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Syracuse - North Carolina Preview

Syracuse students agree: Jim Boeheim loves beating Roy Williams.
Syracuse is already in the nicer weather of North Carolina as they plan to take on UNC on a very Big Monday. Syracuse let one slip away on Saturday. And as we all know, going from a Saturday to Monday game can be tough, especially when the Monday game is on the road. Especially when that game is against #13. North Carolina is a very tall, very athletic team. Rakeem Christmas and the rest of the Syracuse team will have trouble getting rebounds against a very tall and very athletic front court. However, Christmas should be able to get the low post scoring done. The one advantage Syracuse has is forcing turnovers and bad three point shots from UNC by using the Zone. UNC is not a very good shooting team from long range. Most of their scoring is done inside. If Syracuse can force bad 3s, they should get an advantage if they are able to rebound and prevent easy second chance looks. If they do that, this game will be close. SU can pull of an upset, but it doesn't seem likely. I like UNC by 14. This game is available nationally on ESPN / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. We'll see you out there.

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Yeah Michael Stephens again blew some calls. No surprise.
Syracuse wasn't favored to win. Miami is a very good team. However, Syracuse had the game tied and had come back twice to ten point deficits. But missed opportunities and missed free throws resulted in a Miami win. The U won 66 to 62.
  • Best player of the game for Syracuse was Tyler Roberson, especially on the defensive end getting rebounds. He finished with ten points and 14 rebounds on a 5-11 shooting day.
  • Michael Gbinije had a middle of the road day, hitting some big shots, but missing a huge dunk. He finished with nine points on 3-8, 1-4 shooting and going 2-6 from the free throw line.
  • Rakeem Christmas had 23 points and eight rebounds. He's pretty freaking good.
  • Syracuse actually had a higher shooting percentage from behind the arc than Miami, 37.5% to 34.5%), but Miami hit 10-29, and SU only hit 6-16.
  • The story was missed free throws for Syracuse. They were 8-19 (42.1%). Horrible.
So Miami missed a good chance to get a nice resume win. They still have plenty of chances left. Sadly this one was at home and winable when it came down to it.

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Miami - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Each loyal son knows Miami will lose.
Miami heads to the Dome today in a matchup that brings a touch of nostalgia back to me thinking about the old, old Big East days. Miami was terrible then. Syracuse always won. And by a lot. Now it's a little different when you have a coach that can actually coach. But Miami might be the most yo-yo team in the league. They crushed Duke at Duke, took Virginia to 2 overtimes in a narrow loss, and also lost to Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky, and Providence. Which team shows up in the Dome? Your guess is as good as mine. The same can be said for Syracuse, who bounced back slightly against BC earlier this week, but still had to make it a game with missed free throws and allowing BC clean looks at the basket they just missed. BC couldn't really buy 2 point buckets down the stretch or it could have been far closer. Trevor Cooney was only mildly productive, Christmas sat for long stretches, and Gbinije was hot and cold throughout the game. If Syracuse shows up on offense, they have a chance in this one. Miami does have a VERY good guard in Angel Rodriguez however. A guard that can slice the lane with the best of them in college hoops. And of course he can score, or kick it out for nice 3 looks, which generally came easy for BC last game, and will probably come somewhat easy in this affair. Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan both can shoot it from outside. Syracuse needs to bother these shooters and if Syracuse can shut down or confuse Rodriguez, which is generally possible in the first half of a game playing Zone, it's possible Syracuse can get enough of a lead to win this game. If they are forcing turnovers, and getting stops but not scoring like they did for stretches in the BC game, Syracuse is probably doomed. I think Christmas and Gbinije show up, but Cooney is the every constant question mark. I think this is one that will be hard fought. But I think the Orange fall to The U by 11. This game is available nationally on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN at 4:00pm. I'm in the home office. John is in the swanky seats in the Dome. We'll see how the Orange respond.

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Boston College - Syracuse Postgame Reactions or SOTU

So here's to the outhouse on the hill...

Tuesday night in Washington was dominated by President Obama's State of the Union speech -- SOTU. Tuesday night in Syracuse was dominated by featured Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orange Tempermental Utilitarian team. Sandwiched in between the first six minutes and the last two minutes of the game was a really great effort by Syracuse. Initially overcoming an eight-point Eagles lead in the first half, the Orange charged back to a 35-17 halftime lead, and dominated for much of the second half. And then the last two minutes. Dragged. On. For. Ever. Between timeouts, fouls, turnovers, Boston College refused to throw in the towel until there were literally like ten seconds left and Syracuse up by eight. And that would be the final margin: Syracuse wins 69-61.

