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Louisiana Tech - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Ending a losing streak would be good.
Syracuse is coming of back to back non-conference losses, something Syracuse doesn't usually have. The good news is that Syracuse is playing Louisiana Tech, a team that can't rebound and isn't nearly as physical as Syracuse is. Rakeem Christmas should have a ball down low in this one. Syracuse will also probably end up having a block party. The sad news is that Syracuse is shooting the ball about as well as a middle school team. Syracuse was 3-22 from behind the arc against St. John's. I'm guessing that Syracuse might hit a few more today, but not many. This should be a confidence game, but it probably won't be. Either way, Syracuse will dominate the boards, have a lot of second chance points, and quite a few great dunks. Syracuse over Louisiana Tech by 16. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 4:00pm. Enjoy.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Syracuse Orange

No, you didn't miss something on the schedule. The Ducks and the Orange are not playing each other, in any sport, any time soon. But since the football season is over for Syracuse, and it's finals week so there's no basketball until Sunday, I figured I would take this opportunity to write a little bit about my experience out in Eugene last month. My sister lives there, having moved to the college town last year to take a job as an occupational therapist. When she said "You have to come visit me!" I knew I had to time my trip to maximize my sports exposure -- specifically, see a Ducks home football game, and a Ducks home basketball game.

Oregon Ducks Football


When I looked at the home schedule, there was one game that not only stood out at me, but fit the bill for being able to see football and basketball -- a November 1 game against PAC-12 rival Stanford. So I bought tickets when they went on sale back in July, and though I guess I knew I was buying obstructed view seats at the time, I didn't really think much of it. Well, the above picture shows the extent of what I could see -- which was most of the field. Annoying, but, whatever. Anyway, Autzen Stadium is a great college football atmosphere! The tickets told us to wear black, and the crowd did so and really got into the game. I guess it helps when the product on the field is so good. All that Nike money, crazy uniforms, it actually works out well. The whole town is really into it. I went to the mall before the game, and literally everyone there -- shoppers, workers, etc. -- was wearing Ducks gear!

Speaking of the product on the field, this football team is really good. They dominated Stanford, easily winning 45-16. They deserve that #2 seed in the College Football Playoff. If you haven't gotten a chance to watch them, be sure to check out that semifinal game. They run a hurry-up offense, with a multi-faceted run/pass system centered around likely Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. They're high octane, score early and often, and tire defenses quickly. Having seen both Oregon and Florida State play in person this year, here's what I see happening in that national semifinal in the Rose Bowl on January 1:

In typical FSU fashion, they'll have a horrendous first half. But it won't be 17-0 at halftime. Oregon could easily put up 30 points before the break. But the thing is, even if the Seminoles get their act together and score in the second half, they will have dug themselves too deep a hole to come back. Look for the Ducks to move on to the championship game, in convincing fashion.

Oregon Ducks Basketball


Since this was early November, I knew I wouldn't be seeing a stellar PAC-12 matchup (if there's such a thing), and quite frankly, it's not like Oregon is the powerhouse basketball program like it is for football. Honestly, I really only wanted to go to see that infamous forest court. As you can see in the above picture, it's pretty horrendous. I had a hard time getting used to it in person. It's distracting. But, I guess maybe that gives the Ducks some sort of a home court advantage? At any rate, I ended up seeing an exhibition game against Northwest Christian University (yes, I paid money to see an exhibition game... sorry, Brian!). Here's an analogy that I think works -- LeMoyne:Syracuse::NCU:Oregon. They're a small, private, Christian school in Eugene. But unlike the SU/LeMoyne debacle from several years ago, the Ducks had the upper hand in this exhibition. They have a couple decent shooters, but I don't see them making any big waves in the PAC-12. Could they be a Tourney team? Sure, it's possible. Let's wait till March, though.

The Ducks play in Matthew Knight Arena right on campus, which is a nice little gym that seats just over 12,000. I thought it was actually a much nicer facility than Autzen Stadium, which could use some structural and concessions upgrades. And maybe change the seating around so there's no obstructed view seats. Anyway, I'd recommend checking out both venues if you're ever in Eugene.

Nike connection
When you think of the University of Oregon, if you don't immediately think of the mascot modeled after Donald Duck (with Walt Disney's permission), then you surely think of Nike. Nike is the school's biggest asset, and it's a great relationship. I'll say this, though: what Nike tries -- and fails -- with Syracuse, it seems to do really well for Oregon. The Oregon uniform designs and color schemes aren't always home runs, but compared to the crap Nike gives Syracuse, I guess it pays to be the school located in Eugene. But, knowing that Nike actually has the ability to get it right, I hold out some hope for Syracuse's threads in the future.

Okay, thanks for humoring me for a somewhat non-Syracuse related post. We'll return to your regular chronicles of the disasters of Syracuse Athletics shortly.

