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Syracuse - Duke Preview

 Syracuse students agree: Syracuse just needs to try.
Another trip to Durham. The last one ended so well. Legendary I would say. CJ Fair was called for an offensive foul (STILL NO), Jim Boeheim reacted accordingly, and was thrown out for the first time in his career. This was after the legendary OT game in the Dome earlier. This year, Syracuse played hard and had a halftime lead, but Duke ended up winning in the Dome by eight only a couple weeks ago. The prime matchup in the game is the Centers again. Rakeem Christmas versus Jahlil Okafor. Okafor earned 23 in the first match and Christmas only had 11. The big players in the game for Syracuse were Gbinije and Roberson of all people. I'm sure Duke will do the same strategy and double and triple Christmas. Gbinije should have another good outing. Cooney had a quiet 11 in the first game and I think Syracuse will have another game about the same. It will be close, especially at the half, but unless Duke slumps and Syracuse keeps scoring, it will end up about the same. Duke over the Orange by 9. Beat the spread! John is actually in Cameron for this affair so look for special updates from him tonight. As for me, I'm off the grid for this one and will be catching up on DVR later. Enjoy. Another upset would be fantastic. Especially for John's sake.

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This is calmer than I would have been at that 5th Christmas foul.
Well I didn't think they would do it. After beating #12 but then losing to Pittsburgh at home I didn't think that Syracuse could go on the road and beat #9 Notre Dame. But they did. Trevor Cooney hit some unbelievable shots, and BJ Johnson came off the bench and had a day! Syracuse beat the Irish 65 to 60.
  • BJ Johnson led all scorers with 19 points on 7-13, 2-6 shooting. He was also 3-3 from the free throw line. Easily his best game of the season and he single-handedly outscored the one player from ND that scored off the bench 19-16.
  • Trevor Cooney didn't have the best night, going 5-11, 1-6, but the shots he hit down the stretch were astounding and clutch and kept Syracuse in the game and allowed them to win it. He finished with 11 points.
  • Rakeem Christmas didn't have the best game, but he did have a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Michael Gbinije also didn't have the best game, but he did add 12 points, five rebounds, and six steals.
  • Ron Patterson earned six points, but had some really dumb plays. Pretty typical Patterson outing.
  • Mike Brey just has no idea how to beat a 2-3 Zone other than shoot over it. And normally ND is great at that, leading the ACC. but they were 3-22 (13.6%) which I have to imagine was a season low.
  • The 5th foul on Christmas was ridiculous. Enough said.
Syracuse earned their 2nd Top 25 win of the year, and beat a top ten team on the road. Pretty good. Syracuse has also beaten Notre Dame six out of the last seven times. Syracuse now has to play Duke in Durham. No tomorrow so Syracuse should keep putting up a good fight. The first game was actually pretty entertaining. But as for this game, beating Notre Dame is always fun, but to beat them as a Top Ten at home, now that's magic.

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Syracuse - Notre Dame Preview

Syracuse students agree: Mike Brey just gets lucky sometimes.
I've never held Mike Brey in much regard. I think he's failed upwards and anytime he's won at Notre Dame it's because he's been a good recruiter and the players do the work, not because he knows much about actually coaching basketball. He's never gotten Notre Dame past the Sweet 16 and he's only been there once since the 2000-2001 season. He's failed to make the NCAA's five times in those years. But he's got another good team this year. Apparently Jerian Grant learned to do school work or something because after being thrown out of school last year, he's back and having a hell of a season this year. Brother to Jerami Grant, he could very well win ACC PoY. He's averaging 17 points. Pat Connaughton is a pretty good low post player, but he got demolished last year against Syracuse. I'm not sure he'll be able to handle Christmas this year. But the Notre Dame offence is way more equipped than Syracuse. They have only lost in the ACC to Virginia and Duke at Duke after beating them at home, and on loss to Pitt in which they probably just took the night off. Notre Dame makes and takes the most three point buckets in the ACC. Unless they have a very off night, that's mostly what they'll do tonight, and seeing as Brey isn't creative enough to beat the zone any other way, that's what they will do. And they'll probably make a bunch. It's not rocket science, but then again Mike Brey couldn't do rocket science. He'll just send his shooters out there to shoot and they make a bunch and that will be enough to get past this Syracuse squad. Especially with Cooney being injured / in a slump / not great at basketball. You decide which applies. The Irish over the Orange by 14. This game is available on the ACC Network tonight at 8:00pm. But it isn't available most places. Check your list of stations here. For those not on the list, you'll be watching over the internet like me with horrible delays on WatchESPN. Blackout map here. Enjoy! Or you probably won't.