  • All five Syracuse starters were in double-digit scoring. That's awesome. The leading scorer? Not Rakeem Christmas (more on him in a minute). The star Tuesday night was Michael Gbinije. He had 17 points on 7-12 shooting, two threes, eight rebounds, four assists, and all 40 minutes on the floor. I think we can say he has really turned into the player we thought he could be (and knew he needed to be) entering the season.
  • The other starters scored: Trevor Cooney (15pts, 4-11, 2-5 from three), Kaleb Joseph (13pts, 2-7 shooting, 9-11 from the line), Rakeem Christmas (12pts, 5-8 shooting, 2-2 at the line), and Tyler Robersobn (10pts, 3-8 shooting, 4-6 free throws).
  • Kaleb played more aggressively, especially in the second half. But, as Boeheim noted in his presser, he'd make a great play, then an awful play, and back and forth. So, consistency is an issue. Something else I noticed about him running point -- I counted a few times when Boeheim called a play for Cooney to take a shot, and when Cooney would swing out from the paint to the wing and out into the backcourt (and be open), Kaleb often times would fail to get him the ball. Missed opportunities for Cooney to catch and shoot, in my opinion.
  • Rak "only" had twelve points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. That was 17 minutes of foul trouble, the last 1:51 after his fifth. That allowed Chino Obokoh 16 minutes of game play (a career high) where he had four rebounds and a block. A nice effort for a big kid who doesn't get many minutes. BC's game plan wasn't to exactly attack the basket (just 12 points in the paint all game) so this game didn't give us a great look at Chino on defense. But the time will come, eventually.
  • Maybe the biggest takeaway from this game was Syracuse's ability to succeed without Rakeem Christmas. The team has relied on him, sometimes exclusively, to be that go-to guy, that consistent scorer who will put up big numbers when the rest of the team struggles. So for Rak to go to the bench with Syracuse holding onto a lead, and for the players on the floor to increase that lead and hold it for virtually the rest of the game, was a big growing moment for the Orange.
  • Syracuse had a much better shooting effort than that Clemson game last Saturday -- 22-50 for 44%, and 36.4% from three.
  • Boston College entered this game the best free throw shooting team in ACC play. After only going 3-6 from the line in the first, they improved to 16-21 in the second, which almost put them back in this game. Then again, had Syracuse been better at the line in those final two minutes, this one would have been over much, much sooner.
Syracuse avenges last year's loss to BC on Jim Boeheim Court, so that's good. Syracuse also wore its traditional white jerseys & white shorts, instead of last year's "throwback" orange jerseys & blue shorts for the BC game. While there were some questionable calls from the officials, Syracuse didn't let it effect its game (well, maybe Rak did). At any rate, it's another win in the books before this team faces a tough Miami Hurricanes squad on Saturday afternoon.

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Boston College - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: BC sucks and always will.
Syracuse laid a stinker at Clemson, while they were having a hell of a shooting day. It happens sometimes. Very rarely does a team lay two in a row. That's what I'm banking on tonight against Boston College. A not very good basketball team. Same as last year. Syracuse laid a stinker against BC last year, ending their win streak and their time at #1 (BC fans forget Syracuse won at BC earlier in the year). Not only does Syracuse have a burning desire to beat them as payback, but Syracuse is looking to come out on fire. And Boston College isn't very good. Winless in the ACC, they have losses to UMass, Pittsburgh, and USC. Syracuse is a better scoring team and a better rebounding team. Syracuse was murdered on the boards by Clemson. If Syracuse is finally able to box out against BC, it looks as though Syracuse can get a nice win at home. Rakeem Christmas has proven he will be reliable. If Cooney or Gbinije can score Syracuse will be in a good position to win. Points come at a premium for Syracuse, but at least at home they should find an easier time. Boston College got torched by Oliviar Hanlan last season in the Dome. If Syracuse can find #21 and get a hand in his face, Syracuse will go a long way to helping their cause. Orange::44 favorite Eddie Odio will be on the floor for BC (think Nate Lubick type statistics) and will surely do something hilariously awful during the game so that will be fun for everyone. I'll take the Orange by 13. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. If it's Syracuse Basketball, it's on ESPN U. Never Graduate.

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Syracuse - Clemson Recap

Yeah. Exactly.

Syracuse entered South Carolina undefeated in ACC play. Syracuse left South Carolina defeated in ACC play. Clemson beat Syracuse 66-53.

  • Where would Syracuse be without Rakeem Christmas this season? I'm not sure who the replacement would have been, but he would not have been putting up Rak's stats. They continued in this one: 21 points and ten rebounds in all 40 minutes. He also has found a way lately to put up phenomenal numbers while not getting in foul trouble -- only two in this game.
  • Kaleb Joseph had himself a nice little game: twelve points with a couple of assists. More on assists in a minute.
  • Michael Gbinije, if not for Rak, would be the team's most improved player. He's doing a little bit of everything, and generally, doing it pretty well. Against Clemson he had eleven points, a couple rebounds, a couple assists, and a full 40 minutes on the floor.
  • Trev0r C00ney scored just five points, all from the free throw line. He was shut out in his seven shots, five coming from three. Like in the St. John's game, he was covered tighly the whole game, Clemson deciding they weren't going to let Cooney beat them. That'll happen, and it'll be tough for him to get good looks. So, with bad looks, unless you're having a little luck, you're going to have a day like Trevor had on Saturday.
  • The Syracuse bench scored zero. Granted, that bench was merely Ron Patterson and BJ Johnson, and they only played a combined 13 minutes. But still.
  • Syracuse had seven assists all game. That should tell you just how little was going on with the offense.
  • If that doesn't tell you, here's some more: the Orange shot 36.8% from the field, 13.3% from three (just 2-15),
  • Clemson, on the other hand, shot 45.1% overall, 40% from three, and had a whopping 21 second-chance points.
So, that was the game. When two middling offenses play, but one shoots lights out and the other shoots as if the lights are out, then this is what you see. Time to move on.

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Syracuse - Clemson Preview

Syracuse students agree: Time for some revenge from football season.
Syracuse again somehow squeaked away with a win after Michael Gbinije missed a wide open layup that would have won the game in regulation. The Orange were victorious in the extra period however. Syracuse seemed to have the offense mostly firing well and every time Syracuse was down and needed a basket they were able to get one. That's good. Against Clemson, it should be a bit easier though. Clemson is ranked 14th out of 15 in the ACC in total field goal percentage with 41% from the floor. And in all likelihood that percentage will fall for the Tigers as they will be playing against a zone defense that they are unfamiliar with and ranks 21st in the nation. The only real long range threat is Damarcus Harrison, who hits 39.7% from behind the arc. BJ Johnson, while not a big stud on the offensive end, is very solid at rebounding. Syracuse should force steals, earn rebounds, and get some easy transition buckets that should keep this game comfortable for Syracuse. I like the Orange on the road by 13. This game is today at 4:00pm on the ACC Network / WatchESPN. You can see if you local affiliate has it here, and if you are WatchESPN blacked out here. Both John and I are watching from the home offices. Enjoy as always.

