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Cornell - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We'll hate Cornell from our homes.
Our friends from the south, Cornell, are making the trip up Rt. 13 to I-81 to head to Syracuse to take on the Orange tonight in the Dome. It's the last non-conference game from the Orange. And this one doesn't have the same juice it once had, as Cornell has gone from a pretty formidable Ivy League team, to not even a mid-major. They really haven't been good since Steve Donahue left for Boston College four years ago. Syracuse should easily handle them. Cooney and Gbinije have finally come alive. Christmas was dominant. Joseph has been more careful with the basketball and is clearly growing. Patterson is finally making some shots. Really, the only player that has gone absent has been McCullough, who has said he hasn't been aggressive enough and is looking to change that. While Cornell has a trio of senior leaders, the Orange will be too athletic and too tough for Cornell to upset them. No matter how many three bombs they manage to squeak though (which will probably only be a handfull). I like the Orange by 18. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U / Watch ESPN tonight at 6:00pm. Happy New Years from us at Orange::44 and here's hoping you and your family have an even better 2015!

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Long Beach State - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We're not at this game.
Hope you and your family had very Happy Holidays. Syracuse basketball is heading into their final games of 2014, and it's another non-conference warm up with Long Beach State. Several things are going better for Syracuse as of late, which shows that the team is growing and improving. Always a good thing, especially when they looked pretty dreadful in a few of those early games. Kaleb Joseph isn't turning the ball over as much, Rakeem Christmas is staying in games longer, and Trevor Cooney has decided to actually make baskets again. Cooney is 15-35 in his last five games, which is a marked improvement over the earlier part of the year. No reason why he wouldn't drop in four or five today. Rakeem Christmas should have a field day today in the low post as well. Long Beach State has nobody that can handle Christmas. If he stays out of foul trouble he should have a very productive day. The only real threat on Long Beach State is Mike Caffey, who is shooting a stout 50% from beyond the arc. If Syracuse stays on top of him then Long Beach State won't even get close. You have to like the Orange in this one. Syracuse by 14. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 2:00pm. John and I will both be in the respective home offices. I'll probably be watching on WatchESPN so enjoy my Tweets from the past!

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Colgate - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR Blowout

Christmas is almost here!

In a rivalry as old as the Syracuse basketball program itself, Syracuse vs. Colgate just isn't what it used to be. In fact, Colgate hasn't beaten Syracuse since the days of Jim Boeheim... as a player. And despite Syracuse's recent losses on the court, this would seem to be a game that would follow the history of the last 50 years. A couple of big Orange runs in the first half led to a 43-13 halftime lead, which was too much for the Raiders to overcome in the second half. Syracuse gets back in the winning column with a 78-43 victory over Colgate.

  • Trevor Cooney led all scorers with 20 points, having another well-played game on 8-15 shooting, 4-9 from three, and chipped in four assists.
  • Other double-digit scorers for the Orange were Rakeem Christmas (16), Ron Patterson (13), and Michael Gbinije (11).
  • It was nice to see Ron Patterson, BJ Johnson, and Tyler Roberson get meaningful minutes and actually do good things with the opportunity.
  • Syracuse had six turnovers as a team. For the entire game.
  • Syracuse dominated inside, scoring 30 points in the paint and getting 19 second chance points from 12 offensive rebounds.
  • In 26 minutes of play each, freshmen Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough underwhelmed... which of course led to Boeheim's lottery comment in the postgame presser.
  • Colgate, to its credit, has a really nice campus. I thought about going there for a hot minute.
This isn't one of those games that proves anything about how good (or not) Syracuse is. But it's a good game to get a win, especially after the overtime loss to Villanova on Saturday. It also allows the team to head home for Christmas break with a good taste in their mouths and, along with the Long Beach State and Cornell games coming up, gain some momentum heading into conference play, which will be here before we know it!

On behalf of Brian, I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Festivus, or Happy end of December. Have a joyous time with those you love.

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Colgate - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: This one should be much easier.
Syracuse is back in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome to take on yearly rival Colgate from 30 minutes east. One thing is for sure, Syracuse played way better against Villanova than they have all season. No reason to think that shouldn't continue against a way less better team than Villanova. Colgate hasn't beaten the Orange in a very long time. That shouldn't change tonight. If Rakeem Christmas stays out of foul trouble, he could very well have a career night. I like McCullough's chances to rebound from his sub-par game (and body surfing), and Cooney to demonstrate he really is out of a slump, and not just that his game at Villanova was not an anomaly. Either way, Syracuse is not going to be challenged by Colgate. Orange by 14. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. I won't be watching live but John will be in the Dome. I'm sure not having that much fun. Colgate never is. And a Merry HOODOO to you sir.

