Syracuse’s Great Season Comes to an End

The 2011-2012 edition of Syracuse Basketball will undoubtedly go down as one of the best ever.   The team finished 34-3 overall, including 17-1 in Big East play.  But that season ended last night with a 77-70 loss to Ohio State.

As good as the Syracuse-Wisconsin game was, last night’s game was a harder game to watch.  The referees decided to impact the outcome.  Ohio State star center Jared Sullinger was whistled for his second foul with 13 minutes remaining in the first half on a play where he, at most, breathed on Syracuse’s Dion Waiters.  Conversely, Syracuse had 12 fouls in the first half compared to Ohio State’s six.  And with 12 minutes to go in the second half, Syracuse had 3 players with 4 fouls.  The referees just did not let these two great teams play.

Still, Syracuse had its chances to win.  It squandered the first half–when Sullinger was on the bench.  It settled to contested jump shots, rather than driving to the void at the basket left by Sullinger’s absence.  Syracuse also missed several layups.  And then down the stretch, Seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine had three consecutive turnovers to destroy any momentum.  A great season coming to a difficult end.

2012-2013 promises to be interesting for Syracuse.  There will be lots of questions.  Will Fab Melo come back?  Will Dion Waiters come back?  Who will replace Kris Joseph?  Who will replace Scoop Jardine?  Will Rakeem Christmas–who played better as a freshman than Fab Melo–make a similar leap in the off season?  The one thing that is likely is that a Jim Boeheim-coached team will find a way to keep Syracuse in the spotlight.

I guess one more question–will Syracuse officially be an ACC team for 2012-2013 or will it still be in the Big East?  These are interesting times.

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ACC Basketball Recap: February 16, 2012

February 16, 2012, was a great day of college basketball in the ACC.

First, #5 Duke rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat North Carolina State, 78-73.  In fact, the Wolfpack led at the half by 16 points.  But Duke really outplayed North Carolina State down the stretch to prevent a big upset.  Seth Curry was the scoring leader for Duke with 26 points, while Austin Rivers added 16.  Lorenzo Brown led the Wolfpack, who dropped to 18-8 with the loss, with 19 points.  Duke improved to 22-4 with the win.

Second, #20 Florida State won in the final seconds again, defeating Virginia Tech, 48-47.  Once again, it was Michael Snaer providing the heroics with a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left.  Against Duke, Snaer did it as time expired.  Snaer and Ian Miller were the scoring leaders for Florida State with 9 and 11 points, respectively.  Erick Green led Virginia Tech, who dropped to 14-12 with the loss, with 18 points.  Florida State is now 18-7 on the season.

Third, on a less exciting note, Maryland defeated Boston College 81-65.  This one was never really in doubt as Maryland led by 14 at the half.  Ryan Anderson led the 8-18 Eagles with 22 points and 10 rebounds.  Terrell Stoglin led Maryland with 24 points.  With the win, Maryland improves to 15-10 overall and keeps its Big Dance dreams alive.

Finally, Pittsburgh’s woes continued as they suffered a 66-48 home loss to rival West Virginia.  This game was actually close at the half (26-25), but West Virginia pulled away in the second-half.  Pittsburgh drops to 15-12 overall and 4-10 in conference play.

 

Syracuse and North Carolina Win on Saturday Afternoon

A lot of big games in the ACC on February 11, 2012.  So far, with the afternoon games over, the favorites are doing what they need to do.

In the big ACC game of the day, #5 North Carolina rebounded from its loss to Duke by handily defeating #19 Virginia, 70-52.  Virginia led by a score of 41-40 with fifteen minutes to go, but the Tar Heels overwhelmed the Cavaliers down the stretch.  The size of the Tar Heels was a big problem for Virginia, as North Carolina finished the game with a 48-31 rebounding edge.  Mike Scott did his best, as usual, for Virginia with 18 points.  The big trio for North Carolina starred, with Tyler Zeller leading the way with 25 points and 9 rebounds.  Both Josh Henson and Harrison Barnes had double-doubles.  Barnes had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while  Henson had 10 points and 10 rebounds.  With the loss, Virginia drops to a still-decent 19-5.  North Carolina improved to 21-4.

#15 Florida State got back to its winning ways with a 64-59 win over rival Miami.  This game was close throughout, although Florida State maintained a lead for most of the second-half.  Kenny Kadji led the Hurricanes with 14 points, while Durand Scott added 12.  With the loss, Miami drops to 15-8.  Florida State was led by Bernard James, who scored 18 points and 6 rebounds.  With the win, Florida State improves to 17-7.

