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Eastern Michigan - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Hey Murph.
Eastern Michigan on New Year's Eve doesn't seem that exciting. And really, it probably won't be. But hey, friend of the program Rob Murphy is still coaching Eastern Michigan and this game features both teams playing 2-3 Zone, so that's exciting, right?
Besides Syracuse and other top tier teams that were in serious early tournaments, Eastern Michigan has had a murder's row of non-conference games. They played UMass, Duke, Kentucky, and now Syracuse. They lost all of those other games by the way. This will be a game to see if Syracuse can handle playing against a team that switches from MANTOMAN (as Raf would say) to 2-3 Zone. But it will probably be mostly zone. Da'Shonte Riley, former Orangeman, is centering the zone at 7' tall. Fun fact: He wears Nike shoes even though they are an Addidas school because he started at Syracuse. Anyway, this game will ride on the same fact that Syracuse gambles on when they play a team with a hot shooter. Will Trevor Cooney score open three point field goals? If he can, it will open up the zone for CJ, Grant, and Ennis to run wild. If he can't, Syracuse should still be more athletic and win the game, they just won't score as much and it will be closer for longer. Either way, I think Cooney will be closely guarded but there will be lapses like against Villanova. He'll get hot, and it will go like I predict. I'm picking Syracuse by 24.
This game is available nationwide on ESPN U and Watch ESPN at 3:00pm. From all of us here at Orange::44 have a very happy, safe, and merry New Year!

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Villanova - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We're still on break but win anyway.
Villanova and Syracuse. A conference game since the early days of the Big East Conference. A basketball tradition that the Northeast has enjoyed for a few decades. Rollie and Boeheim, Wright and Boeheim, whoever was before Wright and Boeheim. But now this isn't a conference game anymore. It's just a regional rivalry in which Syracuse attempts to beat the best team from Philly. And this one is a match of two unbeaten teams.
Syracuse has one major advantage in this game and that is size and depth of players that can battle in the low post and in the paint. While Syracuse definitely derives most of it's scoring from the guards and CJ Fair, getting the ball to Christmas, Coleman, and Keita will be a major advantage if Syracuse can continue to attack in the paint and either score or draw lots of fouls (which is possible as Karl Hess will be on the floor). With Trevor Cooney being highly guarded, that should free space inside for passess from Ennis to any of the bigs inside and hopefully will produce some easy shots or fouls. Conversely, if Cooney can manage to get open he should hit some shots, which he couldn't really do last season against Villanova. While Villanova plays a four guard lineup, they only shoot from outside at a rate of about 32%, about what the SU perimeter defense is allowing anyway. That hopefully  means that Villanova will only hit what most other teams are averaging, which favors Syracuse to pull ahead by allowing transition points off missed Villanova 3s. While the students aren't in town, there will be over 30,000 fans on hand, so the Dome will be loud when it needs to be. Regardless, that hasn't much mattered in playing Villanova over the years. Either way, Syracuse should have just enough in the tank to take out Villanova and stay undefeated. I'm picking the Orange by 5.
This game is available on national TV on CBS at 2:00pm. John's in the Dome and I'm in the home office. Should be a fun one. Enjoy the old school Big East flair with 2013 rules.

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Cue The Picture of Bill Murray...

This was just too good to not post even though it isn't a smiling child.

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Minnesota / Texas Bowl Quick Predictions