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Yeah, we all saw it Jim.
Pittsburgh came to town. Syracuse was fresh off their upset of Louisville. Syracuse only lost by six at Pittsburgh, so Syracuse had a shot in the Dome. Unfortunately Pittsburgh outlasted Syracuse by four points, 65-61.
  • Rakeem Christmas got back to his scoring ways, with Pittsburgh unable to contain him even with double teams. He was 8-14 shooting and 4-8 from the line. He finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks. He also didn't have a foul in the first half.
  • Michael Gbiinje had a pretty good game, earning 12 points on 3-8 shooting, but he was 6-8 from the line. He also had seven rebounds and six assists.
  • Syracuse's bench actually outscored Pitt's. Johnson and Patterson combined for 20 points. Pitt's bench only had 19. That's something.
  • Trevor Cooney's back maybe was hurting, but despite being a good defender he was a zero on offense in this game, which was probably the difference in who won and lost. He was 0-5, 0-4 on shooting.
  • Syracus was able to limit Sheldon Jeter to only six points. He torched SU in the Pete in the earlier game.
  • The probably with Pittsburgh is they can box out more, but despite one play where Syracuse had six missed shots and six offensive rebounds, Syracuse actually outrebounded Pitt 35 to 22. However, Syracuse was unable to convert that to more points for them and less for Pittsburgh.
  • We all saw there was questionable officiating down the stretch of this game. Starting with an illegal screen called on Christmas about 35 feet from the basket. Both teams made about 30 screens in the game and about the same way, but they weren't determined to be illegal by Referee Tim Nestor. Roger Ayers, who is usually a pretty good official, and who Syracuse had seen four other times this year (tied for most with 5), missed about five extra steps for Pittsburgh late in the game, and maybe a foot on the line. Missing travels that blatant is inexcusable for a Division 1, major conference official.
Syracuse now plays on, trying to take on Notre Dame in South Bend. That will go smashing I'm sure. Either way, it will be fun to see Christmas try and spoil a seed for the Irish.

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Pittsburgh - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Beating Pitt in the Dome is niiiiiiice.
Here we are again. This time Pittsburgh makes the six hour (they probably didn't drive) trip to the Dome to take on the Orange, fresh off their biggest win of the season against #12 Louisville. Gbinije has been outstanding and will probably continue to be. Two factors will play into whether Syracuse prevails or not. If Syracuse can stop Sheldon Jeter, who tore Syracuse up in the Pete, and if Cooney can contribute. Syracuse had enough going on that even though Cooney was laying duds all night on Wednesday against Louisville they could still prevail. Not the case tonight strangely enough. Pitt has two many weapons and shoots the three better than Louisville for that to happen. So Syracuse needs a strong performance from Cooney and/or anyone else. Because even though Christmas and Gbinije each had a game high 23 against Pitt, it wasn't enough. Cooney only added 12 and Syracuse lost by six. Not to mention the fact that Jamel Artis is a stud when he gets close to the basket. Defense is the key to this game. If Syracuse plays good defense and they do just what they have been doing on offense, like how the defense played against Louisville, they have a shot. Again, the difference being Pitt is a much better perimeter shooter. So we'll see how that plays out. Either way, I like Syracuse's chances all things considered, only because this game is in the Dome. The real difference the last game was it was in the Pete. Not the case tonight. I think Pitt misses some of those makes they had down the stretch in the last game, as well as the fact that Syracuse is playing much better defense now, even though the Pitt game wasn't that long ago. Something has changed and the young kids are understanding the 2-3 better and rotating more. So if the hands are up on shooters and they aren't fooled by collapsing too much to the paint when a Pitt player has it inside, Syracuse has a good chance in this game. I'm picking the Orange at home by five. This game is available regionally on the ACC Network at 12:00pm. The list if affiliates is here. If you can't see it on TV, WatchESPN is available. Check the blackout map here. John will be in the Dome. I'm in the home office. Let's do this. Shit on Pitt!

