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Cornell - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: what good are gorges if you can't see them?

The #7 Syracuse Orange enter this game at 6-0 coming off this weekend’s win in the Legends Tournament. Their foe inside the Carrier Dome? Instate rival Cornell. But don’t be fooled; this isn’t last year’s Big Red. No, sir. This isn’t a team that has any business making it to the Sweet 16 this year. They’ve lost a lot of size and experience from last year, and it shows on the court. I saw the Big Red live in action in their on-campus gym against St. Bonaventure on November 19. They lost to the Bonnies 56-54 by blowing something like a 12-point lead in the game’s final eight minutes. St. Bonaventure played them hard on defense pretty much the entire way, beat them on the boards, and made them shoot the ball from three. Cornell did have a couple of players able to shoot and hit the three, but it was just not enough to overcome the Bonaventure attack. I think this game play favors the Orange; a strong defensive effort, good rebounding, and a continued good shooting effort to carry over from the Georgia Tech game should spell victory for Syracuse. I’ll put the margin of victory at 12, and put the number of inappropriate gorge jokes I make right around 3.

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In this picture clearly Syracuse is Charlie Brown.
There were high hopes for the last game of the season. Unfortunately Syracuse played their worst game of the season against an old rival, and of course it was in the Carrier Dome. Let us just go straight to the analysis.

Ryan Nassib (15/24, 147yds, 0 TD, 1 INT) was dreadful. Even worse than the last game. It was a fitting end to his day to get intercepted. He repeatedly overthrew or underthrew his receivers and continues to show little skill in evading defenders closing in on his pocket by stepping forward like he did in earlier games. Delone Carter was banged up for most of the second half, so the majority of runs rested on Antwon Bailey. While he stepped in nicely (18car, 72yds, 4.0avg, 1 TD), he was unable to consistently gain 2 yards on command, which was a problem when trying to convert on third and short. The bright spot in the offense was the wide receivers who were fairly consistent in catching fairly well thrown balls. Marcus Sales was again the MVP for the receiving corps, earning 73yds on five receptions. The offensive line did pretty well, but I’m definitely on board with thinking a division 1 center should be able to do a shotgun snap. Honestly, had it not been for the touchdown drive to start the second half this unit would have received an F. 2-9 on third downs and 238 total yards is pathetic after some of the games Syracuse played earlier in the season. And for this to continually happen at home is odd and ridiculous. The offense has regressed and it was pretty hard to watch them struggle. It looked like 2007 all over again.

Not one of the proudest days for this tough defense. To allow another team to simply continue to run the ball (with yet another backup running back I might add, again) was another regression for this team. BC’s running back carried 42 times, earned 185 yards, and a touchdown. And he earned it on basic runs to the outside, through holes, and moving the chains on third and short. BC converted 11-18 third downs. That is embarrassing honestly.

Special Teams
A week after firing their special teams coordinator and I suppose this game was evidence that that move was a correct one. The special teams were very special in earning around four penalties to bring the team back to a more difficult starting field position, negating any real good special team plays. Rob Long, once and for all, derailed his Heisman bid after shanking one punt real bad, and moderately shanking another. Ross Krautman never had to attempt a field goal but he was perfect on his extra point. He’s clearly the MVP of the special teams on the season. But a bad Saturday for everyone on this game.


The fact that Syracuse lost this game was not that of the coaches or their plans. But to have taken virtually no shots down the field, including any in the final drive before the interception, to extend the vertical passing game seems foolish. Especially when the wide receivers have had a couple good games recently. Then there was not going for it on fourth down with just over five minutes to go. I’ve heard his explanation about playing percentages, and what makes sense in terms of a rational argument. However, when you are down two scores you have to score either way, and with time ticking down it seems that scoring earlier has to be the priority and the most likely percentage for success. Not going for it at that point is still pretty mind boggling to me.

D+ (1.175)
This game was pretty terrible to see, especially in the second half. Syracuse looked like a shell of it’s former self and I can only assume it has to be due to the players being mentally and physically banged up, along with the pressure and motivation meeting their goal of a bowl game being nonexistent because it was met. Either way, it’s a good thing Syracuse can take a week or two off and then have a bunch of extra practices in preparation for a bowl game. They will need it. But hey, the Bronx will be fun right?


B+ to the crowd, the biggest of the season. Syracuse didn’t really gain any benefits from the extra loud crowd except BC burning a time out or two, but it was fun in the first half, and good to see.

Football is done for now, but not done for the year. Stay tuned later this week for some reactions on how the Big East could shake out, the TCU business, and possible bowls for the Big East. We’ll find out the official bowl list on the 4th, but it seems all but certain Syracuse will be bowling in the Bronx. Either way, it’s pretty good to see us bowling and earning a winning season. I guess it’s even better that we’re really disappointed with how we played at home and the end of the season as it shows just how far we’ve come.

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Monday Morning Quarterback 11/29/10

This just in: the bowl game won't be in the Carrier Dome
When your team is bad, you get used to them playing poorly. When your team is good but plays poorly, well, that's pretty damn frustrating. Such is the story of the 2010 Syracuse Orange, who met or exceeded everyone's expectations this year, are going to a bowl game, and yet have all bit fizzled out in the month of November. The latest setback was this Saturday in the regular season finale, losing -- at home -- against Boston College 16-7.
As has been the case since pretty much the beginning of October, the offense just couldn't get much of anything going. This was especially true in the first half, when Syracuse was shut out. Ryan Nassib, starting his 12th game for the Orange and who can no longer be called inexperienced, had another typical Ryan Nassib day. He was 15 of 24 passing (63%) for only 147 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. I could dwell on him being hurried all day, throwing errant balls, balls being dropped, etc. But really, I think the two biggest reasons the Syracuse offense (particularly Nassib) couldn't get much of anything going were: time of possession (they just didn't have the ball much), and Delone Carter getting hurt. Antwon Bailey stepping up into the main rushing role was fine, but that really turned the offensive gameplay upside down. And Boston College figured it out.
Marcus Sales had another good game, with Nassib often finding him in a slant wide open for gains of 5-10 yards each. I was actually surprised at the stats when I saw them: Sales only had five catches for 73 yards. That, of course, puts him on the hook for half of Syracuse's passing yards. The other passing targets were the usual suspects, with Bailey, Van Chew, and Nick Provo all registering more than one catch each.
So when you take a dimension like Carter out of your playbook, the rest of your playcalling becomes more conservative. And when the playcalling of Head Coach Doug Marrone is conservative to begin with, well, this doesn't make the fans too happy. Case in point was 5:22 left in the 4th quarter, Syracuse down 16-7 facing a 4th down, two to go from its own 29 yard line. Syracuse punts to a thinning crowd of boos. I shared the disappointment. Not that your offense is doing a great job of moving the ball, but you have to give them a chance to win! At 5:22 there's no guarantee you get the ball back if your defense can hold; plus, you need two scores. Punting in that situation says "I don't want to win the game." Sure, there's the argument that if you go for it and don't make it, you're giving up field position that will at least result in BC scoring 3. But at that point you can say the game is out of reach anyway, so why not just go for it?
OK, that was my rant that had very little to do about the QB situation, other than to say Marrone had little confidence in his offense. So now, we wait. We wait for this coming weekend to find out which bowl game we're going to (I'm still hoping for Pinstripes myself). We wait to see who we're playing in said bowl game. And we wait for Doug Marrone to prepare the crap out of his team so we can end this season without such a sour taste in our mouths.
Monday Morning Quarterback will now be on hiatus for the next few weeks. Check back the Monday before our bowl game, and the Monday following our game, for all your quarterbacky analysis. And of course, keep coming here to Orange::44 for all other things Syracuse, including all the basketball updates you'd ever want!