Actual belt buckle size may vary.
Syracuse squeaked their way into a Bowl Game with literally six seconds left on their season. They beat Boston College on a well engineered drive, and a timely penalty flag. But the point is they are now in Texas for the Texas Bowl taking on Minnesota.
The Orange seem to have a disadvantage on paper. Minnesota has won eight games this season, including beating then #23 Nebraska, as well as both Northwester and Penn State, two teams Syracuse lost to (although I don't really want to count that Penn State or Northwestern game with Drew Allen blatantly throwing to opposite colored jerseys). They are also one of the best stories in College Football this year, with their coach Jerry Kill coming back from missing games due to seizures related to his epilepsy. They rallied to win eight games and put on some impressive performances. They also have a very solid player in RB David Cobb, who has carried Minnesota on his back in more ways than one. The game, much like the last few tough basketball games, will come down to which individual position performs better for their team. For this game, it is the running back, and to a lesser extent the offensive line. If Jerome Smith and company can create running space, Syracuse will have a very good day, allowing Terrel Hunt to only have to make plays on short third downs, as well as with his legs and not exclusively on longer passes. Similarly, Syracuse has to shut down Cobb. Minnesota has proven that even if they are not being successful by running they will still continue to run the ball way more than they should. Syracuse can force Minnesota into a tough position by simply limiting big plays, and runs of more than a few yards per carry. Their quarterback will make some throws against an admittedly weaker Syracuse secondary, but with the tough defensive rush Syracuse has up front, it will generally force conservative Minnesota to keep trying to run the ball. Syracuse has yet to allow a 100 yard rusher this season in any of their previous 12 games. Although Boston College's Andre Williams may have broken that mark, he was hurt in the first half, so Syracuse can still brag. Either way, I think it will be up to Minnesota to prove they can run against Syracuse's higher ranked defense than Syracuse proving they can stop the Minnesota run. If Hunt manages the ball well and doesn't throw any picks or fumbles it should put Syracuse in a position to prove most of the pickers out there wrong. Frankly I'm not worried. I don't think anyone gave Syracuse a chance last season versus West Virginia in NYC. We know how that worked out. I'll take my Orange, who haven't lost a Bowl Game in the post-Robinson era yet. I'll say Orange over the Gophers 27 to 21.
This game is available nationally on ESPN and Watch ESPN tonight at 6:00pm eastern and 5:00pm local time. Neither John or I made the trip down to Texas, but we'll be rooting for Syracuse to earn their second win in two trips to the state of Texas for a Bowl. The last trip was the 1960 Cotton Bowl, where Syracuse earned the National Championship. That worked out. Hopefully this will too. Either way, a win is icing on an pretty good first season in the ACC for the Orange. A loss, well we made a Bowl Game, and no one thought Syracuse was doing that this season. Except both John and I predicted a Bowl Game. So I guess that shows we know Syracuse better than most of the media. Which may or may not be true, but probably. Enjoy the game and, as always, GO ORANGE!

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High Point - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: High Point should be a boring game to watch.
High Point is apparently a real place with a real University in North Carolina. These are things I learned from the Internet before attempting this preview. Also learned is the fact that High Point has never made the NCAA Tournament. They are getting some upward momentum but one of their better players, Allan Chaney, ended his career recently due to a heart condition. They still have a couple nice players however. And they will need to do everything they can to score against Syracuse. High Point's biggest problem is that yes their "stars" score a lot, but they take about 16 shots to get 18 points. They aren't very efficient or accurate. They also don't shoot the long ball well as a team (27.7%). They only average 4.3 three point field goals a game. While High Point will start off well, as most teams do, they can't keep up with Syracuse over the course of 40 minutes. The tough defense will frustrate High Point and they will turn the ball over, which will lead to transition baskets for Syracuse. That will lead to a final score of a lot to a little and we should see walk ons in with a couple minutes to go. Syracuse over High Point by 27. This game is another internet only affair on Watch ESPN / ESPN 3.

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Reunited and it feels so good!

Syracuse knocked off Binghamton on December 7 by a score of 93-65, then took a week off for final exams before continuing the quest through New York teams to establish DOC Gross's dream of state domination. That came to a head Sunday afternoon at the World's Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. Syracuse is no longer in the Big East, and but for scheduling this game against St. John's, wouldn't otherwise have a regular season game in MSG. This game had a down-and-dirty Big East feel to it, which was exciting if not stressful. Syracuse held the lead or was no less than tied for the entire first half, but couldn't really find a way to pull away. The second half brought its own challenges for the Orange, the least of which included, well, a difficult time scoring. Four lead changes and four ties in the second half weren't quite enough for the Johnnies to put away Syracuse, who held on for the victory 68-63.

  • Co-players of the game honors go to CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis, who each scored 21 points. CJ was 9-17 with five rebounds in 36 minutes. Ennis was 5-12 including an impressive 10-10 from the free throw line, with six assists, in 39 minutes.
  • Jerami Grant gets honorable mention with another solid performance of 14 points on 5-7 shooting, a team-high seven rebounds, and a couple great highlights in 34 minutes.
  • Trevor Cooney evidently played 27 minutes in this game. He has three rebounds and an assist to show for it. That's. It.
  • Michael Gbinije. We need to find a way for you to be effective on this team. Let me know when you figure it out.
  • D'Angelo Harrison (no known relation to BH) scored 21 points on 6-19 shooting. Also notable, he scored St. John's's (is that grammatically correct for possessive St. John's?) only three point goal.
  • That Johnnies three-point percentage works out to 6.7%. But, who's keeping track?
  • The teams tied at 33 rebounds.
  • Syracuse is still struggling to find its free throw shooting since returning from Maui; 19-28 in this one for 67.9%.
  • This officiating crew of Karl Hess, Michael Stephens, and Roger Ayers really gave this a Big East feel. And of course frustrated Orange fans.
With the win, Syracuse improved to 10-0 on the season, and earned a #2 ranking in both polls released on Monday.Up next is High Point University on Friday, former Big East foe Villanova the following Saturday, and Eastern Michigan on New Year's Eve, to round out the non-conference schedule.

