Countdown to Football Frustration

Next Frustrating Hoops Victory

Next Lacrosse Annihilation

Cue The Crying Child...

But hey, at least the season is over, right?

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Boston College Quick Predictions

Why does BC hate tailgating?
Syracuse's season is done. And Syracuse can't even play spoiler this weekend. They have nothing to play for. So can Syracuse even show up in this one?
The Syracuse seniors, who have had moderate success and two bowl wins in their careers, are looking to finish on a high note. The one thing that can help them do that is having the entire starting offensive line healthy and in this game. AJ Long had moderate success against Pittsburgh in his first game back. If Syracuse is able to sustain drives and keep their defense off the field, Syracuse could avoid another 4th quarter defensive collapse. But really, the defense should hold solid and stop the good running of BC. If Syracuse can hold QB Tyler Murphy to the pocket, Syracuse should be able to compete in this game. I just don't think the Syracuse offense will show up on the road in the cold and not turn the ball over. Syracuse will put up a good effort in this rivalry game on the 10 year anniversary of the Diamond Ferri game. Unfortunately, I think they will come up short and end this dreadful year. BC over Syracuse 38 to 14.
This game will be available regionally at 12:30pm. Check your local listings here. If it is on TV in your area you can't watch on WatchESPN. Maybe no one can watch it on WatchESPN anyway, but if you aren't blacked out, allegedly you can. Both John and I will be in Chestnut Hill for the game. We'll see you on the other side.

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Loyola - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We should play better at home, right?
 Syracuse managed to only lose one game in the month of November. So far at least. But that being said, the performance in New York City was not impressive for the Orange, a team that is really struggling to run smooth half court offense with a freshman point guard and new players playing at the college level in their first season. The good news is Chris McCullough has some star potential. That was evident in MSG. However, one player does not a team make. Rakeem Christmas has shown flashes of solid low post play, but he becomes overly aggressive on defense or just makes dumb fouls and ends up sitting way too much. Michael Gbinije has come off the bench and looked solid, but he has made dumb plays as well. The good news is that tonight Syracuse plays Loyola. They have struggled to score even more so far this season than Syracuse. And I'm 99% certain that the players haven't seen more than a minute of zone defense here and there in their playing careers. I think they will be confounded early and often in this game. Loyola has one good outside threat in Eric Laster but even when facing a zone I doubt he will see many open looks tonight. Cooney or Joseph will have their hand in his face, and unless the Greyhounds get very good at ball movement and Laster is open in the corner, he shouldn't be too big of a factor in this game. Really, the best way that Syracuse can score in this game is force turnovers and earn transition buckets. And they have a chance to do that a lot this evening on their home court. Look for Syracuse to get a nice lead in the first half, and then coast to a comforatble win. Nice and easy. Syracuse over Loyola by 16. This game is available regionally starting at 7:00pm. Check your local listings here. If it's not on TV, you have it available on WatchESPN (blackout info here).

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Pittsburgh Quick Predictions

Another round of this... rivalry?
Syracuse's season is just two more games. That is definitely known. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, still can make a Bowl Game if they win out. Can Syracuse play spoiler?
The only thing Syracuse is playing for is pride. Can the muster enough talent and put enough points on the board? My guess is no. James Conner will probably be bottled up for the majority of the game, but he will squeak through at some point with some big runs and scores. And even pedestrian QB play should allow Pittsburgh to advance the ball. Syracuse, on the other hand, will have some of their best offensive lie lineup back on the field, including local Sean Hickey. But Syracuse will again have drives stall and be unable to compete in a game they should be very capable of competing in. Syracuse will keep this closer than Pitt fans want, but they will probably fall short in the end. Pittsburgh 24 Syracuse 13.
This game will be available on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 3:30pm. Good luck to the friends that have made the trip and we hope they, and the good folks in Pittsburgh, stay warm out there. This is now Pittsburgh's oldest continued football rivalry. But for both Pitt and Syracuse fans, this rivalry barely moves the meter. Especially for me, i have a lot of relatives and friends in the greater Pittsburgh area, and no Pitt fan was ever an asshole to me, which goes a long way towards me being a little less hateful to a team. Either way, we'll all have fun seeing the dregs of the ACC. And on national TV!