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BlogPoll 2010 - Week 14

* Iowa, NC State, and Florida all drop out. I'm guessing because they suck. Through their misfortunes West Virginia, Northern Illinois, and UCF are on the board.
* Boise State... it was you. You broke my heart. You've made it real easy for the voters now. No Natty Championship bid for you. Nevada gets a seven slot bump as well. Boise takes the biggest poll fall.
* Because of it, your new #1 is Oregon. Auburn is #2. I think that's probably exactly right now seeing as Boise State lost.
* The next highest bump is Oklahoma who beat Okey State.
Think I got it wrong. Let me know already.

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Cue the...



Michigan - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: wolverines are nothing more than skunk bears.

In its first game away from the Carrier Dome this season, the Syracuse Orange take on the Michigan Wolverines tonight at 7:30 (more realistically 8pm) in the Legends Classic semifinals from Atlantic City, NJ. Both teams are undefeated on the year; Syracuse with four wins, Michigan with three. However, neither team has faced competition from a major conference thus far, so I think both schools are looking to this game to truly gauge where they are at this early point in the season. Ask Jim Boeheim, and he'll tell you his Orangemen are not a good team, not shooting the ball well, and is overrated. Ask Wolverines coach John Beilein, and he'll tell you his team is really young, starting three freshman, and they have a lot to prove. It may be simple, but this game will come down to which team can shoot the ball better. Unfortunately, this stat may fall to Michigan: as a team they're shooting 48.5% from the field, including 37.7% from three. Syracuse, on the other hand, is a measly 40.4% from the field and 31.9% from three. While Zack Novak might be the "heart and soul" of this Michigan team, I think the key for Syracuse is to keep the ball away from a pair of freshmen: #10 small forward Tim Hardaway, and #23 forward Evan Smotrycz. If these two are shooting cold, Syracuse has a chance to stay in the game, even with a mediocre shooting effort themselves. My unfortunate prediction is Michigan by 2. I hope to God I'm wrong.

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Boston College Quick Predictions

Every true Syracuse fan remembers this game fondly.
Syracuse’s Big East campaign is done for the 2010 season. But there is one game remaining on the schedule. Syracuse renews an old Big East rivalry against Boston College, a team that left the conference in one of the must underhanded and sneaky dealings in college sports in recent memory. Syracuse decided to insure that it would not be a pleasant exit as Syracuse beat Boston College both in the Carrier Dome and in Massachusetts in their last regular season meetings. The added bonus was the final game in Massachusetts stopped Boston College from winning the Big East Championship and going to the BCS game. It also put Syracuse in a four way tie for the Big East and got them to bowl eligible. While not as much as stake in this game, there is still pride and the fact Syracuse would like to beat a BCS team at home this season.
Syracuse is coming off of their worst offensive performance of the season against Connecticut last week. Connecticut was a team very much like Syracuse. They ran the ball first, and then passed when needing too. That is exactly how Boston College is. They run the ball, and have found little success in the air. This is a defensive team and the offense will be the big question, much like Syracuse. However, unlike Syracuse, Boston College is missing their star tailback Montel Harris, who was injured in last week’s game and could be out up to six weeks. That means it’s up to QB Chase Retting, who has 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on the year, and backup RB Andre Williams, who has yet to score this season and has only amassed 225yds on 35 carries on the season. This is the perfect opportunity to shine. Syracuse had an absolutely embarrassing offensive performance last weekend, and they need to end the year on a high note. I think they will, because they cannot play this badly at home against decent teams the entire year. It doesn’t make any sense. Syracuse should rebound. Look for Syracuse to take some bigger shots in this game than then did or attempted to do in the last one. Limiting mistakes will be the key to this game. Whoever commits the most turnovers should lose this one. Additionally, Syracuse really got in trouble with penalties last weekend, so being focused and not holding or false starting is paramount to offensive success on the day. I expect both Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey to carry the load on the day and get Syracuse to a magical eight win number. Syracuse over Boston College in a classic eastern rivalry 20 to 17.

Syracuse will be featured on ESPN at 12:00pm this Saturday. That’s right, the flagship. Hopefully Syracuse will enjoy a nice win in the Carrier Dome as you enjoy the warmth of the Carrier Dome, or leftovers in your living room. Check out John’s article on the recent games between Syracuse and Boston College here, and he’ll be back in a bit to preview the Michigan basketball game later this evening. Until then… BC sucks and always will.

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So here's to the outhouse on the hill!
Syracuse plays Boston College on the gridiron tomorrow for the first time since 2004. Some might say it's a rivalry renewed. Others might say it's just another game. Whatever you want to call it, this game has a bit of meaning for me, and I hope to God Syracuse wins it.
Back in 2000, I was but a lowly freshman at Syracuse. The Orangemen (as they were then called) were having a mediocre year. They were 3-2 hearing into an October 14 matchup against BC in Chestnut Hill. Being in the band at the time, these were the people I was quickly becoming friends with, so when some of them offered me the opportunity to travel with them to attend the game I jumped at the chance. My first road trip in college!
I remember being in Alumni Stadium -- back when they had Astroturf -- and watching the game from the upper tier in the end zone. Troy Nunes was having one of his signature games: some costly sacks and turnovers, and BC ahead late in the game. This was the game I started witnessing the true coaching acumen of Paul Pasqualoni: that when down 20-13 in the waning minutes of a game, one should kick field goals. "We're only 3 field goals away from taking the lead!" Well, of course, we all know that strategy didn't work, and Syracuse lost by that 7 point margin. While my first college road trip didn't end with a victory, it was the weekend I first learned how to play the card game "Asshole;" I heard a friend's mother lecture him about the importance of networking, of meeting people; and I made it to Harvard Yard by way of a wrong turn into Dorchester (wrong turn being an understatement). But more importantly, the travel bug had caught me, and I knew that one day I would need to exorcise the demons of this loss.
While Syracuse won at the Dome against the Eagles in 2001, lost at BC in 2002 without me present, and then beat the Eagles in the Dome in 2003, talk started mounting about Boston College defecting to the ACC. A conference foe that we played every year would be leaving our schedule. 2004 comes along, and Syracuse is reaching the height of its football frustration. At 5-5 overall, Syracuse had one game left on its schedule: at date with Boston College at Chestnut Hill on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. November 27, to be exact. I knew there were some friends -- particularly those living in the Boston area -- planning on going to the game. But I hadn't really made any plans. I mean, who would want to leave Horseheads, NY to go spend some time in Boston? But peer pressure got the most of me, and I made that six hour drive out to Boston.
Turns out, I wouldn't regret it. Now, I didn't have a ticket for this game. But as my friends with tickets filed into Alumni Stadium, I was searching around for a scalper with the greatest deal. I wasn't having much luck. Finally I found one offering a lower-tier end zone ticket for, I don't even know how much. I think I pleaded with him that all I had was $40 in my wallet (which was true -- the rest was in my pocket) so I took the ticket for the $40. Then I saw the face value was $11, so I immediately didn't feel bad for bargaining with the guy. So I get into the stadium, and of course it's basically nothing but BC fans around me. I didn't care, I was wearing my blue-colored home 44 jersey and supporting my team. Syracuse -- check that -- Diamond Ferri went out guns a blazing. I think he was playing offense, defense, and possibly even special teams in this game, and just totally dominating all of it. The 43-17 Syracuse victory that day earned the team a 6-5 record, a share of the Big East title, a bowl berth in the Champs Sports Bowl, and exorcised the demons from my 2000 trip.
So, if there had been a rivalry up to that point, and BC's defection to the ACC was going to end that rivalry, well then Syracuse certainly ended it in prime fashion. But of course, the competitor in me was just elated to hear a couple years ago when the schools announced they were signing on to a long-term deal to start playing each other again. That travel bug is still with me, so of course I'll be making those drives out to Boston every other year. But it starts here, and it starts now, with tomorrow's game in the Carrier Dome. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. November 27, to be exact.
And now, just because I want this to be all over the Interwebs so that nobody can claim to not know it, here are the real words to the Boston College Fight Song:
For Boston, for Boston,
The Outhouse on the Hill.
For Boston, for Boston,
You suck and always will!
So here's to the Outhouse on the Hill:
For Boston, for Boston,
The Outhouse on the Hill.