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A career night

It was frigid outside the Dome on Tuesday night (the main reason I didn't trek up to Syracuse), but the action was hot inside the Dome. It was a hard-fought game, which saw seven lead changes, five ties -- including at the end of regulation -- and ended with a total of 169 points scored. Luckily for Syracuse, Rakeem Christmas did his thing, and he did it really well. They say "ball don't lie," and ball was going through the hoop time and time again thanks to Rak. And that happened to be enough for the Orange, as they beat the Demon Deacons 86-83 in overtime.

  • The aforementioned Rakeem Christmas, hands down the most improved player Syracuse has ever seen, had a career night with 35 points on 13-21 from the field and 9-12 from the line. In playing all 45 minutes, Rak fell a rebound short of a double double.
  • Also playing every minute was Trevor Cooney. Cooney found his hot hand as the game progressed, and hit some really difficult shots down the stretch of regulation. In total, Cooney scored 21 on 6-17, including 5-12 from three and 4-6 from the line.
  • Michael Gbinije continued his dual-threat contribution, proving to be a force both driving to the basket and hitting jumpers from outside. His 17 points and eleven rebounds showed great contribution from a player forced to play all over the floor. In large stretches of the game, Gbinije took point guard duties from Kaleb Joseph, who only played 23 minutes.
  • Tyler Roberson's insertion into the starting lineup, replacing injured Chris McCullough, quite frankly resulted in a no-loss situation. While McCullough is the more talented player, his production as of late has been non-existent. So for Tyler to come in, play 44 minutes, score six and grab ten rebounds, well, that's just fine. It was largely mistake-free basketball, and if he could get a few more of his shots to fall (he was only 3-11 in this game), he could be an upgrade over what we were getting from McCullough.
  • ACL injuries suck, and we all feel badly for Chris McCullough. But we've seen it time and again where people with ACL injuries bounce back even stronger, after getting the opportunity to rehab, improve strength and conditioning, and really work on mechanics. These were all things Chris had to do to become an elite player anyway, so while I don't want to call this a blessing in disguise for him, he certainly has the opportunity to turn this negative into a great positive -- for his own sake (eventual NBA draft stock) and hopefully for the Orange in a sophomore season.
  • Wake actually shot better in the game (48.4% to 41.7%), so why did Syracuse win? The Orange limited turnovers (only eight) while taking advantage of Wake's mistakes -- 18 points off 13 turnovers.
As we go forward and play better ACC teams, it'll be interesting to see how the shorter bench effects Syracuse's ability to stay in close games late. The bench -- Ron Patterson & BJ Johnson -- need to capitalize on their minutes instead of having a 3-point contribution like they did on Tuesday night. The Tuesday to Saturday layoff should allow the team to rest from this overtime thriller, and be ready for the game at Clemson.

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Wake Forest - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Late games don't bother us. We'll just skip tomorrow.
Syracuse lost F Christ McCullough to a season ending ACL injury on Sunday. Which means Syracuse's bench options are even smaller, and one is now a starter. That man is Tyler Roberson. If he can continue to rebound and add even a small amount of offense, Syracuse should be in decent shape. Syracuse, with a short bench, must get foul free minutes from Christmas. He has been much smarter as of late (minus whatever ridiculous thing the official thought he saw for his 4th on Sunday), and should continue to be rock solid for Syracuse. This game is the weird scenario where instead of looking to run, Syracuse will want to slow the game down and it's opponent will try and push tempo. Kalep Joseph has been excellent at distributing the ball lately, putting to ease my thoughts on SU's ability to run half court offense. This will be a gut check game for Syracuse, but they should have the talent to overcome Wake Forest. SU over the Deacs by 9. This game will be available regionally at 8:00pm, and because there are dual ACC Network games on at 8 tonight, it won't be on TV that much. You can check and see if your local station has the game on here, or the WatchESPN blackout map for the rest of us here. I'll be watching online so I'm sorry for the delay already.

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Boeheim had the same look I did with that 4th Christmas foul.
Trevor Cooney was absolutely on fire. And Christmas continued to do what he does best. Syracuse earned a convincing win in the ACC to stay one of the two unbeaten teams in the league. However it was costly, as Chris McCullough went down with a torn ACL and he is done for the season. Syracsue put away Florida State though, 70 to 57.
  • Cooney had a season and game high 28 points on 9-16 shooting overall and 7-11 from behind the arc. He was also 3-4 on free throws and added 3 steals. He was outstanding. This is the Trevor Cooney we've waited on for a while.
  • Rakeem Christmas had another double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He also had five blocks.
  • Michael Gbinije didn't have the game Cooney had, but he added a respectable 11 points, nine rebounds. and five assists. Another solid day for Silent G.
  • Chris McCullough, it has been found out, has torn his ACL and is done for the year. While he wasn't a real loss in terms of offense, he was a big body that drew defenders and was a body.
  • Syracuse led in all statistical categories, except overall FG%. The highlights were 10-17 (58.8%) from beyond the arc, and only eight turnovers.
Syracuse stays unbeaten with only Virginia in the ACC. The next three games are winable. So let's see if that goes according to plan without McCullough on the floor.

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The Orange::44 Podcast Episode 6

It's back!
We're back with a new episode of The Orange::44 Podcast. John and I preview tonight's FSU contest, talk about the basketball season highs and lows so far, Karl Hess and basketball officiating, Doug Marrone, and more! Listen below or click here to download this or any past episodes. It's Episode 6... and Georgetown still sucks!