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One of many for Rak

A lot of the talk among Orange fans since the self-imposed postseason ban was announced has centered around the need for Syracuse to pick up a marquee win -- a win over a ranked opponent. Obviously, a win last Saturday with Duke visiting the Dome would have undoubtedly fit the bill. Unfortunately, as we all know, that effort fell short. So, the next opportunity was Wednesday night, with Rick Pitino's 10th-ranked Louisville Cardinals coming to town. While the Cards held a halftime lead, the Syracuse defense clamped down in the second half, and Rakeem Christmas simply took over, and led Syracuse to a 69-59 victory.

  • The aforementioned Rakeem Christmas not only led his team to the marquee win it was looking for, but had probably the marquee game of his career. The way he just dominated in the second half, after having been used and abused by several big men down low over the last several games, was simply stunning. And he has the stat line to back it up: 9-10 from the floor and 11-13 from the foul line for 29 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks.
  • Michael Gbinije had another great game we've come to expect from him at this point: 5-10 (including 3-6 from three) for 18 points, which also includes an impressive 5-6 from the foul line. That improvement alone is worth a gold star. Running a large portion of the game from the point, Gbinije also dished out six assists.
  • While Tyler Roberson had another solid game with thirteen points, Trevor Cooney, well, didn't. Boeheim called it possibly his worst shooting performance since he's been here, mainly because most of the shots he missed were wide open. Cooney was 1-10 from the field -- one made three, one missed runner, and eight missed threes. So, not good.
  • How many points from the bench? Why, none, of course. Ron Patterson wasted 12 minutes on the floor. His defense sucks, he can't hit a shot, and he can't penetrate. He's just not ready for big time action.
  • Boeheim credits the stronger defensive effort in the second half, but you can't argue with the better offense as well: 39.29% in the first half, to 57.89% in the second. On the other hand, Louisville was 53.85% in the first, and 32.14% in the second. So, a little bit of column A, a little bit of column B.
  • For as dominating Wayne Blackshear has been for Louisville for so long, here's the game he had against Syracuse: 0 points, 0 rebounds, two turnovers, and a five-foul disqualification in 19 minutes. Thanks for coming.
So this ended up being a great game and a great experience. It was my Dad's first SU basketball game. And it was a great birthday present for me (reminded me of 2006 when Syracuse beat Louisville in the Dome for College Gameday). And now, a couple days off for the team until welcoming Pittsburgh back to the Dome. Hopefully there's no let down.

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Louisville - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: No one should like Rick Pitino.
It's not Valentine's Day, but another foe is heading into the Dome. The Cards come in ranked in the Top 25, looking to stay hello to old friend Syracuse. And Syracuse isn't nearly as good as the past few seasons obviously. Yet, Syracuse does have a chance in this game. Since Syracuse plays 2-3 that means Louisville will have to shoot some buckets over the zone from three. Louisville only shoots 32.2% from long range in ACC play. So if Gbinije still keeps making shots, and he ends up with more than Terry Rozier, chances are Syracuse has a great shot to win. Both Christmas and Montrezl Harrell will be battling down low. They will probably end in a wash. If Louisville shoots below 30% from 3 and Gbinije outscores Rozier, they should win. If not, it won't be good. A nice upset would help the Orange faithful. Not that matters much. But bragging rights go a long way. I think Louisville will be just too much for Syracuse at this point. Louisville over the Orange by 12. Tune in nationally on ESPN / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. I'll be in the home office. John is in the Dome. Let's get crazy.

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It was close, but it came up short.
It was a good college try. Despite the massive home court advantage of a record-tying crowd, it was the Blue Devils that came away with the victory and preserved their top 5 ranking. SU was ahead at the half, but by the end Duke won 80 to 72.
  • Michael Gbinije continues to be a a hero when Rakeem Christmas is being doubled almost every possession. He had 27 points on 10-14, 5-8 shooting. He also had six rebounds and four assists.
  • Tyler Roberson also had a solid day. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Rakeem Christmas had an alright day, earning 11 points six rebounds, five assists, and five blocks.
  • Both Kaleb Joseph and Trevor Cooney had alright days. Cooney had 11 points and Joseph had four, on a combined 6-21, 3-13 day. That did not help.
  • Zero bench points. Moving on.
  • Syracuse actually shot the ball well overall (43.3%), but Duke was better, and they crushed the free throws 19-22 versus 6-13. Syracuse was also outrebounded 42-32.
It was a good effort, but not nearly enough. But I loved they fought and I love they had a halftime lead. Can't ask for too much more in a loss against #4.

