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And with that, Scoop's career, along with KrisJo, is over.
Syracuse earned it's Elite status this season, by making their first Elite 8 since 2003. And while the weekend was many things, Syracuse was not ultimately the regional champion and able to punch their ticket to the Final Four. So we examine each game below.
Wisconsin v. Syracuse
This game was, for basketball fans, extremely entertaining. For Syracuse fans, it was extremely frustrating because Wisconsin shoots the ball very well. The first half was very tight until Syracuse took the lead with about 5:56 to go in the first half. Syracuse opened up their biggest lead of the game late in the second half, ten points. However, mental mistakes allowed the Badgers to close the gap 33-27 at the break. Wisconsin came out hot as they quickly made the game close again. Drilling three after three it seemed as if the Badgers couldn't miss, but Syracuse always kept the game close, continuing to score inside. Syracuse was up by a point with less than a minute left when Kris Joseph was fouled with a 1-and-1 coming. He missed the first shot giving Wisconsin the chance to win. Syracuse played tough defense and escaped with a one point win, 64-63.
  • CJ Fair was Syracuse's leading scorer with 15 points. He was also the game's leading rebounder with seven rebounds. Three other Syracuse players had double digit scoring.
  • Brandon Triche scored his 1,000 point in this game.
  • Scoop Jardine led Syracuse with four assists. He also only had one turnover.
  • Fair also had Syracuse's only steals. He had four. Most of which were grabbed on predicting passing lanes for Wisconsin, and essentially jumping the routes.
  • Syracuse only had one block in the game, coming from Baye Moussa Keita.
  • Syracuse only committed six turnovers. Wisconsin only had six as well.
  • Syracuse shot well from the floor. They shot 51.5% from the floor and 55.6% (5/9) from three point range. Wisconsin was brilliant from long range, hitting 51.9% (14-27). However, they only shot 42.9% from the floor overall and 31.8% from inside the arc.
  • This was the second highest number of three point baskets a team has made against Syracuse with 14. The highest being 15 in 1995. Syracuse won that game as well.
  • Syracuse outscored Wisconsin 8-4 in the last seven minutes and outrebounded the Badgers 5-1.
  • Wisconsin did not make a field goal inside the three point line in the last 14 minutes of the game.
  • There was a good number of Syracuse fans in the Garden. Maybe 60%. But the Wisconsin fans, along with the other non-Syracuse fans, joined together when Wisconsin kept hitting threes.
  • Just note now, there were 13 fouls called against Syracuse and Wisconsin took 12 free throws.
Ohio State v. Syracuse
Syracuse then took on Ohio State in the Elite 8 for a trip to the Final Four. Ohio State jumped out to a small early lead before trading the lead back and forth for the rest of the first half, ending with both teams heading to the locker room tied at 29 all. Foul trouble put Ohio State's Jared Sullinger on the bench for most of the first half, but Ohio State kept the game close. In the second half, Ohio State's offense really played well, and both teams shot a ton of free throws. State's lead expanded to a game high ten points, but Syracuse chipped away. However, late game turnovers and failure to score allowed Ohio State to keep the lead and head to the Final Four. They beat the Orange 77-70.
  • Brandon Triche was the leading scorer for the Orange with 15 points. The two seniors also scored double digits in their final game.
  • Keita led Syracuse in rebounding with ten. A superb effort.
  • Scoop again led the team with six assists. He only had two turnovers in the game.
  • Joseph led Syracuse with three steals. Keita led with four blocks.
  • Syracuse had 12 turnovers. Ohio State 11. The last few are really what killed Syracuse.
  • Syracuse shot 41.5% from the floor. Ohio State was close with 41.2%. Syracuse hit 6/16 (37.5%) from behind the arc. Ohio State made 4-13 (30.8%) from the same. Ohio State made 31-42 free throws. Syracuse made 20-25.
  • Syracuse committed 28 fouls and Ohio State had 20 for a total of 48 fouls, totaling 67 free throws for both teams combined. Ohio State shot 42 of those. That's over 3 times the amount Wisconsin shot in their game.
  • This was the worst officiated NCAA Tournament game I have ever seen. It was officiated even in its awfulness though. However, no team could get into an offensive rhythm and both teams had foul problems. This was an Elite 8 game. I've never seen the referees dictate a game as much as this one. They continued to insert them into this game. Those officials were Tom O'Neill, Mike Nance, and John Higgins.
  • The officials were not the reason Syracuse lost, but it made this game pretty awful to watch. And these were both great teams in a great matchup. Shame for the NCAA.
  • Jim Boeheim picked up his first technical in this game for the season. It was officially because he was out of the coaching box and gesturing. It was really because he was upset the officials were calling the tightest game of the season. It was Boeheim's first technical since November 20, 2010 against Cornell.
  • Jared Sullinger was fantastic in the second half, earning 15 of his 19 points then.
  • Ohio State had about the same game that Syracuse did against Wisconsin down the stretch. Just hitting shot after shot in the closing possessions. It allowed them to stay ahead.
  • Had Kris Joseph finally learned how to dribble, maybe he wouldn't have turned the ball over down the stretch. Just a thought.
  • Dion Waiters also had a bad turnover, dribbling into the corner and bouncing the ball right off the baseline.
And now we close the 2011-2012 season for the Orange. Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph are graduating and Dion Waiters will be going pro. The fate of Fab Melo is still up in the air as of right now. But going to the Elite 8 without your starting center and finishing 34-3 is a pretty successful season. We'll have more final thoughts on the season in the coming days most likely, but after this weekend we will turn our attention full time to lacrosse. Which seems to be a mess right now. But we'll get into that later. For now, March Madness has ended for Syracuse and it was a pretty entertaining ride all things considered. As for off the court, it's a great thing this season is finally over.