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Doug Marrone attempting to get the officials to make basic calls.

Syracuse had high hopes and its best team in six years. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a terrible offensive day. Syracuse fell to Connecticut in an ugly affair 23 to six.

This was the worst the Syracuse offense has been all season. Ryan Nassib (20/36, 171yds, 0 TD, 1 INT) looked dreadful for the majority of the game. And every time he seemed to look like he was finding a rhythm someone on his team would commit a penalty and instead of having ten yards to gain it would be 15. Delone Carter was mostly ineffective in only earning 67 yards on 19 carries. The majority of the time he was either stopped at the line or ran east/west instead of north/south. Overall the wide receivers played really well in this game, but at key moments they had big drops yet again. This was a nightmarish day for the offense, and despite trying several plays from the shotgun, they actually managed no points. Only 235 yards and going 4-15 on third down is not good. Connecticut’s defense is pretty good, but mistakes, penalties, and failures to execute were the true causes of Syracuse’s woes.

The defense was literally the only bright spot on Syracuse’s day. Syracuse held Connecticut to only 254 yards and under 100 yards through the air. They also held Connecticut to a stingy 2-12 on third downs. But that being said UConn was 2-2 on fourth down and were allowed to make big plays as the defense again used soft zone coverage against the wide receivers of the Huskies so they converted without it being too hard. However, overall it was another pretty good day for the defense. After all, the majority of UConn’s scores were due to mistakes and turnovers by the offense. They even did a similar feat as at Rutgers by sacking the quarterback which led to a field goal miss by Connecticut. A good day overall.

Special Teams
Shankapotomus reared his ugly head for Rob Long, who had maybe the worst game of his career with a pretty hideous shank when punting. Also, Mike Holmes had a similar problem to Delone Carter, not running down the field. Ross Krautman was a perfect 2/2 on the day and continues to be rock solid. Dorian Graham was also average to great on kick returns as well. A middle of the road day. Thanks for your service Bob.

There were no major gaffes or objectionable calls. But two questions remain on the day. First, why would you not perhaps challenge the fumble by Ryan Nassib on the four yard line. With three time outs, despite it being early in the third quarter why would you not try to get that ball back? Additionally, why was the offensive game plan still so conservative? After Syracuse took a shot on their first play on offense, despite the ball being thrown out of bounds, would you not take another now and then to keep the defense honest? There were literally only two deep balls thrown on the day. Too conservative again, and hopefully Marrone will expand the playbook and really use the extra month of practice to rest up, get their top talent ready, and really open the playbook up.

C (1.925)
This game was a nightmare, not only because of the offense, but because this was against Connecticut. On top of that, Syracuse is better than this and they have not been able to play well at home in the league. Hopefully Syracuse will rebound for next week, but at the very least they have an extra month of practice to open up the playbook, rest up, and be fully prepared to execute an offensive game plan that is balanced and can keep defenses off balance.


C- to the referee crew. While certainly far from the worst crew we have seen this season (See Pittsburgh, Rutgers [same crew]), they missed a blatant delay of game call on Connecticut after the play clock was on 00 for about two seconds. Doug Marrone was livid and I was too. The back judge is suppose to be watching that, and no one was. Connecticut went on to score on that drive and that was a third down play that they converted on. While it didn’t matter in the final score that is an inexcusable miss for a division 1 crew.

A- to the crowd in the Carrier Dome who were loud, into the game when prompted by the players, and never gave Connecticut a free play on third down by being quiet. Despite them leaving early which I addressed above, they were a great crowd and the year’s largest.

A+ to all the Syracuse internet famous hanging out in the back room at Faegan’s and in the various parking lots all weekend in Syracuse. I completely enjoyed meeting you all at various points and it was a great weekend. Sadly you couldn’t see a better game.

Syracuse is still going to a bowl, but beating Connecticut would have been nice. Either way we now turn our attention to turkey and then a renewed rivalry with Boston College, a team that Syracuse sent to the ACC with a pair of losses from the Dome and in Chestnut Hill. This game means a lot for many alumni and long time Syracuse football fans. I’m sure it won’t be lost on Doug Marrone as well. This game is a noon affair, but this time on the flagship station ESPN. For Boston, for Boston… the outhouse on the hill. A better bowl is at stake, along with pride and the legacy of Diamond Ferri.

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BlogPoll 2010 - Week 13

*Sorry no deltas. I didn't submit a ballot last week due to the fact I was out of the home office.
*I'm keeping Boise at #1 until they lose.
Check it out and tell me if I'm way off or not.

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Cue That Crying Child...

I can stand any loss but Connecticut.

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Monday Morning Quarterback 11/22/10

Does anyone here wanna play well? Anyone?

When the Connecticut Huskies rolled into the Carrier Dome Saturday night and beat Syracuse 23-6, it was difficult to tell which was worse: losing to UConn, or the way Syracuse lost to UConn. Either way, this was a game that featured some poor play calling, some poor execution, fans booing, and the crowd justifiably leaving early. Forget about the Chipotle curse: we have a Carrier Dome curse.

Once again at the helm for the Syracuse offense was quarterback Ryan Nassib. For anyone who watched the game, you'll look at his stat line and be surprised: 20 completions on 36 attempts (56%) for 171 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. Bear in mind, one of those completions was to himself. But then of course he had the foresight to again attempt a forward pass after catching his own, and well, that's a big no-no. I feel like a D-1A quarterback should know that. I knew that. Anyway, the no TDs thing. That not only snapped the streak of consecutive games passing for a TD (was all games this season up until UConn) but it also kept Syracuse out of this game.

Not that UConn was putting up a ton of points. But even when you're only down by two touchdowns, it can seem insurmountable when it's evident that your team can't put the ball in the end zone.