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Hey, Lacrosse Season has Started!

The 2015 version of Syracuse Lacrosse looks pretty good
In an effort to, I guess, be considered something more than a Spring Sport, the 2015 lacrosse season actually began on February 7. For Syracuse, that was a 4pm game in the Carrier Dome against Siena. More on that in a minute. Let's first look at some changes to the game itself, and to the 2015 Orange.

Two big rule changes are very obvious to anyone watching a college lacrosse game this season. First is the face-off. In addition to a prohibition against using one's body to initiate contact with the opponent's stick, the face-off specialists will be required to immediately flip the ball up if possession is obtained with the back of the stick. This, of course, will require the player to create space between himself and his opponent in order to execute that move. It also emphasizes the utility of the wing players coming in to assist the face-off players. The other big rule change isn't exactly a change, but it's an improvement in the stall/shot clock rule. Beginning this season with Division I schools having the capabilities (and required beginning next year) a visible 30-second shot clock must be displayed on each end of the field. Instead of the officials utilizing an on-field 20-second system and a hand count for the final ten seconds, players and fans alike will be able to see the shot clock on the field. This was an easy fix for places such as the Carrier Dome, where the shot clocks already are placed for football. You can read about these rule changes here.

Face-offs were a big achilles heel for Syracuse last year. I think the Orange may have found the answer for this year: Ben Williams, transferring in from Holy Cross, won 17-20 draws against Siena, and then 9-22 against Cornell. That slip in productivity is a little concerning, and while nobody figured him to have two dominant games in a row, it was a respectable effort that obviously didn't have bad consequences for the Orange. The other big issue for Syracuse last season was the goalie situation. Bobby Wardwell and Dominic Lamolinara split time, and Coach John Desko seemed undecided on the issue for much of the season. This year, with Lamo graduated, Wardwell is the clear goalie. Having played nearly 37 minutes in a Siena game that was never close, Bobby played all but about three minutes against Cornell. He shined in that Cornell game, with ten saves while only allowing six goals. His numbers weren't quite as good against Siena, but Siena only took 23 shots the entire game.

A little bit more about that Siena game. As I mentioned before, Ben Williams was phenomenal on the face-offs. He also chipped in a goal himself and scooped up eleven ground balls. He's basically my new favorite player. Also scoring goals for the Orange were Kevin Rice (2), Nicky Galasso (3), Hakeem Lecky (1), Dylan Donahue (4), Randy Staats (1), Henry Schoonmaker (1), Tim Barber (1), Derek DeJoe (1), Ryan Simmons (2), Nick Weston (1), JT Forkin (2), and Joe Gillis (1). That's 13 players scoring 21 goals. Giddyup! Syracuse beats Siena 21-7.

You knew the February 15 game against Cornell wouldn't be a blowout like against Siena, as the Big Red always plays the Orange hard. Maybe it was the cold weather outside (barely reaching zero?), the 8-day layoff for Syracuse, or the season opener for Cornell, but neither team was in the mood for much scoring early in this one. At the end of the first quarter, Syracuse led 1-0. They picked it up in the second, scoring five goals and then six in the third. Cornell tried clawing back, but Syracuse was nearly always able to answer (usually quickly). In fact, Cornell only once had back-to-back goals -- 14:00 in the third on a man-up, and then at 13:41 from the ensuing face-off. Syracuse was just the better team out there, winning 14-6.

We're only two games in, but this has the makings of a great Syracuse lacrosse team. They're well experienced, have great chemistry, and get a lot of people involved in the scoring. The hopeful fixes at the face-off and goalie positions should shore up the issues that made the team vulnerable last year. The schedule makers also smiled upon the Orange, giving them eight home games. The ingredients are there; let's see what they make out of it.

