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Syracuse - Wake Forest Preview

Syracuse students agree: Beating Wake is a must for Saturday to matter the most.
Syracuse heads down to Wake Forest to play in a basketball game. While fans don't typically look past any opponent, and the kids on the team usually don't, they can think of a lesser opponent before another game that features a bigger one. Hopefully this isn't the case tonight.
Syracuse plays Wake Forest, a team that has to very credible scoring threats in Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas. Miller-McIntyre is more of the outside threat in scoring with a shot, but also good at distributing the ball. Thomas is a big man down low in the paint. Both can hurt so it will be interesting to see how they respond to playing against the best zone defense in the country. The real question is does Syracuse have enough players to put in the middle of the zone that can take fouls and also guard a good post presence like Thomas? So far, that is a yes, but this team could surprise Syracuse and play well at home. I think this will be another close game until the final few minutes of the second half. Especially if Wake is leading the rebounding battle and getting good second chance opportunities, this could be a tough game for Syracuse. But I think Trevor Cooney showed at Miami he has his stroke back and he made a lot better choices with the basketball in that game than the few before. Ennis was rock solid as ever. Fair is Fair. And Grant will be good for a couple big dunks and a few big blocks. The blocks might be more important in this game. If Syracuse continues to play a solid defense they will win the game. Keeping the rebound totals close is also important, but even if they don't win the rebounding battle, good defense will help the cause. Wake has lost to Clemson but they beat Notre Dame so who knows what team shows up tonight. What I do know is if Syracuse plays a great defensive game, things will work out. I'm taking the Orange by 8.
This game is available regionally on the ACC Network at 9:00pm. Check here to see if the game is on TV in your area. For those not in any of those places, the game is available online at Watch ESPN. Blackout rules apply here.

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Syracuse - Miami Preview

Syracuse students agree: This game will have so much Zone.
Syracuse managed to beat Miami by five points in their first ACC game ever. But that game took a lot of effort and a few deft final possessions to make Syracuse the winner. Now they head down to Miami to play a squad looking to get a marquee win on the resume.
Syracuse is still undefeated. Miami is still in need of offense. Both teams are going to play zone and the team that can reach 60 points is probably the one that is going to take it. Miami doesn't shoot the long ball well, and getting the ball inside will be difficult. Trevor Cooney was having trouble shooting the long ball lately as well. I think Cooney will hit about 4-5 shots from behind the arc, Ennis will have ice water in his veins, Fair will be clutch from mid-range, and Grant will have a couple ridiculous dunks. But really, Miami will have to play an almost perfect offensive game and have no turnovers. Syracuse forced 15 turnovers of Miami in the first meeting. They will have to get that number down under double digits for them to have a chance. I think Syracuse will blow the game open in the second half however. I'll take the Orange by 14.
This game is available nationwide on CBS at 1:00pm. Obviously we're not heading to Miami, although we want to. It will surely be warmer there.

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Pittsburgh - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We still hate Pittsburgh.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh atop the league standings. I've seen this before but somehow it feels different. Oh yeah, we switched leagues. But the cream rises to the top. Syracuse and Pitt are two solid programs and it is only moderately surprising that they are not leading their new league. The surprising part is not that these two teams are good, it's that the other teams in the ACC have been weaker than expected. But hey, we'll take the spotlight for now.
Syracuse enters the game unbeaten, while Pittsburgh lost an ugly game to Cincy earlier this season. Any team can have an off night so I'm honestly discounting that for Pitt, which is something most of the media isn't doing. However, Syracuse has more pieces that can take down Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh (maybe a plan by Jamie Dixon) gameplans to beat the zone in the opposite of most teams. He tries to pound the inside to open up three point shooting. And it has worked a lot for Pitt in the recent past. If Pittsburgh is able to score consistently in the paint they will have the upper hand against a Syracuse team which will then have to produce a big run to stay in the game and eventually win. Whoever wins the paint battle (including offensive rebounds) and the point guard battle will win the game. Tyler Ennis has been sensational, but so has James Robinson's assist to turnover ratio. If Syracuse can frustrate Robinson and cause turnovers, and transition buckets, Syracuse will be in a good position. Syracuse, so far, sooner or later, has found a way to create steals against good point guards and adapt to other team's gameplans. I think Syracuse will be able to do the same against Pittsburgh this year. While this game will at least be close for 30 minutes of play, Syracuse should be able to separate itself, especially with the solid play of CJ Fair late in the game, and get a win at home and remain atop the ACC. I'm taking the Orange by 11.
This game is available nationwide on ESPN / Watch ESPN at 4:00pm today. John will be in the Dome. I'll be in the home office. It should be a fun ACC battle with old school flair. Will fouls be called? Who knows?!?!