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Syracuse - St. John's Preview

Syracuse students agree: It's best to win on the floor of MSG.
Syracuse is back in the World's Most Famous Arena, also known as Carrier Dome South. That's right, Madison Square Garden. Syracuse always plays well in the Garden, considering they've beaten St. John's there the last five trips. This will again be a matchup of great guards. D'Angelo Harrison will be battling against Tyler Ennis and whichever player limits turnovers should put their team in the best position to win. The X-Factor is if CJ Fair can get off to a hot start. The last couple of games in last year's Big East Tournament saw CJ Fair never really get going until a big time dunk over Otto Porter to get Syracuse to the championship game. CJ this time will have to score early and get Syracuse into a position at half time to put the game away early. St. John's suffers from typically slow starts but then explodes in the second half. If Syracuse can get a big lead at the half they should be able to cruise in the second half. Any contribution from DeJuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas will be a bonus. I do like Syracuse against this scrappy St. John's team. I'll take the Orange by 14. This game is available nationwide on the new Fox Sports 1. Gus and Raf on the call. Should be magical, like the old Big East days.

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Orange::44's 2013 Bowl Pick 'Em

The end of our long, national nightmare

Welcome to the 2013-2014 College Football bowl season. As Syracuse fans, we're delighted that the Orange landed a bowl bid, though the logistics of getting to Houston are proving to be a bit out of our league. So we'll watch the Texas Bowl -- and all the rest -- from the comfort of our own living rooms or local drinking establishments. But what would truly get you motivated to watch the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Washington State vs. Colorado State), or the BBVA Compass Bowl (Vanderbilt vs. Houston -- not Pittsburgh!), or the GoDaddy Bowl (Arkansas State vs. Ball State)? A little annual tradition here at Orange::44 allows you to prove your college football prowess to people who maintain their office (and bedroom) in their mom's basement. We have a pick 'em league over at Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, so head on over there, register your entry, and pick the winners of all 35 bowl games -- straight up. While last year's winner may or may not have run away with the real Schwartzwalder Trophy, never to be heard from again, this year's winner is playing for a much better prize: the unwavering respect of the two lawyers who run this blog. And trust me, you can't put a price on that!

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Binghamton - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: A bearcat is a fun animal.
Now that Syracuse has finished off Indiana and the Maui Invitational, the schedule is a little easier in the near future until the start of ACC play. Binghamton is not a powerhouse. Their team is not that tall, talented, or in a position to upset Syracuse. The only question is will most of Syracuse's points come from CJ, Ennis, Cooney, or will someone else magically emerge like Christmas or Coleman. Either way, Syracuse should roll. Syracuse by 26. This game is available online only at Watch ESPN.

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This is what a mid-air flagrant 2 looks like

In the Spring of 2008, Indiana hired Tom Crean to be its new head coach, after Crean had shown great success building the Marquette program. At the time, I thought very highly of Crean, and thought that would be a great hire for the Hoosiers. And I still think that. But even Crean has his kryptonite: the 2-3 zone defense. Only eight and one half months ago, Syracuse embarrassed Indiana in the Sweet 16. Nothing could get going against that 2-3 zone. So you'd think that when it was announced that Indiana would travel to Syracuse to play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Tom Crean would, oh, maybe devote a little more time to trying to figure out what to do against the zone. Several months is better prep time than five or six days, after all. But once again, the Syracuse zone was locked in, and Indiana's offense struggled as a result. Spurred by a crazy run in the second half, Syracuse rolled against the Hoosiers and won one for the ACC, 69-52.