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Syracuse students agree: Making the Final Four is fantastic.
Syracuse narrowly escaped against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 on Thursday to advance to take on Ohio State with a trip to the Final Four on the line. In an all chalk regional final, this will be an exciting basketball game. The question is, does Syracuse have what it takes to survive and advance?
Obviously when looking at Ohio State you have to talk about Jared Sullinger. He averages 17.6ppg and had 23 points and 11 rebounds against Cincy in the Sweet 16. He is a beast in the post and not only will Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita have their hands full, but the forwards have to help out whenever they can. Syracuse probably played their best offensive game all season against Wisconsin. While they needed to due to the barrage of 3s they can probably win this one with just a solid offensive effort. Ohio State got a false confidence boost in practice playing against their own team running zone very poorly. They will be facing a team that expertly plays the 2-3 in Syracuse. It will be Syracuse's defense that leads them in this game, as it has all season. Sullinger will get opportunities to score. But stopping Aaron Craft from penetrating and dishing to open shooters will be an absolute must for the Orange. Syracuse has proved that they can survive the long ball well in their last game so just focusing on good defense and getting hands in people's faces will help. Ohio State is full of scorers, but they are obviously used to playing against MANTOMAN defenses. Syracuse will not be running that. Scoop Jardine not turning the ball over will be key. Craft is a very good on-ball defender and racks up the steals. Not turning the ball over against Ohio State for easy runouts will be crucial. If you are always allowing essentially four point swings, you probably will be in trouble. The TD Garden will be absolutely full of Syracuse fans and should give a pretty decent home court advantage to the Orange. Because of that, and the fact that Ohio State doesn't play against zone defenses as good as Syracuse ever, I like the Orange to take down this one. I'm picking Syracuse to head to the Final Four by 3. After that, it's anyone's guess.
This game will be on CBS tonight at 7:05 after the conclusion of the West Regional Final. We'll be in the Garden tonight so if anything ridiculous happens we'll be on the Tweets to let you know. Should be a fun one  and really, getting to the Elite 8 is a great accomplishment. But I guarantee Kris and Scoop do not want their last game to be played yet.

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Syracuse students agree: Syracuse needs to advance beyond the Sweet 16.
Syracuse has advanced out of the first weekend and have made it to another Sweet 16. Now in the friendlier confines of Boston, Syracuse has a shot to advance to their first Elite 8 since 2003. Wisconsin stands in the way of that however.
Syracuse is coming off a pretty good game from everyone against Kansas State. Scoop, while being a great leader in critical points of the games, and scoring and shooting well, has turned over the ball quite a bit. Something that Wisconsin really doesn't do much of. Syracuse will not get much in terms of transition offense and steals against Wisconsin. They take care of the ball. The game will really hinge on the abilities of the Wisconsin players knocking down outside shots. Jordan Taylor is the best offensive weapon for Wisconsin. He scores 14.7ppg but did struggle in their last game in shooting. However, you cannot count on that, he takes big shots, and the offense runs through him. Josh Gasser makes 45% from outside the arc, but was limited in shots his last game. The zone has been known to shut down big shooters this season, including in this tournament. Wisconsin will have to get it done inside if they want to find success, in that Taylor has to penetrate and dish. Additionally, limiting second chance points, a big theme all season, will have to occur at least sometime in this game. Wisconsin is a pretty good rebounding team and will likely limit Syracuse to only one shot per possession. Wisconsin will be playing MANTOMAN and this should allow Scoop to drive and dish, and also for Dion Waiters to get to the rim. James Southerland will find open looks and should continue his good shooting in the tournament. I didn't like our matchup with Kansas State but I do think the matchups favor the Orange in this one. I like Syracuse to advance to the Elite 8 to take on the winner of Ohio State / Cincinnati by 8.
Syracuse is playing tonight on CBS at 7:15pm and John and I will be in the building in person. Be sure to enter your entry for the prize packs here. Check us out on Twitter through both games tonight. It will be fun win or lose. And hopefully the sweetness will continue to elite status by 9:30.

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Final Thoughts on Host City Pittsburgh

As we sit here a few days removed from the Round of 32, most everyone's minds are looking ahead to Boston and the Sweet 16. Mine too. But since I just spent four days in Pittsburgh experiencing how they operate as a host city for the NCAA Tournament, I figured I'd share some thoughts.

I arrived on Thursday just before noon. I had tickets to the entire afternoon session, and my intent was to park and head right into CONSOL Energy Center to watch the Kansas State vs. Southern Mississippi game prior to the Syracuse game. Unfortunately by that time all the stadium lots were full. I then spent what seemed like forever driving around downtown looking for a parking garage; all were full or only open for leased spaces. I eventually came upon a garage way up by the river, probably a 25 minute walk to the stadium.

Now, let's understand a few things, because I don't wanna totally slam Pittsburgh on parking. Yeah, it was midday Thursday. People work. So that must account for a lot of the parking issues. But still, they can surely accommodate when there's Penguins games, right? I would assume, but this is potentially eight different fan bases descending on a city all at once. Not to mention just the casual fans who bought tickets just to watch Tournament basketball. Finally, the old Civic Arena ("The Igloo") is being torn down. I assume a new parking lot or garage will stand in its place one day, but for now it's still a demolition site.