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Sad GMac is the worst GMac.
And just like that, Syracuse lost. Syracuse played their best game of the year, and was by far the better team for most of the game, but they ended up on the losing end. In probably the most frustrating game to watch since March 24, 2012 against Ohio State in terms of officiating, Syracuse ended up losing to #7 Villanova in Overtime 82-77.
  • Kaleb Joseph played his best game at point guard. He ended his day with only 4 turnovers and ten assists, also adding ten points for his first career double-double.
  • Both Michael Gbinije and Rakeem Christmas each had 18 points in the game, leading the Orange. Gbinije also led the Orange in rebounding with 8.
  • Trevor Cooney busted out of his shooting slump, hitting a few huge shots. He was 4-12 overall and 3-5 from behind the arc. He was also 6-7 from the charity stripe. Cooney finished with 17 points.
  • Tyler Roberson had an excellent day off the bench, going 5-5 from the floor, earning 11 points.
  • Syracuse shot 49.2% (30-61) from the floor and 33.3% (4-12) from behind the arc.
  • Syracuse blew a 5 point lead in 17 seconds to allow Villanova to go to overtime, of which they won.
  • The officiating was dreadful in this game, for both teams, but mostly Syracuse. I've said my peace on Twitter about this, but needless to say I thought it was the worst officiated game I've seen since the aforementioned game above.
Syracuse missed an opportunity to rise above and overachieve and get a resume making win. Not to be. Syracuse now has a few easy gimmies before Syracuse starts the ACC. That's good news. Upstate favorites Colgate, Long Beach State, and Cornell are up next.

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Syracuse - Villanova Preview

Syracuse students agree: Winning this game would be astounding.
Syracuse and Villanova meet again, for the second time as non-conference opponents since Syracuse left the Big East for the ACC. Syracuse won the match up in the Dome last year 78-62. Unfortunately, this season is, at best, the reversal of fortune for both teams. Villanova is ranked #7, undefeated on the year. Syracuse had to scrape out a bucket on their final possession last game to beat Louisiana Tech at home. Rough goings for the Orange, who turn the ball over an awful lot. 13.5 times per game on average. To put that into perspective, Syracuse only turned the ball over an average of 9.0 times a game last season. And that was with Ennis at the helm, who almost never turned the ball over. Villanova is forcing an average of 16.3 turnovers per game. You should be very alarmed at those numbers if you are a Syracuse fan. Additionally, they should the ball from behind the arc at a clip of 35% as a team. That makes this game very dangerous for Syracuse. In typical Jay Wright fashion, he recruits players that can shoot, and will not hesitate to throw out 3 or 4 guards and let them go crazy from behind the arc. The only advantage Syracuse has in this game is rebounding. Syracuse could keep it close by earning second chance points, and possibly getting runouts off missed Villanova 3s. If Syracuse can keep their perimeter defense solid in the second half, instead of letting Villanova go bonkers in the final 20 minutes like other teams this year, Syracuse has a shot to keep it close and even win. But it will probably be too much Wildcat for the Orange to handle. Villanova stays undefeated and makes the post-Big East series 1-1. 'Nova by 16. This game is available nationally on your local Fox station and also on Fox Sports Go at 1:00pm. We'll see you around the Tweets as always.

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Louisiana Tech - Syracuse Postgame Reactions

Roberson showed up to play

It's been a rough year so far for the Syracuse Orange. After a week off from games for finals, the team was back in action on Sunday against Louisiana Tech. A good shooting team from Conference USA who also plays a lot bigger than it is, this game would not be a walk in the park for the Orange. It took some tough play down the stretch to not allow LATech to take the lead, as well as an inbound pass to Rakeem Christmas in the paint to lay it in with just a few seconds left in a tie game, but Syracuse hung on for the victory, 71-69.