In Syracuse, 33,430 fans packed the Carrier Dome to watch #1 Syracuse improve to 25-1 by defeating Connecticut, 85-67.  The score is a big misleading as this game was 63-61 with approximately 6 minutes to go.  But Scoop Jardine hit a big three-pointer for Syracuse, and the Orange finished the game on a 22-6 run.  Jardine led the Orange with 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting.  CJ Fair and Dion Waiters were strong off the bench, as Fair scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Waiters scored 18 points.  Kris Joseph also scored 15 points for Syracuse.   UConn was led by Jeremy Lamb’s 18 points, but it was Ryan Boatwright and Andre Drummond that did most of the damage when the game was close.  Boatwright finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.  Despite missing time with an injury, Drummond finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds.  With the loss, UConn drops to 15-9 and may be playing its way onto the bubble.  Syracuse is now 12-1 in Big East conference play.

And there is plenty of late afternoon and evening action yet to come…

Rivalry Week Recap

Yesterday, the Confidential noted that February 8, 2012, featured two of the best rivalries in college basketball–Duke/North Carolina & Syracuse/Georgetown.  The games certainly ended up living up to the hype.

In the premier ACC match up of the day, Duke’s Austin Rivers hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Duke an 85-84 win at North Carolina.  North Carolina led by as many as 13 points in the second-half.  They also led by 10 points with less than 3 minutes remaining. But Duke was able to gradually chip away at the margin down the stretch. For North Carolina, this will certainly be a painful loss.  There was the blown lead.  The errant tip-in.  The missed free throws.   And ANY loss to Duke already hurts.

Rivers was not just the hero at the end, but scored 29 points to lead all scorers.  Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller scored 25 and 23, respectively, for North Carolina.  Josh Henson had an impressive 17 rebounds, while Zeller added 11.  Mason Plumlee led Duke with 14 rebounds.  Both teams are now 7-2 in conference play and 20-4 overall.

Up in Syracuse, it took an overtime period, but the Orange defeated the Georgetown Hoyas, 64-61.  In the process, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim won his 880th career game, moving him out of a tie with North Carolina’s legendary coach Dean Smith for third place all-time.

Much like Rivers, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph was the hero–scoring 29 points and hitting a three-pointer with 29 seconds left that provided the final margin of victory.  This game was incredibly close throughout as neither team led by more than 6 points, while there more than a dozen lead changes and ties.  Both teams also played stifling defense–neither team shot more than 35% from the field.

Georgetown was led by Otto Porter’s 14 points and 13 rebounds.  In addition to Joseph, Fab Melo scored 11 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and blocked 6 shots.  With the win, Syracuse moves to 24-1 overall, including an 11-1 record in conference games.

Syracuse Improves to 20-0 With Win Over Pittsburgh

In a battle of future ACC members, #1 Syracuse improved to 20-0 on the season with a 71-63 win over Pittsburgh.  In a year where several current ACC members have been underwhelming, Syracuse has certainly provided a reason for ACC fans to be optimistic about the basketball future.

For Syracuse, this win was noteworthy for several reasons.  First, the 20-0 record sets the school record for a start.  Second, with the win, Jim Boeheim tied Adolph Rupp for #4 all-time on the career win total list with 876 wins.  Next up?  A coach that all ACC fans should be familiar with–Dean Smith.  Syracuse also ended a string of futility against Pittsburgh, including losing 5 straight at the Carrier Dome.  The last time Syracuse beat Pittsburgh at home was 2003.  And that year ended pretty nicely for the Orange.

The game itself was a typical bruising match-up between these two schools.  Syracuse jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead, but the margin varied between 4 and 14 throughout.  Despite being 0-6 in conference play, Pitt put up a very good fight.  In fact, the Panthers absolutely dominated Syracuse on the boards with a 38-24 edge, suggesting that rebounding may very well be a vulnerability for the Syracuse team.  Syracuse allowed Pitt to get 18 offensive rebounds.  Pitt also featured a balanced attack with 5 players scoring either 9 or 10 points.  This team is much better than its recent record would suggest.

As usual, Syracuse was well-balanced too, with 5 players in double-figures.  Dion Waiters led the Orange with 16 points.  Also, Syracuse had the rare double double-double.  Fab Melo had 10 points and 10 rebounds (as well as 6 blocked shots).  Senior guard Scoopy Jardine has 12 points and 10 assists.

Another big edge for Syracuse was at the free throw line, where the Orange were 20-23 for an 87.0% clip.  Pitt struggled by making only 12 of their 23 free-throws.  The margin of victory?  8 points–the exact amount reflected in the free throw shooting.