At any rate, the parking situation sucked. Glad I took a cab in from the hotel on Saturday.

If you've never been to the CONSOL Energy Center, make it a point to go. I had one of the "lesser-desired seats" near the top in a corner. And I thought they were damn good seats. Probably not a bad seat in the place. That's probably more true for hockey. I thought concessions and bathrooms were plentiful (at least where I was). The seats were comfortable (though they were lacking a cup holder, which would have been nice). The concourse and concession areas had numerous flat screen TVs, so if you got up during the action you still wouldn't miss it (though I quickly discovered a nearly 9-second TV delay). Bathroom had an orange scent to it, unless I was just imagining things.

Pittsburgh has a lot going on outside of hosting the Tourney games. I was surprised to hear that Pittsburgh hosts the country's second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade. This year attracted Vice President Joe Biden, who took the opportunity to campaign for President "O'Bama." That, of course, was why Joe Biden showed up at the Syracuse game Saturday (which I had earlier predicted). Other St. Patrick's Day festivities (i.e. lots of drinking) were happening all over the city. I had been out on Carson Street on Friday night, so my brother and I hoofed it back down that way after the game. That's evidently where the younger crowd hangs out, and you could tell by their amateurish drinking on Saturday. It made for some fun people-watching, though!

One thing I'll have a huge beef with Pittsburgh about is the cab situation. They are scarce, especially later at night. It was nearly impossible for us to get a cab Friday night even before the bars closed! I remember that being a problem the first time I was in Pittsburgh, back in December for that last whimper of the 2011 Syracuse football team. It looks like the cab situation may be getting better now, but unfortunately it came too late for NCAA weekend.

Overall, I had an enjoyable time in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh was a fine host city. I think if they fix the parking and taxi issues, they'll be another great host for games in a few years.

Now Boston, you've got a lot going on already. I don't expect the NCAAs to have much of an impact on what I already know to be a great city.

Working on Thursday? We Can Help!

We understand. Despite the fact the games start on Thursday evening some of you loyal readers may still have to work during the game. You're in luck. The good folks at Wheat Thins have the info to help you with all your covert viewing. Additionally, they are graciously providing a couple prize packs for me to give out. So if you are interested, in the comments write what you think is the best thing about Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. It can be anything you can think of. The best two responses in my judgment will win prize packs courtesy of Wheat Thins. So leave those comments. The winners will be announced in the postgame recap. And don't forget to click below if you're one of those unlucky to be here in Boston or able to view the game at home on your couch.

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Not just Fab can rebound

If the name of the game on Thursday against Asheville was "survive and advance," Saturday's matchup with Kansas State was more like "dominate and advance." Syracuse played with swagger, played with a chip on its shoulder, played like it had its season hanging in the balance. Because all of that was true. In the first half, Syracuse played just good enough (25-24 lead at the half), but then turned it on for the second half, and pulled away with the 75-59 victory to move onto the Sweet 16 in Boston.
  • It was easy for me to give the game ball to Rakeem Christmas. That's what it looked like in person, that's what some key stats look like, and given the situation of everything, I just think it's the right thing to do. After holding his own starting center on Thursday, Rak really came out and played like this was his thing. He grabbed eleven rebounds -- four of which came on the offensive glass -- not to mention his eight points on 4-7 shooting and his three blocks.
  • If you take that stat line, take away Rak's name, and just say the Syracuse center had those stats, you'd probably assume that was a typical Fab Melo game -- heck, even a pretty good Fab Melo game. To say that Rak had Fab numbers in a pivotal NCAA game was key to this victory. Has Rak replaced Fab? No, but this is all about what this team is: filling in, stepping up, and getting the job done.
  • And while we're talking about this team, while I gave the game ball to Rak, this truly was a great team effort. Four players in double-digit scoring, 13 assists, great shooting from the field, from three, and from the line. It was a pleasure to watch this one.
  • With 18 points, Dion Waiters was your leading scorer, shooting 5-9 from the field, and an impressive 7-7 from the charity stripe. 
  • Dion's "cousin" Scoop Jardine also played impressively, with 16 points on 5-9 shooting, including a perfect 3-3 from three and 3-4 from the foul line. Add in eight assists, five rebounds (and six turnovers) and you have another one of those Scoop being Scoop games where you take the bad with the good and call it a game. The rest of those stats are so good that I'm almost willing to look the other way on the six turnovers.
  • James Southerland came off the bench to continue his hot hand at shooting, with 15 points on 5-6 shooting, with 2-2 from three and 3-4 at the line. James also had six rebounds and three blocks. These stats are becoming commonplace, and need to continue for this team to continue having success.
  • Kris Joseph had a so-so day, with 11 points on only 2-7 shooting, but a promising 7-8 from the line. He also logged the most minutes on the court with 37.
  • CJ Fair only scored three, all from the line, in a game where he only saw 15 minutes. Another disappointing game for CJ. Brandon Triche didn't light up the scoreboard as well.
  • As expected, Kansas State was dominating on the offensive boards. Interestingly, of the 41 total rebounds, the Wildcats grabbed most of them offensively at 25. They owned the total margin 41-32.
  • Syracuse made good decisions on offense in this game. In total from the field, they shot 23-45 for 51.1%. More importantly -- and different from recent games -- their shot selection on threes was more disciplined, at 6-9 (a perfect 5-5 in the second half). Conversely, K-State threw up anything they could, at 21-67 for the game (31.3%) and 4-17 from three. Granted, the Wildcats had more shots because they grabbed the offensive rebounds and had second (or third or fourth) chances. But the ball wasn't going through the hoop, other than the 20 second-chance points they had.
  • Syracuse cashed in on those fastbreak transition situations that have made their own trademark lately, with 10 fastbreak points.
  • Also noteworthy is that the Syracuse bench outscored the K-State bench 33-0.
Saturday's victory propelled Syracuse into the Sweet 16 this Thursday in Boston. They will face Wisconsin, who beat many people's "sexy pick" Vanderbilt on Sunday night. Thursday's game will be at 7:15pm from the TD Garden. For those watching on TV, enjoy Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery on the call for CBS. For those of you lucky enough to watch in person, come say hi to Brian and me, as we'll be up in the rafters of section 325.

