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Marquette-Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR So Now What?

Would now be the time to panic?

Brian wanted nothing to do with the task of writing this recap. I readily accepted, not because I knew what I needed to write, but I figured it would come to me. Plus, if I didn't write it, it wouldn't get done. But I've given myself some time and some drinks since Syracuse lost to Marquette yesterday 76-70, and I guess I'm ready to put finger to keyboard, as it were.
You could say the team is lost, wandering aimlessly in an unfamiliar forest in the dark. You could say they're in a tailspin; in a nose-dive. Call it what you want; they're losing. After starting the year 18-0, they've lost four in a row, and seem to have forgotten what winning feels like. The really tough thing about it, though, is that they almost tasted that winning feeling out in Milwaukee yesterday. Almost.
Once again, Kris Joseph led the way in scoring for Syracuse with 18 points, including 7-15 overall and 3-6 from three-point range. While we're on Kris, though, let's mention that he had a whopping one rebound. One. To put things in perspective, Fab Melo managed to grab two rebounds in his 14 minutes of play. Kris more than doubled those minutes, but came up short in the rebounding department. Sad thing is, though, the team as a whole didn't rebound well either. 22 altogether. Now the really sad thing is that those 22 rebounds amounts to only two less than what Marquette pulled down as a team. Needless to say, the ball found its way through the hoop more often than not in this one.
Also of note for the Orange was the return of Scoop being (the good) Scoop. Mostly. Scoop had a career-high 13 assists to match his 13 points for a nice double-double on the day. Contrary to the past several games, Scoop was running the point, setting up plays, and dishing off the ball to the playmakers to score. It was nice to see that offense run like that again. Scoop also, for the most part, took good shots. Most of the ones he missed were because he didn't shoot it well, not because he shouldn't have taken the shot. It wasn't a perfect game by any means -- he turned the ball over five times -- but if we can see Smart Scoop out there for the rest of the season, I'll be a lot less apocalyptic.
Rounding out the rest of the starting lineup, Rick Jackson had a decent game with 14 points but only four rebounds; Melo had the aforementioned two rebounds and two points (more on him later); and Brandon Triche chipped in nine points with five assists. That's a grand total of 18 assists from your starting backcourt. Good old-fashioned basketball. OK, back to Melo. I openly questioned Boeheim's logic in putting Melo back in the lineup "because we need his size out there." My theory was that sure, his size is good, but for the four minutes of action he'll see, who cares? Once again, Coach proved he's smarter than me, on both accounts. This team played significantly bigger with him on the court -- and what I mean in that the whole team acted as though they were bigger than they actually are, as if they were feeding off Melo's size. Melo also logged 14 minutes, most of which seemed to come in the second half and I think helped create the situation for Syracuse to pull right back into this one and even tie the game a few times. Melo is obviously still a freshman, obviously still learning the game, and still can be quite a liability -- even on horrible phantom intentional elbow calls -- but his presence in the game was certainly needed in this one.
Off the bench, Boeheim didn't go nearly as deep as he has in past games. Baye Moussa Keita logged 18 minutes, followed by CJ Fair with 15 minutes, and Mookie Jones with four minutes. Mookie Jones! In fact, I believe he may have been the first off the bench in the first half! Put him down for the 4-trillion club, as he registered no other stats, but wow if that doesn't tell you what's going on in Boeheim's head, then you don't get it. And to his credit, Mookie's defense wasn't horrible -- and he kept his hands up, which I like. Keita turned in a nice performance, as per usual, with seven rebounds, four points, and two blocks (one of which seemed like he wanted to be Hakim Warrick circa April 7, 2003). CJ Fair once again got significant minutes, and pretty much made the most of them, contributing 10 points on 5-7 shooting, three rebounds, and three blocks. I think he's a good player, and half of his playing experience is the "taking it all in" approach which, don't get me wrong, is vital for a player like him to truly blossom. We are gonna be all about him in a year or two.
So, the bench went three-deep. Absent from the lineup was Dion Waiters (expected) and James Southerland (unexpected). If you want more information about why Dion didn't play, go check out twitter, the message boards, or listen to talk radio. You'll find your answers. Bottom line, Coach is Coach and he'll do what he does. We'll see Dion play again soon enough. His absence of course was noticed and, I'll go out on a limb here, may have cost Syracuse the game. Not to say that's the one reason Syracuse lost, but the points he could have chipped in would have been nice. The bigger questionmark is why Southy didn't play. Could be a Dion-like issue, could be illness or injury, could be a bad practice. We don't know as of yet. Or at least I don't. I'm sure it will reveal itself in the days to come, but his outside shooting presence was missed at Marquette, and will be key to Syracuse having a shot at Connecticut on Wednesday.
On the other side of the ball, Jae Crowder was a scoring machine for the Golden Eagles, putting up 25 points on 8-16 shooting (including 1-3 from three) and 8-10 from the line. Other Eagles in double figures included Jimmy Butler with 19, and Darius Johnson-Odum with 17. Their bench only netted four points and two rebounds, so virtually a non-factor.
Syracuse actually outshot Marquette 57-52%, tied on threes at 8-13 apiece, and the Eagles as stated above had the slight edge on rebounds 24-22. But the big stat that jumps out at you is free throws: Marquette shot 24 of 33 from the line, while Syracuse shot 8 of 14 from the line. This makes me think a few things. Syracuse is bad at foul shots. Syracuse did not create situations to be fouled to get to the line. Maybe, knowing that they don't shoot well from the line, they purposely didn't create the situations to get to the line? I suppose it's possible -- have the mentality of "why get fouled and maybe hit 1-2 free throws, when I can shoot the ball and more often than not score the 2 points or even the three?" I can't say that's a horrible game plan, but it certainly shouldn't be THE game plan. Free throws are a part of the game, and in order to win close games down the stretch, in the Big East Tournament and in the NCAAs, you have to knock down free throws.
Everyone's said it a million times, so I'll throw it out there too. This loss was a lot different than the loss to Seton Hall -- maybe more similar to the losses to Villanova or to Pittsburgh. They've all been the same in the sense that the opposition built a large lead early in the game. The Seton Hall game stands out because Syracuse never found themselves back in that game. At least at Pitt, against Nova, and at Marquette, Syracuse fought back and made a game of it. That's certainly a promising sign. A sign that this team knows how to win. Or at least get back into a position to win. The problem, obviously, is preventing that situation in the first place. Syracuse can't afford to have slow starts when the opposition has quick starts. Energy spent hanging with or maintaining a lead is energy better spent than having to fight and claw just to be in it.
By now you've heard that only three times in the Boeheim Era has Syracuse lost four games in a row, and never during that time have they lost five in a row. History now has to face another road game, this time the University of Connecticut. A daunting task, to say the least. My initial reaction after the game was "Well you know what will happen now, right? We'll go into UConn and destroy them!" Because that's how the laws of averages work. I'm a lawyer, I know about laws. This one is air tight. I hope.

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Syracuse - Marquette Preview

Syracuse students agree: This is as close to a must win as we've seen this year.
Syracuse is dropped three in a row, the last of which was a massive loss to Seton Hall in the Carrier Dome, a team Syracuse beat in NJ earlier in the year. Meanwhile Marquette has lost three out of four with the one win being DePaul. Syracuse has played well on the road overall, except at Pittsburgh which is fairly understandable in the Big East. Either way now Syracuse needs to make a strong showing on the road. Syracuse needs to find ways to get back to a patient form of offense and move the ball where no one shoots until at least three different passes are made. Quick shots from the outside are not how Syracuse will win or make a comeback. Marquette's leading scorer is Darius Johnson-Odom who is averaging 16.5ppg and 37.8% from three point range. He will need to be covered. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine need to come back from lackluster games, especially Jardine. He has been absolutely dreadful the past two games and a rebound game is necessary. But Syracuse will win this game with rebounds. Marquette is not a good rebounding team compared to Syracuse and by earning rebounds Syracuse will be able to limit empty possessions and prevent second chance opportunities for Marquette. On yeah, and hitting God damn layups would be good as well. This one is probably the toughest game to predict thus far this season, but I'll just give the edge slightly to Syracuse, especially coming off three losses. I say Syracuse wins by five.