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Biggest crowd of the season saw some good defense

Syracuse was already a couple games into the ACC schedule on Saturday when the North Carolina Tar Heels visited the Carrier Dome. Yet a lot of people really viewed this game as "the start of the real ACC season." Well, whether or not you choose to put that much bearing on one game, in January, UNC would certainly be a test for the Orange. For a team with five losses, the Heels also had three marquee wins on its resume as well -- Kentucky, Louisville, and Michigan State -- so Syracuse needed to play tough to ensure a victory. That seemed out of reach for the first several minutes of the game, as UNC built a lead. However, the Orange offense fought back, took the lead, and then let the defense take over to maintain the lead to the end. In the first conference meeting between the two schools, Syracuse walked away victorious 57-45.

  • As one of the 32,121 on hand for this one, it seems like I have a different feeling on this game than some who watched on TV. I've seen some mention they thought Syracuse played poorly. I didn't see that. Sure, they shot 35% for the game and 21.1% from three. Not a great offensive effort. But when you consider UNC shot 39.2% for the game and 16.7% from three, you see that it just wasn't a high-powered offensive game.
  • And I'll be the first to admit I'm not a fan of the typical 57-45 scores you might more commonly see in the Big Ten. But for whatever reason, Syracuse vs. UNC evolved as a slow game with few fouls, lots of passing, lots of turnovers, winding down the shot clock, and poor shooting. The team that executes in those situations more than the other team is the team that wins. On Saturday, that was Syracuse.
  • While there was no real offensive juggernaut-type performance on the floor, I bet you'd be shocked to find out that Syracuse had four players in double-digit scoring: CJ Fair led with 20, Jerami Grant had 12, and Tyler Ennis & Trevor Cooney each scored ten. Good balance and good contribution from your starters, with your senior leader stepping up and leading the way.
  • Jim Boeheim went with a seven-man rotation, bringing in Baye Moussa Keita and Michael Gbinije off the bench to give breathers to Cooney, Ennis, and Rakeem Christmas. Fair and Grant played the entire 40 minutes.
  • Coming into the game, the scouting report on UNC was they shot the ball poorly from beyond the arc, which played well into the Syracuse 2-3 zone: force them to shoot threes, which they would miss, and would cut down on their scoring. Well who thought the shooting would be as bad as it was? 2-12 from downtown. If UNC hits its typical one-third of threes, on those twelve attempts that's two more made, and we're talking about a much closer game.
  • While Syracuse played well when it needed to, and its defense was great, let's talk about something: ten turnovers. While these were primarily early in the game, they led to 14 points for UNC during the game. Syracuse needs to take better care of the ball, particularly against future opponents who can shoot the ball better.
  • Going the other way though, credit the SU defense for nine steals and creating 14 turnovers. The Orange big men also stepped up and made sure that even when UNC could get a shot off, a hand would be in their face -- Syracuse had nine blocks. NOT IN KEITA'S HOUSE! (note, Keita had no blocks)
  • Syracuse won the rebounding battle 41-35, but what's important there is that Syracuse had 17 offensive boards, allowing the offense to score 12 second chance points.
  • This game saw a total of 22 fouls called, leading to only 24 free throw attempts between the two schools. Little wonder this noon game was over by 1:45pm.
This game was another example of how Syracuse just keeps finding ways to win. Credit the defense for clamping down and not letting Carolina back into it after Syracuse gained the lead at the 10:34 mark in the first half. In fact, that was in the middle of the stretch between 12:03 and 7:53 where UNC scored no field goals. In that time, the score went from 15-11 UNC to 21-17 Syracuse. And then Syracuse took it home.

After Monday's visit to Chestnut Hill, Syracuse will return to the Carrier Dome on Saturday to face the other current leader in the ACC, familiar foe Pittsburgh. We'll have twitter and blog coverage, as per usual.