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Duke - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: Everyone wants to beat Duke.
It's here again. Now the biggest game on the Syracuse home schedule. And possibly the entire schedule. We know Syracuse isn't going to phone this in. Syracuse will be laser focused. Everyone knows how good #4 Duke is. Jahlik Okafor versus Rakeem Christmas will be the big battle of the day. Christmas is coming off his worst offensive performance in a long time due to Boston College double/triple teaming him. He's ready to make a statement against Duke. The centers will be a wash most likely, which means whichever team shows up for Syracuse will decide who wins. If the team that beat BC shows up, with Gbinije, Cooney and any 3rd player contributing, SU will very much be in this game. But if Cooney bricks a ton, and Gbinije can't get going, or no one guards the line, SU will lose badly. I think this game will come down to the end, because Syracuse tends to rise to the occasion and overachieves when it comes to big games like this. Syracuse will make a game of it, but come up just short I think. SU could win, but I think it will probably be Duke by 6. This game is available nationally on ESPN / WatchESPN at 6:15. John and I are in the Dome today. Coverage will probably be spotty as usual, but we'll do our best to give you some content direct from the Dome for those of you that aren't making the trip today. Go Orange!

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The hero once again was Silent G.
Because sports media members love a good #Narrative, some people still thought Syracuse might attempt to phone it in for the rest of the season. Well, if anyone still was clinging to that narrative, it was promptly put to bed in Boston Wednesday night. Syracuse dropped the hammer on Boston College and swept the season 70 to 56.
  • Michael Gbinije had a great night shooting 8-11, 2-3 for 21 points. He was also 3-4 on free throws and pulled down seven rebounds, had four assists and four steals. He also had a huge slam and was clearly the best player in the game.
  • Kaleb Joseph had his best game of the season offensively, earning 14 points on 7-7 field goals. He also had four assists and one steal. He also had two excellent, big time dunks.
  • Rakeem Christmas was doubled almost every time he touched the ball. He still managed seven points, ten rebounds, and three blocks.
  • BJ Johnson, where have you been? Although he did take a crazy 12 three point attempts, four did go down. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and two blocks. Shooters gonna shoot.
  • Syracuse finished with a 49.1% on field goals and 39.1% (9-23) on 3s. They were also 9-11 on free throws.
  • BC only attempted a shocking 18 3s and made six. Not enough to come close to winning this game. 
Syracuse had a few questionable incidents of three point defense, but other than that, this was a pretty good offensive effort from Syracuse. Not only was Syracuse scoring, and they were making threes, but they did all this when Rakeem Christmas only had seven points in the game. Syracuse faces the big test of fortitude on Saturday, but this was a nice effort on the road. You have to like the way this team is playing.

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Syracuse - Boston College Preview

Syracuse students agree: SU won the first game. They can do it again.
To save some time, I think the same outcome that happened in the first game in the Dome will Happen again. Syracuse will earn a single digit lead win. And the game plan is simple too. Syracuse needs to limit Olivier Hanlan and GUARD THE THREE POINT LINE. BC couldn't make a bucket inside the arc for most of the game. They had no answer for the 2-3 Zone and looked lost even on set zone offense plays. Because of that, Boston College took 29 3s. And because they made 10, they were in the game. BC will have to make 13 or 14 it they want to beat Syracuse. Syracuse will make it interesting however. Either no one but Christmas will make buckets for long stretches, or some other ridiculous thing. Christmas was in a lot of foul trouble in the first matchup against BC. That shouldn't be the case tonight unless some crazy calls happen. Always possible. But really, Syracuse should handle BC just fine. The 3s will keep BC in the game, but Syracuse should maintain and keep the lead. Syracuse by 8. This game is available nationally on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN. John and I are at the home offices. Should be a fun one. For Boston...

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Syracuse - Pittsburgh Postgame Reactions

Dude doesn't like the Pitt blackout

Consider this the first game in the SIPB Era (Self-Imposed Posteason Ban Era). The popular question was "how would the players respond to having nothing to play for?" But that's not true; they have pride, they have the ability to shake up conference standings/tiebreakers; and of course Rakeem Christmas has draft stock to play for. So for Syracuse on Saturday, the job was still to fight hard and play for a win. For much of the game, they did. But ultimately it was not enough, as the Panthers beat the Orange 83-77.