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Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Podcast Episode 11

Basketball is rough. We needed to talk it out.
With all the stuff going on with the basketball team, as well as the impending start of the lacrosse season for Syracuse, Sean of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and I got together via cellular telephonic devises and recorded the latest Nunes/Magician Podcast. This time on Episode 11 we talk about what exactly is going on with the Syracuse Basketball, analyze wha happened with The Hall, we almost pretend to pick what will happen the rest of the schedule, talk about if Jim Boeheim knows what he's doing, and much, much more. It's about 38 minutes of solid conversation that you could easily have yourself in a bar. But we're experts. Listen to the stream below or download this or other past episodes here. Of course it is also available on iTunes as well.

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Scoop being Scoop on the bench

While Article II, Section III of the United States Constitution requires that the President shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information about the State of the Union, there's a code somewhere in the archives of the Athletic Department at Manley Fieldhouse that requires this blog to from time to time give its readers information about the state of the Orange. And my friends, I am sorry to say, the state of the Orange right now is weaksauce. It's on a downward spiral. There seems to be no end in sight.
But yet, my friends, we should not all turn into Chicken Littles and warn that the sky is falling. Because even if it was, we'd still be rooting for the Orange. But I'm here to tell you that, even for as bad as things seem right now, things will get better. Sure, Syracuse lost to Seton Hall in the Carrier Dome last night 90-68. Sure, that's the third loss in a row. Sure, the Orange are about to embark on a road trip that by all accounts doesn't look fun. But to lose hope now, well, that's just not what fans of this basketball team do. And if you do, well then, I don't consider you a fan. Go find a European team to root for.
  • Seton Hall won because they shot better, rebounded better, and played better.
  • SHU shot 54.1% to Syracuse's 36.1%.
  • The three-ball didn't help the Orange cause: SHU 10 of 17 for 58.8%, while Syracuse was 5 of 21 for 23.8%.
  • SHU won the rebounding battle 40-33.
  • Leading the way for the Pirates was Jeremy Hazell with 28 points. Also, he was shot a month ago. With a bullet and/or bullets.
  • Syracuse had four players in double-digit scores: Kris Joseph 17, Rick Jackson 12, Scoop Jardine & Brandon Triche with 11 each.
  • Ricky had another double-double, with 11 rebounds.
  • Before the game began, rumors began circulating and were confirmed around 5:30pm that the Fab Melo experiment was over; James Southerland would start in his place.
  • Fab Melo came off the bench, and in four minutes had a basket and three rebounds.
  • After the game, it was announced that the James Southerland experiment was over; Fab Melo will start against Marquette on Saturday.
  • Jim Boeheim says he needs Melo's size. I don't buy it. Having Melo's size in the game for the first 3-4 minutes isn't going to win you a game, and you know damn well you're gonna pull him for Southerland or Baye Moussa Keita anyway.
  • The move is Keita for Melo. But that's just my two cents.
  • I'm getting nauseous writing this recap, so I'm done. Bravo if you made it this far.

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Seton Hall - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Seton Hall is the perfect bounce back opponent.
Syracuse has had a rough couple of games. That's not a terribly big surprise in the Big East, the toughest basketball league in the country. After all, tougher teams usually play better defense and shoot better, therefore you have to play better to win the games, and if you don't you usually lose. Syracuse lost against two top ten teams, which is fine in a league that has consistent top 25 matchups. Neither of the losses were bad, so you move on to the next game. This time Seton Hall travels to the Carrier Dome. The Hall was beaten by Syracuse in New Jersey 61 to 56. Conventional logic would dictate that Syracuse being home would play even better and Seton Hall would play worse and this would be an easy game for the Orange. But Seton Hall has one big piece that they were missing before. Jeremy Hazell has returned from a broken wrist and a gunshot wound to play in Seton Hall's last few games. While he has never beaten Syracuse he has dropped a massive amount of points on them, averaging 29.3ppg against the Orange in the last three meetings. However, he is averaging only 28% and 4-26 from behind the arc in the Hall's last three games (all losses). That includes a six point loss on Saturday to "Biggest Rivalry In The League" team Rutgers. The Hall is now 8-12 (2-6) on the season. Syracuse had some scoring issues in NJ against The Hall, but not as much as they did going 0-17 in the first half for three point attempts and 3-26 in the game. The Hall will most likely do the same thing against the Orange this time as well. Syracuse was outrebounded 43-30 in Jersey however, which added to the slim margin of victory. Herb Pope is a rebounding machine and gave Rick Jackson and Syracuse a huge fit in grabbing rebounds. The key to the game for Syracuse is rebounding better. Syracuse will score points and Seton Hall will miss shots, but limiting both second chance opportunities for Seton Hall and earning second looks themselves will ensure a comfortable victory for the Orange. Hazell is the X factor. He could be dreadful taking ridiculous shots or he could keep draining them. Syracuse being patient on offense and feeding Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph first and looking for three point opportunities second will be the smart plays on offense. Far better play from Scoop Jardine is also necessary. He's been terrible shooting as of late and frankly a loose cannon. I do think Syracuse bounces back though. Syracuse has too much talent compared to Seton Hall to lose to them at home after two losses in a row. Syracuse wins this one at home by 11.

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Villanova - Syracuse Postgame Ractions OR VillaNoChance

My team is sucking enough without you making terrible calls!
Another game against Villanova in the Dome and there was another crowd over 30,000 fans. Only this time Syracuse lost to Villanova, the far better team on the day. I don't mind losing to a better team, but when it is because your team doesn't play well... well that is the most frustrating scenario that could occur.
Syracuse jumped out to the early two point lead quicker than I've ever seen Syracuse score. Brandon Triche earned a lay up off the tip from Fab Melo in two seconds. But then a hail storm of three point shots from Villanova gave them a fairly large lead in the first half. Syracuse would manage to keep it close, slashing the lead down to five or six points, but they never could get it closer than that. Syracuse was down at the half 40 to 29. Syracuse again got back in the game and kept it close, but several mistakes in this game, as well as Villanova playing so well, put this game out of reach with a couple minutes to play. Villanova pulled off a top 5 win 83 to 72. Other thoughts.
  • The leading scorer was predictably Kris Joseph with 23 points. He shot 8-15 and 4-7 from the floor and behind the arc respectively. He was by far the best player on the floor for Syracuse on the day.
  • Rick Jackson played well himself, but had trouble catching the ball. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds on 7-9 shooting in 39 minutes. Just a monster day statistic wise. He tied for the team lead with five turnovers. Joseph also had five.
  • Brandon Triche had 14 points, but it was on 5-12 shooting. Triche was 4-8 from the three point line. While he played the least sloppy of the guards he still did not have the game Syracuse needs out of him. He needs to create more opportunities and get to the hoop more. Otherwise he wasn't too bad.
  • Melo was being Melo. He had two points and played eight minutes before sitting down for good.
  • Scoop Jardine had the worst game out of any of the starters. He scored two points and had three assists and was 1-8 and 0-3 on the day respectively. He also had two turnovers in 22 minutes. What was not his fault however was when the ball was thrown out over his head while not looking. That was Dion Waiters fault for not making sure Scoop was going to catch the ball as Scoop was calling out the play.
  • Speaking of Waiters he played 25 minutes and got six points on 2-12 shooting and 17 shooting from long range. He had a bad game for the Orange in terms of scoring, but he did distribute the ball well earning five assists and he also got four rebounds.
  • Baye Moussa Keita went 2-3 earning five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes. However he again was a slight liability on the defensive end.
  • CJ Fair had a bad day, earning one point and one rebound in ten minutes. He continues to shoot free throws at what seems to be a 50% rate. A failing grade at Syracuse.
  • James Southerland earned three points and one assist in 16 minutes on the floor. He was 1-1 on three point attempts.
  • An interesting statistic from the game point out by Jim Boeheim in his postgame press conference: Fair and Southerland combined for 26 minutes on the floor and one rebound. That is really not good from the forward position. While Syracuse outrebounded Villanova 32 to 26, those rebounds did not come at opportune times to close the gap at the end of the game. If the time gets tight and you know your team will be shooting several three point attempts, then you need to be prepared to be in position to potentially grab rebounds from those missed attempts. Syracuse did not.
  • Villanova shot a ridiculous 11-24 (45.8%) from three point range. About seven percent above their usual three point defensive percent.
  • The zone was not strong in this game. One game does not a trend make however. Teams are going to occasionally shoot hot. And when Syracuse adjusted by giving better coverage outside of the arc the percentage of made three point baskets dropped. The defense was a bit bad on the day, but I do not think this is part of some overall trend that the team is all of a sudden bad on defense. Villanova is a pretty good team after all.
  • Free throws made a difference in this game. Villanova shot 22-24 (91.7%) from the stripe, which is really high and helped keep the gap in Villanova's favor. Syracuse conversely made only 8-12 (66.7%). While that is not a lot of opportunity they left four points on the table and that is still a very low percentage.
  • Syracuse had 15 turnovers in this game. Syracuse needs to limit turnovers to single digits to increase their chances to be successful in the league.
  • Syracuse next takes on Seton Hall in the Carrier Dome Tuesday evening at 7:00pm. That should be a somewhat easier game being at home and not against a ranked opponent.