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Iowa - Syracuse 2K Classic Preview

Syracuse students agree: Last night wasn't pretty.
And just like that, this young team brought expectations crashing back to reality as the Orange got a pretty serious beat down at the hands of California. Turnovers, bad shots, missed shots. You name it, Syracuse did it last night. But with such a short turnaround, Syracuse now plays Iowa, a team that basically looked equally as stunned with the longer, more athletic Texas finally taking it to them in the second half of their game. One thing is for sure, Iowa can box out. They limited Texas to only a handfull of offensive rebounds. And to limit that large Texas team in any rebounding stat is a feat. The same thing happened to Syracuse last night. If Syracuse isn't making shots on first efforts, they will be hard pressed to get second chance buckets. Therefore, Syracuse must force turnovers and convert into transition offense to have a shot in this game. Syracuse does not have a dominant scorer that can carry the offense on it's back. It needs to make smart choices in passing and get quick, easy buckets when they can. Scoring will come at a premium and Rakeem Christmas needs to stay on the floor as long as he can as both a veteran scorer and also on defense. But he has to get smarter about the defensive plays he tries to make. Thankfully, Syracuse is larger than Iowa and should have a ton of blocks like last night. Converting those into meaningful possessions is the key. While last night snapped us all back into reality this is still a decent team right now and they should be able to handle Iowa. Syracuse over Iowa by 9. This game is available tonight on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN at 5:00pm. We'll see you on the internet.

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California - Syracuse 2K Classic Preview

Syracuse students agree: Gotta make the championship game.
Syracuse has advanced (they would have even if they lost) to the Semi-final round of the 2K Classic in the home away from the Dome, Madison Square Garden. California has played the Orange a few times in the last few seasons, and therefore people probably think it's funny to repeat a familiar phrase about California still competing in the games they are playing. Don't be tempted. Either way, California does one thing pretty well, and that is shoot the ball from outside the arc. They have shot 47.2% from long range so far this season. That is pretty darn good. There are only two things that can keep Cal from being blown out. The first is the outside shooting, but the second is Rakeem Christmas getting in foul trouble. Cal hasn't faced a team that plays primarily zone, and traditionally Syracuse has guarded the line well in recent years (Cooney included). I think Cal will resort to chucking a lot of low percentage shots when they find it trouble to penetrate the zone. Sure, some solid ball rotation will produce some open corner looks for Cal, and they will hit a few. But the constant barrage of Christmas and McCullough in the paint should get Cal into some foul issues, as well as give Syracuse the free throw advantage. Also, Syracuse should get some turnovers and runouts over steals at the top of the key and off long threes missed by Cal. I think Syracuse has too much firepower for Cal in the end, as well as the much stronger defense. If Christmas makes smart choices, this one shouldn't be close in the second half. I like Syracuse by 18. This game is tentatively schedule to start at 9:00pm, but really it will happen 20-30 minutes after the conclusion of Iowa / Texas. This game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN. Both John and I will be Tweeting along for the start of the season. Giddy up.
On a serious note, thoughts and prayers go out to our friends at Florida State affected by the shooting that happened there recently, from us here at Orange::44.

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Hampton - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We've never heard of Hampton before.
A quick turnaround for the Orange as they now play Hampton on a day of rest. Hampton is also off a day of rest, losing to Iowa 90-56. Syracuse should be bigger, faster, stronger and a similar result should be expected. Michael Gbinije will be back after sitting out a game for violation of team rules. But SU was fine without him. Cooney still had problems shooting the ball from outside but it mattered not in a blowout that got long range contributions from others. The team will continue to score and force turnovers if Christmas stays out of foul trouble. Syracuse should jump out early and not look back. Syracuse over Hampton by 32. This game is available nationally at 4:00pm on ESPNU / WatchESPN. Both John and I won't be watching live. I'll be watching BC play UMass in person. Go Minutemen. John is at 49ers at Giants for some NFL action. Cool enough I guess.

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Another season from the friendly confines of Section 309.

Syracuse officially started its 2014-2015 regular season Friday night in the 2K Classic against the Kennesaw State Owls. Personally, I had never heard of this school, and had to look up on Wikipedia to find out they're from the greater Atlanta area, and since moving up to D1 for the '05-'06 season has won 10 or more games only four times. So, my expectations weren't high. Syracuse, on the other hand, has some crazy streak of 20+ win seasons, and though ranked in the Top25 to start the season, has some serious questions as to how well this rather young team can be. It's still too early to answer that questions, but what's clear is that the Orange dominated an awful Owls team 89-42.