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Florida State - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We're finally back on campus!
It was a win, but Syracuse's last game against Georgia Tech was offensive to the eyes. Syracuse won 46-45 in what could only be described as offensive due to lack of offense. But the win is a win and Syracuse has won five in a row and is undefeated in ACC play. Now Syracuse has their Dome opener for the conference as FSU comes in hoping to get a much needed conference victory. Syracuse will need to do the same if they want their March hopes to stay very much alive and off of the dreaded bubble. The game plan for this one is again surprisingly similar to that of Georgia Tech. FSU isn't a good outside shooting team, much like GTech. They will probably get three or four at best. Which means the majority of FSU's points come from the paint. Shooting just 27.5% from beyond the arc, Syracuse should again barely guard the line and instead try and pack the paint with bodies, making it difficult for FSU to score inside, as well as forcing them to take a bunch of 3's they probably won't make. Cooney and Gbinije have been excellent in their last few games, and Christmas has been rock solid, including being COLD BLOODED from the free throw line. However, one other person needs to step up. Literally anyone. Joseph, in 17 minutes on the floor against GTech, managed to not turn the ball over, and dish out assists, but he also had zero points. You can't afford to have a player on the floor and score nothing. Similarly, McCullough was a ghost on Wednesday. He couldn't hit the ocean from a boat for most of that game. Syracuse missed a ton of layups in the contest, and I don't expect that to continue to be the case, but wow. If Christmas catches the ball a little closer to the basket than he managed to at GTech he should go nuts in the Dome today. If anyone else (McCullough, Joseph, Patterson, Roberson) manages to score some buckets, I think Syracuse can stay ahead on this one as well. I'll take the Orange by 6. This game is available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 8:00pm. John will be on campus. I'll be in the home office. Stay tuned later today for a rare Orange::44 Podcast!

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On Karl Hess and Basketball Officiating

Karl Hess won't be paroling the court for the ACC the rest of the season.
News came down today that the ACC has cut ties with NCAA Basketball referee Karl Hess. Hess has been widely known to anyone that is a frequent viewer of top flight college basketball for many years. He is notorious, infamous, and anything but popular. But there are several layers to his no longer working that need to be further explored.
First, I am not a basketball referee. I am a sports official however. If you follow me regularly you have probably seen me tweeting about officiating during NCAA Football games. I am a high school football, lacrosse, and baseball official in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is one of the few states that uses NCAA Football rules for all high school contests, which is why I am so familiar with those rules. I've done varsity games for all three sports, and I've been doing it for more than a few years, so I'd like to think at this point I know a lot about the mindset of officials and what it takes to be an official at a high level. It is with that background that I come at this analysis.
The problem is why Karl Hess was removed from his position though. Most news outlets are reporting that it was due to a comment he made at a the Wake Forest - Louisville game, quoted below.
Karl Hess to me at the Wake-Louisville game tonight..."When I'm older, I want to sit in your seat & watch your Egyptian ass ref a game" #Wow — Mit Shah (@MitShahNoble) January 5, 2015
Now, Hess himself said that this was meant to be taken as a joke. I'm not going to try and parse if that was or wasn't a joke. Giving Hess the benefit, I'll say that it was meant to be taken as a joke. Even if that was the case, the ACC did the correct thing and remove him because even without any malice behind that statement, you just can't say those kinds of things today.

There was also one report that stated it was due to the technical foul he issued to Mark Gottfried with 15:58 on the clock in the first half on December 14th. This was the first NC State game for Hess in about three years, since the widely known incident where he threw out two famous NC State alums and was reprimanded by the ACC for doing so. This latest technical was reportedly (and I have no doubt this is true) after being told by his supervisor to take it easy in the game. This makes absolute sense to me that his assigner would remind him to go easy considering the last time he was there was the Gugliotta and Corchiani incident. But within the first five minutes of the game he issued a technical foul. If anything, this should have been the reason to end his relationship with the conference. It's problematic it had to be the other reason.

It goes back to my point I've held all season that there is simply not enough accountability for the officials that most directly impact a game far more than any other sport. Officiating basketball is the hardest job an official can have. It is a fast game, and a lot of judgment needs to be used. It's a lot harder to judge a block versus a charge than say a false start or a block in the back in a football game. But this is an official that has repeatedly had issues on the court, not only for the calls he has made in terms of basketball fouls, but the overall spectacle that his officiating has become.

No one should know who Karl Hess is. The only reason you should even know an official's name is because they are respected by their peers and coaches. If you do know their name, chances are it's because they've blown one and it cost your team a game. Now, I say that with a grain of salt, knowing full well that 99.99999999% of the time one call does not a game make, correct or not. 100% of the time a call is made in good faith. I hate to break it to you, but I don't think Karl Hess or any of his fellow officials care of Michigan State beats Iowa, etc., etc., etc. There is no grand conspiracy. There is no betting. There is no malice. Those that think there is are genuinely dumb and probably should give up on watching all sports completely and just watch the WWE instead. (That all goes double for me reffing your kid's JV lacrosse game) But the fact that Karl Hess has become such a figure in popular culture among basketball fans, and even has the nickname "King Karl", should tell you just how much of a problem his officiating has become. If one referee blows a call, even a HUGE call, yes it will still follow them, but they don't draw the ire or notoriety that Karl Hess has attained over the last several years. And a completely unbiased look at it (or even a biased look shading on the side that the officials are correct a vast majority more than they are wrong [which is true]) would even show that Karl Hess is not as good of an official as his resume would let on. Otherwise you would have no idea who he is and there wouldn't be Grantland articles written about him.