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Villanova - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: It's gonna be another packed Dome.
This game has become one of the bigger games on both team's schedules. Obviously being another Saturday affair in Syracuse, and with the lack of other marquee opponents on Saturday, this has become the biggest conference game on the schedule in the Salt City. The big news is that Kris Joseph should be playing, although no official word has been issued. He is still technically day to day. But he should be playing and doing his best in the zone on defense. Rick Jackson should get another double-double as Villanova has no player that could really contain him. And that will be where Syracuse finds the most success. They will control the boards and should cause turnovers and stops in their zone. While Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher, the top scorers on 'Nova, will be firing shots and are quick, they never seemed to find a rhythm last season with the loud Syracuse crowd constantly yelling at them. The same should occur this year. This game should be closer than last season as Syracuse lacks a true pure shooting threat like Andy Rautins, but Jardine, Triche, and Southerland should add a few as the team is actually shooting them much better in the Big East season. I've already made my predictions during my Q&A with The Nova Blog. My answers are here, and be sure to check out Chris' answers from The Nova Blog here as well. Additionally Orange::44 Correspondent John Brennan put together a great FAQ for the game in case you missed last year or need a bit of a refresher right here. As always you can check out me (@BH_Orange44) or John (@JBren) on the Twitter, but due to the predicted number of people attending I doubt we'll be able to Tweet during the game. Hope you make your way to the Dome or at least watch as this will be another fantastic Big East basketball game. I like SU in this one by eight. And for God's sake wear Orange!

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Syracuse-Villanova FAQ

You have questions? We have answers.
The Villanova Wildcats visit the Carrier Dome on Saturday at noon, in what will, at least up to this point, be the biggest home game of the season for Syracuse. Big for a couple reasons: the matchup, and the crowd. To prepare you for what promises to be an epic event, we here at Orange::44 want to take this opportunity to answer some questions you may have about this weekend, especially for those making their first trip to the Dome or those who may not get to the Dome as often as they would like.
I hear this game might break the attendance record? What's the record, and why might it be broken?
Earlier in the week it was reported that over 33,000 tickets had been sold for the Villanova game. The record, set at the Villanova game last year, is 34,616, what the Dome at the time deemed a sell out. The Dome says they have added seats since then, making it possible to seat more. The Athletics Department has began an aggressive marketing campaign encouraging people to buy "long range seats" near the far corners in the Dome. This is your chance to be a "Long Ranger" and get your special T-Shirt for $5 from Manny's to commemorate the event.
If I become a Long Ranger, will I be able to see the game?
Honestly, this is a fair question. I know some people who had long range seats last year who had a difficult time seeing. The Carrier Dome claims they don't sell seats with an obstructed view, but if you can't see the Court, surely you can see a video board. It will be worth it either way.
What time does the game start, and when should I get there?
Probably the worst part of this game is that it starts at noon. That means that 33,000+ people need to pack into the Dome in a short amount of time. I would suggest doing everything early: leave your home early, get a parking spot early, get to the Dome early, and get to your seats early. You should plan to be in your seats no later than 11:45. That way, if you should happen to get stuck in the concourse or stairwell or beer line or aisle, you'll have some extra time built in so that you won't miss the tip.
You mentioned beer lines. What's the beer situation in the Dome?
Unfortunately, gone are they days when you could order four 16-ounce Bud Lights for $4 each. The maximum per ID is two beers per visit to the beer stand, and the typical price is $6 for 16-ounces. Some stands have craft beers (Sam Adams, Saranac, etc.) that may cost a bit more. There are also mini wine bottles available for I believe $6 as well. And of course if you should happen to be a high roller who enjoys the idea of a NYC Nightclub in the Carrier Dome and you buy a membership to Club44, you'll have a full bar from which to choose your potent potable.
Are there any special cheers or crowd interactions that occur during games I need to be aware of?
The most important is that at the beginning of each half, all fans are to stand and clap (theoretically in unison) until Syracuse scores a field goal. Even if there's a 19-0 run and Syracuse doesn't score for nearly 8 minutes of game time. Let's pray to God that doesn't happen in the Dome! Other than that, there may be some cheerleader-led cheers (GO ORANGE or LETS GO SU) but they're not very well executed. Cotton Eyed Joe and any crazy dancing to go along with that seems to have been banned from the Dome, much to my delight. But do not, under any circumstances, participate in the wave -- especially during game play! The Syracuse blogging community made a Public Service Announcement last year about the dangers of the wave. Check it out. Also, during the introduction of the opposing team's starters, it is tradition to yell, in order: Who's He? So What? Who Cares? Big Deal! Big Shit! Watch the band members behind the baskets for cues.
Anything else I need to know?
Bring a garbage bag to put your coat in so it doesn't get melted snow & salt stains or beer spilled on it. WEAR ORANGE! Cheer loudly for Syracuse. Make fun of Villanova head coach Jay Wright's impeccable attire. Don't get so drunk at the Dome that you fall over people. Don't throw trash or anything else at anyone else. Don't vomit. Celebrate the victory at Faegan's. Don't throw ice at traffic. Don't punch people. And of course, GO ORANGE!

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Q&A With Chris From The Nova Blog

Hopefully not V for victory for Villanova.

Another big tilt is upon us between the Syracuse Orange and the Villanova Wildcats. This has become one of the premier matches on the Big East slate each season and this one will be no different. With two top ten teams set to go in a packed Dome this game will be both intense and entertaining. Therefore we embarked on another question and answer with one of the nicer and knowledgeable Villanova bloggers out there. Chris Lane runs The Nova Blog and we’ve had several Q&A’s over the last few seasons so obviously we asked him some more questions this time.

1. Orange::44: Describe the year Villanova has had so far.

Chris: It's been a mixed bag so far for 'Nova this year. To be fair, the schedule has been pretty light this far. I think the team is showing a ton of maturity this year in their ability to battle back from difficult situations (come-from-behind wins against Temple and Maryland) and a valiant effort against Kemba 'MJ' Walker.

The seniors have predictably stepped up to carry this team, but we're facing a numbers crisis right now having already lost JayVaughn Pinkston for the year, and now having Dominic Cheek down with a knee injury. The next few games will let us know how for real this team is.

I think the Syracuse game will provide a huge barometer for 'Nova. None of us expect to win, so if we do, it will be an amazing accomplishment for this team. A blowout loss, and we've got problems.

2. Orange::44: What was the difference in the Connecticut game that allowed them to win (Besides Kemba Walker). What could Villanova have done better?

Chris: Rebounding was a big issue. They matched our size very well but you can tell why they are historically so good on the glass. They've been taught well and it showed. If Yarou and Pena can't contain Jackson on Saturday, we're in trouble. Missing Cheek is also a big issue because he is such a good rebounder.