  • The leading scorer for the Orange was senior leader Rakeem Christmas, who finished with 21 points on 8-13 from the floor, 5-7 at the line, and was a rebound short of a double-double. Rak, as with most of the team, felt very comfortable inside against a Kennesaw defense that was just clueless. Christmas only played 24 minutes though, spending a considerable amount of time on the bench with foul trouble (finishing with four).
  • BJ Johnson was the surprise of the game. In 26 unexpected minutes, BJ was the second leading scorer with 19 points (7-11 overall, 2-6 from three). He looked pretty good out there, stepping up into the man off the bench role usually filled by Michael Gbinije, who was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules. Silent G will be available for Sunday's game.
  • Three other Orange men were in double digit scoring: Chris McCullough (16), Trevor Cooney (12), and Tyler Roberson (10).
  • That said, it was a poor shooting night for the Orange. They finished the game at 48%, though that was boosted by a better second half, where they shot 65.63% compared to an awful 34.88% in the first. With all of those misses, there was a bright spot: 25 offensive rebounds for 26 second-chance points.
  • Rebounding was a strong stat for this team, finishing with 56 total. But really, that's just a testament to how awful Kennesaw State was.
  • The Syracuse defense was very strong. After the game, head coach Jim Boeheim credited the Carleton game with really improving the Orange defensive effort giving the zone a tough workout early on. Well, that showed in this game: the guards were very active while the frontcourt made a virtually impenetrable wall around the basket. It was very difficult for the Owls to score, whether it was because the ball was taken away from them 15 times, or whether they took a bad shot, missed, and Syracuse took it the other way.
  • This game by no means answers the question, but the Syracuse freshmen played well and clearly have a lot of talent. Kaleb Joseph seemed very comfortable running the offense, especially in the second half when adjustments were made and they slowed things down a little bit to get better shots. Chris McCullough is just special -- this kid can ball, and I'll be really excited if he stays three or four years because he's got player of the year potential -- conference, maybe even nationally.
  • Trevor Cooney shot pretty well, but he only took seven shots. So much of the focus of the offense -- especially in the first half -- was in the paint and down low, so Cooney didn't see much action.
  • The crowd was announced at nearly 23,000. I assume that's the 19,000 season tickets they sold (many of whom probably didn't show up) along with maybe 4,000 other tickets sold. Actual attendance was probably 13-14k. On the bright side, the student section had a very strong showing, and nearly all stayed till the end.
Syracuse starts the season 1-0 and "advances on" in the 2K Classic. I mean, regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game against Hampton, Syracuse will play in the semifinals of the tournament in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night against California. Good times. I mean, Syracuse basketball is back, how could it not be good times?

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Kennesaw State - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: The new season couldn't come soon enough.
Football isn't good right now. Which is why it's so great that basketball is officially starting on the hill. Hope springs eternal for every new season, and with the team not as heralded as they were at the start of last season, the attention level will be at an appropriate level for the new kids taking over for departing veterans. One veteran that is still on the squad is Trevor (checks to make sure that is still, in fact, his name) Cooney. He who had a pretty good season shooting from behind the arc in total last year, fizzled out in ACC play and the postseason. He hasn't looked good in the two exhibition games Syracuse has played either, going 0-4 and 2-9 respectively. Not good. One of the big reasons Syracuse struggled down the stretch was an inability to find consistent scoring. Trevor, failing to make shots, was a big part of that. He needs a good game tonight, not only to win the game, but also to put fans and the coaching staff at ease. The real hero tonight should be Rakeem Christmas however. After an off season where he knew he would be the starting center and consistently anchor the Zone defense, he should be better and ready to seize the spotlight through physical play down low. As we know now though, the first man off the bench, and the Glue Guy of this season will be Michael Gbinije. If he is getting points, Syracuse will be in good shape. Kennesaw State is fresh off a basketball tour of Italy, similar to the one the Orange took to Canada last year. Additionally, they return all five starters and an immediately eligible transfer from Memphis, who played a lot for the Tigers. Kennesaw is in good shape to play against the Orange and probably won't be shell shocked. However, in the Dome, with the excitement of a new season and the pieces of talent that Syracuse possesses, I'll give the nod to the Orange. Syracuse by 13. This game is available on WatchESPN tonight at 7:00pm. An internet only affair. John is in the Dome. I'm out of pocket tonight. Enjoy.