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Syracuse students agree: Some Pinstripe Bowl magic would be nice.
After fighting back to get a win over UNC-Asheville on Thursday, Syracuse looks ahead to the Saturday matchup against 8-seed Kansas State. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16 in Boston next Thursday, while the loser goes home to dwell on what could have been. What will determine which team does what will come down to three key areas: rebounding, turnovers, and scoring. Through the course of the season, I feel these are the key stats that have either hurt or helped each of these teams. K-State averages 37.1 rebounds per game, while Syracuse sits at 35.3 per game. Importantly, though, offensive rebounds are at 13.9 vs. 12.8 per game, respectively. Defensive rebounds sit with a Wildcat edge as well, 23.1 vs. 22.5. That may seem inconsequential, but something like that could be the difference in a tight game.
But it's these next two stats that I think will really be the difference makers. Syracuse holds a big lead in having fewer turnovers: 10.5 vs. 14.4. We know what Syracuse can do when it creates turnovers: score on the fastbreak.. Speaking of scoring, that's the other big stat: the Orange's 74.5 points per game vs. K-State's 71.4ppg.
The Wildcats can only win this game if they crash the boards, give themselves a lot of second-chance points, and limit their turnovers. However, I feel that Syracuse won't let any of that happen. The Orange gave a decent rebounding effort on Thursday, and in the absence of Fab Melo, that's key. The zone creates turnovers on defense, and Syracuse does a decent job of protecting the egg on offense. Syracuse is playing with a thousand chips on its shoulders, and won't want to start the game with the same kind of lackluster effort they did on Thursday. Guns-a-blazin' should be the game plan.
Individually, Syracuse needs seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine to lead the team to victory. As in, play to their potential. James Southerland needs to stay hot, Dion Waiters needs to keep doing his thing, and CJ Fair needs to get out of his funk. On the Wildcats side, Rodney McGruder is their leading scorer, at 15.875 points per game. He was key in K-State's win over Southern Miss on Thursday, and the Wildcats will need him to score above his average to lead the team. The Syracuse zone would be smart to box out Jamar Samuels from grabbing offensive rebounds; he averages 2.733 per game, and limiting him will go a long way in keeping down the second chance points.
With St. Bonaventure's loss Friday to Florida State, Syracuse is now officially the only team from New York State remaining in the NCAA Tournament. That makes them, undoubtedly, New York's College Team, right? Look for Syracuse to win by six points on Saturday, to advance to Brian's new home of Boston next weekend for some hot Regional action. Keep tuned to my tweets from CONSOL Energy Center, and Brian doing whatever he'll be doing during the game. GO ORANGE!

Editor's Note: Traditionally I, Brian Harrison, do the previews for the next game. Because John is in the heart of the Tournament in Pittsburgh, his preview will stand, but I, for one, am taking Kansas State by eight points. I would be thrilled if I were wrong, and will be happy to hang out in Boston with all of you if that were the case, but I do not think Syracuse pulls off the win. And I have had Kansas State over Syracuse in my bracket since Tuesday. Either way, enjoy your NCAA Basketball viewing and Go Orange!

