satisfying.
Syracuse has seen Buzz Williams teams for the better part of a decade. One thing is always guaranteed. He will sweat through at least one shirt. And his teams will play hard. Syracuse travels to Blacksburg to take on a VTech team that is ranked. Syracuse needs the resume boost. Can Syracuse play well on the road? I don't know. You don't know either. My guess is they have a similar game plan to Pittsburgh. As both teams are pretty similar with a big time shooter. Syracuse will need to start hot. If they make shots like they did they will be fine. But even more important is Gillon still passing the ball so effective as he did, and playing with the same intensity as Syracuse did on the defensive end on the floor than they did against Pitt. Either they show up or they don't. But I think Syracuse has all the momentum right now. And Buzz has somehow found a way to blow it against Syracuse in the last few meetings. So I'll take a flyer on the Orange and say SU by 6. This game is available nationally on ESPN U at 7:00pm. Both John and I are watching at home. Good luck to all.

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Pittsburgh - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Beating Pittsburgh is always great.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh is one of the more underrated rivalries in East Coast Basketball. It always seems to be either a close game, or a crazy ending, or an all out brawl. Earlier this season, I would have assumed that Pittsburgh would have been easy pickings for Syracuse, after Pitt lost to SMU and Duquesne and Syracuse was smoking fools. And with Pitt having a new coach as well. But the tides have turned. Syracuse is trying to put it all together, and came a long way in the Miami game. They showed flashes of much better defense and made shots. If Syracuse can get going today, Pitt could have trouble keeping up. However, Pitt has four legitimate 3 point shooting threats, as they were on display this past week against Virginia in The Pete. I think Syracuse will again play well in the Dome, and if they build a little bit of a lead, Pittsburgh has had trouble closing games. So with a lead, I'm not sure Pitt could get back into it as time ticks down. But I just think Coach Kevin Stallings' plan is going to just shoot the three over and over and if they make a bunch, then ball game. And I think they will. So I'm taking Pittsburgh in a close one. Panthers over the Orange by six. This game is available regionally at 12:00pm. Check you local listings here. WatchESPN for everyone else. John is in the Dome. I'm currently not, but will be soon, burred under snow at the Home Office. We'll see you out there.

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Miami - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR Step Forward

"Where is that delicious Wegmans sub I was just eating?"

When you lose to a Boston College team that hasn't won a conference game since the 2014-2015 season, you've pretty much hit rock bottom. Or, at least, you hope that's rock bottom. I didn't want to chance that, and evidently, neither did the Syracuse basketball team. They actually played defense! Pretty well! Plus, they shot the lights out of the ball. Add to that a quite raucous Carrier Dome crowd (which didn't include me) and you've got yourself a nice Wednesday night. Syracuse beats Miami 70-55.

  • Playing all 40 minutes, Andrew White led the way for Syracuse with 22 points on 7-13 shooting, 4-9 from three, and 4-4 from the line. He also grabbed ten rebounds for a double-double.
  • Taurean Thompson started the game at the center position, but after a few rather unproductive minutes, Tyler Lydon slid over and Tyler Roberson entered the game. And then -- except for the last 40 seconds of the first half -- Boeheim stayed with the lineup of John Gillon, Tyus Battle, Andrew White, Tyler Roberson, and Tyler Lydon.
  • That lineup worked wonders. The defense was active, guarded shooters, rotated and slid when appropriate, and limited the Hurricanes to 55 points. The offense shot 56.8% for the game, 42.1% from three, and 85.7% from the line.
  • Tyler Lydon had another great game as well, with 20 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks.
  • Tyler Roberson had a very solid effort off the bench: nine points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Just as important as his stats was his presence on the court -- he knows how to move in the zone. When one teammate can motivate another, it becomes contagious and they all feed off each other's success. That was on display Wednesday night.
  • Here are a few stats that make this 15 point win even more impressive: Syracuse didn't score a field goal for the final 2:01 of the game; Miami hit 11 threes; Miami had 21 points off 15 Syracuse turnovers.
  • Jim Boeheim was happy, even giddy, and definitely his usual snarky self in the postgame presser. Take the eight minutes and watch it here.
As coach stated, this game is but a good step forward. It's not the thing we can look at to say this team isn't gonna go 1-17 in the league. But it's a start. They need to keep it up. And all signs point to Boeheim sticking with this lineup as long as he can. The next test is Saturday, in the Dome against always tough Pittsburgh. The Panthers just beat Virginia at the Pete in overtime, so they're certainly no pushover.

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Miami - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We're glad we're on break still.
Syracuse stinks right now. And until they beat an ACC team, there will be no evidence to the contrary. That being said, Syracuse might have a chance against Miami if it does a couple things better than they did at Boston College. Mainly, cover shooters. Syracuse allowed 16 3 pointers at BC. Miami doesn't live and die by the 3, but the chances are vastly improved for Syracuse if they aren't allowed to make more than a hand full. On top of that, Frank Howard, or any other player playing the point has to facilitate and actually make smart passes. Howard only recorded 3 assists against BC. Too bad he also turned the ball over 3 times. Smarter decisions must be made in regards to the basketball and quick. However, Lydon seems to be hitting his stride, and Roberson has actually played great in the last 2 games off the bench, being awarded more and more minutes on the floor. Well earned minutes. Syracuse has a chance, but defense must be played. However, Syracuse couldn't stop BC's star, and I'm not sure Miami's Ja'Quan Newton will be stopped either. I'd like to think Syracuse can flip a switch at home in this one, but again, no evidence to that effect. So I'm taking The U in the Dome by 14. This game is available regionally at 7:00pm. Check your local listings here. For those not blacked out, the game is available online. Both John and I are in the home offices. We'll see you out there, win, lose, or draw.

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