  • Leading the way for Syracuse offensively was Rakeem Christmas and Michael Gbinije at 23 points each. Rak was 9-13 from the floor, while Mike was 9-14 (including 3-6 from three).
  • Along with those 23 points, Christmas also pulled down 12 rebounds, good for another double-double on the season. The Orange is squeezing every bit of production out of his time on the floor, and in this one it was all 40. A couple quick fouls against Rak in the second half brought him to four, and led to him being less aggressive on defense for the remainder of the game. That, in large part, allowed Pittsburgh to come back, gain the lead, and keep it.
  • Trevor Cooney was the only other double digit scorer for Syracuse, with 12, while having an off night shooting -- 3-12 and 1-7 from three. He was a perfect 5-5 from the line, though, so that's something. He also dished out more assists (five) than the team's point guard (zero).
  • In some ways, this was a tale of two halves: Syracuse shot well in the first half (56.67% to 38.71%) while Pittsburgh had the advantage in the second half (58.62% to 40.91%).
  • Last week's Virginia Tech comeback aside, we're seeing a trend develop on this Syracuse team: between the high minutes played due to the short bench, and players getting in foul trouble, the Orange just aren't the same team down the stretch in games. Less intensity, less aggressiveness. I'm not saying the players are dogging it out there, and I'm not saying the team is losing because of it, but it's a factor that's effecting this team. There's no easy fix to it at this point; they'll have to do the best they can. Or, build insurmountable leads earlier in the game.
Overall this was a pretty good game. Syracuse came out strong, putting to rest any question whether these student-athletes had anything to play for. Pittsburgh has always been a tough place to play, for any visiting team, so good effort out there. Syracuse tries to travel to the snow capital of the world (lately) for Wednesday's game at Boston College, before the big home game on Saturday against Duke.

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Syracuse - Pittsburgh Preview

Syracuse students agree: Winning games is still fun to watch.
Syracuse is basically playing for pride and the desire to win the games left on the schedule. That's enough. The real question is, can Syracuse overachieve and win games they shouldn't be in? That's a question for another day, as they head to Pittsburgh to take on a Panther team that is in a similar station to Syracuse. However, they recently beat a very good Notre Dame team at home,  a game that, by all accounts, they shouldn't have won. So which Pittsburgh and which Syracuse team will show up today? I just don't know. Pittsburgh has like one good player. Not too dissimilar to Syracuse. Frankly I think both teams will play well. Unless someone from either team gets hot, it will be close. And I'm just going to give the edge to Pittsburgh because they are playing at home in the Pete. So I'll say Pittsburgh by three, getting revenge for last year. But we'll always have this. And Syracuse was the first team to win in the Pete. Of course. Anyway, this game is available nationally on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN at 4:00pm. Also at 4 is the season opener for Syracuse Lacrosse, taking on Sienna in the Dome. That game is available locally in New York on TWCS Channel. For everyone, it's on WatchESPN. Enjoy. John is attending the VCU / St. Bonaventure game, so he'll be unavailable for the game today. I'll see you at our usually meeting place however.

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The hero of the game was obviously Gbinije.
Syracuse beat Virginia Tech by 2 points down in Blacksburg to open the ACC Conference season. The result was the same when VTech traveled to the Dome to take on Syracuse. A two point Orange win. Again, down to the wire. Syracuse made some plays and earned the 72 to 70 win over the Hokies.
  • Michael Gbinije tied for the lead points with 18 for Syracuse. Trevor Cooney also had 18. But Gbinije had 6 points in the final 37 seconds to give Syracuse the win. Gbinije was 5-9 from the floor, 2-5 from behind the arc, and 6-10 from the free throw line. He also had seven assists and four steals.
  • Cooney got his 18 on 7-18 shooting, 2-12 from behind the arc. But he hit the 2nd three when it mattered. 
  • Rakeem Christmas finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He also had five blocks, four steals, and was 5-10 from the free throw line. A solid day, and a day where he didn't have to play hero, though he did contribute mightily to the comeback effort.
  • Speaking of comeback, with 5:35 remaining, Syracuse was losing 63-50. Syracuse than caused eight turnovers, while only allowing seven VTech points. SU finished the game on a 22-7 run, winning by two. One of the best comebacks you'll ever see, especially with a team this void of subs and scoring options.
  • SU's bench got ourscored 46-10. Syracuse doesn't really have a bench. Who cares?
  • Syracuse shot just slightly better than VTech in the game, 42.6% to 42.2%. From behind the arc however, Syracuse only shot 19% (4-21), while VTech was 50% (9-18). That shooting from behind the arc kept VTech in the game in the first half, and gave them a big lead in the 2nd half. VTech was 6-6 with 3s to start the 2nd half.
  • Syracuse again struggled at the free throw line, despite Gbinije making the two when he absolutely needed to. And of course, the critical basket for the win.