And the worst part is, if you look overall, his (for lack of a better term) success rate is probably lower than a decent chunk of his partners, and possibly even more than some talented officials working D2 or 3 looking to move up. When you can fill out a Top Ten list of controversial moments in your officiating career, all of which are from 2012 on, you have some problems. Especially Hess was one of the officials selected to do the Final Four after the Gugliotta and Corchiani incident in 2013.

My point is, it isn't some off handed joke that contained a racial remark that should have done Hess in. It should have been the quick T or any other on court mistakes. Officials are meant to administer the game, make sure it advances as scheduled, in a orderly manner and so that it is fair to all participants. Part of that is knowing and enforcing the rules. Part of that is being in the best position to make calls. Part of that is judgement and interpreting what you see at lightening speed, deciding, and reacting to it accordingly. No where in any of that criteria is issuing technical fouls because you don't like a coach who hasn't seen you in three years because you messed it up three years ago. There are very clear guidelines and interpretations for what should and should not be a technical. I can't imagine would could happen in a game that early that could earn a technical foul that quickly. In 2012, after the NC State incident and being officially reprimanded by the ACC, he worked seven more ACC Conference games, 12 games in other conferences (mostly Big East/SEC), three Big East Tournament games, three NCAA Tournament games (including an Elite 8) and an NIT game. That is the definition of zero accountability. Even if after that reprimand he didn't work ACC games, that's still a ton of other games he could do, not to mention just picking up other smaller leagues instead of ACC games. And after all that, he got postseason assignments. It seems only when alleged racial comments are made, will other leagues go to bat with the first league that decides to freeze a guy out.

People often say "I didn't pay to see you officiate". That's right. You came to see a game. Officials are just part of it. Sometimes I think that notion is lost on some of the guys at the very top of the officiating pyramid. Both top officials, and their supervisors. I'll never rag on an official for being highly demonstrative when making a call. That theater is part of selling the call, a necessary and valuable part of any official's game. But it's when you start letting the little things bug you, that's when you need to know it's time to hang it up. Hess either was never that think skinned to begin with, or his ego got the better of him. People slip. Just ask Jim Burr (although he literally walked off the court during the BET with time on the clock and only had to sit out the rest of that postseason and picked right back up in the Big East the following season [again, where is the accountability?]). Knowing when to hang it up is just as important a call for an official as the goaltending call in the National Championship. It seems Hess may have missed that chance.

While I am certain that Karl Hess was once a good Division 1 basketball official at some point, it is clear that he should not be working the games he is working. He either should have been assigned less high profile games, less games total, or gotten assignments with non-Power 5 conferences instead. The worst part is, I don't have too many suggestions for how to make the system better anyway, other than the league assigners taking a serious soul searching and telling colleagues and friends that they are doing things on the court that shouldn't be done and assigning less games or more training accordingly. While the ACC, and now the American Athletic Conference has stated that Hess will no longer referee games for them, the Big East is conducting its own investigation before they make a determination. The Supervisor of Officials for the Big East is former Big East official John Cahill. He's known Hess for a number of years and worked with him plenty. I actually do have complete faith that Cahill won't employ him either. But the problem is most of the people that become supervisors are then supervising their friends and former colleagues. Therefore, they are very resistant to do anything but say "hey you missed one" when in actuality Hess probably should have faced a suspension a while ago, instead of just not doing the ACC Tournament (which he ended up doing the Big East Tournament so who cares if you're him anyway?) Just another part of the structure of college basketball officiating that has a built in flaw. But again, what is the solution? How can one man or office, like the NCAA, review, evaluate, and promote, demote, or suspend officials with any sort of efficiency or competency? That is why the conference supervisors are given the autonomy. So can basketball officiating be fixed? With 32 conference supervisors filling their games with a nationwide pool of officials, and officials not restricted to only working 1 or 2 conferences, people can just float along getting as many games as they want essentially without any checks other than someone watching game film and saying good call or bad call.

We all love college basketball. And sadly Hess meets a tragic end. I'm sure he may work again. None of the articles or comments I've seen have made it clear if the ACC is done employing Hess forever or just for the remainder of this season. Or if the American or other leagues will do the same. But one thing is clear, Hess was long overdue for some sort of discipline from the ACC. Maybe if some better system was in place it wouldn't have even gotten to where it is now.

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Soft serve, with googly eyes and a smile

Wednesday night, Syracuse traveled to Georgia Tech for its first ACC game in Atlanta. The two talking points about the Yellow Jackets were that although they were a good rebounding team, they were the worst three-point shooting team in the country. Like, 345 out of 345. So, something like that plays right into a team that plays the 2-3 zone -- Syracuse wouldn't have to worry too much about guarding the outside shooters, because even if they made a couple, there's no way GTech would be able to get hot enough to make 3s a difference. And, well, whatever it was, Syracuse came out on top, 46-45.