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Orange::44 reporting directly from Pittsburgh
The 2011-2012 season for Syracuse Basketball has been one filled with much off-court drama, much on-court success, and a lot of heart skipping in each arena.  Thursday afternoon was no different for the Orange.  They entered the game without starting center Fab Melo, who's ineligible due to...something...which we may never know.  Could be academics, could be pot, could be anything.  Fact is, a "big" part of what has made Syracuse Syracuse this year is gone.  I suppose if you're gonna be faced with this situation in the NCAA Tournament, it might as well be as a #1 seed playing a #16 seed.  Get the kinks out before you play some "tougher competition."  Either UNC-Asheville was underseeded, or they played above their pay grade, but this ended up being a much closer game than it should have been.
Asheville put the pedal to the metal from the opening tip, and refused to let up.  Though they never gained a lead larger than seven, the Bulldogs dominated definitely the first half, and arguably, the game.  They hit their shots (lots of threes), played a zone that somehow baffled Syracuse, and hustled for every rebound and loose ball.  They were hungry, but not so humble.  They had nearly the entire arena on their side, trying to squeak out an unprecedented 16/1 upset in the Tourney.  The Bulldogs, however, were put down by a scrappy group of dudes wearing white jerseys.  The final from Pittsburgh in the Round of 64: Syracuse 72, Asheville 65.
  • Game ball goes to James Southerland, hands down.  Off the bench, James had 15 points on 6-8 shooting (3-5 from three) to be the team's leading scorer.  He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds (tied with Kris Joseph).
  • We knew James would get extended minutes at forward, with Rakeem Christmas getting the start at center and Baye Keita subbing in at the 5-spot.  He made the most of it, especially on a night when CJ Fair struggled.
  • CJ only scored three points, three rebounds, and dished out two assists in his 15 minutes of play.  The combination of him struggling and James dominating led to James's extended minutes and CJ's declined minutes.  CJ hasn't been the same since the regular season ended; he was sick for the Big East Tourney game against UConn last Thursday, and just hasn't seemed to have recovered.  It would be a huge boost to this team -- especially now without Fab -- to get the usual CJ production out of CJ.
  • Starting in Fab Melo's absence, Rakeem Christmas certainly held his own: six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes of play.  Throw in a couple of blocks as well, and you gotta give Rak some credit.  Those numbers aren't much compared to a typical Fab night, but he's not Fab; he's a freshman; and he still made his presence known.  He's coming on a lot more lately (out of necessity) since losing his spot in the starting lineup, and it couldn't come at a better time.  The amount of confidence he must be gaining now will go a lot way for Rak, both for the rest of this Tourney run, and for his future at Syracuse.
  • Your double-digit Orangemen scorers: Southerland 15, Joseph 12 (3-10!), Dion Waiters 12 (4-9), and Scoop Jardine 11 (3-8).  Brandon Triche fell just short with 9 on 3-7 shooting.
  • The team couldn't rely on Brandon to cash in like he had at times in the Big East Tourney, but he still seemed to be playing with some swagger out there.  That needs to continue.  Plus, him scoring a lot would be nice.
  • Scoop is Scoop.  Scoop will always be Scoop.  You can't say Scoop being Scoop enough.  Because that's all you need to say when analyzing Scoop.  You have to take the good with the bad, and the bad with the good.  About midway through the second half when Syracuse was trading baskets & the lead with the Bulldogs, I noted that Syracuse was a different team with Scoop on the floor - and not for the better.  I'm glad by the end of the game, he had me singing a different tune!
  • Scoop stepped up at the end of the game.  The numbers don't necessarily show it -- other than from the free throw line where Scoop proved that when it mattered that he make a shot, he could -- but I really think the team looked to his leadership.  His attitude and support of his teammates is something that doesn't show up in the box score, but is immeasurable in its importance to this team.
  • Syracuse played like it had never seen full-court pressure before.  Damn good thing they saved some timeouts for the end of the game, because they needed them when they couldn't inbound after an Asheville basket.  Then if they could inbound the ball, they'd run this route where either Scoop or Triche -- whoever caught the inbound pass -- would curve back in toward the basket, get dangerously close to the baseline, and either dribble out of it or make a long pass upcourt and hope for the best.  Neither of these things seem advisable.  Hopefully there's a better gameplan for Saturday.
  • It seems like it has taken until 2012 for teams to realize that they can play zone against Syracuse -- if even ironically -- and have good results.  But here we are in 2012, and teams are playing zone against Syracuse.  More baffling, however, is the fact that Syracuse seems baffled by the zone!  I mean, it's not like they play against it in practice every day. It's not like they don't understand how that defense works.
  • And when you look at the times Syracuse actually penetrated that Asheville zone today, they usually got it to the basket and either scored with an and-one or missed with a shooting foul.  Either way, that's pretty good chances to score points.  So, you know, drive the lane and make something happen!
  • Pretty amazing how pro-Asheville the CONSOL Energy Center became early on in this one.  It was, of course, the combination of Kansas State fans (in all their purple gloriousness) who stayed after their game, rooting for a shot at the #16 seed, combined with everyone else, who just wanted to say "I was at the first ever 16/1 upset!"  That's a dubious distinction I wanted no part of, and I'm thankful it passed me by.
  • I also found it extremely shocking that people don't understand how timeouts work in college basketball.  This game may have been an anomoly where called timeouts and media timeouts happened to all happen within short times of each other, but I heard numerous people around me sitting in disbelief as to why there were so many timeouts bunched together.  "Didn't we just have a timeout?" was something I heard way too often.  Get a clue!
  • Not really game-related, but I have a few comments about the respective pep bands at this game.  Check out my twitter for those comments.  Let's just say, I'll never have the same appreciation for Katy Perry again.
Survive and advance.  It's the name of the game in the NCAA Tournament.  Thursday's victory earns Syracuse a place in Saturday's matchup against Kansas State.  It's a 12:15 tip, so get your Bloody Marys or Mimosas ready, take in some basketball, and then have the luck of the Irish with you as you celebrate the rest of St. Patrick's Day.  Check back here Friday night for a preview of the Kansas State game.  And as always, GO ORANGE!