  • I'll give props where props are due to Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas in just a minute, but player of the game honors goes to Tyler Roberson. Off the bench, Tyler earned a double-double, with 14 points and 17 rebounds -- a truly impressive (and much needed) performance. What really helped was his eleven offensive rebounds. His 14 points, along with BJ Johnson's three free throws made, accounted for all of the bench scoring.
  • Trevor Cooney was the team's leading scorer, with 25 points on 8-18 shooting (4-8 from three). Obviously, this amounts to a monster game for Cooney, and a great effort all Syracuse fans can appreciate, whether they're big Cooney fans or believe he's a villain. What was impressive about Cooney's game play, to me, was his ability to create offense without chucking up bad threes. He took advantage of open scoring lanes to the basket, as well as higher-percentage mid-range jumpers. Certainly a breath of fresh air!
  • I'd also be remiss to forget Cooney's defensive effort. As he has been all season, he's been active in the zone, having three steals in this game along with other great defensive plays that don't show up in the box score.
  • Rakeem Christmas had a nice 13-point effort, in only 25 minutes of play. Fouls limited much of his play, which ultimately led to Roberson's 33-minute effort.
  • Kaleb Joseph continued his underwhelming point guard play: nine points, four assists, and eight turnovers playing all 40 minutes. It'll be a process. A frustrating one. I, for one, agreed with Boeheim's decision to let him play the whole game. He's not going to get better if we don't give him game experience, and since Syracuse led virtually through this whole game, this was a good game to get him that experience. A game where Syracuse needs to climb back might not get Joseph the same minutes.
Boeheim gave us another good post-game press conference. You can tell he's as frustrated as the coach as we are as fans. While he can't coach catching the ball, he can coach his players to grow up and realize they're in the big show now. Not NBA big show, but this isn't the high school gym in front of mom, grandma, and 36 other people. He recruited their talent; that's why they're in Syracuse. Getting them to use that talent, that's where Boeheim will show why he's a Hall of Fame coach.

Up next: Villanova. Ugh.

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Louisiana Tech - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Ending a losing streak would be good.
Syracuse is coming of back to back non-conference losses, something Syracuse doesn't usually have. The good news is that Syracuse is playing Louisiana Tech, a team that can't rebound and isn't nearly as physical as Syracuse is. Rakeem Christmas should have a ball down low in this one. Syracuse will also probably end up having a block party. The sad news is that Syracuse is shooting the ball about as well as a middle school team. Syracuse was 3-22 from behind the arc against St. John's. I'm guessing that Syracuse might hit a few more today, but not many. This should be a confidence game, but it probably won't be. Either way, Syracuse will dominate the boards, have a lot of second chance points, and quite a few great dunks. Syracuse over Louisiana Tech by 16. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 4:00pm. Enjoy.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Syracuse Orange

No, you didn't miss something on the schedule. The Ducks and the Orange are not playing each other, in any sport, any time soon. But since the football season is over for Syracuse, and it's finals week so there's no basketball until Sunday, I figured I would take this opportunity to write a little bit about my experience out in Eugene last month. My sister lives there, having moved to the college town last year to take a job as an occupational therapist. When she said "You have to come visit me!" I knew I had to time my trip to maximize my sports exposure -- specifically, see a Ducks home football game, and a Ducks home basketball game.

Oregon Ducks Football


When I looked at the home schedule, there was one game that not only stood out at me, but fit the bill for being able to see football and basketball -- a November 1 game against PAC-12 rival Stanford. So I bought tickets when they went on sale back in July, and though I guess I knew I was buying obstructed view seats at the time, I didn't really think much of it. Well, the above picture shows the extent of what I could see -- which was most of the field. Annoying, but, whatever. Anyway, Autzen Stadium is a great college football atmosphere! The tickets told us to wear black, and the crowd did so and really got into the game. I guess it helps when the product on the field is so good. All that Nike money, crazy uniforms, it actually works out well. The whole town is really into it. I went to the mall before the game, and literally everyone there -- shoppers, workers, etc. -- was wearing Ducks gear!

Speaking of the product on the field, this football team is really good. They dominated Stanford, easily winning 45-16. They deserve that #2 seed in the College Football Playoff. If you haven't gotten a chance to watch them, be sure to check out that semifinal game. They run a hurry-up offense, with a multi-faceted run/pass system centered around likely Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. They're high octane, score early and often, and tire defenses quickly. Having seen both Oregon and Florida State play in person this year, here's what I see happening in that national semifinal in the Rose Bowl on January 1:

In typical FSU fashion, they'll have a horrendous first half. But it won't be 17-0 at halftime. Oregon could easily put up 30 points before the break. But the thing is, even if the Seminoles get their act together and score in the second half, they will have dug themselves too deep a hole to come back. Look for the Ducks to move on to the championship game, in convincing fashion.