The other issue was shooting. We had PLENTY of wide open shots that we just couldn't make, which is really odd for us. We don't have great outside shooters this year other than Stokes and Cheek, but we're still pretty good. Against the 'Cuse zone, we'll need to take our opportunities and make them count.

3. Orange::44: Who is the star of this Villanova team at this point?

Chris: A week ago I would have told you Corey Stokes, but now this is once again Corey Fisher's team. When we were up against it with Maryland and UConn, he completely took the game over. If we're down by 2 and have 1 shot left, I want Corey Fisher taking it.

4. Orange::44: Where will Syracuse find the most success in attacking Villanova?

Chris: It's tough to say. I think Fisher, Wayns and Stokes (in addition to James Bell and Cheek if he can play) should be able to D up the Syracuse guards pretty well, so 'Cuse's best bet is probably down low and in the mid-range game. We've been vulnerable to giving up offensive rebounds, so if your wings and bigs can exploit that you should be able to get easy buckets and put our depth-starved team into foul trouble.

5. Orange::44: What players will have a surprisingly good game this Saturday on both sides?

Chris: Antonio Pena for Villanova. Remember Dante Cunningham dropping 30+ on you mostly drilling elbow jumpers? Pena has discovered that shot. I'm sure Boeheim is well aware.

For Syracuse, C.J. Fair. I was very impressed with him against Pitt and his game fits the mold of somebody who is going to kill us on the glass. Having Cheek would really help with him, so hopefully he's able to go.

6. Orange::44: This is obviously one of the better rivalries in the Big East. While Syracuse will continue to look at Georgetown and Connecticut as their biggest, it is certainly up there for Syracuse fans. How does the Villanova fan base look at it?

Chris: Personally, from uber-hate to hate, I'd go Georgetown, Syracuse, UConn, Pitt. Pitt is a rivalry I wish both sides took more seriously, because we always have great games. I think a lot of 'Nova people hate UConn because of Calhoun (and I have no idea why, I respect him a lot, similar to how I respect Boeheim).

The numbers speak for themselves though - Villanova-Syracuse is a huge draw in this day and age.

7. Orange::44: Prediction time. What's going to happen this weekend?

Chris: I wish I could predict a 'Nova win, but without Dominic Cheek and Kris Joseph looking to return for yall, I can't do it. I think your zone will frustrate us into taking contested outside shots and you do just enough damage in fouls to us that you pull out an 8-10 point win at The Dome.

My answers for Chris' questions are posted here. Be sure to check them out. Chris is good people and be sure to check out The Nova Blog for all the latest Villanova news, not only for basketball but also lacrosse season. He’s on Twitter @chrisjjlane and you can find the blog @SBNTheNovaBlog. Good luck to them the rest of the season and we regret any ill will Syracuse may cause Chris Saturday afternoon in advance.

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Connecticut Player Loves That Chronic

Another player. Another Connvict.
Only few things take the taste of a loss out of your mouth. An epic win to rebound from the loss is one. Another is pointing out the criminal actions of another rival institution. Of course there is no more abundant source for Syracuse fans than the University of Connecticut. Yet another entry in the grand catalog of UConnvicts has made himself known.
Several sources, including the Hartford Courant is reporting than freshman running back Lyle McCombs has been suspended indefinitely from the UConn Football Team after being charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Campus Police arrested him on Sunday, January 16th in Ellsworth Hall. His bail was set at $1,000 and his court date is set for January 25th. Of course, the report added, he had recently smoked the marijuana.
McCombs is a freshmen who was redshirted for the 2010-2011 school year. He has been suspended by new UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni indefinitely, as he should be. This is totally something that you can easily see 18 year old college kids do often, but you're on scholarship on the football team. You're supposed to be an athlete and treat your body with the utmost respect. You didn't and so you paid the price. McCombs said he has made a mistake and will do everything he can to be reinstated. I'm sure he will be. It was smoking a little marijuana, not a DUI or threatening another student as UConn athletes have been charged with in the past. And seeing as Jordan Todman declared for the NFL Draft, the Huskies will be needing some depth at the running back position. We all know, regardless of if his reinstatement is just or not, he'll be back if he is needed by the UConn staff. That's how they do in Storrs. Stay tuned to Orange::44 for any further transgressions from your favorite rival teams, and of course more entries from the University of Connecticut.

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Pittsburgh-Syracuse Recap OR Bound to Lose Eventually

CJ Fair with starter's minutes. Go figure...

Going into this game at the Petersen Events Center, Syracuse was a perfect 18-0 (5-0 Big East). They were without leading scorer Kris Joseph. They had never won at the Pete other than that initial victory several years ago now. The cards were stacked against them. And then Pitt starts the game on a 19-0 run. If that's where the recap ends, other than me saying that Syracuse lost 74-66, you sit there and you say "Well, that was expected." But for anyone who watched that game from beginning (or at the eventual cut-in) to end, you know that doesn't even begin to tell the story. And you know that Syracuse had a million chances to win that game. But at the end of the day, most of us expected a loss, and a loss is what we got. How did we get there?
  • After one of the worst starts I have ever witnessed (Pitt starting on a 19-0 run), Syracuse answered with a run of its own: 17-0. A couple more runs on each side led to a Pittsburgh 31-27 lead at the half.
  • I'd like to just end the recap there. Say that this team showed tremendous poise and perseverance in overcoming a 19-0 deficit, making it close, and just coming up short. But there was a whole other half to play.
  • The second half was at times exciting, and at times frustratingly horrible. A 3-pointer by James Southerland with 13:52 remaining tied the game at 41 each. Unfortunately, that was the closest Syracuse would get to Pitt, who never trailed in this one.
  • For the first time, the starting 5 was: Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson, James Southerland, and Fab Melo.
  • Fab Melo played that initial two minutes, and then was sent to the bench the rest of the game.
  • Melo's benching made room for both Dion Waiters and CJ Fair, who clocked in at 25 and 36 minutes respectively. Waiters mainly took the place of Triche, who was absent without much of an explanation (at least I haven't heard one as of publication time).
  • Fair was the leading scorer with 16 points. His other stats: 9 rebounds (5 offensive), 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers. While he was by no means electric (especially on defense), it was great to get production and minutes off the bench like that, and have him in the right place at the right time to swashbuckle as many points as he did. He's quickly becoming the next Josh Pace, both in style of play and in importance at keeping this team together (see also, Glue Guy). He's got a long way to go (especially on defense) but he's a freshman, and that has to get you excited.
  • Other Orangemen in double digits included Scoop Jardine with 12, Triche with 11, and Jackson with 10.
  • With his 11 rebounds, Jackson records another double-double. He logged 39 minutes, and also chipped in 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. With both Melo and Baye Moussa Keita (6 minutes) seeing limited action, Jackson was pretty much Syracuse's only big presence inside, and he certainly made the most of it at both ends of the floor. Without Ricky, Syracuse doesn't stay in this game as long as it did.
  • James Southerland had a pretty solid outing in his first start, for the injured Kris Joseph: 8 points, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in 38 minutes. He also left a lot to be desired on defense -- especially at rebounding -- but given the situation it was nice to see him perform as he did.
  • Scoop being Scoop. I'm not going to harp too much on him. All 12 of his points came from the long ball which, on the one hand is encouraging because that means he made 4; but is discouraging because that means he shot like Cincy did the other day inside the arc.
  • On the Pitt side of things, they were pretty much as advertised, and more. They're always a big, physical team, and they showed it. They won the rebounding battle 41-27 (with Gary "The Predator" McGhee pulling down 13) .
  • Other than killing us on the boards, McGhee was almost a non-factor stat-wise. He only scored 4 points in 27 minutes of action. What the stats don't show is the jawing he started with Ricky. Much to his credit, Ricky would not be intimidated, which is what I think McGhee was going for -- Ricky gave it right back to him, which caused the officials at one point to stop play to warn both of them to not be so physical.
  • Brad Wanamaker somehow had a quiet 15 points. Maybe I just wasn't playing close enough attention, but it just seemed like his number wasn't called as much as I expected it to be.
  • The big stats to look at here which I believe led to the Pitt victory: the rebounding margin mentioned above; Pitt shooting 48.2% from the floor vs. Syracuse 39.1%; all the empty Syracuse possessions down the stretch. More on that next.
  • Let me start in the second half with 7:23 to go. Scoop turns the ball over, 57-51. 6:48 Southerland misses a jumper, 59-53. 6:09 Waiters misses a 3, 62-53. 5:26 Scoop is fouled and misses both free throws, 64-53. 4:38 CJ misses a jumper, 65-56. 3:44 Triche turnover, 67-57. 3:10 Triche heaves a 3 and misses, still 67-57. 2:32 Waiters' dunk is blocked, still 67-57. 1:44 Southerland misses a 3, still 67-57. :58 Jackson turnover, 70-62. :54 Scoop misses a layup, 70-62. :26 Waiters misses a 3, 72-64. :03 Waiters misses a 3, game over.
  • That was as frustrating to type out as it was to watch.
  • I want to give a big thumbs down to ESPN for showing the end of the KState/Missouri game, which was not even close, instead of switching to this game's tip-off. The least you could have done was go split-screen until the end of that horrible Big-12 game.
  • There's a new attendance record at the Pete, which was smashed tonight by 5 more people than the previous record. Congratulations. Impressive. I'm pretty sure I could get 12,925 people to show up for something.
  • For some perspective, the Carrier Dome will have about 2.5 times that many in attendance this Saturday against Villanova.
So after all that, this is still the first notch in the loss column. It hurts, probably more than another loss would, since this is the first of the season. But let's face it, Syracuse was going to lose at some point. No way in Hell they make it through the entire Big East schedule unblemished. Best to get it out of the way this relatively early, so that they know what losing feels like and hopefully not replicate it. Now this does, of course, put a lot of pressure on the game Saturday against Villanova. While this game was a game of runs, we certainly can't let the season become a season of runs. No losing streaks! So, while it's never good to lose, losing this one hurts, but this one loss does not ruin a season. This team showed us that it can turn things up and make things interesting, so I think this loss showed us a lot of what this team is made of, and proved to these players that they grew up a little tonight. This should only help them down the stretch, especially once they regain full roster strength.
Stay tuned to Orange::44 throughout the week for full coverage on the upcoming matchup with the Wildcats!