Kris Joseph for the easy two. Photo courtesy of the Syraucse Post-Standard at Syracuse.com

 

 

ACC Basketball Recap: January 14, 2012

The Confidential has already analyzed the North Carolina debacle.  But there were several other games on Saturday, January 14, 2012.

Next to Florida State’s big game, the Confidential was most impressed by North Carolina State going on the road and destroying Wake Forest, 76-40.  It is tough enough to win conference games on the road–but to jump out to a 16-point halftime lead and then do even better in the second half is very impressive.  North Carolina State did it with defense, holding the Demon Deacons to less than 30% shooting.  Four of North Carolina State’s starters finished with double-digit points, led by Lorenzo Brown’s 20 points.  The Wolfpack also got 28 rebounds out of their front line starters.  With the loss, Wake Forest drops to 10-7.  North Carolina State improved to 13-5, including a 2-1 conference record.

That’s two in a row now for Boston College, as the Eagles defeated Virginia Tech at home, 61-59.  Virginia Tech was forced to play without leading scorer Erick Green, who was sidelined with a sprained left knee.  But a win is a win for the struggling Eagles.  About the only good news for the Hokies is that the NCAA Tournament Committee can take the injury into consideration.  Even so, this is exactly the type of loss that lands the Hokies on the tournament bubble every year.  You have to be able to beat a team–even on the road–that is struggling as badly as Boston College.  For the Eagles, after defeating Clemson, perhaps they are not as bad as their record otherwise indicates.  Dennis Clifford and Matt Humphrey led Boston College with 15 and 14 points, respectively.  Victor Davila led the Hokies with 14 points.  Virginia Tech remains unbeaten in conference play at 0-3, with their overall record dropping to 11-6.  Boston College improved to 7-10, including a surprising 2-1 in conference play.

Up north, Pittsburgh showed some signs of life by traveling to #25 Marquette and playing tough, albeit still losing by a score of 62-57.  For a Panthers team that was blown out at home by Rutgers, they will have to settle for the proverbial “baby steps.”  With the loss, Pitt amazingly drops to 0-5 in conference play, with an overall record of 11-7.  Ashton Gibbs scored more than half of Pitt’s points with a 29-point effort.  Darius Johnson-Odom scored 18 points for Marquette, while Jae Crowder added 15.  Pittsburgh has a quick turnaround, having to travel to Syracuse on Monday night.

Speaking of Syracuse, the #1 team in the nation defeated Providence 78-55 to improve to 19-0.  The game was even more lopsided than the final score, as Syracuse led by 30 points with several minutes to go.  While much has been said about Syracuse’s bench–little used 11th man Mookie Jones scored 10 points for the Orange.  Of the 10 players in Syracuse’s normal rotation, only two players, Kris Joseph (13) and Dion Waiters (12), scored more than Mookie.  Syracuse is now 6-0 in conference play and will be playing Pitt on Monday for its best-ever start to a season.

Today, there are two games on the ACC slate, as Georgia Tech travels to red-hot Maryland and Clemson hosts Duke.

#1 Syracuse Picks Up Win AT North Carolina State

In a preview of future ACC basketball games to come, the #1 Syracuse Orange traveled to North Carolina State on Saturday and left with an impressive 88-72 victory.  With the win, Syracuse assures itself of retaining the #1 ranking for at least another week.  More importantly, this team showed the country that it can respond well to adversity in a fairly hostile environment.  As the 2011 portion of the 2011-2012 schedule comes to a close, this Syracuse team is absolutely legit.

Of course, the big news leading up to the game was that Syracuse was playing its first true road game.  For whatever reason, media types do not hesitate to hammer on Syracuse for not playing enough “true road games” in December.  Perhaps the reason is that most Syracuse fans react as if their grandmothers were accused of being terrorists.  It is perfectly logical that a Big East team would hold back a bit on the out-of-conference scheduling because of the grueling nature of the Big East schedule.  That makes the Syracuse early season schedule a legitimate discussion point when weighing a December Syracuse squad against already battle-tested squads.  It is the nature of the beast more than a media conspiracy.

But the win over North Carolina State should put some of this debate to rest.  Syracuse was punched hard by North Carolina State hard in the first portion of both halves.  North Carolina State jumped out to a 12-4 lead to begin the game.  At the beginning of the second half, North Carolina State went on a crowd-fueled 17-3 run to start the second half.  The Wolfpack shot better than Syracuse, out-rebounded Syracuse, and had a 21-10 assist advantage.  And they still lost by 16.

The difference between the teams is that Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is manned by players who bring a defensive intensity that has not been matched in several years.  Syracuse forced 18 turnovers and was outstanding in converting them into points.  The Orange relied on turnovers and three-point shooting to go on a 20-0 run in the first half.  The Orange relied on turnovers and penetration with the dribble to finish the game on a 38-22 run.