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This sums up the season nicely: Broke.
Syracuse never had a chance against Clemson in SC, despite how close the score was in the first three quarters. Syracuse did however have a chance against Duke in the Carrier Dome with the score tied 10 all. Unfortunately costly mistakes and bad play, coupled with injuries, allowed 17 unanswered points for Duke. They won handily 27 to 10.
Offense
D
Syracuse's offense was again anemic. Starting the 3rd string QB probably has something to do with that, which doesn't help. Austin Wilson (11/19, 68yds, 0 TD 2 INT) didn't have a good day overall, but did have a few nice throws down the field. The pleasant surprise to me was Mitch Kimble (6/13, 37yds, 0 TD, 0 INT). He played pretty well under poor circumstances. But both weren't particularly effective. Wilson's picked were particularly bad, failing to read the defense and throwing balls he never should have thrown. The receivers continue to do all they can, and PTG had a mediocre day. Overall, just nothing that special happening, and really nothing even mediocre. 4-16 on third downs... bad.
Defense
B
Syracuse basically only had defense in this game. They limited a pretty good Duke team to 259 total yards. And despite the Syracuse offense throwing picks and not being able to get first downs, the defense had the team in the game tied going into the Fourth Quarter. But defense can't do it all alone. They continue to be the only real bright spot of this Syracuse team.
Special Teams
F
It finally happened that coverage on punts broke down enough to allow a score, which gave Duke all of the momentum and the lead they never relinquished. Cole Murphy and Riley Dixon were solid enough. But not tracking down Crowder on punt and kick returns is tragic. Were it not for a holding penalty, Crowder would have had a kick return as well. Syracuse still doesn't have a full time Special Teams Coach?
Coaching
D
The play calling, especially on third downs, was not good for Syracuse. Neither were the 7 penalties for 55 yards total, which hasn't really improved all year. Not sure it will get much better either. And that fake punt call was absolutely the wrong call in that spot, nor was it unexpected. There were four yards to gain for a first down. Unless it's a perfect situation where a fake punt catches the other team off guard, there was no way Syracuse was getting 4 yards. Why not just leave your offense on the field? At least it would be a higher percentage chance of converting.
GPA
D+ (1.25)
This, more than any game this season, was disappointing. The high point in the season in the Dome was Villanova? What? Syracuse had the game tied with 15 minutes remaining. Then gave it away. This one stings. There have been embarrassing games this year, but this one beat them all. No bowl is now for certain, and not just an assumption. No extra practices for this team, that could definitely benefit. This game was great to watch, and then only 15 minutes remained. And Syracuse derped all over the field.
Syracuse can now defeat another bye week before heading to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers in the cold. That will probably go swimmingly. At least basketball starts.

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Orange '14-'15 Hoops Preview

This could be a season of high drama...

If you like a basketball program with more intrigue than wins and losses, then you need to follow the 2014-2015 Syracuse Men's Basketball team. On the court, there's a young team with (again) a freshman starting point guard and projections to be an upper crust, but not elite, team in the country. Off the court, we have a head coach entering his 39th season at the helm who's plugging his newly-release autobiography everywhere -- including twitter; an NCAA investigation centered around academics and benefits of the basketball program; a reinstated slander lawsuit against said head coach; and a local product who hasn't seen much action the last two years and whose return to play remains unclear.

Losing CJ Fair and Baye Moussa Keita to graduation last year, along with Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant to early draft entry, Syracuse has some huge holes to fill. Kaleb Joseph comes in to fill the freshman point guard role occupied by Ennis last year; Rakeem Christmas steps up to be the senior leader; and a mix of last year's reserves and incoming freshman round out the lineup and bench players. This young group has looked competent in two exhibition games, and we're hearing decent things out of practice. But they will really need that real game experience, and the extra playing time to develop chemistry among themselves, in order to reach the heights of last year's team. Luckily, the typical early-season non-conference schedule allows Syracuse to do just that.

The real first test comes November 20 at Madison Square Garden when Syracuse plays California in the 2K Classic. That's followed the next day by either Iowa or Texas. But really, those games will pale in comparison to the hype that should accompany the December 2 match-up in Ann Arbor as Syracuse faces Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This is rematch of the 2013 NCAA semifinal in Atlanta, which, as you may recall, was won by the Wolverines.