Nine players caught passes from Ryan Nassib, including, Nassib himself. Marcus Sales led the way with six for 57 yards. Van Chew, Antwon Bailey, and Jose Cruz were the only other receivers with more than one catch. The longest completed pass of the day went to Bailey for 24 yards; however, his other three catches had a net yardage of 0.

I am officially scratching my head about this offense and what can be done to fix it. There's plenty of blame to go around. Sure, it's easy to blame the offensive line for not providing the necessary protection for Nassib. They weren't great by any stretch of the imagination on Saturday night, but if I had to point my finger to one unit, it wouldn't be the line. The receivers are dropping balls and otherwise not getting open. So they could get some blame. Ultimately, I suppose it all rests with Ryan Nassib who, at the end of the day, just hasn't been executing very well. Basically since Big East play started. Look at Syracuse's first play from scrimmage on Saturday: as I recall, there may have been a bit of a play fake, then it was a bomb down the sideline. If executed well (and completed), that instantly puts the Orange in great field position to set up a score, and sets the tone for the rest of the game. Instead, the pass was bad and fell out of bounds. There were a few other pass attempts like that where the ball landed out of bounds. I'm not talking a foot or two inside the line, I'm talking about several yards. Many other throws just aren't hitting receivers: too high, too low, in front of the receiver, behind the receiver. Is the timing off? Is Nassib aiming the ball? And that one INT Nassib threw, I just have no idea what he was doing there. He had no business throwing that ball where he did, and I knew it as soon as it left his hands that it would be picked.

So what is the answer, after all of that? I heard many people calling for Charley Loeb. I'm not about to endorse that idea. Just yet, anyway. For one, we have no idea how he has looked in practice, how comfortable the team is with him in the mix. Plus, as noted above, this offense isn't working for a number of reasons, not just QB. So putting in a new QB won't necessarily solve the problem; we'll still have a sub-par line and sub-par receivers. Boston College comes to the Dome this coming Saturday to close out the regular season. Of course, Ryan Nassib will start at QB and will probably play the whole game. But after that, head coach Doug Marrone will have one whole month to prepare for the bowl game, to examine our yet-to-be-named opponent, and to put together Syracuse's best chance to win that game.

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William & Mary - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: neither William nor Mary is good at hoops

This Sunday at 2:00pm, after a magical transformation of the Dome from full field football to the basketball setup, the Syracuse Orangemen take on the William & Mary Tribe. I assume that name is more racist than anything Syracuse ever called itself. Nonetheless, this is a University with a lot of history (2nd oldest institution of higher learning in the US, to Harvard). But for a school that touts Secretary of Defense Robert Gates among its notable alumni, this basketball team doesn't seem to know much about defense. In games this season against Virginia and Richmond, the Tribe surrendered 76 and 73 points, respectively. Conversely, they themselves only scored 52 and 49, respectively. Is this the breath of fresh air Syracuse needs? Let's hope so. Notable players to watch on W&M include Marcus Kitts, who seems to be their scoring and rebounding "machine," Quinn McDowell, and Kyle Gaillard. W&M have shot horribly from the floor, and seem to be lost in their first two games, which obviously ended in losses. Granted, they were playing against two schools with good basketball reputations, but still. I think this is the game that Syracuse decides to play the way we all expected them to play, especially with a whole four+ days to rest and prepare. Look for Syracuse to win by 19.

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Connecticut Quick Predictions

Doug is taking this s#!t seriously.
Syracuse is already going bowling this football season for the first time since 2004. So what's left? Plenty. Syracuse is, believe it or not, still in the hunt for the Big East's BCS berth. With a win against UConn, and a Pittsburgh loss, Syracuse will tie for first and the BCS Standings, which Syracuse currently leads, is the tiebreaker. Forgetting that for a moment though, Connecticut has five wins currently, so keeping rival Connecticut wanting for another week would be sweet. Plus, it's been a few years since we have handled the Huskies, so that would be nice bonus.
Connecticut is now led by QB Zach Fraser again. He's been adequate, but we all know what kind of team Connecticut is. With RB Jordan Todman, one of the best backs in the nation, this is a team that pounds the ball and dares opposing defenses to stop them. Syracuse is currently ranked fifth in the Big East in run defense thanks to the Rutgers game. Todman will find some success and could rack up some yards, however that does not necessarily mean that UConn will score more points than Syracuse. On the contrary, Connecticut lacks a true passing threat. They will take their shots, but chances are they will not succeed. Syracuse's defense has held far more adept offenses (See: West Virginia, South Florida), so the fact that Todman is a stud doesn't equate to success. Syracuse has been dreadful at home however, so that could be interesting. And Connecticut's offensive line is pretty talented. That all being said, much like Syracuse has faltered at home, Connecticut has been even worse than that on the road, including a ridiculous low at Louisville. Syracuse's offense has been just good enough lately not to hurt Syracuse, but I see this game, inside with no weather, to be the game Syracuse opens up a pass happy whooping, with Antwon Bailey and Delone Carter providing manageable passing situations and allowing for Ryan Nassib to take big shots down the field, ala 2004. A little business about a last minute extra touchdown at the end of last year's game at the Rentch is still in the minds of players and fans as well. Look for Syracuse to win another grinding game (how else would a game go for Syracuse?) at home over the Huskies 20 to 14.
Syracuse will again be seen nationally on ESPN U, this time in the evening hour of 7:00pm. With plenty of tailgates planned around the greater Syracuse area I'm sure you'll find something to do if you are in the Salt City. Also, at 3:30 on Saturday stop by the SU Bookstore and get an autographed copy of Sean Keeley's book. He'll be there, along with cover artist Mark Borkowski, so check that out. Otherwise, I'll be knee deep in alcoholic cider. It promises to be a good day. If we win, I'll be ecstatic and a mess in a good way. If we lose... well let's not consider that outcome just yet. I'll be around with John Brennan as always so if you see us, along with the several other Internet Famous Syracuse Twitterati or bloggers say hi.

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Syracuse-Detroit Postgame OR The Scoop & Rick Show

Scoop & Rick: Better this year than the Phillies

Tuesday night marked my triumphant return to the Dome for basketball, having been unavailable for the exhibitions and this past weekend's regular season games. For the third game in five days, Syracuse found itself looking for itself in the first half, then pulling away in the second half for the victory. Your Syracuse Orange win this one over Detroit 66-55.