  • Trevor Cooney came to play. Again. My wishes from the first game have, for the most part, come true. Cooney played well in Maui, and that continued back here on the mainland: 21 points on 6-12 from the floor, 5-9 from three, 4-5 from the line. He was also active on defense, grabbing four steals.
  • One of those steals led to a Cooney fast-break, and as he drove through the lane towards the basket, as if to either slam the ball or lay it in, he was fouled hard from behind by Austin Etherington. Officials immediately called in a flagrant foul, but consulted the replay monitor to ultimately determine it was a flagrant 2: two shots and possession for Syracuse, ejection for Etherington.
  • Tyler Ennis continued to play not like a green freshman, but a season veteran: 17 points on 6-8 shooting, seven rebounds, eight assists, and four steals. 38 minutes out of your starting freshman point guard with offensive and defensive contributions like that is phenomenal.
  • CJ Fair. Senior. Leader. Leads by example. 15 points on 5-10 shooting, 5-7 from the line, four rebounds. Steady as he goes.
  • The rest of the team? Well, offensively, there's a lot to be desired. Baye Moussa Keita is a huge liability on offense -- he can't catch a pass, he can't hit a layup. DaJuan Coleman still doesn't seem comfortable under the basket. Rakeem Christmas has a hard time creating position for himself to score. Michael Gbinije just seems too hesitant and lacking the confidence to step up and make things happen. At one point, both he and Ennis were on the floor, and Silent G just seemed out of sorts as a shooting guard.
  • Defensively, though, those same players each had their contributions. You can't argue with the length those players give you in the zone, and when they shift properly, you can see how a zone-inept team like Indiana can get shut down.
  • Syracuse shot 51.1% from the floor, compared to Indiana's 36.6%.
  • We all remember how well Syracuse shot from the free throw line in Maui. Well, those numbers came back to reality in this game, as Syracuse only hit 15-25 for 60%. While it obviously wasn't a game changer here, you just know there will be a big game coming up where the free throws will bite Syracuse.
There are certainly a lot of aspects of the game that Syracuse can improve, but any Orange fan must really like what they're seeing out of this team, this early in the season. And it's not just against the traditional "cupcakes" but Syracuse is looking impressive against ranked teams. This team will definitely be battled-tested before the gauntlet of the ACC. As for Indiana, they have some big talent losses they need to overcome if they want a chance at making it back to the Sweet 16. That talent loss was evidently too much for one female Hoosier fan to handle in section 317 the other night. But I can assure my fellow 309 fans that under no circumstances will I strip down to my underwear during any Syracuse basketball game.

Syracuse has one more game -- against Binghamton on Saturday night -- before breaking for a week for finals. The Orange needs to maintain its high level of play against the inferior Bearcats, or else face the wrath of Jim Boeheim. And bloggers, probably.

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Indiana - Syracuse Big Ten/ACC Challenge Preview

Syracuse students agree: Beating Indiana twice is nice.
Syracuse is somewhat familiar with UNR/#23 Indiana. Over the years Syracuse has played them to various infamous degrees. But in the recent past, Syracuse managed to beat them in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange essentially shut down the Hoosiers by creating turnovers and having a ferocious defense. Syracuse had 12 steals and 10 blocks while Indiana had 18 turnovers in the game. They also managed to shut down star guard Yogi Ferrell, who had zero points in that game. This team is a little different and more guard oriented than when they had Cody Zeller patrolling the middle of the paint last season. Yet, strangely enough, the Hoosiers lead the nation in rebounding. They average 50 a game. That is a staggering number. If they manage to pull that many rebounds down and use them to get second chance points this will be a close battle. But, Syracuse seemed to manage to handle the slightly bigger and athletic post presence of Baylor just fine in Maui. This should be a guard battle. Farrell versus Tyler Ennis. Whichever guard plays better is who's team will probably win the game. A little more hot shooting from Cooney, Grant, and of course CJ would be welcomed as well. But this should be a guard orientated battle. Whichever guard limits turnovers and makes good decisions should lead their team to victory. I see that being Ennis again as I think he will fair a little better against the Indiana defense than Ferrell will against the zone. I'm not convinced that Tom Crean has figured out how to defeat the 2-3 just yet. He was outcoached by Boeheim in the Tournament last year and I think the same will happen this year. I'll take Syracuse by 12. This game is available nationally on ESPN / Watch ESPN at 7:15pm.