Syracuse has no hope of making the NCAA Tournament now with the self-imposed postseason ban. John covered that here. But kids still want to win games. And seeing the team fight that hard to beat lowly VTech was good to see. I expect the same amount of effort to continue. This was a good win for fans and the team. And a great comeback for the ages.

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Self-imposed Postseason Ban

Places Syracuse won't be. See also: Greensboro, NC.

Today was an unusually busy afternoon for me. I didn't have time in between cases to check out twitter's typical drivel. I stayed at the office later than usual, returning phone calls, writing emails, consulting with coworkers. So when I finally made it home around 6:25pm and put on the local news, they were just starting the sports segment. "Syracuse men's basketball has self-imposed a postseason ban, amid the ongoing NCAA investigation into the school's self-reported infractions," reported the sports director. I'm not even sure what my initial reaction was -- other than "Why didn't I already know this? I don't actually get my news from... the news."

A quick perusal of twitter got me up to speed pretty quickly. Then I noticed emails in my gmail inbox from Dr. Daryl Gross and Chancellor Kent Syverud. What struck me more than what those emails said, was what those emails didn't say.

The NCAA has a confidentiality clause (come on, a gag order) regarding what institutions under investigation can say about the investigation. The NCAA would argue it's to "protect the integrity of the investigation." Common sense would say it's so that the NCAA can control the message, the public perception, about its own policies and procedures.

From a competition standpoint, collegiate athletics needs a governing body; one to monitor uniformity of the rules for each sport, determine eligibility, administer tournaments, and award championships. And in today's media-heavy society, that governing body needs to market its products, ensure distribution of its profits, etc. So, don't take this article as anti-NCAA, because I believe it has a purpose and needs to exist to continue to make college sports that thing we all love. But the NCAA, as it currently exists, falls well short of my expectations of an effective governing body for collegiate athletics.

The issues, to me, are its investigatory and punishment functions. Being a public defender, I have a pretty intimate familiarity of investigatory and punishment functions of, you know, reality. Of things that really matter: people's lives. With the NCAA, we're talking about sports at the end of the day, not how long a convict spends in prison or how a victim will be compensated. But college sports effects a lot of people: the student-athletes, the coaching staffs, the athletic departments, the facilities staffs, the local economies of the schools' cities, Nike, Under Armour, etc. College sports is some people's realities. And for that reason, the investigation and infliction of punishments within the framework of college sports must have integrity, must have due process, must have fairness.

Not constitutional protections. Not statutory protections. These aren't penal law crimes we're talking about.

We're talking about infractions of rules, policies, and standards of the governing body of collegiate athletics.

I think we're basically at the point right now where the Penn State case has run its course. I won't recount all of that history here; you know it all, and if not, you're currently on the internet and can access it with a quick Google query. But what did the NCAA do to Penn State in light of the Jerry Sandusky tragedy?

When all was said and done, Penn State lost out on a bowl game and scholarships. They're now back in full standing -- full scholarships, full postseason eligibility, restoration of vacated wins. Why? Because the NCAA acted recklessly in determining the school's responsibility in the infractions, imposing its punishments, and Penn State sued the NCAA. And because the NCAA knows it messed up, they had to settle the case. What a precedent!

I'm not saying Penn State didn't deserve punishment, and I'm not saying the settlement is fair or unfair. It all is what it is.

What I'm saying is that the structure of the NCAA allows for circuses like that to happen. Where is the structure and transparency of NCAA investigations? What are the acceptable forms of punishment once an infraction has been proven?