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Syracuse students agree: The first round is always exciting.
It is that time again. Syracuse is in the Big Dance with 68 other teams. It's anybody's tournament this year. Well... within reason. I think we all know a 16 seed isn't winning the thing.
UNC-Asheville are the Bulldogs coming out of the Big South Conference. They play teams like Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern. Yes, you may be asking, this is a one bid league. And that would go to the Conference Tournament Champion. Winners of their first two NCAA games they've played in their two tournament appearances, they were play in games in Dayton. They proceeded to lose their next games versus top seeded teams. Their best scorer is Matt Dickey, who averages 16.5ppg and can shoot 38.1% from behind the arc. What the Bulldogs do well is they are efficient in scoring, which is not that surprising compared to the level of defenses they are facing, but they pass the ball very well. They are 5th in the NCAA in assists. Syracuse will have to have the guards on point at the top of the 2-3 Zone. While I do not think that UNC-A will chuck a bunch of threes up, they will obviously try and shoot a few, and they can make them decently, as they hit around 35% as a team from long range. Unfortunately for UNC-Asheville, they are not a tall team. Their tallest player is still four inches shorter than Baye Moussa Keita. While Syracuse is not a great defensive rebounding team, they should have an easier time in getting them in this game. I do think Syracuse will lead this game in rebounding. This game could be close at first, but Syracuse should have a decent lead by the half, and cruise in the second. I'm taking the Orange by 17 points.
This game will be broadcast on TruTV at approximately 3:10pm (check your local listings) on Thursday. If Syracuse is the victor, they will be playing on Saturday again from Pittsburgh, playing the winner of Kansas State and Southern Mississippi. Either way, John is live in Pittsburgh and will have updates from the game, while I'm in the new home office and will be on the laptop. It should be a great time as the first day of the tournament is always fantastic. Enjoy yourself, watch out for the boss, and good fortune to your bracket.

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Orange::44 Bracketology 2012

 Welcome back Madness.
Admittedly, this post would have been far more fun to write Monday. The brackets are freshly out and I love printing out one and writing in my bracket before entering them online in various bracket challenges. Sadly, bad news hit Syracuse fans as Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible for the duration of this year's NCAA Tournament.
Either way we press on. My bracket is listed above. The commentary is the usual stuff you've seen from me the past few brackets I've posted. You'll see the corrections I've made after the Melo news, as well as the general idea of what I had listed before the news. Interesting things of note include Harvard over Vandy in the first round, UConn winning their 8/9 match up, Mizzou making the Final 4, and other funny comments. Below is John's bracket that he declined to correct even after the Melo announcement. It was a combination of laziness and wishful hoping. Enjoy the viewing and make fun of us later for it.
John will be present at the first and second round in Pittsburgh for the Orange, and we'll both hopefully be in Boston if the team makes it that far. I'll be back shortly with our preview for Syracuse's first round match versus UNC Asheville. We're forgoing a BET wrap up because as we all saw we had a nice game against UConn, and Cincinnati just shot the hell out of the ball, only to lose in an awful Championship game. Ah well. The Big East Tournament was fun while it lasted.

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Orange::44 2012 NCAA Tournament Challenge

New Orleans, where everyone wants to be.
It's NCAA Tournament time again. Therefore it is time to test your basketball knowledge and, more likely, sheer luck against your friends as we all pick brackets. This year is no exception as we host our annual NCAA Tournament Challenge. The winner gets pride and a huge shoutout here on the pages of Orange::44. Isn't that enough?
Head over to ESPN's Tournament Challenge right here. Fill out a bracket. Look for the group Orange::44 and use the password syracuse. Yes, that is all lowercase. Please only fill out one (1) bracket per person in the group. We live by the "Sheet of Integrity" rule here at Orange::44. We'll be back tomorrow afternoon with our recap of the Big East Tournament, as well as our annual Orange::44 Bracketology Post with John and my brackets posted here. Have fun and enjoy all those games.

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Syracuse students agree: Playing on Saturday is better than just Thursday & Friday.
The Big East gods decided to prevent the ultimate road for Syracuse fans to the Finals in playing both UConn and then Georgetown. Instead, we get Cincinnati after beating the Hoyas in double overtime last night. That's the way tournaments go. So that means Syracuse takes on Cincinnati, a team that Syracuse beat during the three game absence of Fab Melo.
Syracuse, while the winners of the first match this season, had a bit of a scare early as Cincy hit several early three balls. Cincy finished hitting 8/25 (32%). While hitting eight shots was key, the fact they took 25 was not great. Also interesting, is that even without Melo in the lineup, Syracuse outrebounded Cincinnati. This game will probably go the same way. Cincinnati may get an early lead due to their outside shooting, and both Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick are good players that can score. However, Syracuse now has Fab Melo back in the lineup and should have an even bigger rebounding edge. I look for Kris Joseph, the leading scorer against Cincy the first time, to lead the way and bounce back from his bad offensive performance last night. Additionally, I see Triche stepping up big in this one. I'm picking the Orange by nine.
This game is again on ESPN at 7:00pm this evening. Also available online. The winner of this game plays the winner of the late game between Notre Dame and Louisville. It's a fun night int he Big East. Enjoy the show.