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Rolled up shorts = Flagrant 1

Saturday marked the continuation of an annual tradition of the Red Storm and the Orange playing each other, previously in the Big East, and now extended by contract in Syracuse's new era in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last December, the Orange traveled down to Madison Square Garden to play the Johnnies, and walked away with a win. But as we know now, this year's Orange is not quite last year's version; likewise, St. John's is different this year, except better, more experienced. The problems that plagued Syracuse in its first two losses this year were on display against St. John's, and ultimately resulted in a 69-57 Johnnies win.

  • I guess player of the game props for Syracuse would go to Rakeem Christmas, who with his 15 points and 15 rebounds earned a double-double while playing all 40 minutes of the game.
  • Other double-digit scorers for the Orange were Michael Gbinije (who earned his first career start) and Chris McCullough, who each bucketed thirteen points.
  • On the flip side, Trevor Cooney scored two points, with a measly field goal on 1-6 shooting and 0-4 from three. I guess one could argue his lack of production is a result of his lack of shot attempts, and there's certainly truth to that. But let's be honest, he contributed essentially nothing in his 40 minutes of play.
  • Syracuse turned the ball over twelve times, which I guess is an improvement? They only led to nine St. John's points.
  • The Orange shot 39.3% for the game, 13.6% from three, and 50% from the line. That foul shooting number was 10-20, so if you make those and cut back on the turnovers, Syracuse probably stays in this game.
  • Kaleb Joseph was benched for a large portion of the game while Gbinije took over point guard duties. Coach Boeheim said he needs to play better and not shoot so many threes.
  • I just don't even have the desire to dwell on this game anymore.
I guess now is a good time for the finals week break, because the team doesn't play again until Sunday. They could use the time off to focus on their studies, hone their skills, and come back to play better. Let's hope so.

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Syracuse - Michigan ACC/Big Ten Challenge Recap

#CooneyFace

I think the common notion going into this game was that Syracuse just wouldn't have what it would take to win against Michigan. Syracuse's youth, inexperience (especially in an environment like Crisler Center), offensive woes, and Michigan's ability would seem to be too much. But, of course, you still have to play the game. And though neither team played exceptionally well in the first half, Syracuse took a 31-29 lead into halftime and you wondered maybe, just maybe, Syracuse would be able to do what we didn't think it could do. After halftime, Michigan started to find its outside shot again and eventually took a ten-point lead with 7:08 left in the game. "There it is," we all thought. Then, somehow, Syracuse fought back. Trevor Cooney hit a couple clutch threes, Michael Gbinije stepped up, and Chris McCullough played with more swagger than a freshman, and by the 56-second mark, the game was tied. But then, some big freshman mistakes and untimely turnovers tipped the momentum back to the Wolverines and, as we all know by now, Michigan held on for a 68-65 win.

  • Trevor Cooney led all Syracuse scorers with 18 points on 4-11 shooting (4-9 from three) and 4-4 from the line. Though he struggled at times -- particularly in the first half -- that didn't frustrate him or prevent him from continuing to chuck up shots when he got good looks.
  • I want to say that a performance like this should do wonders for Cooney's confidence, but I don't think it works that way. I think he's either on or he's not; I don't think confidence is an issue. So Cooney's always gonna be an Orange wildcard this season... which, unfortunately, could make or break a game for this team.
  • Rakeem Christmas scored 15 on 7-9 from the floor, and added six rebounds, a couple of blocks, and a steal. What's telling about his performance is that he picked up two early fouls in the game, Boeheim only took him out for a short time, and then he went back out there and essentially played the rest of the game, only picking up one more foul. Yes, his defensive aggressiveness suffered as a result of the potential foul trouble, but luckily the forward play, especially from Chris McCullough, helped cover the areas around the basket.
  • Speaking of McCullough, how about this kid with a really nice double-double -- ten points, twelve rebounds, and 39 minutes played. He was responsible for a vital turnover with 15 seconds left, but definitely otherwise a big performance on a big stage for a freshman.
  • I thought Kaleb Joseph made a lot of improvement in this game. Playing all 40 minutes, Joseph scored nine points and had seven rebounds, and seemed much more in control of the offense than I have seen him all season. Certainly a confidence booster for him. Well, except for the dribble off his foot with four seconds left, and the airballed three-pointer at the buzzer. But, hey, freshman.
  • Gbinije had a solid game off the bench as the sixth man, with a nice ten points and solid defensive play.
  • Syracuse was in this game in the first half because of an abysmal shooting effort from Michigan. The Wolverines shot 36.11% from the field in the first half, along with 17.65% from three. For a John Beilein coached team who knows how to exploit the zone and has some great three-point shooters, this was a pleasant surprise from the Orange perspective.
  • Here's the stat that controlled the outcome of this game: Syracuse had 19 turnovers to Michigan's seven; Michigan scored 20 points off Syracuse turnovers, while Syracuse only scored seven off Michigan turnovers (all in the first half).
  • Michigan is a good team, and a win is a win, but the Wolverines probably don't walk away from this game feeling really good about the win. In the final several sequences in the game, it seemed like Michigan was doing whatever it could to let Syracuse win. But for those freshman mistakes, I think Syracuse probably pulls it out. Michigan got lucky.
  • Our old friend Ted Valentine officiated this game. Hey, it is what it is.
A loss is a loss, and there are no moral victories -- especially when a game we didn't think Syracuse could win turned into a game Syracuse almost won -- but this was an encouraging showing by the Orange. They're a work in progress, but it's nice to see a team improving and wondering where it can go as the season goes on... as opposed to, say, winning 25 straight games and then regressing for the rest of the season. It's still early in the season, and most of the remaining non-conference slate doesn't get easier, but at least as it looks right now there's reason to be optimistic.