  • Very clearly, without Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse loses this game. Badly. Which is an awful thing to say when the final score is 46-45. Rak had a game-high 18 points on 7-17 shooting, but a very clutch 4-4 from the line, including the clincher. Tyler Ennis's ice from last year ended up at Absolute Zero in Rak's veins Wednesday night.
  • Playing all 40 inutes, Rak also had eight rebounds, a couple blocks and a couple steals, Unfortunately he also turned the ball over four times. So, nobody's perfect. But without him, Syracuse loses. For sure.
  • While Rak is the rock of this team (sorry, everyone else has said it so don't give me that look), the play of Michael Gbinije has been anything except craptacular since being inserted into the starting lineup. Against the Yellow Jackets, Gbinije scored 14 on 6-11 shooting, including 2-2 from three, along with ten rebounds in 36 minutes on the floor. That was his first double-double of the season, and rumor has it even his first double-double in his career.
  • Trevor Cooney had a pedestrian game, though when viewed in the vacuum of this particular game, you could say he did quite well: nine points on 3-10 from the floor, 2-6 from three, and a couple of nice steals to keep up his active defense reputation.
  • "Hey Coach, talk about Chris McCullough." When the answer to that "question" is how he wishes McCullough would play bad, because bad would be a step up from where he is now, well, you know where McCullough is on the spectrum. Three points and four rebounds seems to exaggerate his contribution in this game. Derp.
  • On the other side of the ball, Georgia Tech had one really good player -- Charles Mitchell -- while the rest of the team was, well, there. Mitchell put up 17 points, while the rest of the team scored a combined 28. 
  • In total, GTech shot 26.3% from the floor -- and usually, when you shoot that bad, you're not winning. An Orange effort of 34.6% -- which usually would have fallen into that same category -- proved to be enough for the win.
  • Looking at more team stats, this is one of those games that reminds you of drinking a crappy beer like, say, a Miller Lite: it's cheap, gives you no satisfaction, has the mouthfeel of watered-down skunk urine, but in the end can get the job done. Syracuse only had nine fast-break points, nine points off turnovers, and ten second-chance points. Georgia Tech had six fast-break points, and managed 22 points in the paint.
  • I don't wanna talk about this anymore.
Think back. Most of you have been Syracuse basketball fans for a long time. You've probably said "A win is a win" dozens of times during that fandom. But was it ever more appropriate than Wednesday night? With the recent strides this Orange team has made in not only its offense, but its cohesiveness in playing as a team (the second half of the VTech game excluded), it was somewhat surprising to see the Syracuse effort (or lack thereof) on Wednesday. If we're lucky, we can just attribute it to "playing down to your competition," though that's not entirely true because this Yellow Jacket team just took a fantastic Notre Dame team into double overtime over the weekend. So, who knows?

You'll notice the four words above in bold. I decided to try a little bit of an interactive recap for this game (since I was dreading writing it), so I reached out to twitter, asking for people to submit one word for me to work into my recap. Those bolded words above were submitted. We might not work that into all of our recaps, but keep an eye on my twitter for requests, and you might be able to help contribute to the daily disaster that is Syracuse athletics.

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Syracuse - Georgia Tech Preview

Syracuse students agree: One more win over Winter Break would be nice.
Syracuse baaaaaaarely beat VTech on Saturday. But they won. Which is more that can be said about that Villanova boondoggle. But now they have to stay on the road and play Georgia Tech. A team that took a very good Notre Dame team to the wire and then a couple overtimes before losing. That is because they are a very good rebounding team. They outrebounded Notre Dame 46 to 31. If Syracuse can keep the rebounding close it will put them in good shape. More specifically, if Syracuse can actually box out for once and keep GTech from easy put backs Syracuse should soar. That's because GTech is the worst three point shooting team in the nation. Worse than Syracuse. 345 out of 345 for Division 1. 29% of 3s are going in. And overall, they only shoot 42.7% from the floor. If Syracuse can get any offense together in this game they should win it. And the big X Factor as always is if Rakeem Christmas can stay out of foul trouble. If he doesn't all bets are off. That means offense needs to come from Cooney, Gbinije, and preferably one other player like Patterson, Roberson, or McCullough. The latter three haven't done much lately so it would be nice if one would catch fire in this one unexpectedly. But I think Syracuse does keep the rebounding close and the 2-3 Zone will be enough of an advantage to keep SU on top. With GTech unable to really score 3s, that will allow Boeheim and the team to pack the paint a little more, not having to worry about guarding the line so closely. It will also goat GTech into shooting more 3s they can't make, giving SU more of a rebounding chance. I think the defense will carry SU though and the offense will do just enough to win. Syracuse by seven. This game is available nationally on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. If it's Syracuse Basketball, it's on ESPN U. Never Graduate.

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Syracuse's best player continues to be Rakeem Christmas.
It was questionable there for a little while, but Syracuse managed to hold on. It might have helped that VTech's best rebounder was out of the game. But either way, despite what happened at Villanova fresh in all our minds, Syracuse hung on to win 68 to 66.
  • Trevor Cooney was the leading scorer for Syracuse with 18. He hit 4-13 from long range and 5-21 total. He was also 2-5 from the line. Not great numbers except the 18 points. He was also in all 40 minutes.
  • Rakeem Christmas had 17 points on 6-12 scoring, and was also 5-6 from the free throw line. He also had nine rebounds, three blocks, and only three fouls. Happy is learning how to putt.
  • Michael Gbinije had 10 points and was 2-3 from beyond the arc. He, unfortunately, had three turnovers, tying the lead for the team.
  • Kaleb Joseph had a bad game. He had two points, both coming on free throws. He had three assists and only one turnover however. He also had four fouls and only played 17 minutes.
  • Where have you gone, Chris McCullough? He did have seven rebounds and three blocks though.
  • Ron Patterson took a few really bad shots. He had eight points but was 0-4 from long range. He was also 2-6 from the free throw line, missing two at the end of the game. Both would have iced it.
  • Below is the final two minutes of the game. Out of 15 free throw attempts by Syracuse in the final two minutes, only six were made. Aside from the first one missed by Gbinije, all were two attempts. Aside from the first attempt and the last two, each player made one and missed one. Ron Patterson again missed the final two. The nine points left at the line would have easily put the game out of reach, even if VTech hit two more three point buckets.
  • Syracuse shot 39% from the floor. Just slightly worse than VTech's 39.3%.
  • Syracuse made 6-21 (28.6%) long range baskets. VTech was 10-25 (40%)
  • SU had 15 assists on 23 field goals made. Not too shabby. Syracuse also finished with only eight turnovers. I'm guessing that is a season low.
  • Syracuse outrebounded VTech 42-34. VTech's best rebounder being out probably helped make that cavern wider than it would have been otherwise.
Syracuse now stays on the road to play a plucky GTech team that took Notre Dame to a couple overtimes before losing. Another good test for the Orange in this early part of the ACC slate. All critical games for the Orange's postseason hopes as well.