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Syracuse - Boston College Preview

Syracuse students agree: Basketball > Hockey.
The Orange of Syracuse have made the trip back to "Boston" to take on the Eagles in an ACC Conference game. This game, if you recall, was a conference game in the Big East way back when. I may still grimace if someone mentions Troy Bell. But this game has lost some meaning in the several years we didn't play BC in conference play, and for the most part BC/SU was more of a rivalry on the gridiron. However, in a new conference without much to grab on to in terms of rivalries for basketball other than the obvious, BC will definitely do for this blogger.
Syracuse enters this game atop the ACC standings and still has an unblemished record on the 2013-2014 campaign. Boston College... well they are not having a good go of it so far. They are 1-2 in the ACC and 5-11 overall, losing seven of the last ten. Not good for a team that only about ten years ago was in the top ten. But that was a conference and a head coach and a golden age ago. BC now looks like a bottom barrel program with an RPI (I know, stupid people math, but still...) in the high hundreds. Students and locals don't even come out to games, not even achieving 6k in an arena that only holds 8,606 for basketball. They are lucky if they fill half capacity for a basketball game in Chestnut Hill. But the place will be packed tonight with a fair amount of Syracuse fans. While not the biggest alumni area, the greater Boston area has a TON of Orange alums and fans. The place will be full of them, hoping to see the #2 Orange take BC to the woodshed. And they probably will. BC averages 70.8ppg, while allowing 75.2. Contrast that with Syracuse that only allows 58.4ppg and scoring 73ppg and you see why BC is not looking good on paper to win this game. About the only shots BC is likely to make from the floor are free throws. They are not a great three point threat, only scoring 32.7% from behind the arc, and they don't rebound the ball particularly well. They have lost to the likes of Harvard, Clemson, Providence, and Toledo. I'm not saying they won't hang around in the first half of this game, but the second half should be all Orange. With a pro-SU crowd, only a few students on hand, and a team that is begging for improvement on both offense and defense, this spells an Orange route by all accounts. Look for Orange::44 favorite Eddie Odio, the Nate Lubick of BC, to make some terrible choices when handling the ball. I once saw him get hit in the face and the foul was called on him. And it was a good call. That tells you the kind of talent that kid possesses. Either way, if Syracuse rebounds the ball and doesn't allow BC easy put back points, this game will be over quickly. If not, Syracuse will allow BC to hang around and the crowd might start to believe. But you have to think that Trevor Cooney will bounce back from his not so great game against UNC and hit a couple big shots to make up for his last game. I like Syracuse to roll in this one. I'll take the Orange by 22.
This game is available nation wide on ESPN U / Watch ESPN at 9:00pm. Even though I live close, I'll be in the home office watching this one, and John will be at his, so feel free to hit is up on the Twitter. And rest assured we'll be singing the BC "Fight Song" if/when they lose. For Boston...

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North Carolina - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Being near the court is better than the far corner.
Syracuse is now in the ACC. I say that because they are facing North Carolina, a pretty ACC team, by all comparisons. Can Jim Boeheim continue his winning streak against Roy Williams?
Syracuse's Zone is almost tailor made to take on North Carolina. They are only making 3.5 three point field goals. To compare that, Cooney is averaging 3.2 by himself per game. Daring a not very good shooting team to shoot over the zone can make this game get over quickly in Syracuse's favor. But UNC is as schizophrenic a team as anybody this season. They can beat a really good team, then lose to a nobody. Both teams will be hyped up, and that alone may carry Roy's team along. But Roy has yet to demonstrate he can have a team that will beat Syracuse's zone when Syracuse is playing moderately well. If Syracuse rebounds the ball well, this game will be over early. Syracuse will earn second chance points if they rebound and keep the lead sizable. Additionally, Syracuse should add some transition points and at least create possessions due to steals. I like Syracuse in this game a lot. A lot of people are predicting this game will be close. I'm going a little more aggressive. I'm picking the Orange over the Tar Heels by 18.
This game is available on national TV on ESPN and Watch ESPN at 12:00pm. Both John and I are in the Dome today so coverage will be spotty, but we'll either be having fun or will be belligerent. Either way, you can definitively say you've now seen Syracuse play in the ACC.