Instead of in-depth analysis of the stats and the gameplay, I think this recap warrants a bunch of twitter-length statements:
  • What is it with this team and slow starts? And this one seemed slower than usual, for as usual as 2 prior games can show.
  • Scoop with a career high 27 points. Without him, Syracuse is dead in the water. Drowned. That's it & that's all.
  • Rick Jackson turned into a rebounding machine this offseason. Unless it's just been a size advantage. We'll confirm later.
  • I'm scared at the lack of an inside game. Sure it was the 2-3 zone, but YOU SEE IT EVERY DAY IN PRACTICE!
  • Team shot 36% from the field with Scoop's #s. Without, 27%. Ugg Lee! (Salute Your Shorts reference)
  • From 3 even worse: team was 23% with Scoop's #s. Without, 15%.
  • FTs? Sure I'll go there: 11 of 21 for 52%.
  • Actually a minor miracle this team won. They had no business winning. Luckily Detroit suffered from the same maladies. AND THEY SEE THE 2-3 IN PRACTICE EVERY DAY TOO!
  • Kris Joseph, where art thou? You went 0fer on the floor and fouled out.
  • Fab Melo, wherefor art thou? One basket and two blocks in 15 minutes.
  • The bench accounted for only 17 points. That hurts when your bench sees 61 minutes.
  • Scant crowd of 17,379, which ain't bad for a rainy Tuesday night. Mostly quiet but got into it a few times.
  • Why did the Dance Team do a routine to "Roxanne"? They do know that song's about a hooker, right?
  • Kiss Cam was eerily absent, but of course "Cotton Eyed Joe" reared its ugly head.
  • It was nice to be back in Section 309. Damn I love those seats!
Overrated or not, this team has a long way to go and a lot to prove. The next step in that process is this coming Sunday against William & Mary. We'll have a Preview of that one coming up this Friday, as well as the usual Quick Predictions for the football matchup against UConn. And with that, we now return you to your regularly scheduled UConn Hate Week.


It was as fine as any evening could be in NJ. Syracuse clinched a bowl.

It definitely wasn’t pretty. I agree with my colleague John in his assessment of the SU / Rutgers football contest. But on a final drive in which Syracuse traveled 66 yards, made Rutgers burn all of their time outs, and then got a go ahead score, it was perfection. In the stands it was a thing of beauty. On the field, it was a well earned release for seniors and upper classmen haunted by the ghosts of Greg Robinson and his losing ways. Syracuse earned more than a bowl with this win. They earned respect back. This has turned into a dream season for Syracuse fans as Syracuse clinching a bowl birth on their seventh win. They win two in a row over Rutgers, returning the world to its natural order, winning in Piscataway 13 to ten.

The Syracuse offense was pretty forgettable in the first half, save for one scoring drive in which Ryan Nassib had forever to find an open Antwon Bailey. The second half was just as pitiful, except for the final magical drive in which the team drove 66 yards in 2:44 to get a 24 yard field goal. Ryan Nassib (16/31, 214yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) had flashes of good moments, and at times looked bad underthrowing and lofting balls he should be more accurate with. Three turnovers do not help either. Delone Carter and Bailey were the stars of the offense in this game, along with Marcus Sales, who led the team in receptions and yards, appeared out of nowhere to be very solid and contribute in that final drive as well. The offensive line really had trouble on occasion, as well as a needless personal foul to kill some momentum. Overall, the offense was not that good, but they were good enough when they needed to be.

They held Rutgers to only 280 yards total, caused one turnover, and almost had another but the fumble went out of bounds. They allowed Rutgers to run the ball out of the Wildcat set up the middle too many times to mention for big gains though, which was extremely frustrating to watch. When we as fans in the top of Rutgers Stadium can see they are going to run up the middle, surely the defense should right? However, they managed to stop Rutgers behind the line, and then get a sack to push Rutgers just out of field goal range, with a little help from a bad snap. Really, they only allowed one touchdown, and held Rutgers scoreless in the last quarter. They also only allowed ten total points for Rutgers in this defensive heavy game. Despite bending, they never really broke except the one touchdown drive for Rutgers. Syracuse did manage in the final analysis to hold both Rutgers QBs to low numbers as well and get sacks when needed. An impressive day overall.

Special Teams
Ross Krautman is your hero in this one. The local NJ project got it done with family in attendance. He drilled a career long 48 yard attempt, and scored the go ahead points with 1:07 to go from 24 yards out on the difficult right hash. Rob Long did his job, punting well in this important position game. Kick and punt returns were also again solid. This might have been the special team’s best overall day this season.

Syracuse allowed Rutgers to gain too many yards on the ground in the wildcat set. They knew Rutgers was going to use it over and over, and yet they continued to let Rutgers gain chunks of yards and first downs with it. No adjustments were made to put more people up on the line, or bring coverage out to help with run stopping. Similarly, I liked the call going for it on 4th down in the game that needed sparks on offense, but the play call was bad. When you are within inches, why not just QB sneak the ball over the line and get a fresh set of downs. Instead the quarterback had to drop back three yards to hand the ball off, where Carter was stopped behind the line by a dominant Rutgers defense at that moment. With a changed snap count, and a QB sneak, that would have been a drive that was able to be continued. Either way, a few questionable calls, not too many adjustments, and some interesting choices on offense. Shotgun formation anyone? Still no on that?

B- (5.575)
It’s hard to be too upset when the result goes in your favor, but this game could have easily ended up lost in regulation or overtime because of the inability for the offense to put together sustained drives. Overall the defense and special teams did their jobs, and the offense did when it was absolutely necessary, after their initial score. The team played hard and together, and this win is all the more impressive looking at where the team is during the year and the physical toll football has, as well as the scholarship levels for Syracuse. I’ll take it, along with a bowl bid thanks.


B+ to the amount of SU fans that showed up in Piscataway. There were three big groups of orange around the stadium, and many more scattered around. It was nice to see a heavy road presence in person, and a fun atmosphere to enjoy a win in.

A to all the nice Syracuse fans that approached myself, John, or Matt Glaude. Not only was your timing spot on, but all of the conversations were enjoyable.

F to the Rutgers fan that screamed at me out of the blue on the concourse “Fuck you Syracuse!” You stay classy Rutgers.

A to all of the tributes and fundraising efforts for injured Rutgers player Eric LeGrand. Even Syracuse fans helped support such a brave individual who has been the victim of a tragedy.

Syracuse will now take on hated Connecticut, the next best thing to a rival Syracuse has after West Virginia and lately Rutgers. Randy Edsall is now the perfect villain for Syracuse fans, and he continues to play that part well. I’ll have my preview out later this week, but who honestly knows what will happen? What we do know will happen is that Syracuse is bowling for the first time since 2004 after earning their seventh and clinching win against a Rutgers team struggling to find wins as the season fades. But I’ll enjoy this one, as it has been a long time. Syracuse sweeps their conference road slate, winning all four games for the first time in Syracuse history. I was at the last two Syracuse bowls, and I look forward to seeing this one as well. Hell, This notebook didn’t even exist the last time Syracuse went to a Bowl Game.

Programming Note: I will not be having any Postgame Reactions for the first two basketball games of the season. I was on the road and couldn't give them my usual attention in watching, so we'll pick up with the Detroit game, as handled by John Brennan. I'll be back next week with full coverage of the Connecticut game, and the basketball therein.