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Syracuse students agree: If you've been, there's nothing else like it.
The regular season is finished. The first two rounds of the Big East Tournament are set. Syracuse faces an old foe in Connecticut. What more could you want? The best matchup the past several years happened again.
Syracuse takes on Connecticut after having beat them a couple of weeks ago in Storrs for the first time ever. While Syracuse has been resting up and relaxing, Connecticut has beaten DePaul (predictably), and then West Virginia in overtime. First off, let me say two things. The notion that it's tough to beat a team three times in a season is bunk. You just didn't do your job the third time if you couldn't do it. Second, the notion that players get fatigued playing several games in several days is bunk. UConn disproved that last year. Syracuse disproved that in 2006. Now that that business is out of the way, why would you ever pick against the team that's already won twice against a team. It's illogical. While UConn is playing better together, and Jeremy Lamb is filthy, Syracuse provides a bigger defensive challenge than West Virginia did to Connecticut. In both meetings this season, Syracuse outrebounded Connecticut. That should be the case tomorrow. The only X Factor in the game is what impact Jim Calhoun will have on his team. He is admittedly a better coach than George Blaney, but the players on the court playing the game are still the same ones available in the other two. Syracuse simply causes turnovers against Connecticut and it allows for run outs. Additionally, Syracuse has shot well against Connecticut in both games and in their games in MSG this season, including NIT games and the one meeting against St. John's. This game may be close for the first half. But then I see Syracuse pulling away and maintaining a six to 12 point lead throughout the second half. Syracuse will hit a patented run and should put themselves in a good position to advance. The statistics, the team history this season, and the talent levels all tell me to pick Syracuse as I have in the previous two games. I am doing just that. I'm picking the Orange again. by 12.
This game is of course being played in front of a national television audience scamming views during work on ESPN at 12:00pm. Syracuse does it at noon. Both John and I are enjoying respective liquid lunches, so let the fun commence. The Big East Tournament is a blast in person or on television. Enjoy the ride folks. This is merely an appetizer to the main course that is the NCAA, but it is amazing and I'll be sad when Syracuse is no longer a part of it. Savor it this year my friends. Whether you're rooting for Syracuse, Connecticut, or just some great basketball.

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Big East Tourney Brackets

The Big East Tournament kicks off today at noon from Madison Square Garden.  The dreaded Tuesday games.  It means your season was a disappointment.  Unless you make up for it, like UConn did last year.  The Huskies find themselves in a similar situation this year.  Though most consider them a lock for the NCAA tournament, a good showing in New York would go a long way.  Same with many of the others playing Tuesday and Wednesday games.

In the spirit of competition, and just because we like to wildly guess about things with a little bit of knowledge behind our guesses, Brian and I have filled out Big East Tournament Brackets for your viewing pleasure.  I was pleased to see that we didn't pick the exact same bracket, which would, of course, have been wildly embarrassing.  We do, however, have similar picks.  It is what it is.  Enjoy!

Here's Brian's bracket:

And here's the official JBren bracket:

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Scoop's face after he saw his stat line

Saturday was Senior Day in the Dome for Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Brandon, Nick, and Matt.  The final home game for the 2011-2012 Syracuse Orange basketball team.  The opportunity to go undefeated in the Dome for only the second time in school history.  But Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals came into town looking to crash that party.  The Cards showed a revamped starting lineup, hoping that the changes would spark something on the offense, they'd get out in front of the Orange, and lead the rest of the way.  Didn't quite happen that way, though.  Overcoming a slightly slow start, Syracuse found its groove, led by Brandon Triche, and capped off an impressive 30-1 regular season, beating the Cards 58-49.
  • We knew that head coach Jim Boeheim would be giving more playing time to the likes of Brandon Triche and James Southerland.  Whether either would step up and make the most of those minutes was one of the big questions going into the game.  Triche responded in kind, with 18 points on 5-10 shooting, including 3-6 from three and 5-6 from the line.  He also had four rebounds and four assists. This may have been one of Triche's most complete games in some time, so it was great to see that on the final regular season game when he was on the floor for 28 minutes.
  • Southerland played 20 minutes, scoring seven on 2-3, grabbing four rebounds, and blocking three shots.  You take that off the bench any day, especially on this team.  It's also nice to have another blocking threat out there besides Fab Melo.
  • Fab's stat line -- particularly offensively -- won't wow you (four points off a field goal and two free throws), but he otherwise had a decent game and made his presence known.  To compliment his eight rebounds, Fab also blocked four shots and had a steal.  It was a battle inside, but Fab wouldn't back down.  He also drew a couple charges and/or flopped.  All in a day's work.
  • Credit to Dion Waiters, who again had another complete game.  In his typical 29 minutes off the bench, Dion scored 13 on 5-9 shooting, pulled down four rebounds, and dished out three assists.  We all know what Dion is at this point, so nothing too out of the ordinary here.
  • On this Senior Day, we had a tale of two old guys.  Kris Joseph had a pretty solid game to close out his Dome career: 11 points on 4-9 shooting, four rebounds, but three turnovers.  On the flip side, Scoop Jardine got skunked, had one rebound, three assists, but three turnovers.  Of course, he showed his leadership by stressing after the game that team performance & victory was more important than his individual performance.  That's all well and good.  But Syracuse needs production from Scoop in any and all postseason games if advancement is a goal.  Luckily we had Triche to pick up some of the slack here, but how about they just share the responsibilities and be equally as good?
  • CJ Fair had a down game by his standards, with only four points and four rebounds in 24 minutes.  I'm totally not gonna get on him, though.  He's earned every accolade he gets, and deserves to be cut some slack for an "off night."
  • Rakeem Christmas did a great impression of the typical Rakeem Christmas.
  • On the Louisville side, offense wasn't something too concerning.  Their two highest scorers each had ten (Russ Smith and Chane Behanan).  Overall, the team shot 33.9%.  No pride in that number.
  • Syracuse, on the other hand, shot 42.2% for the game.  But if you wanna know who won the rebounding battle, take a guess.  You guessed Syracuse?  Wrong.  It was, of course, Louisville, at 40-32.  Go figure.
  • Oddly enough, Syracuse turned the ball over more times (15-14) and had the ball stolen 10 times (to Louisville's six).
  • The crowd of 33,205 was the fifth-largest in Carrier Dome history.  Always nice to be a part of a 33k+ crowd.
  • The only walk-on senior to see playing time was Brandon Reese, who got in during the last minute of the game.  I thought it was odd that Matt & Nick didn't make it in, but I guess a nine-point differential was just too close for Jimmy to chance it.
  • Syracuse was presented with the Big East regular season championship trophy after the game.  That was nice.
While this victory secured an undefeated home campaign, the most successful regular season in team history, and the feel-good "we hit the 30 win mark in the regular season" thing, it counted for little else.  The #1 seed in the Big East tournament had already been secured.  Most experts believe even a Syracuse loss against Louisville and an early exit in the Big East tourney still would not have kept Syracuse off the top line for the NCAA Tournament.  So, the win was just a win.  Which is better than a loss -- because then it makes it seem like it's okay to lose.  And now, we're getting to the point where if you lose, you're done.  Just keep winning.
Up next, the Big East tournament.  #1-seed Syracuse plays the winner of #8 West Virginia vs. #16DePaul/#9UConn.  That quarterfinal game will be Thursday at noon on the ESPN.  A victory there sends the Orange to Friday night's semifinal at 7pm, which sets up Saturday night's championship at 9pm.  Just for S's & G's, I'll be posting our BET Bracket Predictions prior to the first games, which tip with that DePaul/UConn game tomorrow at noon.  Follow along, see who has the higher basketball IQ between Brian and I.  I guarantee you, it'll be a crap-shoot!