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Syracuse - Virginia Tech Preview

Syracuse students agree: It's been a long time since SU has been to Blacksburg.
Syracuse, despite some trouble, won their first test in the ACC Conference. But now, Syracuse plans another former conference mate in Virginia Tech. While Syracuse and VTech were a pretty good conference football tilt back in the day, this was never really a compelling basketball matchup.
Syracuse, despite not looking that impressive against Miami, is still the team to beat in the ACC. What makes Virginia Tech a dangerous team is that they hit 42.5% of three point attempts, good enough for #6 in the nation. And with the zone, Syracuse will be inviting VTech to chuck them early and often from deep. Luckily Syracuse has been able to rotate and cover most shooters in corners and all around despite great ball movement from opponents. However, I think this game will go exactly like the Villanova game. VTech, especially at home, should shoot well and get an early lead. Syracuse will adjust, chip at the lead and get it close at half. Then it will be all Syracuse in the second half. Virginia Tech scores mostly in transition. However, Syracuse is good at getting back and setting up the zone to not allow transition threes often. Additionally, Syracuse's own transition game should be giving VTech some fits. Look for Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis to get a good chuck of steals for Syracuse and probably 15-20 points in transition. I think Syracuse can get some good production again out of Christmas and Grant. CJ Fair was somewhat cold against Miami until he really needed to be hot. I think CJ doesn't have a let down in this game. The Hokies will be on CJ, but will allow him to get the mid-range jumper going. I don't think Syracuse is nearly as flat on offense as in the Miami game. There should be some highlights in this one. Additionally, it is cold and people in Virginia can't stand like 30 degrees out, let alone what it actually is outside there. And students aren't on campus still. The building won't be empty, but it probably won't be that loud. Syracuse should take advantage. I'm taking the Orange by 26, avenging my Miami prediction.
This game is available on The ACC Netowrk at 9:00pm. You can see if it's on your local television here. Other than in NY and VA though, it isn't on a lot of stations so the game is available on WatchESPN where blackout doesn't apply. Check the blackout here. For the rest of you, John and I will be watching from the respective home offices. We'll be back soon with the recap and a Bowl Game Recap, as well as a football season wrap up. Oh and hey, lacrosse in a little bit. Giddy up.

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Miami - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR ACC Inaugural

Welcome to ACC Basketball!

Saturday, January 4, 2014. An historic day in Syracuse basketball history. The first league game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The opponent to get that honor is old Big East "foe" Miami, who left the Big East back in 2004. That's the same Miami who lost all five starters from last year's ACC Championship team. I'm sure there was a bit of overlooking going on, as Miami was picked to finish something like 13th in the ACC this season. But the Hurricanes came into cold upstate New York with upset on the mind, and really made Syracuse fight for a win. The 'Canes featured a tall lineup, and played a tough match-up zone, preventing the Orange from making any big offensive plays, while eating a lot of clock while they had the ball. In the end, though, Syracuse prevailed 49-44.

  • CJ Fair led Syracuse in scoring with a quiet 15 points on 6-14 shooting while playing all 40 minutes. Not really much to say about CJ. It was a typical CJ game, yet without him Syracuse loses.
  • Trevor Cooney managed 11 points, despite a very chilly 2-12 from the floor (all 3-point tries).
  • The only other Syracuse player in double digits was Tyler Ennis, with ten points.
  • Though his numbers aren't lighting up the box score, Rakeem Christmas had a couple big situational buckets, so props to the big guy for stepping up when necessary.
  • Jerami Grant got the start for the second straight game, as DaJuan Coleman was still nursing a sore lower body injury, or whatever. Coach Boeheim acknowledges that he likes Jerami much better as the 6th man coming off the bench, for the spark he can provide to the team. That spark, evidently, is lost when he starts.
  • Boeheim largely stuck with his five starters, only giving Baye Moussa Keita 12 minutes, and Michael Gbinije four.
  • Miami turned the ball over 15 times, resulting in 13 Syracuse points.
  • To give you an indication of the slow pace of this game, Syracuse only had three fast-break points; Miami had none.
  • 21,839 were on hand for the ACC inaugural. Several tried starting the wave a couple times, but could never fully get it going. Thank God.
  • Congratulations for the couple sitting behind me in section 309. He proposed to her during halftime, and she said yes. I imagine you'll remember that more than the otherwise forgettable game.
So here we are. The ACC. It's real now. It's not some thing that's going to happen, something for us to eventually look forward to; it's now. Tuesday night brings the first ACC road game for Syracuse, followed by the much-anticipated home tilt against North Carolina on Saturday afternoon. Speaking of which, if you're still thinking about going to that game and still need tickets, we have three available right next to our own Brian Harrison. Check out the listing here, or if you'd prefer to buy directly from us and avoid stubhub fees, contact me on twitter @jbren.