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Syracuse - Pittsburgh Preview

Syracuse students agree: Pitt is standing in SU's way again.
#3 Syracuse travels from the Salt City to the Steel City to take on #3/4 Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in the Pete. This game is always tough for the Orange as they are 7-1 in their last eight meetings and 1-6 all time in the Pete. History is not on their side in this one. The Oakland Zoo will be in full force tonight as this is also Pitt's biggest game to date as well. Now that Syracuse is not in the "tri-state area" if Syracuse wins they will receive instant national credibility, while if they lose surely their "weak non-conference scheduling" will be to blame. Pitt's leading scorer is still Ashton Gibbs, who is putting up 16.3ppg. He is very good and a good shooter hitting 44.6% from behind the arc. The question is if Syracuse learned anything from Cincinnati about getting on shooters if they start to get hot. Jim Boeheim is a master of halftime adjustments so a hot shooter should not be too troubling. But allowing a team to not only keep making shots outside, but then giving up the paint to cover them is deadly for Syracuse's zone defense. Pittsburgh's leading rebounder is Gary McGhee with 7.4rpg. Pittsburgh has always been known as a defensive, physical team, but their rebounding statistics are not evident of that. Syracuse could take advantage of the rebounding and get second and third opportunities, while taking away possessions for Pittsburgh. Kris Joseph, Syracuse's leading scorer, did not make the trip to Pittsburgh and James Southerland will take his place. Southerland is shooting very well as of late, especially from behind the arc. While this would be instant death to most team's chances, Syracuse does not rely on one leading scorer night in and night out. Rick Jackson or Scoop Jardine have lead in scoring for several games this season so while missing some of his offense will be evident, it is not the end of Syracuse in this game. If this game were played in the Carrier Dome I would probably pick Syracuse, but because it is in Pittsburgh I think I have to give the Panthers the nod. But this game will be close and I wouldn't be surprised if Syracuse pulls out a tight one either. But I will give this prediction to Pittsburgh by six.

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See coach, I told you I could play a little bit.
The Orange were taking on a fairly tough Big East team in Cincinnati. The problem was that Cincinnati was significantly overrated coming into the game having played no one and only lost one game to Villanova. It shook out just like I predicted.
Syracuse started the game on a 9-0 run, earning points in the paint and using tough defense. Then Cincinnati basically went off shooting 3 balls. Syracuse led at the half 35 to 31. Then Syracuse went off and Cincy came out ice cold. The 'Cuse rode a 16-0 run to start the half to a big lead. While Cincinnati would go on small runs, they never got the game close again. Syracuse ended up winning a nice game in the league 67 to 52. More thoughts.
  • Your leading scorer was Rick Jackson with 15 points, who also led with 11 rebounds and yet another double-double. That was his 11th double-double of the season.
  • Kris Joseph went down halfway through the first half and hit his head pretty hard on the court. He did not return. He finished with 2 points.
  • Both Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche had 11 points a piece. They continue to shoot the ball pretty well, but Triche had stretches where he had trouble handling the ball.
  • Fab Melo had a career six points on some nice buckets in the second half.
  • Dion Waiters and James "Southie" Southerland came in off the bench and added eight points a piece. Southerland was 2-2 from behind the arc and 3-4 in the game.
  • Syracuse led in scoring with 56.3%. They held Cincinnati to 30.5% from the floor and 39.3% (11-28) from long range. Syracuse was 6-14 (42.9%) from behind the arc.
  • Syracuse continues their free throw shooting woes with 7-13 on the day.
  • Syracuse crushed on the boards 35 to 25.
  • Syracuse had ten blocks to Cincinnati's zero. Both teams had five steals.
  • Unfortunately Syracuse had 13 turnovers to Cincy's five. Jackson and Jardine each had 5.
  • Syracuse takes on Pittsburgh tonight at 7:30. Preview out next.

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Cincinnati - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: A home game in the Big East? I'll take it.
Syracuse must take advantage of every home game in the league, like every other team needs to. The road in the Big East is always tough, so when Syracuse can play at home they need to play well. Especially against a team that by all measurements is not as good talent wise. Cincinnati comes in with only one loss on the year (to a good Villanova team), and Cincinnati is a team Syracuse struggled with last season on the road before absolutely smashing them with defense. This Cincinnati team has lost the bulk of their talent from last season however. Gone is Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn. Junior guard Dion Dixon is leading the Bearcats in scoring with 12.5ppg and shooting 43% from the floor. Yancy Gates is still a rebounding machine, leading their team with 6.9 on average, and also adding 1.5 blocks. This team is tough on the interior, but they sadly cannot match up with Rick Jackson. Cincinnati lacks a pure shooting presence that could really help them overcome this tough Syracuse zone defense. Syracuse is holding Big East opponents to 22.5% from three. Cincinnati has shot 20 long balls in each of their past 2 games. Unless someone becomes absolutely unconscious on the Bearcats they have no hope of scoring from long range at a clip that would matter in the game. Cincinnati has to get it done from the paint. With Rick Jackson and Baye Moussa Keita inside, those prospects become slimmer. I think this game could be tight in the first half, but the second half should open up nicely for the Orange. Look for Syracuse to earn another nice Big East victory in the Carrier Dome by 15.