Oregon Ducks Basketball


Since this was early November, I knew I wouldn't be seeing a stellar PAC-12 matchup (if there's such a thing), and quite frankly, it's not like Oregon is the powerhouse basketball program like it is for football. Honestly, I really only wanted to go to see that infamous forest court. As you can see in the above picture, it's pretty horrendous. I had a hard time getting used to it in person. It's distracting. But, I guess maybe that gives the Ducks some sort of a home court advantage? At any rate, I ended up seeing an exhibition game against Northwest Christian University (yes, I paid money to see an exhibition game... sorry, Brian!). Here's an analogy that I think works -- LeMoyne:Syracuse::NCU:Oregon. They're a small, private, Christian school in Eugene. But unlike the SU/LeMoyne debacle from several years ago, the Ducks had the upper hand in this exhibition. They have a couple decent shooters, but I don't see them making any big waves in the PAC-12. Could they be a Tourney team? Sure, it's possible. Let's wait till March, though.

The Ducks play in Matthew Knight Arena right on campus, which is a nice little gym that seats just over 12,000. I thought it was actually a much nicer facility than Autzen Stadium, which could use some structural and concessions upgrades. And maybe change the seating around so there's no obstructed view seats. Anyway, I'd recommend checking out both venues if you're ever in Eugene.

Nike connection
When you think of the University of Oregon, if you don't immediately think of the mascot modeled after Donald Duck (with Walt Disney's permission), then you surely think of Nike. Nike is the school's biggest asset, and it's a great relationship. I'll say this, though: what Nike tries -- and fails -- with Syracuse, it seems to do really well for Oregon. The Oregon uniform designs and color schemes aren't always home runs, but compared to the crap Nike gives Syracuse, I guess it pays to be the school located in Eugene. But, knowing that Nike actually has the ability to get it right, I hold out some hope for Syracuse's threads in the future.

Okay, thanks for humoring me for a somewhat non-Syracuse related post. We'll return to your regular chronicles of the disasters of Syracuse Athletics shortly.

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Rolled up shorts = Flagrant 1

Saturday marked the continuation of an annual tradition of the Red Storm and the Orange playing each other, previously in the Big East, and now extended by contract in Syracuse's new era in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last December, the Orange traveled down to Madison Square Garden to play the Johnnies, and walked away with a win. But as we know now, this year's Orange is not quite last year's version; likewise, St. John's is different this year, except better, more experienced. The problems that plagued Syracuse in its first two losses this year were on display against St. John's, and ultimately resulted in a 69-57 Johnnies win.

  • I guess player of the game props for Syracuse would go to Rakeem Christmas, who with his 15 points and 15 rebounds earned a double-double while playing all 40 minutes of the game.
  • Other double-digit scorers for the Orange were Michael Gbinije (who earned his first career start) and Chris McCullough, who each bucketed thirteen points.
  • On the flip side, Trevor Cooney scored two points, with a measly field goal on 1-6 shooting and 0-4 from three. I guess one could argue his lack of production is a result of his lack of shot attempts, and there's certainly truth to that. But let's be honest, he contributed essentially nothing in his 40 minutes of play.
  • Syracuse turned the ball over twelve times, which I guess is an improvement? They only led to nine St. John's points.
  • The Orange shot 39.3% for the game, 13.6% from three, and 50% from the line. That foul shooting number was 10-20, so if you make those and cut back on the turnovers, Syracuse probably stays in this game.
  • Kaleb Joseph was benched for a large portion of the game while Gbinije took over point guard duties. Coach Boeheim said he needs to play better and not shoot so many threes.
  • I just don't even have the desire to dwell on this game anymore.
I guess now is a good time for the finals week break, because the team doesn't play again until Sunday. They could use the time off to focus on their studies, hone their skills, and come back to play better. Let's hope so.

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Syracuse - Michigan ACC/Big Ten Challenge Recap

#CooneyFace

I think the common notion going into this game was that Syracuse just wouldn't have what it would take to win against Michigan. Syracuse's youth, inexperience (especially in an environment like Crisler Center), offensive woes, and Michigan's ability would seem to be too much. But, of course, you still have to play the game. And though neither team played exceptionally well in the first half, Syracuse took a 31-29 lead into halftime and you wondered maybe, just maybe, Syracuse would be able to do what we didn't think it could do. After halftime, Michigan started to find its outside shot again and eventually took a ten-point lead with 7:08 left in the game. "There it is," we all thought. Then, somehow, Syracuse fought back. Trevor Cooney hit a couple clutch threes, Michael Gbinije stepped up, and Chris McCullough played with more swagger than a freshman, and by the 56-second mark, the game was tied. But then, some big freshman mistakes and untimely turnovers tipped the momentum back to the Wolverines and, as we all know by now, Michigan held on for a 68-65 win.