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Because of this, the Orange live to play another game in 2013

At 5-6, Syracuse was in the proverbial "win-or-go-home" situation. Lose, and you finish at 5-7 and no bowl game. Win, and you're 6-6, bowl eligible, get some extra practices, and get a nice bowl trip out of it. Not to mention, the Scott Shafer Era and ACC Era would be judged on how they started, and a losing record wouldn't be acceptable. Syracuse rose to the occasion against Boston College on Saturday, leading for much of the game but giving up the lead in the third quarter and having to battle back. The drama, of course, came on a Syracuse drive starting at the its own 25 yard line with 2:08 left to go in the game, with the score BC 31, SU 27.Orange QB Terrel Hunt, cool and collected, and almost without any sense of urgency, marched his offense down the field and scored a touchdown on a beautifully executed pass to Josh Parris with six seconds left. That would prove to seal it for the Orange, who won 34-31.

Offense
A-
This may have been the best all-around offensive game for the Orange all season. 480 total yards - 270 through the air, 210 on the ground. Leading the charge was Hunt, who arguably played the best game of his young career: 29 completions on 43 attempts (67%) for 270 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 90 net yards rushing including a touchdown of his own. With so many key injuries, offensive coordinator George McDonald was forced to change up his game plan from last week, which resulted in a heavier reliance on the passing game and for Hunt himself to run the ball more. While some of those rushes were reads, it was clear a good number of them were designed rushes -- and they worked. Hunt was able to spread the ball around to ten different receivers -- but to be fair, one of them was himself, as he foolishly caught a tipped pass for a loss of 16 yards. He made up for it the next play on a long completion, though. One of my biggest complaints about the offense is its continued under-utilization of Ashton Broyld.

Defense
A-
The focus of the Boston College offense is RB Andre Williams, who came into this game a potential Heisman candidate. Though he was limited by injury for much of the game, the Syracuse defense mostly held him in check before he got hurt. Williams was stuffed in the backfield several times, and if it weren't for the long touchdown run he had, his stats would have been completely pathetic. So, major props to the Syracuse D for stepping up big against big competition. BC quarterback Chase Rettig did his best to slice up the Syracuse secondary, but in the end only passed for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Just another solid game for this defense, which is what we come to expect these days.

Special Teams
C
Conventional wisdom is to dog pile on Ryan Norton. On the plus side, he successfully hit all his point after attempts and two field goal attempts; on the minus side, he missed a field goal attempt early in the first, sent a kickoff out of bounds, and routinely purposely kicked the ball short. I didn't quite understand that logic, because it seems like it really gave up some good field position. Interesting stat: Syracuse only punted twice; Riley Dixon kicked for 97 yards, including a booming 52 yarder.

Coaching
A-
As I mentioned earlier, George McDonald called a much better game on the offensive side of the ball than he did last week. Except for the predictable run up the middle on first down, and the option making its way back onto the field a couple times, many of the play calls were spot on. With the confidence that this injury-plagued squad gained in this win, hopefully this gives the coaches the drive to really open up the playbook during these extra practices in preparation of a bowl game. I challenge them to use Ashton Broyld more -- he's a playmaker who can catch the ball, run with the ball -- and even throw the ball (remember, he was recruited as a QB!). We have the ability to see some stunning plays at the end of December if the coaches can make the best out of the personnel they have.

GPA
3.28 (B+)
Syracuse played a good game. BC did not, for much of the game. Syracuse did its best to capitalize on BC's ineptness, but some early miscues kept this game a lot closer than it should have been; Syracuse had the opportunity to score at least 10 points, yet failed to hit the field goal and score a touchdown. But the Orange led for a great portion of the game, and when it mattered during the two-minute drill, Syracuse was able to make things happen and pull ahead for the win.

What a great way to win for the seniors on Senior Day. While the Eagles aren't cream of the crop ACC, they were an already bowl eligible team at 7-4 heading into this game, and was favored to win. Give credit to the Syracuse fans who showed up for this game, kept energy high and allowed the team to feed off that enthusiasm. While a good number of those in attendance participated in the wave DURING THE GAME WHILE SYRACUSE HAD THE BALL, Syracuse was forced to punt and shortly thereafter gave up the lead. Many of those wave-promoting fans left the game early, so karma didn't allow them to see the awesome end to the game.

Syracuse now waits around until the bowl matchups are announced next week, likely on Sunday, December 8. The Orange became the 11th bowl eligible team from the ACC, so they might not even end up in an ACC bowl, so stay tuned on what craziness might happen with bowl selections.

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