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Monday Morning Quarterback 11/15/10

Picture Ryan Nassib running in slow motion to "Damn it feels good to be a gangsta"
It wasn't pretty. Nothing about it was. It was New Jersey. It got cold once the sun went down. Rutgers Stadium doesn't sell beer. Neither team was in any hurry to put up points. But when it mattered most, Ryan Nassib & Co. got the job done. Syracuse beats Rutgers 13-10 and becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2004!
All things considered, Nassib had himself a pretty decent game. Though he was sacked 64 times (not really), he still put up some pretty good numbers, possibly the best of all Big East matchups he's playing in thus far: he completed 16 of 31 pass attempts (52%) for 214 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The one touchdown was to Antwon Bailey in a play in the first quarter where Nassib actually had time to allow the play to develop, checked down on a couple of receivers as first options, and then just found a wide open Bailey down low who took the 4-yard pass into the end zone. It was a thing of beauty.
Also in on the receiving action were the usual suspects of Nick Provo and Van Chew, but seeing some more action this week were Marcus Sales (5 for 73 yards), and Adam Harris who pulled down a nice 19-yard completion. The nicest addition was obviously the emergence of Marcus Sales, who started this game and was otherwise having a very quiet 2010 campaign. With Alec Lemon having his own issues, it's good to know that Sales can come in and make some plays.
Of noted concern to me (not surprisingly) is the Syracuse offensive line. Its pass protection is non-existent. Here we are, 10 games into the season, and they still can't hold together and give Nassib time. Simply unacceptable. I've seen what head coach Doug Marrone has been able to do with the other units on the field, and he's taken mediocre talent and made it usable. Does this mean the o-line just has no talent to turn into anything? I don't know, but something's gotta give here. With a bowl line now on the horizon, I'd hate to see whatever name we're up against just embarrass Syracuse by face-planting Ryan Nassib on every passing attempt.
One more conference game coming up this Saturday against Connecticut at the Dome, followed by the regular season closer against Boston College on its traditional Saturday after Thanksgiving slot. Two very winnable games, until you remember that Syracuse hasn't played well in the Dome as of late, and now that bowl eligibility has been clinched, will these players simply go into automatic pilot? I don't think a Doug Marrone-coached team would, but you never know.

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Cue That Bowling Kid...

Syracuse is going bowling. Mission accomplished.

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Northern Iowa - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: A new season is always exciting.
Northern Iowa is the team that upset #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament last season. Syracuse will open their schedule with this seemingly tough team. Not so. All three of their big time players from last year’s squad, including NCAA beast Ali Farokhmanesh and Missouri Valley Conference POY Adam Koch. They now have eight true or redshirt freshman. This game may be close early, but Syracuse, especially on the back of their inside play, should cruise in this one. Syracuse keeps saying they are not going to take this team lightly. That’s the company line and they should definitely keep toeing it. But they lost all of their talent. This could be an NCAA Tournament team again, but that is because they play in the Missouri Valley Conference, not because they have a ton of talent. I’m keeping this preview short and sweet because we have not seen this team play yet, but it is clearly talented and Syracuse should roll. Look for Syracuse to beat up on Northern Iowa by 22.

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Rutgers Quick Predictions

Back in the day, this used to be a given.

Syracuse is back on the road. Good thing. Syracuse has won the three Big East road games they have played this season. And they are now facing Rutgers, a team that Syracuse flat out embarrassed last season. Do you think they aren’t chomping at the bit for payback?

Rutgers will most likely start freshman QB Chas Dodd, who has not had the best of years as a true freshman, only throwing for five touchdowns to three interceptions. He does have some good receivers to throw to in Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison, but his forte seems to be quick, short passes, not airing the ball out. His longest play on the season is only 53 yards. Nor has he shown the arm strength to back safeties off to create more opportunity for the running game. Syracuse should have a slightly more successful day on offense than Rutgers with a far more dependable running game in Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. Ryan Nassib also has more experience, a better arm, and now he has his entire starting offensive line back. Both these defenses are pretty evenly matched however, and two of the best in the league. With Rutgers they have an especially good run defense and have found ways to penetrate the offensive lines of the teams they have faced. Obviously, Syracuse’s front seven are very good and the various blitz packages and zone looks Syracuse has used this year has been very successful in confusing younger quarterbacks on the road. The key to this game will be which team can consistently pressure the quarterback and cause some turnovers. For Syracuse, this is especially critical to give Syracuse some shorter fields for the offense to work. Syracuse will be able to move the ball, but it will be frustrating to watch on occasions because Rutgers has the ability to stop what Syracuse’s strength is in pounding the ball. Still, because this is on the road and with both teams struggling offensively as of late, I do like Syracuse in this game. This is a winnable game for the Orange and if they limit mistakes in terms of picks or turnovers they will at least have a great chance to continue the road winning streak. Look for Syracuse to win a close one over Rutgers 24 to 17.

This game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN U in stunning high definition starting at 3:30pm. This game is very important for Syracuse, not only for pride against a team Syracuse consistently dominated in Rutgers, but also to clinch their first postseason appearance since 2004. It would be nice to get that over with and play more relaxed for the rest of the season knowing a bowl is guaranteed. Either way, this will be entertaining. I’ll be in New Jersey for this one, so I’m hoping the team doesn’t let me down. At least the weather will be nice, even though it’s New Jersey.

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We went old school, then really old school!

As is usually the tradition around these parts, we like to preview things. And so, with the regular season beginning tomorrow for the Syracuse men's basketball team, we are proud to present to you a snapshot of all 16 Big East basketball squads.

Cincinnati Bearcats

Last Year: 19-16 (7-11, t 11th); Posteason: NIT 2nd Round

Key Gains: Kelvin Gaines (no pun intended), Justin Jackson, Sean Kilpatrick

Key Departures: Lance Stephenson, Steve Toyloy, Deonta Vaughn

Snapshot: The Bearcats figure to be a middle-of-the-conference team this season. While Stephenson and Vaughn were the sparks to last year’s team, the 10-11 squad will look to Cashmere “Sweater” Wright and Yancy “Fancy” Gates to get them hot. Coach Mick Cronin knows he has a rather young club, but he has shown in the past that he can do a lot with a little. Still, there’s a lot to be said for experience, and this team will find itself struggling against morte veteran, more talented teams. Coming off a disappointing NIT departure next year, the Bearcats will try to win a couple games they shouldn’t otherwise win to try to find themselves back in the NCAAs. If these young players can grow up fast and stay healthy, there’s a shot Cincy can be on the bubble heading into the Conference Tournament, where a couple high quality wins could impress the Selection Committee.

Plays twice: DePaul, Georgetown, St. John’s

Projected Conference Finish: 9-12th

Connecticut Huskies

Last Year: 18-16 (7-11, t 11th); Postseason: NIT 2nd Round

Key Gains: Michael Bradley, Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, Roscoe Smith

Key Departures: Jerome Dyson, Gavin Edwards, Stanley Robinson, Ater Majok, Darius Smith, Jamaal Trice

Snapshot: When news recently broke about a UConn athlete being accused of stealing a laptop, I just automatically assumed it was a basketball player. You can bet head coach Jim Calhoun (and his atmosphere of compliance) was thanking his lucky stars when that athlete turned out to be football player Marcus Campbell. Still, it’s an example of the all-too-fresh scars on this basketball program. The Huskies are ready to put an off-season of NCAA investigations and sanctions behind them and play some basketball. Honestly, though, this program is nothing like it was five years ago. The apparent leader of these young men is Kemba Walker, who put together a great season last year showing off both his inside and his outside game. With a player being such a constant threat on the floor no matter where he is, defenses will be forced to pay him special attention, possibly even a double-team here and there. Caution, though, because double-teams leave someone open, and this squad has a group of talented young players that can hurt you if given the chance. Calhoun will most certainly pull out all the stops (within compliance, of course) to improve his team’s final standings to exorcise last year’s NIT ghosts. Was it the low point of the program? Let’s let history answer that question.