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Cincinnati Q&A With Bearcats Blog

Hey did your mascot ever get out of the clink?
It’s another game of the Orange versus Cincinnati, which means we turn to our resident Cincinnati blogger Scott from Bearcats Blog. We’ve done several Q&A’s with him in the past and he’s knowledgeable with his Cincy and Big East knowledge. Let’s get to it.
1. Orange::44: Cincinnati only has one loss, but their non-conference schedule wasn't exactly filled with powerhouses. How good is Cincinnati?
Bearcats Blog: That's the big question going around the program right now. The big (by margin) victories over Dayton and Xavier really haven't opened that many eyes, mainly because Dayton has taken some bad losses, and X is pretty undermanned. Still, the Bearcats have done nothing but take care of business out of conference. The Nova game was a little disappointing because Cincinnati completely lost it for 5 minutes and suddenly it was a 20 point game. But, they came back, and had chances to get the lead under 7. After having said all that, I'm not really that sure, but I think they are tournament good.
2. Orange::44: Is Yancy Gates still the best player on the team? If not who is?
BB: He's probably still the best player. He's been on a tear as of late, minus the USF game where he put up a 9-3, and was averaging 15 and 8 or 9 the past 4 games before that. One of the problems of the Bearcats is that they don't really have a best player. Dion Dixon plays really hard, and is still the Bearcats' leading scorer, and my best friend, but he's been in a horrid shooting slump. Sean Kilpatrick has been great off the bench when UC needs it, he's got 3 20 point games, and led the team with 18 last night. He will also disappear.
3. Orange::44: What is the best way to beat Cincinnati?
BB: Force the offense out. The Bearcats like getting the ball in to Gates, and the guards attack the lane. Wright and Dixon have scored most of their points at the line as of late. Villanova's defense was in a way that let Cincinnati put up 20 three pointers. The Orange are known for their zone, duh, which is also bad because the Cincinnati big men love shooting outside jumpers. As for defense, don't turn the ball over. UC has forced opponents into more turnovers than assists in every game this season. It's how they got back in the Nova game. UC isn't deep in the front court, so getting Gates and Ibrahima Thoms in foul trouble would be good. For you. Bad for me.
4. Orange::44: How do the Bearcats plan to try and stop Syracuse?
BB: Obviously the biggest task is stopping the bigs. The Bearcats can run multiple bodies at Jackson and Joseph. The guards can force turnovers, and Jardine and Triche can be prone. Offensively, they can't settle for shots. If you remember a year ago, the Bearcats were actually leading the Orange up until the under 12 timeout. Then, the Orange defense tightened, and the Bearcats got 1 field goal, and 5 points the rest of the game. This Bearcats squad has been known to go on offensive lapses. They can't let that happen.
5. Orange::44: What will the most important match up of the day be?
BB: I think everyone is going to say Gates on Jackson, or Thomas on Jackson, and I'm going to as well. Jackson is a monster. He had 10 boards in the game last year, and now he's added offense. Thomas or Bishop or Wilks on Joseph is also going to be huge. Joseph lit up the Bearcats last season, and they have pretty much the same defenders on him this season.
6. Orange::44: How do you see this game shaking out?
BB: I'm not very optimistic about this game for UC. The Orange don't seem to match up well with them. But, I think that the Bearcats can keep it close with their defense. I don't see the offense doing enough to get the win. I put the over under on UC 3s at 19, and I think it goes over. I think Syracuse wins, something like 78-69.
Thanks to Scott. My answers to his questions are available here. My legs are fantastic. For all your Cincy coverage check out Bearcat Blog. You can follow Scott on Twitter @BearcatsBlog Preview to follow.

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Why Isn't Anyone Talking About the Villanova Game?

I guess this won't happen again
February 27, 2010. You know where you were. If you’re like the other 34,615 that were with me in the Carrier Dome that day, that day is indeed ingrained in your memory. If you’re reading this blog but weren’t at the Dome that day, surely you were watching on TV. I am, of course, speaking of the Syracuse vs. Villanova basketball tilt.

We all remember how much hype that game got. It was near the end of the regular season. It was College Gameday on ESPN. It was an Orange-Out the Dome day. It was a sell-out capacity crowd. In fact, it was declared sold-out weeks in advance. It was, at the time of the sell-out declaration, a potential #1 vs. #2 matchup. It would surely have Big East Conference and NCAA Tournament implications. It was easily one of the biggest college basketball games Syracuse had seen in years. We all remember that Syracuse won handily 95-77. We all remember that that victory secured at least a share of the Big East regular season championship for Syracuse [which later became solely Syracuse’s]. We all remember how Syracuse was voted the #1 team in all of college basketball that following week. We all remember how elated and overjoyed we felt after that game. We all remember the high expectations that carried through the rest of the season and postseason. All because of one game.

News flash, people. Villanova is visiting the Carrier Dome in nine days. So I have to ask: Why is nobody talking about this game?

Simply put, the January 22 matchup against Villanova is the victim of some awful timing. Consider the following:

· It’s a January game. January games don’t decide anything. It’s another game that either goes in the win column or in the loss column. Sure, no one win or loss is more important than the other, per se, but January games don’t carry the visible implications end-of-February games do.

· It’s not ESPN Gameday. Evidently not wanting to perpetuate the lie that Syracuse only plays home games, the Gameday crew is not visiting the Carrier Dome this season. Thus, this game simply receives noon coverage on the flagship. Hell, we’ll probably get stuck with Len Elmore on the call.

· Syracuse basketball is suffering from Syracuse having a good football season. I say this not to complain, but to point out that as of late, Syracuse fans have shifted their focus from football to basketball in early November, if not sooner. But not this year. As we all know, Syracuse football is merely two weeks removed from its Pinstripe Bowl victory at Yankee Stadium. We’re still kind of hungover from that (in more ways than one?).

· Syracuse basketball is in the midst of a tough stretch: putting aside the 1/1 game against Notre Dame and the 1/8 game at Seton Hall, the Orange have had to play 1/12 at St. John’s, and will face Cincinnati 1/15 at the Dome and Pittsburgh 1/17 at the Pete. To focus on Villanova right now would be to overlook two teams who, up until Cincy’s January 9 loss (against Nova, mind you) were undefeated in league play and had numbers next to their names.

· More football distractions. Syracuse fans seem to be obsessed as to whether Ishaq Williams will sign with the Orange, excited that Brandon Reddish did indeed sign with the Orange, and ecstatic that Paul “Coach P” Pasqualoni has been named the new head coach at UConn.

And yet, with all of that, here stands the Syracuse basketball team with a #4 ranking in both national polls, a perfect 17-0 record including 4-0 in the Big East, and a very real chance to move up to #3 come Monday, should the pollsters chastise Dook for losing to Florida State and not having another ranked team on its schedule the rest of the way. For the first time since I can remember, Syracuse basketball is not getting the hype that it deserves.

But let me qualify that statement. We’re all excited about Syracuse basketball. We all see how well the team can play when it wants to play well. We all have that cautious optimism about this team that we feel that if we get too excited or say the wrong thing, we’re going to jinx something and ruin the season.

And that’s okay with me.

Cincinnati on Saturday, Pittsburgh on Monday. Then we can really start gearing up for Villanova next Saturday. But in the meantime, please, can you just start thinking about it? Even if you don’t consciously do it, don’t worry. If you’ve made it to the end of this article, my job is done; I’ve planted the seed in your subconscious.