Other intriguing non-conference games include former Big East foes St. John's (who visit the Dome on December 6) and Villanova (who hosts Syracuse on December 20). I think it's great that efforts have been made to schedule former Big East rivals. This isn't a Georgetown year, but we'll see that soon, and I'm sure we'll find UConn in a few years as well.

The ACC slate is highlighted by home games against Duke and newcomer Louisville. Other tough games including Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Miami, and Florida State round out the Dome contests (among others). All of those teams played Syracuse tough last year, so if there's one thing to learn from last year, it's to not think of any ACC team as a pushover.

Orange success this year, on the court, will be dictated by how well the team comes together and matures; how well Trevor Cooney shoots the ball (and, consistently); and what sort of leader Rakeem Christmas can be. This team has the talent, top to bottom, to compete with the best teams in the country, but they can't let themselves fall into the same late-season slumps the last two seasons have brought.

How this team responds to off-court issues will also play a role. An NCAA decision on infractions/sanctions could come within a few weeks. Worst case scenario for this team would be a postseason ban. A loss of scholarships would only hurt future teams; vacating prior wins is more of a pride thing than anything (it sucks, but shouldn't effect the currently players). Boeheim & staff have done an excellent job keeping those off-court issues from negatively impacting the play of the team in the past (remember how awesome that team was when the Bernie Fine stuff broke?). So I have confidence that the team will weather that storm just fine.

I won't provide solid numbers, but I see this team finishing the regular season with less than 10 losses, advancing to the ACC Tournament title game, and falling in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

We'll provide a more comprehensive ACC preview prior to the start of conference play, so check back here near the end of December, and/or check for the link on Twitter from @jbren and @BH_Orange44.

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Cue the Crying Child...

Can't feel much worst about a 4th quarter. Awful.

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Duke Quick Predictions (And NC State Report Card)

I really hate Duke. Not G'town hate. But it's hate.
Syracuse is in a bad place. Coming off a game they should have dominated, they ended up losing to NC State, a team that had not won an ACC conference game in some time. Now Duke, a ranked team, will be in the Dome for the Class of '15's final game. Great.
Syracuse isn't winning this game. The offense is just bad. Not only that, but they are now starting freshman QB Austin Wilson, making his first start for the Orange after some less than impressive time on the field in the FSU game. I have every confidence that the defense will do the best they can, but still give up about three touchdowns. The offense on the other hand... well let's just say they'll be lucky if they find the end zone. Special teams might help, and surely the defense will get a turnover or two. But either the offense will also give the ball back, or they just won't be able to consistently sustain drives and get into the end zone. Duke receivers are pretty good and that will be good enough for them to beat Syracuse. I'm thinking they win 27 to 9.
NC State Report Card (for posterity purposes): Offense D-, Defense B, Special Teams B, Coaching D, GPA C- (1.93).
Syracuse has their final home game this year, so thanks to the seniors. You had a hell of a run. I'd like to think they can play inspired and give Duke a run, but I have zero faith in the offense now. Which is a shame. This team could have made a Bowl Game, and really there is a possibility they still do if they win out, but I don't see that happening. It's unfortunate but the truth. Syracuse plays at 12:30pm tomorrow and will be broadcast regionally. Broadcast affiliates are listed here. If the game isn't on TV in your area, it will be available on WatchESPN. Blackout map here. Not sure if John will be in the Dome or at home. I'll be watching. Mostly. Join us for all the fun online, won't you?

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NC State Quick Predictions

This looks familiar...
Syracuse is coming off a woeful performance on offense against Clemson. If Syracuse can't score, even NC State can get a win today. But I'm still not convinced that will happen.
Syracuse is facing a team in a similar state to Wake Forest. This team isn't won a lot of ACC games. Syracuse should win this one too. Last year Syracuse pounded the ball by running and running and running. If Syracuse can do that today as well they will roll. Not only that, but the pressure will be off AJ Long and he will have a successful game converting as well. The Syracuse defense will only give up a few long plays and most of the work will be done by the defensive front. I like Syracuse in this one at home 34 to 10.
This game is available regionally at 3:00pm or on WatchESPN if not on the TV in your area. Check your local listings or the ESPN blackout. John is on the road seeing Stanford at Oregon so he'll probably file a special report later. I'll be in the home office. Enjoy.

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