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Syracuse - Virginia Tech Preview

Syracuse students agree: The first road game can be tricky.
Syracuse begins their second season of ACC play. And we see an old friend in Buzz Williams, who left a pretty good job at Marquette to helm the Hokies. VTech has had a pretty good non-conference slate in terms of offense. They are 4th in the league with a 49% success rate on field goals. Which means the SU defense can only bend and not break in this game, as points will be at a premium for the Orange, especially of Rakeem Christmas gets in foul trouble. However, Syracuse should have a rebounding advantage on the glass at both ends. VTech's leading rebounder, Joey van Zegeren, has been suspended for the game. The one thing Syracuse has really struggled with this year is boxing out around the basket. This should help. Syracuse needs points and Syracuse should get a lot of second chance points. Look for Michael Gbinije to heat it up again. Cooney will add a few big plays, but this will be Christmas' game to dominate. I like the Orange by 11. This game will be available regionally tomorrow at Noon. Check your local listings here. If it isn't on TV, the game will be on WatchESPN (subject to blackout). The ACC begins now.

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2014-2015 ACC Basketball Preview

As I promised on my season preview back in November, here is our official conference preview for 2014-2015. Oddly enough, for reasons probably easily Googleable but I'm too lazy for, four ACC teams have already played conference games (prior to Christmas). But let's be honest: the true conference schedule is starting now.

The conference has had a decent start to the season. As of the final 2014 polls, the league boasts five top-25 teams (Duke, Virginia, Louisville, Notre Dame, and North Carolina); two unbeaten teams (Duke and Virginia); and all teams over .500. In the ACC/B1G Challenge, however, the ACC didn't find things easy, walking away with an unfortunate 6-8 record.

The conference is slightly different than last year, and in my opinion, for the better. Out is Maryland; in is Louisville. In a league rich in basketball history, and known for outstanding coaches, the addition of the Cardinals is a perfect fit (especially since geography means nothing in college alignment anymore). As you may recall, Louisville won the NCAA Championship in 2013, and annually is one of the nation's best teams.

This conference preview will present the conference opponents in the order they face Syracuse, and will recap what each school has done to this point in the season, and what to look for from that team in conference play.

Virginia Tech
Season Thus Far: The Hokies are 8-5 through the non-conference schedule. They played a pretty unremarkable slate, and certainly struggled. Its only ranked opponent, West Virginia, blew them out 82-51 on December 30. But VT's worst loss has to be the 65-63 loss to Appalachian State, which was a home game for the Hokies.
What to Look For: Things won't get easier for the Hokies in-conference. Instead of local cupcakes, they'll be facing conference powerhouses. While Virginia Tech is shooting the ball well (49%), that's basically the only good stat of note. With tough games at UNC, Virginia, and Louisville (among others), the Hokies will have to play strong at home, and probably get some road upsets, to compete in this year's ACC.

Georgia Tech
Season Thus Far The Yellow Jackets enter conference play sitting at 9-3. Their losses are to Marquette (in the Orlando Classic), South Carolina Upstate (at home), and at Dayton (and who am I to say a loss to Dayton is a bad loss?). That Upstate loss is the only one that looks real bad. Notable wins to date include Georgia, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt. GT is a good rebounding team, averaging 39.5 per game, but can have trouble scoring or creating offense.
What to Look For: The road schedule for the Yellow Jackets is particularly tough, with games against currently-ranked teams Notre Dame, Virginia, Duke, and UNC. I think most of the ACC will be able to dominate Georgia Tech, particularly offensively, so look for the Yellow Jackets to be a bottom-feeder.

Florida State
Season Thus Far: Heading into the New Year, Florida State is 8-5 overall and 0-1 in the ACC. They lost a game at Notre Dame back on December 13, 83-63. They also face Mississippi State on January 2 before settling into the conference schedule. While the Seminoles can shoot the ball (47.7% so far), the defense is giving up 68.2 points per game, making the games really close no matter which way they go.
What to Look For: While many people expected the Seminoles to compete at the same level as they did last year, that just hasn't seemed to been the case thus far. If they can clamp down on defense and play with less mistakes, this could be a team that could make some moves. Otherwise, it'll have to rely on the other team tipping the ball into their basket for the win, like Florida just did, if they're going to win a lot of games.

Wake Forest
Season Thus Far: The Deacon Demons are another team already having played a conference game, and sits at 8-6 overall, 0-1 in the conference. The ACC tilt was a loss at NCState on December 6. Wake lacks a premiere win thus far, and played quite a middling schedule so far, with only three other power conference games outside the NCState game (losses to Arkansas, Minnesota, and Florida). Freshman guard Mitchell Wilbekin suffered a 3-game suspension for the dreaded "undisclosed NCAA violation" but returned for the December 31 win against Princeton.
What to Look For: Though my gut says not to expect much out of Wake, I don't really know if the season thus far has shown us what to expect out of this team for the conference schedule. The calendar seems to be both front- and back-loaded with tough teams, with the more likely winnable games sandwiched in between. I call the Demon Deacons to be my wildcard team -- they could surprise, or they could disappoint.

Clemson
Season Thus Far: Tigers basketball will forever be the little brother to the football team, and its 8-4 record going into conference play demonstrates that. But this team is battle-tested: five games against power conference schools translated into four victories, notably an overtime win against Arkansas.
What to Look For: If Demarcus Harrison can shoot lights out, Clemson can be a tough team to beat. But the Tigers face a gauntlet to start the ACC season, with games against UNC, at Louisville, at Pitt, and at Virginia. It's entirely possible they lose those first four games (they then host Syracuse), and lose any momentum they had. That's my guess, and I think that will be a hole too deep for the Tigers to dig out of to salvage the conference season.