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Is this technically a road game now ESPN?
I think a lot of people thought this game was going to be closer. Syracuse playing in Madison Square Garden knew that, despite being a friendly away environment, St. John's is a team on the rise. But it turned out to be full of suspense for only a half. Syracuse cruised their way to a big victory.
The game started shaky for the Orange, allowing St. John's to jump out to a 15 to seven early lead on very cold shooting (starting the game 3-11) with a lot of bad jump shots. Then a big 10-0 run for Syracuse put them ahead by two points. St. John's would keep it close, to just a one point Orange lead before Syracuse went on another run to go into the half up 35 to 24. Syracuse finished the last nine minutes of the first half outscoring St. John's 28-9. The second half was all Syracuse, to which St. John's managed to get the lead down to nine before Syracuse truly opened the game up and earned their biggest lead of the game at 22 points. Syracuse and St. John's continued to trade blows, but Syracuse finished on top in a definitive victory. The Orange win in MSG 76 to 59.
Some other thoughts on the game:
  • Kris Joseph was again the leading scorer with 18 points. He shot 8-11 from the floor and also added five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He played really well and he continues to have one of the best mid-range jump shots on the team and has great awareness on the court.
  • The scoring was really balanced with Joseph with 18, Brandon Triche with 15, Scoop Jardine with 14, and Rick Jackson with 12.
  • Speaking of Jackson, he had another double-double with his 12 points and ten rebounds. Most of the scoring and rebounds occurred in the second half, but he got there.
  • Triche had another impressive scoring night. He got 15 points on 6-11 shooting, 3-6 from long range. He started out terribly, but again settled into a great scoring night for the Orange.
  • Fab Melo played all of five minutes and for the first time did not start the second half. He needs to develop more. I'm honestly good if he sits for the rest of the season if he comes out better next year. He is still a major liability on both ends of the floor.
  • Dion Waiters was the most impressive freshman on the day. He finished with eight points in 16 minutes of work. He went 3-6 from the floor 2-4 from behind the arc.
  • CJ Fair was the biggest disappointment of the day. In 20 minutes he earned 2 points on 1-5 shooting. He was good on defense however and picked up three rebounds, two steals, and a block.
  • James Southerland continues to put in good minutes. He was exceptional on the defensive end, but did earn five points on 2-5 shooting, and three rebounds in 16 minutes.
  • Baye Moussa Keita scored no points, but played good defense in 12 minutes. He needs to rebound and box out better, and the kid cannot catch a ball to save his life.
  • Syracuse shot 57.4% from the floor (63% in the second half) and 9-20 (45%) from behind the arc. They also did a little better from the free throw line (5-8) but just barely.
  • Conversely, Syracuse held St. John's to just below their defensive average at 36.8%.
  • St. John's wisely only took 12 shots from three point range, and sadly only made two (16.7%).
  • Syracuse led in rebounds (32-26), assists (20-9), and blocks (5-2). Both teams had 11 steals.
  • Turnovers have not been a problem for Syracuse this season, but they did have 20 in this game. St. John's had 15.
  • Syracuse looked like Syracuse. We really didn't learn anything new from them. But with another loss to a top tier Big East team, St. John's obviously hasn't improved enough to hang with the league heavies yet.
  • As I predicted the crowd in MSG was about 50/50 in favor of the Orange or St. John's. That Red Storm half was awful quiet in the second half though.
  • Syracuse next takes on one loss Cincinnati at home in the Carrier Dome this Saturday at 12:00pm. Cincinnati's only loss is to Villanova. But they really have not played anyone good this season. Both teams will get a status check on Saturday.

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Syracuse - St. John's Preview

Syracuse students agree: This is really a neutral site game.
Syracuse has owned St. John's the past decade. This we all know. The Orange have won the last ten of 11 and the last five in MSG. It's no surprise. While St. John's was swimming in mediocrity Syracuse consistently was beating the Red Storm. It's also not a shock that in those games Syracuse had a better fan presence than St. John's in the Garden. Now the tides are starting to turn, but this should be at the minimum a 50/50 orange and red crowd. But all crowd issues aside, Syracuse is averaging more points and allowing fewer points than St. John's. Syracuse boasts the best field goal defense in the league and ninth in the country, holding teams to only 37.2%. Obviously that doesn't bode well for St. John's, but neither does their 30.8% success rate from behind the arc. Overall they shoot 46.8 from the floor total, which is good, but they have not faced as good of a defense as Syracuse all season. Dwight Hardy is the Storm's best scorer, averaging 16ppg. But most of those points come from the interior and free throws. Syracuse should not have to worry too much about three point shooting from St. John's. DJ Kennedy is also good slasher and leads the team in rebounding. Either way, despite having ten seniors, and playing much better basketball under new coach Steve Lavin, St. John's is still not as good as the Orange. While every team in the Big East is dangerous at home, Syracuse should consistently find scoring opportunities by causing turnovers in the zone and that will lead to easy transition baskets for the Orange. While this game may be close in the first half, Syracuse should slowly pull away in the second. Look for the Orange to win in the Garden by 13.

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St. John's Q&A With Rumble In The Garden

Time for another visit to the Red Storm.

Our good friend Pico, who you may know from his many basketball roundtables at The East Coast Bias, has jumped ship and is the official St. John’s blogger for Sports Blog Nation. His new site Rumble In The Garden is now live and we’re honored he asked us to be his first big Q&A. We’ve done this before so let’s get right to it.

1. Orange::44: St. John’s has had an up and down season so far. How the hell did they lose to Bonaventure and Fordham?

Rumble In The Garden: Experimentation. You know, like kids and drugs? No, the staff was trying to install a more aggressive style of play, but that style exposed some weaknesses in decision-making and defense. And then the staff decided to slow it down, which has been more successful. The team also was struggling to close out on shooters when playing the faster style; they've shored up that weakness a bit.

2. Orange::44: They have bounced back recently beating Big East heavy Georgetown but lost to Notre Dame. What was the difference in those games?

Rumble: St. John's was faster in their defensive rotations against the Hoyas. They were also more controlled or principled in how they went about their offense and defense. And they got better position against the Hoyas. The Irish are also a much better perimeter shooting team; and they can make the Johnnies pay for leaving gaps on the perimeter.

3. Orange::44: Obviously home court advantage in the Big East is important, but Madison Square Garden is usually owned by the Orange. What effect will the crowd have on this game?

Rumble: St. John's fans might actually attend this one; I hear it's a sellout, and that can't just be Syracuse fans from the NYC-area taking up the seats. It should be a pretty lively atmosphere; the game against the Hoyas had a homecourt feel. This one will be a little more neutral, but better than the pro-Cuse feel some recent games at the Garden have felt like.

4. Orange::44: Ten seniors. Break down who to look for?

Rumble: Justin Brownlee is an excellent finisher inside. Look for him to get some touches, but he might pass against Syracuse's length.

Dwight Hardy handles the ball and is a dangerous outside shooter. If Malik Boothe can play, Hardy might have some time off the ball and Dwight can stroke it.

DJ Kennedy is a slasher and can make plays off the dribble.

Justin Burrell will be working the post with strength; he has good athleticism.

Paris Horne is a defensive specialist who will dunk on folks.

5. Orange::44: What is the biggest weakness of this St. John’s team?

Rumble: Either size or shooting. They've played bigger than they are, but I think they will struggle against bigger teams. But the lack of outside shooting has meant that they need to play a controlled style to get the shots they want. If they don't get looks in the paint, the offense (as it has been) struggles. There are players who have shot well in the past, and may shoot well in the future. But right now, no one's killing it from outside.

6. Orange::44: Put it on the line. Is St. John’s making the NCAA Tournament this season?

Rumble: I'm not ready to say yes. But if I have to put it on the line, I say yes.

Thanks to Pico for answering my questions. My answers to his questions can be viewed here. Check back tomorrow with our usual preview of the Syracuse / St. John’s tilt live from New York, and check out Rumble In The Garden for all your St. John's musings.

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Seton Hall - Syracuse Recap OR I Nodded & Drooled