Plays twice: Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame

Projected Conference Finish: 5-8th

DePaul Blue Demons

Last Year: 8-23 (1-17, 16th); Postseason: Pizzeria Uno

Key Gains: Cleveland Melvin, Moses Morgan, Brandon Young

Key Departures: Mac Koshwal, Will Walker

Snapshot: Let’s face it; DePaul is not a good basketball program. Save for a few huge upsets against cream of the crop teams in the conference, the Blue Demons have hardly caused a ripple in the Big East. This year will be no different. A change at the top (Jerry Wainwright fired in favor of Oliver Purnell) will probably have no effect. Koshwal and Walker moving on is not what Purnell needed to make a good first impression; instead he will have to rely on players such as Mike Stovall and newbie Cleveland Melvin. Is it possible that this team could improve from last year? Absolutely. But will it matter? Let’s just say that winters in Chicago can be as brutal as Syracuse in a lake-effect blizzard.

Plays twice: Cincinnati, South Florida, West Virginia

Projected Conference Finish: Bottom 4

Georgetown Hoyas

Last Year: 23-11 (10-8, t 7th); Postseason: NCAA 1st Round

Notable Additions: Moses Abraham, Aaron Bowen, Nate Lubick, Markel Starks

Notable Losses: Greg Monroe

Snapshot: John Thompson III and his Hoyas had high hopes last year. Then along came Ohio. Not The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Just regular Ohio. Luckily for JTIII, he’s still got a good change this year, with a solid core of players returning. The key to the season will be filling the void left by Greg Monroe. He brought so much to the Hoyas statistically and intangibly that his absence will surely be felt. Look for Chris Wright to really step up his game and be a playmaker this season, but Georgetown will be led by Austin Freeman. My big question about these Hoyas (aside from the obvious), is whether they will be able to play physically with the big dogs (again, no pun intended). Smart opponents will pound the ball inside and take it to the hoop. Zone teams like Syracuse should be poised for a good matchup against a fine shooting squad. The Hoyas will likely make it back to the NCAAs, but they may need to find a unique way to win if they want to advance passed the likes of Ohio.

Plays twice: Cincinnati, St. John’s, Syracuse

Projected Conference Finish: Top 4

Louisville Cardinals

Last Year: 20-13 (11-7, t 5th); Postseason: NCAA 1st Round

Key Gains: Gorgui Dieng, Elisha Justice, Richie Phares, Roburt Sallie, Russell Smith

Key Departures: Reginald Delk, Samardo Samuels, Jerry Smith, Edgar Sosa

Snapshot: With Rick Pitino in charge, the Cardinals are one of those teams that have the potential to impress you up front, get you where they want you, and then before you know it the season is over. If that joke is lost on you, you should probably stop getting your news from Jim Lehrer. At any rate, Louisville might be the toughest team in the Conference to preview. They’re losing the likes of Sosa and Samuels, but they still have a good group of returning players, a transfer in from Memphis, and a few freshman that could contribute. These kids will have something to prove, playing in their new Yummy digs, and will certainly look to deflect attention away from their personally-embattled coach and onto their basketball accomplishments. If not, then coach can just throw a bunch of money at the problem and abort the season… right?

Plays twice: Connecticut, Providence, West Virginia

Projected Conference Finish: 5-8th

Marquette Golden Eagles

Last Year: 22-12 (11-7, t 5th); Postseason: NCAA 1st Round

Key Gains: Vander Blue, Jae Crowder, Davonte Gardner, Jamail Jones, Reggie Smith

Key Departures: Maurice Acker, David Cubillan, Lazar Hayward

Snapshot: The Golden Eagles I think met or exceeded their expectations last year. Or at least my expectations. It was a shame they left in the NCAA 1st round and couldn’t try to help represent the Big East, but, such is life. Will they be back there again this year? They control that destiny. Marquette is a team I see sitting on the bubble from February 1 until Selection Sunday. They’ll impress at times, and disgust at others. It’s up to them how that all shakes out. It’ll be tough losing a player like Hayward, which means that someone like Darius Johnson-Odom will need to step it up on offense. Luckily for the Golden Eagles, he is very capable of that.

Plays twice: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Seton Hall

Projected Conference Finish: 9-12th

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Last Year: 23-12 (10-8, t 7th); Postseason: NCAA 1st Round

Key Gains: Eric Atkins, Alex Dragicevic, Jerian Grant, Scott Martin

Key Departures: Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson, Jonathan Peoples

Snapshot: South Bend needs its basketball team to do well this year. The new regime worshipping Touchdown Jesus seems to be falling short of expectations, and we Irish Catholics are very demanding people. Enter, Mike Brey and his Fighting Irish basketball team. One of the biggest (and goofiest) good white guys to play in the league in recent memory, Harangody, is now but a memory, along with such people as Peoples. Without that massive inside scoring threat, look for Notre Dame to return to its shooting roots. Though, let’s be honest, Ben Hansbrough is no Tyler. Look for the Irish to be a better than middle-of-the-road Conference team, but falter in the final weeks and fall short of anything spectacular.

Plays twice: Connecticut, Marquette, St. John’s

Projected Conference Finish: 5-8th

Pittsburgh Panthers

Last Year: 25-9 (13-5, t 2nd); Postseason: NCAA 2nd Round

Key Departure: Jermaine Dixon

Key Gains: Isaiah Epps, Lamar Patterson, J.J. Moore, Aron Nwankwo, Cameron Wright, Talib Zanna

Snapshot: Everyone thinks the best of the best in the Big East rests in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. With the year-in and year-out consistency from head coach Jamie Dixon, it’s no surprise that the Panthers are again in that conversation. Make no mistake: Pitt is experienced, fast, big, and can beat anybody on any given night. Or they can struggle against an inferior opponent. The latter, of course, will be rare. Some returning players, most notably Brad Wanamaker “Moan” will have to step up their game and lead this team. They can, and they will. The key for the Panthers will be staying at the top of their game all season long. Losing one here or there will happen, but if they find themselves losing two in a row, sound the alarms; this team could get stuck in a rut it can’t get out of.

Plays twice: South Florida, Villanova, West Virginia

Projected Conference Finish: Top 4

Providence Friars

Last Year: 12-19 (4-14, 15th); Postseason: Mopping the home offices

Key Gains: Kadeem Batts, Gerard Coleman, Xavier Davis, Dre Evans, Ron Giplaye, Lee Goldsbrough, Brice Kofane, Michael Murray

Key Departures: Sharaud Curry, Johnny Lacy, Brian McKenzie, Jamine Peterson

Snapshot: What do you say about a team like the Friars? I remember growing up I used to play Super Nintendo with my brother and we had an NCAA basketball game. He always insisted on being the Friars. I, of course, picked Syracuse, mainly because they were one of the closest schools to us. It was a pretty heated rivalry back then, between my brother and I as Friars vs. Orangemen. Well, not today. We’ve outgrown the Super Nintendo, and Providence has outgrown being relevant. The Friars lose Curry, and somehow that opened up about 20 scholarships. So in about three or four years, look for Providence to be … still bad.