And we'll bring that optimism into the Dome on Saturday to play our old friend and former Big East foes St. John's. Your perfect break from watching conference championship football all day.

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Syracuse - Michigan Big Ten / ACC Challenge Preview

Syracuse students agree: ACC > Big Ten.
Syracuse enjoyed a couple of games against inferior opponents to get back on track. But can they now go on the road again and topple a pretty good team? My gut says not this team.
Syracuse is still winning against teams they should beat, like Holy Cross and Loyola. Now Syracuse takes on Michigan, a team that just barely lost to Villanova in their early season tournament championship. Michigan, like Cal, is shooting the ball extremely well from the outside arc. 44.5% as a matter of fact. To illustrate how well that is, Syracuse is shooting 20.2%. The worst ever mark for Syracuse in a season is 30.6%. Syracuse traditionally does better in the non-conference against inferior defenses, then trails off a bit in the conference slate. Whoops. Anyway, Syracuse just doesn't have the firepower that Michigan has. And if Christmas gets in foul trouble, the probably of offense occurring on the floor for Syracuse drops dramatically. I think Syracuse will try really hard, and even force a bunch of turnovers because John Beilein still doesn't know what to do against the zone in terms of offense other than shoot the 3. But enough of those 3s will sadly fall. Syracuse unfortunately will not look great, but it is what it is at this point. Michigan by 14.
This game is available nationally on ESPN / WatchESPN (allegedly) at 7:30pm. I may or may not be watching live. Try to enjoy it.

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Cue The Crying Child...

But hey, at least the season is over, right?

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Boston College Quick Predictions

Why does BC hate tailgating?
Syracuse's season is done. And Syracuse can't even play spoiler this weekend. They have nothing to play for. So can Syracuse even show up in this one?
The Syracuse seniors, who have had moderate success and two bowl wins in their careers, are looking to finish on a high note. The one thing that can help them do that is having the entire starting offensive line healthy and in this game. AJ Long had moderate success against Pittsburgh in his first game back. If Syracuse is able to sustain drives and keep their defense off the field, Syracuse could avoid another 4th quarter defensive collapse. But really, the defense should hold solid and stop the good running of BC. If Syracuse can hold QB Tyler Murphy to the pocket, Syracuse should be able to compete in this game. I just don't think the Syracuse offense will show up on the road in the cold and not turn the ball over. Syracuse will put up a good effort in this rivalry game on the 10 year anniversary of the Diamond Ferri game. Unfortunately, I think they will come up short and end this dreadful year. BC over Syracuse 38 to 14.
This game will be available regionally at 12:30pm. Check your local listings here. If it is on TV in your area you can't watch on WatchESPN. Maybe no one can watch it on WatchESPN anyway, but if you aren't blacked out, allegedly you can. Both John and I will be in Chestnut Hill for the game. We'll see you on the other side.

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Loyola - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We should play better at home, right?
 Syracuse managed to only lose one game in the month of November. So far at least. But that being said, the performance in New York City was not impressive for the Orange, a team that is really struggling to run smooth half court offense with a freshman point guard and new players playing at the college level in their first season. The good news is Chris McCullough has some star potential. That was evident in MSG. However, one player does not a team make. Rakeem Christmas has shown flashes of solid low post play, but he becomes overly aggressive on defense or just makes dumb fouls and ends up sitting way too much. Michael Gbinije has come off the bench and looked solid, but he has made dumb plays as well. The good news is that tonight Syracuse plays Loyola. They have struggled to score even more so far this season than Syracuse. And I'm 99% certain that the players haven't seen more than a minute of zone defense here and there in their playing careers. I think they will be confounded early and often in this game. Loyola has one good outside threat in Eric Laster but even when facing a zone I doubt he will see many open looks tonight. Cooney or Joseph will have their hand in his face, and unless the Greyhounds get very good at ball movement and Laster is open in the corner, he shouldn't be too big of a factor in this game. Really, the best way that Syracuse can score in this game is force turnovers and earn transition buckets. And they have a chance to do that a lot this evening on their home court. Look for Syracuse to get a nice lead in the first half, and then coast to a comforatble win. Nice and easy. Syracuse over Loyola by 16. This game is available regionally starting at 7:00pm. Check your local listings here. If it's not on TV, you have it available on WatchESPN (blackout info here).

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