More and more, the NCAA seems like a "make it up as we go along" type of organization. Roger Goodell and the NFL are receiving similar criticism for its unequal treatment of domestic violence and substance abuse violations.

I'm used to things like statutes of limitation, being advised of the specific charges against you, a speedy and public trial, and a clear set of possible sentences based upon the proven crimes. These are basic tenets of the criminal justice system. Why can't the NCAA have a similar system?

Take the case of Syracuse. What we know, for sure, are two things: Syracuse self-reported possible violations of NCAA rules as early as 2007, and Syracuse self-imposed punishment today through this postseason ban. Obviously, schools need to report potential or perceived violations -- and I don't equate this to criminals knocking on the door of the local precinct to turn themselves in and confess to their sins. This is sports. But once that infraction is reported -- by the school itself or through the NCAA initiating something -- the process needs structure and transparency.

The Syracuse investigation dates back to 2007. It has expanded in scope: backwards to the early 2000s in the football and basketball teams, and forward to the Fab Melo & James Southerland issues of 2012. All the while, what has the NCAA been doing? We thought things came to a head when hearings were held in Chicago in October 2014, where coaches, administrators, and other relevant witnesses appeared before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. But we were given no indication of when the NCAA would issue its rulings -- on whether alleged infractions were substantiated and what, if any, punishments the school would received.

And now, with no answers more than three months later, Syracuse University decides to take matters into its own hands.

Now do I believe that's actually the case? No. I think it's the school's response to a threat from the NCAA that without a self-imposed punishment, the NCAA's hand would come down in ways the school would not want to consider. Longer postseason bans? Substantial scholarship losses? Significant reduction of practice time? Vacation of program wins? Including the 2003 National Championship? We've all heard various rumors, and who knows what the NCAA may have threatened. But I can't imagine the school imposes a postseason ban without any direction from the NCAA that such an action would be in the school's interests.

Though I also don't think Syracuse was a longshot (or even out of the discussion) at making the NCAA Tournament -- IT'S FEBRUARY 4, PEOPLE! -- deciding to exclude itself from postseason play this season was a good move for the school. Even with the Penn State settlement as precedent, an NCAA-imposed postseason ban for this season -- or even longer -- would still take time to be settled or adjudicated in court. So by Syracuse taking this action now, in hopes of avoiding worse penalties when the NCAA finally decides to make public its decision, it allows for the possibility of more clarity on how the school moves on from these infractions.

A school -- which, let's remember, is a MEMBER INSTITUTION OF THE NCAA -- should not be left in the dark for nine years. It should not be subject to an investigation which continues to expand in scope without resolution of the initial allegations. It should not be held mute to discuss the process. It should not be denied the opportunity to defend itself to the public -- and to the students, parents, and fans who support the institution. Due process and constitutional protections exist in the criminal justice system because our founding fathers had an inherent distrust in the tyrannical government it separated from -- and the transparency and public nature of the criminal justice system was an attempt to create public confidence in the system that governs the people.

Because when you're playing by the book, when you're ensuring fairness, why would you keep that secret?

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Virginia Tech - Syracuse Preview

Syracuse students agree: We won at VTech, so we need to win this one too.
Syracuse did their best to give VTech the game in Blacksburg, Virginia in their early ACC slate. Now Buzz and his kids travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange in the Dome. At least we can all view the game on TV from a reasonable angle. The game plan is simple. Or should be at least. Feed the Beast. Keep giving Rakeem Christmas the ball and let him go to work. And if he can't fight through a double team, be ready for a kick out and shot. Virginia Tech is the worst rebounding team in the Conference. SU outrebounded the Hokies in Virginia 42 to 34. That is huge in a game that ended up a two point win. Especially considering Virginia Tech made 10-25 three point buckets. Guess what VTech is going to try and do tonight again? Exactly. Rebounding off the missed threes and then converting on the other end will be critical. Mix in some fast break buckets and paint points from literally anyone other than Christmas and Syracuse should win. Oh yeah, and Christmas needs to avoid fouls like crazy parents avoid shots for their kids. Syracuse at home can and should pull away, unlike down in Blacksburg. I like the Orange by 15. This game will be available nationally on ESPN U at 9:00pm, or WatchESPN. If it's Syracuse Basketball, it's on ESPN U.

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