Thank you, Brandon, for waking up after halftime

In what was highly-touted as Syracuse's first "true road game" of the season (well, except that... well, nevermind), the Orange rolled into the Prudential Center and was able to hold on and beat the Seton Hall Pirates 61-56. Nothing about this game was good, per se, other than the outcome. In honor of this game being played in Newark, I will shower this recap with bullets (note, I thought of that line before I heard of the senseless BS actions in Arizona this morning. Shooting people is not cool. We do not condone such, nor do we mean any disrespect to the victims of the Tucson tragedy. However, Newark, screw you.)
  • You would have thought a week off would have done this team some good. Instead, they looked very rusty, very tired, almost as if they were jetlagged.
  • Syracuse managed only 20 first-half points. Not to be outdone, Seton Hall put up 19.
  • Seton Hall did what every other team facing the 2-3 zone does: chuck up 3s. They hit none in the first half. None. They eventually finished the game 3 of 26 for an astounding 11.5%, which I believe is the unemployment rate for Newark.
  • Syracuse went 6 of 17 from long-range for 35.3%, which I suppose is acceptable. However, as you could guess, Syracuse was pitiful in that department in the first half.
  • Overall, Syracuse shot 19 of 43 for 44.2% compared to the Pirates' 21 of 67 for 31.3%. Ouch, SHU. Ouch.
  • Both teams seemed to be stymied by the defense they saw. Seton Hall tried to figure out the 2-3 zone, while on defense they showed their own 2-3 zone while at times switching to man. Syracuse couldn't keep up with what they saw.
  • The leading scorers for Syracuse were Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche, each putting up 15 today.
  • Brandon Triche sparked the Orange at the beginning of the second half, hitting a few threes (some from quite long-range). Though the Cuse would eventually let those gains slip away courtesy of a later SHU run, it was great to see Brandon get out there and shoot with some confidence. Syracuse can be a dangerous team if he's playing well.
  • Fab Melo logged 11 minutes in this one. Most of them felt like they came in the second half. While I understand the need for him to get playing time and game experience, I'm really failing to see his contribution on the floor. He was 1 of 2 from the floor with a rebound and two turnovers. I guess it's the "intangibles"?
  • BMK and Southie each had 14 minutes off the bench, Dion Waiters 10, and CJ Fair 8. Rather deep for a Boeheim bench. Total offensive output: 8 points.
  • While Rick Jackson pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds, Syracuse got beat in this department 43-30. That can't happen against teams that shoot better than 31%.
  • Speaking of rebounds, let's give credit where credit is due. Herb Pope had 20 rebounds for Seton Hall which, to go along with his 14 points, gave him a nice double-double for the afternoon. Much of his playing time was with four fouls. I marked down 12:08 as the time he left the game with four fouls, because TV told me to.
  • The team that shot 84.6% at the free-throw line lost to the team that shot 47.2% at the free throw line. Yuck. Somebody needs to watch Boeheim on Basketball on the plane home.
  • Several times I heard through the TV broadcast pretty loud cheers of "Let's Go Orange!" Good job out there, fans! Let's not give Syracuse a "true road game" all year!
  • I couldn't watch this game live, so I set the DVR, and even recorded 5 minutes over, just in case. It still wasn't enough. I missed the final 15 seconds of gameplay. Twitter told me we won. Thanks, guys.
  • Up next? A good, gutsy St. John's team on Wednesday night. Where? Madison Square Garden. You know the next line.

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Syracuse - Seton Hall Preview

Syracuse students agree: The Hall still isn't great.
Syracuse is currently the #4 team in the nation and boasts the best rebounder in the league. They are also shooting significantly better than the first half of the season. Kris Joseph is a big reason why. He is shooting 59.5% and scoring an average of 23.3 points over his last three games. Not only that but Rick Jackson is a rebounding and blocking machine. Rick Jackson is also still leading the league in rebounds with 11.7rpg. Syracuse is also 15-0 (2-0) on the season currently, coming off a win against #15 Notre Dame last Saturday. Conversely, Seton Hall has lost four of their last five games and have a record of 7-8 (1-2) on the year. The Hall's problem last season was not scoring, but no defense and poor rebounding. This year, their scoring has dipped, and the defense hasn't gotten much better. Sadly their leading scorer Jaremy Hazell has not only faced health problems with a broken wrist, but he was shot just before Christmas. While he will be fine, he remains unable to play. In his absence senior Jeff Robinson is leading the charge with 12.2ppg. Herb Pope is also back and healthy, averaging 8.2rpg. But that will still probably not be enough against Syracuse's great offense, and even better defense. Seton Hall has lost the last four to the Orange and ten out of 12. The Hall has also only won one game out of their last 14 against ranked opponents. Syracuse has also had a week to prepare for this game, so I don't think any surprises will occur in this one. The upset alert/trap game factor is very low in this one. Look for Syracuse to beat The Hall in Newark by 22.
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It's true Doug, that crew sucked.
Most people that aren't big time Syracuse fans remember the last time Syracuse won a bowl game. I happened to be at that game. It was good to be at another bowl win. If you were at home or at a bar it was good to see another bowl win. And what a game to watch. If you like offense this was your bowl game of the season. A bowl game in which the team traded big offensive plays and touchdowns, this game was cold but the offenses were hot. Kansas State had an absolute stud of a player in Daniel Thomas and conversely Syracuse used both the run and the pass effectively against the Swiss cheese defense of Kansas State. Let’s go to the report for one last time in the 2010 college football season.

Offense

A

This was the best offensive game Syracuse has had in maybe the last 5 years. The first Syracuse scoring play, a 52 yard touchdown flea flicker to Marcus Sales from Ryan Nassib, was one of the sexiest things on a Syracuse football field since the McNabb era. Ryan Nassib (13/21, 239yds, 3TD, 0 INT) had a banner day, playing very well, throwing long balls perfectly, and only had one bad pass hit the turf. But the true player of the day was senior Delone Carter. Carter (27car, 198yds, 7.3avg, 2 TD) had a career day in yardage as he found the perfect way to go out on top as a Syracuse player. Credit as well to the offensive line for playing a great game and giving a lot of time to Nassib and big holes to Carter. Marcus Sales where have you been? He exploded for all three Syracuse touchdowns in the air and caught 172yds on five receptions. The offense clearly benefited from a month off and a terrible Kansas State defense. With a total of 498 total yards, 23 first downs, and 8-14 on third down conversions, statistically it was one of their best performances of the year as well.

Defense

C

Kansas State really had one major threat in RB Daniel Thomas. While he was limited to only 90 yards on the day, he managed three touchdowns, including a 51 yard touchdown run. Additionally they allowed 379 total yards of offense and 3-4 conversions on fourth downs. However they did manage to limit Kansas State to 6-14 on third downs and limit KState to only 3.4yds per rush. But the secondary allowed soft zone coverage and some true home run balls. Not their best day of work, which turned this game into a shoot out.

Special Teams

D

Most of it was due to the fact that Rob Long was not punting or kicking, but kickoffs were terrible. The coverage was fine, but the ball just was never kicked far enough, and its fairly embarrassing when the opening kickoff goes right out of bounds. Additionally Ross Krautman missed an extra point, which as we all know are as close to a gimmie kick as there can be. He did drill the one field goal attempted from 39 yards out. And the punting was fairly prodictive from Ryan Lichtenstein. Overall not a good day, but when there isn’t a true special teams coach or your star punter/kicker it was a pretty good effort overall.

Coaching

B

I’m not sure if it was because the team was so banged up or there was just no time to implement all of these plays before, but the offensive playbook basically had no limit. And it was awesome. The coaching staff had the offense ready to play. I wish that the team had spent some more time on tackling drills or zone coverage on the defensive end, but overall the team played well, was not that conservative, pounded the ball until they were stopped (which was almost never), and made great play calls. Overall a great job.

GPA

B-/C+ (2.5)

Once again this was a fantastic game. No matter what you think of the infamous call Syracuse played better and deserved the win. It was a great game in a great venue and I think any SU fans that attended had a great experience and saw a very nice bowl win. The season has to be determined a success as Syracuse went from four wins to eight, with four coming in conference and all on the road. While the final season’s report card will be out soon, this game was a win during the bowl season, and considering that Syracuse has not had that since 2001 that was pretty great.

The Call

The call was correct, but I agree it was absolute bullshit. As a football referee myself I would have maybe made that call earlier in a game, but NEVER in that situation where the game was clearly in the balance. Now Kansas State very well may not have converted that two point try, nor would it be the case that SU could not have at least scored a field goal in the time remaining, especially how they were moving the ball in the game. But either way the game ended the way it did and we’ll all have to live with that. A win is a win and Syracuse won.

Intangibles

A+ to the Syracuse faithful for showing up in the Bronx. I freely admit I’m spoiled by our roof and I haven’t been out in the cold for a football game in a few years. But the weather could not have been more perfect for the time of year and location of the game and it was well worth it to see so many SU fans, friends, and a nice win.

D to the officiating crew. They were from the Big Ten and made some absolutely terrible calls. Mostly against Syracuse but I’d say when it was said and done it was pretty even. There is a reason most teams don’t get called for defensive holding. Because it doesn't happen.

A+ to all my friends that came out and a special shout out to my friends that I was with for both this bowl game and the Insight.com bowl back in 2001. It has been quite the ride. Let’s hope for another decade of being friends.

The football season is done but we’ll be back with the final report card for the season and our final postgame thoughts sometime in the next week or two. Meanwhile, it’s all basketball. Stay tuned to Orange::44 for it all.

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