  • Trevor Cooney led all Syracuse scorers with 18 points on 4-11 shooting (4-9 from three) and 4-4 from the line. Though he struggled at times -- particularly in the first half -- that didn't frustrate him or prevent him from continuing to chuck up shots when he got good looks.
  • I want to say that a performance like this should do wonders for Cooney's confidence, but I don't think it works that way. I think he's either on or he's not; I don't think confidence is an issue. So Cooney's always gonna be an Orange wildcard this season... which, unfortunately, could make or break a game for this team.
  • Rakeem Christmas scored 15 on 7-9 from the floor, and added six rebounds, a couple of blocks, and a steal. What's telling about his performance is that he picked up two early fouls in the game, Boeheim only took him out for a short time, and then he went back out there and essentially played the rest of the game, only picking up one more foul. Yes, his defensive aggressiveness suffered as a result of the potential foul trouble, but luckily the forward play, especially from Chris McCullough, helped cover the areas around the basket.
  • Speaking of McCullough, how about this kid with a really nice double-double -- ten points, twelve rebounds, and 39 minutes played. He was responsible for a vital turnover with 15 seconds left, but definitely otherwise a big performance on a big stage for a freshman.
  • I thought Kaleb Joseph made a lot of improvement in this game. Playing all 40 minutes, Joseph scored nine points and had seven rebounds, and seemed much more in control of the offense than I have seen him all season. Certainly a confidence booster for him. Well, except for the dribble off his foot with four seconds left, and the airballed three-pointer at the buzzer. But, hey, freshman.
  • Gbinije had a solid game off the bench as the sixth man, with a nice ten points and solid defensive play.
  • Syracuse was in this game in the first half because of an abysmal shooting effort from Michigan. The Wolverines shot 36.11% from the field in the first half, along with 17.65% from three. For a John Beilein coached team who knows how to exploit the zone and has some great three-point shooters, this was a pleasant surprise from the Orange perspective.
  • Here's the stat that controlled the outcome of this game: Syracuse had 19 turnovers to Michigan's seven; Michigan scored 20 points off Syracuse turnovers, while Syracuse only scored seven off Michigan turnovers (all in the first half).
  • Michigan is a good team, and a win is a win, but the Wolverines probably don't walk away from this game feeling really good about the win. In the final several sequences in the game, it seemed like Michigan was doing whatever it could to let Syracuse win. But for those freshman mistakes, I think Syracuse probably pulls it out. Michigan got lucky.
  • Our old friend Ted Valentine officiated this game. Hey, it is what it is.
A loss is a loss, and there are no moral victories -- especially when a game we didn't think Syracuse could win turned into a game Syracuse almost won -- but this was an encouraging showing by the Orange. They're a work in progress, but it's nice to see a team improving and wondering where it can go as the season goes on... as opposed to, say, winning 25 straight games and then regressing for the rest of the season. It's still early in the season, and most of the remaining non-conference slate doesn't get easier, but at least as it looks right now there's reason to be optimistic.

And we'll bring that optimism into the Dome on Saturday to play our old friend and former Big East foes St. John's. Your perfect break from watching conference championship football all day.

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Syracuse - Michigan Big Ten / ACC Challenge Preview

Syracuse students agree: ACC > Big Ten.
Syracuse enjoyed a couple of games against inferior opponents to get back on track. But can they now go on the road again and topple a pretty good team? My gut says not this team.
Syracuse is still winning against teams they should beat, like Holy Cross and Loyola. Now Syracuse takes on Michigan, a team that just barely lost to Villanova in their early season tournament championship. Michigan, like Cal, is shooting the ball extremely well from the outside arc. 44.5% as a matter of fact. To illustrate how well that is, Syracuse is shooting 20.2%. The worst ever mark for Syracuse in a season is 30.6%. Syracuse traditionally does better in the non-conference against inferior defenses, then trails off a bit in the conference slate. Whoops. Anyway, Syracuse just doesn't have the firepower that Michigan has. And if Christmas gets in foul trouble, the probably of offense occurring on the floor for Syracuse drops dramatically. I think Syracuse will try really hard, and even force a bunch of turnovers because John Beilein still doesn't know what to do against the zone in terms of offense other than shoot the 3. But enough of those 3s will sadly fall. Syracuse unfortunately will not look great, but it is what it is at this point. Michigan by 14.
This game is available nationally on ESPN / WatchESPN (allegedly) at 7:30pm. I may or may not be watching live. Try to enjoy it.

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