Boston College
Season Thus Far: At 7-4, Boston College is pretty much where you'd expect them to be. Their four losses were against UMass, West Virginia, Dayton, and Southern California. Notable wins are against New Mexico and Providence.
What to Look For: BC has a penchant for playing teams tough, so you never want to sleep on the Eagles. Then again, you never want to go all in on them either. They get the honor of opening ACC play at Cameron Indoor against Duke, so, there's that. Hey also host their neighbors to the north - Harvard - in a non-conference game on January 14. You know, to break up the monotony of the ACC. The Eagles will be a middle of the pack ACC team, with probably one or two good upsets to their resume.

Miami
Season Thus Far: The U is 10-3. Two of those wins were against the Charlotte 49ers, in games played November 23 and 25. That's a thing? Anyway, the Hurricanes have losses to Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky, and Providence. They do have two particularly nice wins, against Florida and against Illinois. The Miami defense is good, holding opponents to 59.7 points per game.
What to Look For: Given that stat, I'd say if you want to prevent that 10-3 trend from continuing, you might want to shoot well, have efficient offensive possessions, and limit your mistakes. Otherwise, this could be an upper-middle class team this season.

North Carolina
Season Thus Far: The Tar Heels sit at 10-3 and a #19 ranking heading into conference play. I feel like a lot of people weren't too high on them heading into the season, and they've proven their worth. Playing one of the hardest non-conference schedules I've seen, UNC beat UCLA, Florida, and Ohio State, and lost to Butler and Kentucky. Battle-tested? For sure!
What to Look For: Roy Williams always has a way of getting the best out of his players, and we've seen just that this season. The Tar Heels will be a tough game, no matter who or where they play. Schedule-wise, they get to play most of the tougher games at the Dean Dome, including the annual final game against Duke. Look for UNC to compete for the ACC title.

Pittsburgh
Season Thus Far: The Pitt Panthers are a respectable 10-3 through the non-conference. Marquee wins over St. Bonaventure and Florida Gulf Coast University highlight their schedule (just had to note that, since my brother and sister are alumni of those schools respectively). Pitt lacks a big win, and they lost to Hawaii, San Diego State, and Indiana, so you wonder whether the 10-3 record is deceiving. 
What to Look For: Pitt's going to struggle through the ACC. Looking at their resume, players, and stats thus far, nothing really jumps off the page. They'll always play tough at home, but that won't be enough to put the Panthers at the head of the class in the ACC.

Duke
Season Thus Far: Unblemished at 12-0, the Blue Devils have lived up to their #2 ranking. They rank near the top in several offensive categories, with 85.3 points per game, while shooting 52.5% from the field. This team is all about the gas petal, as teams like Michigan State, UConn, and Stanford have learned.
What to Look For: Duke will dominate. They're probably a more complete team than last year, returning key veterans Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Marshall Plumlee, while welcoming potential rookie of the year Jahlil Okafor. I'd be real surprised if Duke isn't a #1 or #2 seed in the ACC tournament.

Louisville
Season Thus Far: Our old friend, the Louisville Cardinals, come into their first ACC game with a 12-1 record and a #5 ranking. And that one loss was to #1 Kentucky. So, surprise, Louisville is really good. Hell, they're halfway to a Big Ten title, having beaten Minnesota, Ohio State, and Indiana. The story with the Cards is defense. National rankings: 8th in points allowed at 54.2ppg; 7th in blocks at 6.6 per game; and 5th in steals at 10.8 per game.
What to Look For: While the Cards struggled at times against Kentucky, they also showed toughness in clawing back a few times. This is a team that knows how to play at a high level, and knows how to win. They'll make waves in the ACC, and should challenge Duke for the title.

Notre Dame
Season Thus Far: What many have dubbed a surprisingly good team this season, the Irish sit at 13-1 (1-0 in ACC) along with a #14 ranking.The sole loss was a 1-point loss at Mohegan Sun against Providence, so just chalk that up to an old Big East showdown basically in the Friars' backyard. The Irish have a great offense: 1st in the nation shooting 55.4%, and 3rd in the nation at 86.1 points per game.
What to Look For: Notre Dame needs a few good tests, and we'll see if that offense can really put up this kind of production.We should have a pretty good idea of that after they play at UNC January 5 (Big Monday) and host Virginia on January 10. A split of those games will go a long way to positioning the Irish for a deep ACC run. 

Virginia
Season Thus Far: The #3 Cavaliers are a perfect 12-0 heading into the ACC. They're good. I can't way they've really been tested, but they're holding opponents to 48.3 points per game -- including 26 from Rutgers, and 27 by Harvard.
What to Look For: While they're not exactly tested, they are a good team. A good home schedule should allow them to stay near the top, both in the conference standings and in the national rankings.

North Carolina State
Season Thus Far: The Wolfpack is 10-4 (1-0 ACC), having a victory over Wake on December 6. Including a December 14 loss against Wofford, NCState is 2-3 since that date. Not a good time to be struggling, what with a gauntlet of Virginia, Duke, and UNC in a one-week period beginning January 7.
What to Look For: This just won't be a good year for the Wolfpack. They'll probably score a few upsets if their shooters happen to be hot in a game, but otherwise NCState is a lower-middle class team in the league.

And there you have it. I'd do one of these for Syracuse, but, you know the season thus far and you know what to look for. The Orange have been improving, and with a very favorable start to the conference, if they don't take advantage, it'll be a tough season. But I don't expect that to happen.

First up for Syracuse: this Saturday at Virginia Tech. Keep it here for the usual preview.

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