Plays twice: Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida

Projected Conference Finish: Bottom 4

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Last Year: 15-17 (5-13, 14th); Postseason: Crashin’ with Snooki

Key Gains: Gilvydas Biruta, Austin Carroll, Tyree Graham, Robert Lumpkins, Mike Poole, Frank Mitchell

Key Departures: Fred Hill, Patrick Jackson, Hamady N'Diaye, Brian Okam, Mike Rosario

Snapshot: How does that saying go, about adding by subtracting? Well, whatever it is, Fred Hill is gone. Unfortunately for Rutgers, so is offensive threat Mike Rosario. This young squad has a lot of work ahead of itself this season. Playing in the friendly confines of the RAC won’t tip the scales that much, so raw talent and playmaking will have to get it done for the Scarlet Knights to not be a laughingstock. Look for last year’s all-rookie Dane Miller to put up some big numbers. If he doesn’t, Rutgers might as well pack it in for next year.

Plays twice: Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova

Projected Conference Finish: 9-12th

Seton Hall Pirates

Last Year: 19-13 (9-9, t 9th); Postseason: NIT 1st Round

Key Gains: Patrik Auda, Fuquan Edwin, Aaron Geramipoor, Anali Okoloji, Eniel Polynice

Key Departures: John Garcia, Eugene Harvey

Snapshot: Another Big East team with a new head coach. The Pirates bring on Kevin Willard to try to bring respectability to the program. And he could do it, with an emphasis on defense. The team isn’t losing much in the way of productivity from last year’s squad, and with players like Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope returning, Willard has a nice core of players able to get the job done. This is a lot to place on the shoulders of a new head coach, so I don’t want to set the expectations too high. But I think a series of close games that go the Pirates’ way could land them in the middle of the conference standings come March.

Plays twice: Marquette, Rutgers, Syracuse

Projected Conference Finish: 9-12th

South Florida Bulls

Last Year: 20-13 (9-9, t 9th); Postseason: NIT 1st Round

Key Gains: Ron Anderson, LaVonte Dority, Shedrick Haynes, Jordan Heath, Jawanza Poland, Hugh Robertson

Key Departures: Chris Howard, Dominique Jones, Mike Mercer

Snapshot: Several years into their tenure in the Big East, and it’s still hard to know what to expect from the Bulls. Last year they made a push to threaten the big boys and landed in the middle of the league. However, that was on the shoulders of Dominique Jones, whom the Bulls relied on almost exclusively to be their playmaker. With him and Chris Howard gone, South Florida doesn’t have much to turn to. That’s OK; Tampa must be really nice in March.

Plays twice: DePaul, Pittsburgh, Providence

Projected Conference Finish: Bottom 4

St. John’s Red Storm

Last Year: 17-16 (6-12, 13th); Postseason: NIT 1st Round

Key Gains: Steve Lavin, Dwayne Polee

Key Departures: Anthony Mason Jr.

Snapshot: In one of the most interesting off-season hires, the Johnnies bring ESPN analyst Steve Lavin on board to bring this storied school back into relevance. Or try, as it may. There will be some growing pains, especially this year, but Red Storm fans, don’t give up on your team. Give Lavin a couple years worth of recruiting classes, and an NCAA bid will once again be yours. Without Mason this year, St. John’s will hurt. DJ Kennedy will have to be a playmaker.

Plays twice: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Notre Dame

Projected Conference Finish: Bottom 4

Syracuse Orange

Last Year: 30-5 (15-3, 1st); Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Key Gains: Baye Moussa Keita, C.J. Fair, Fabricio Melo, Dion Waiters

Key Departures: Andy Rautins, Wesley Johnson, Arinze Onuaku

Snapshot: Expectations for this Orange squad were huge going into last year’s NCAA Tournament. The 1-seed, Syracuse won its first two games down the road in Buffalo, but then fell to Butler. And so the team’s slogan for 2010-2011 was born: Unfinished Business. To finish said business, the Orange will have to change its game to deal with the departures of shooter and defensive juggernaut Andy Rautins, offensive presence Wes Johnson, and big man Arinze Onuaku. Luckily, Jim Boeheim always has players on the bench or coming in as freshman that can fill voids from year to year. This year’s inception is no different. Look for Kris Joseph to continue his rise to prominence and step into Johnson’s shoes nicely. Scoop Jardine returns, along with his freshman cousin Dion Waiters. Rick Jackson will continue to hone his skills, and Brandon Triche looks to be a more consistent presence this year. But the player everyone’s talking about is highly-touted freshman Fab Melo. This guy is as tall as he is good. Or good as he is tall. Either way, opposing teams better have some size to compete with this “Diaper Dandy.”

Plays twice: Georgetown, Seton Hall, Villanova

Projected Conference Finish: Top 4

Villanova Wildcats

Last Year: 25-8 (13-5, t 2nd); Postseason: NCAA 2nd Round

Key Gains: James Bell, Dallas Ouano, JayVaughn Pinkston

Key Departures: Taylor King, Reggie Redding, Scottie Reynolds

Snapshot: I’ve been following Big East basketball for quite some time now, and I can barely remember a Wildcat team without Scottie Reynolds. So, forgive me if I see Nova on the court and don’t instantly recognize them. Jay Wright’s squad is picked to compete with in-state rival Pittsburgh for the Big East title, and if his team plays as well as he dresses, it should be an exciting season to watch. This is a fast-paced, high scoring offense, even without Reynolds. You can be sure that this season will be a no-holds-barred campaign, as they have just as much, if not more, unfinished business than Syracuse. Villanova wins the award for drawing the toughest conference schedule, having to play Pitt and Syracuse twice. But that’s OK, because Jay Wright never complains about anything, right? In spite of that, they should have a great season. Anything short of the Sweet Sixteen should be considered a disappointment for the Wildcats.

Plays twice: Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse

Projected Conference Finish: Top 4

West Virginia Mountaineers

Last Year: 31-7 (13-5, t 2nd); Postseason: NCAA Final 4

Key Gains: Noah Cottrill, Darrious Curry, Kevin Noreen, David Nyarsuk

Key Departures: Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith

Snapshot: I, for one, was not at all surprised to see the Mountaineers in the Final Four last year. In fact, my bracket backs me up on that. Bob Huggins should be proud of what his team accomplished, and then look at this year’s squad, and want to hit a bottle of moonshine. Not to say this year’s team isn’t good and won’t do well, but when you lose the likes of Butler, Ebanks, and Smith, you’ve got to be a bit worried. The incoming players ought to see some more minutes than garbage time, which should allow West Virginia to be deep going into the postseason. The Mountaineers look to be better than middle of the conference, but not elite in the Big East. A decent run in the NCAA tournament is, of course, not out of the question.

Plays twice: DePaul, Louisville, Pittsburgh

Projected Conference Finish: 5-8th

Thank you for taking the time to read the Orange::44 Big East Conference basketball preview. It was a weird mix of puns, Chris Berman-esque naming, current events references, and I even managed to throw in a Dick Vitale term. Whether you’re a casual fan, or a die-hard of a conference school, this should give you a good idea of what the brain trust at Orange::44 sees for the 2010-2011 campaign. But please, for the love of God, 16 schools is enough!

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  • - Twitter commenter.
  • A bad blog about Syracuse athletics.
  • - UConn Fan on Twitter (after winning NCAA).