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Miami - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: You have to start league play off right.
These teams are not too unfamiliar. It was not that long ago that this was a conference game in the Big East. But those days are gone and Miami left for the ACC close to a decade ago. But now Syracuse is playing in their first ACC Conference game. And they are taking on defending ACC regular season and tournament champions Miami.
However this is not the Miami team of last season. They lost all five starters and their top six scorers. And let's cover history really quick. Syracuse leads the series 14-5, Syracuse has won 41 consecutive games against unranked opponents in the Dome, and Miami has lost their last ten road games against top five opponents. Now that that's out of the way, if Miami is shooting more consistently than Syracuse, the Orange's defense will have to turn up the intensity. Miami is very tough to beat when they are out-shooting opponents. However, if the team they are up against is more efficient with the basketball Miami will be in trouble. Miami doesn't turn the ball over that much, but they haven't faced a defense like Syracuse. I think the shell shock of playing against the zone will make Miami force shots that are not good looks. I think CJ Fair, although he has been consistently scoring, will have a far more efficient day and not miss as many looks as he did against Eastern Michigan. I think CJ will have a crazy successful day, with Grant also breaking out a bit. Syracuse should have the advantage in the paint again and should cause some turnovers from the top of the zone and get transition buckets off of missed threes. I like the Orange to roll in the second half in their first ACC game. I'll take Syracuse by 23.
This game is available regionally on the ACC Network at 2:00pm today. You can see if a local affiliate covers the game here. You can also click that link to watch the game online, or watch the game at Watch ESPN, however Watch ESPN is subject to blackout so be sure to check the blackout map here. John will be in the Dome and I'll be in the home office. Let's have some fun during our first ACC game. Remember, Virginia Tech sucks, Miami swallows.

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"You're a jerk, Jim!"

On paper, Villanova was to be Syracuse's toughest opponent: #8 in the country, also coming in with an 11-0 record, with big wins over schools like Kansas and Iowa. In reality, when Villanova is beating Syracuse 25-7 just nine minutes into the game, that toughness has manifest itself. That was the situation the Orange faced on Saturday in front of nearly 30,000 fans in the Carrier Dome. And what happened next was nothing short of incredible. That 18-point lead became 15, 14, 13, 11, 8, 5, 4, 2 before Syracuse evened the score with 5:36 to go in the first half. That's an 18-0 run, which eventually became a 26-2 run as Syracuse took a 33-27 lead with 3:00 to go. Taking a 38-34 lead into halftime was a blessing for the Orange, and they would never relinquish that lead in the second half, putting down the Wildcats 78-62.

  • The usual suspects stepped up to provide the offense for the Orange: Trevor Cooney led the way with 21 points (5-9, 5-8 from 3, 6-6 from line); Tyler Ennis had 20 points (6-14, 8-11 from line); CJ Fair with 17 (5-12, 2-3 from 3, 5-6 from line); and Jerami Grant with 11 points (2-7, 7-8 from line).
  • No other Orange players scored in double digits; in fact, the only other contributions came from Michael Gbinije (4), Rakeem Christmas (3), and Baye Moussa Keita (2).
  • Tyler Roberson played four minutes.
  • Rebounds were at a premium for both teams; no player grabbed more than six, and Syracuse won the battle 33-28.
  • Villanova, as it is wont to do, attempted 31 shots beyond the arc. While hitting those shots helped them build that 18-point lead early, not continuing to hit them ultimately cost them the game.
  • Contrast that with Syracuse's 13 attempts -- seven successful -- while also getting the ball inside. The Orange had 27 points in the paint, to Nova's 10.
  • Syracuse shot extremely well from the foul line -- which proved important to seal the victory late in the game. 29 made on 35 shots.
  • This has already gotten some attention elsewhere, but it's worth a mention here: Tyler Ennis had zero turnovers. This is quite impressive for a freshman running point against some tough Villanova guards who are known for creating turnovers.
While that might not have been the worst start to a game I've seen from Syracuse, it was certainly one of the more impressive comebacks, especially to go on and eventually win by 16. A 34-point swing. The Wildcats are a good team; it's just that their game plan to try to beat Syracuse didn't work, and Syracuse was able to play its type of game and fight it out for another win. It was a great cap to an already good weekend, as the football team had just won the Texas Bowl on Friday night. A great time to be an Orange fan, for sure!

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