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Louisville - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: A win on senior day is always great.
Syracuse has little to play for in this game except to give the seniors on the team a nice send off in their last game at the Carrier Dome. That is strong motivation. While Syracuse already hoists the Big East regular season title, this game will affect nothing in terms of standings or seedings. Therefore, what will we see on the floor?
Louisville has struggled as of late. Fresh off a lose to USF, L'ville has lost three out of their last five, including the one point loss to Syracuse in Louisville half a month ago. Louisville is not on the bubble, but fully into the NCAA Tournament so they are also playing for price more or less. Plus Pitino loves to try and beat his former boss. Pitino has stated there will be a couple lineup changes for this game, including Kyle Kuric coming in off the bench and Gorgui Dieng sitting to start as well. Once Syracuse stopped guarding Dieng at Louisville he made some bad jump shots from the foul line area that Syracuse capitalized on by earning rebounds. Therefore Pitino will try and flash other players to the middle of the floor that can actually knock down that jumper to put more pressure on the Syracuse defense. A wise coaching adjustment. Peyton Siva will be ready to redeem himself after a less than great, foul filled performance against Syracuse earlier this year. But Louisville will do what they do best. They will find ways to score from Kuric and Siva, and they do scrap for rebounds well. Syracuse, however, found offensive spurts by creating turnovers and earning runouts. If Louisville can limit bad threes taken, and limit their turnovers this will be a close game. Syracuse just finds ways to beat you this season however. Louisville can't be sure it will come from Melo, Fair, Waiters, Joseph, or even Scoop. That makes them dangerous. Look for fair to be the key man in this game again, hitting mid-range jumpers and pulling down rebounds. Fab's foul trouble will also be a factor. I do think Syracuse manages to create some separation at home this time around though. While Louisville will surely play better than in the game against Syracuse in KY, Syracuse is sure to shoot better at home as well. I'm taking the Orange to finish a fantastic regular season perfect at home by beating the Cardinals by 9.
This game will be broadcast nationally on CBS at 4:00pm. Be sure to tune in with the hopes that Raftery will be courtside. Either way John and I will be in the building for all the fun so check the Tweets as usual. And here's hoping we all have a pleasant weekend to rest up and recharge before the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden next week. It's a magical time of year.

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Ode to Hoya Suxa

Matt Glaude, who many of you may simply know as "HoyaSuxa," announced today that his popular blog of the same name has reached the end of its road.

Orange::44 was the original brainchild of the genius that is The Glaude.  Without him, Brian and I would not have been able to carry on the tradition.  So, we certainly owe a lot to him.  We were, of course, excited when he decided to devote an entire blog to making fun of Georgetown, or, whatever it is that he did over at HoyaSuxa.  I probably visited HoyaSuxa more that I did this blog (maybe because I knew when new content was here or not).  But truth be told, Matt just has a way with words, a way to be funny by being simple, yet sophisticated.  We'll miss the Daily Affirmations, the "... Is A Fine University," the self-depreciating bets, and the dossiers on the "Princeton-style Offense."  Thankfully, Matt's knack at internet prose will not go untapped; he'll still be on twitter @HoyaSuxa, as well as writing for CollegeCrosse, your one-stop shop for all things college lacrosse.

To Matt, a very heart-felt thank you and best of luck from Brian and John at Orange::44.  We'll continue to try our hardest to be even as good as you on a bad day.

And don't forget, he's a hell of a dancer:

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  • Air Your Grievances

  • This About Sums It Up

  • I am less smart for having read your blog.
  • - Anonymous Georgetown supporter.
  • You are an idiot...
  • - Anonymous Nunes/Magician Reader.
  • Congrats on not being very good at what you do.
  • - Anonymous ACC supporter.
  • You are a dweeb, my friend. Grow a backbone.
  • - Anonymous UConn supporter.
  • ...vacuous, asinine, and mind numbing...
  • - Anonymous commenter.
  • Honestly, just admit that you are pathetic...
  • - Anonymous commenter.
  • You just don't have hoops experience.
  • - Twitter commenter.
  • Leave the journalism to talented people. Brian is just another hack and another fair weather fan.
  • - Twitter commenter.
  • A bad blog about Syracuse athletics.
  • - UConn Fan on Twitter (after winning NCAA).