As has become the pattern, Syracuse’s depth was also a significant factor.  While Brandon Triche was suffering from an off night, super-sub Dion Waiters stepped in to lead the team with 22 points.  Meanwhile, subs CJ Fair and James Southerland added 22 more points off the bench and used their length on the defensive end.  Meanwhile, senior starters Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph scored 37 points, went 5 for 10 from three-point range, and added 9 rebounds.  You never know who is going to step up tallest for Syracuse.  When Triche and Fab Melo can have pedestrian games and it does not matter, that is impressive.

For North Carolina State, they will have to take solace in playing the #1 team closely for substantial portions of the game.  Senior guard CJ Williams certainly did his part, going 9 for 13 from the field en route to a career-high 25 points.  Point guard Lorenzo Brown led the team with 13 assists and 6 rebounds.

First ACC Game of the Year–Syracuse 69, Virginia Tech 58

OK, not really.  But in a few years this will be an ACC game!  In any event, while it is admirable that Syracuse won (again), it is also impressive that Virginia Tech hung with Syracuse so well.  In fact, Virginia Tech was leading at the half 29-27.  Not many teams are going to hold this Syracuse team to 27 points in any half.  Although Syracuse ultimately pulled out the win 69-58, both teams can take good things from this game.

For Syracuse, the Orange showed that they can win a game where they do not dictate tempo.  Virginia Tech fully intended to slow the game down and, for the most part, succeeded.  Syracuse was averaging 90 points per game, but scored only 69 points overall.  Syracuse showed that they can play tough defense, get the key rebounds, and score without transition baskets.

For Virginia Tech, the Hokies showed that they will be no pushover in the ACC.  They were able to dictate tempo against the more athletic and deeper Syracuse team.  They were only outrebounded by 5.  Syracuse did not get to the free throw line much–as Virginia Tech was able to play tough without fouling.

Ultimately, it was the combination of Syracuse’s defense and Virginia Tech’s turnovers that led to the Syracuse win.  Virginia Tech had 15 turnovers to go along with 15 assists.  Syracuse had an outstanding 17-8 assist to turnover ratio.  Part of what took down Syracuse was self-inflicted mistakes.  So far, 2011-2012 has shown great improvement.

On an individual basis, Virginia Tech has to be pleased that Dorenzo Hudson, Erick Green, and Jerell Eddie rose to the occasion, scoring 44 of the team’s 58 points.  However, the rest of the team contributed little.  Notably, freshman Dorian Finney-Smith never really got on track, scoring only 2 points.  He did lead the team with 7 rebounds.

For Syracuse, the starters contributed a great percentage of points than they had all year.  Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche scored 20 and 18 points, respectively.  Supersubs CJ Fair and Dion Waiters chipped in another 23.  Also impressive was Fab Melo, who looks to be ready to live up to the hype this year.  He had 5 blocked shots.

The Hokies will face Oklahoma State on Friday afternoon in the consolation game.  Syracuse will face Stanford for the Championship of the NIT Season Tipoff.

Future ACC Member Syracuse Off to HOT Basketball Start

Syracuse basketball is off to a sizzling hot start in 2011-2012.  Although it is unknown when Syracuse will formally join the ACC, it is clear that it is good for most of the ACC that it is not this year.  While North Carolina has gotten an abundance of attention, including here, this Syracuse team is looking to be quite special in its own regard.  While North Carolina has an outstanding quartet of players, Syracuse is as deep as it has ever been.  Game three for Syracuse was more of the same, as the Orange rolled over Albany 98-74.

Here is the most impressive stat about the win over Albany.  Syracuse’s starting five scored 49 points.  Syracuse’s first five of the bench scored 49 points.

The preseason expectations were that veterans Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche, and Scoop Jardine would be the key to the season.  Against Albany, Joseph did by scoring 19 points in 25 minutes.  But Syracuse got a combined 13 points in 35 minutes from its starting backcourt and still ran away with this game. This is not a fluke either.  Although there is no serious debate about who should be starting for Syracuse right now, the bottom line is that James Southerland, CJ Fair, and Dion Waiters would be starting for many teams across college basketball.  In fact, going into the Albany game, these were three of Syracuse’s five best scorers on the season.  These three may not be starting games, but they are going to be finishing a lot of them.

Of course, what should really excite Syracuse fans is that this kind of depth is conducive to the team playing smarter basketball than the past several seasons.  When you go 6 or 7 deep, there is no room to take out a key player for a “teaching moment.”  In past seasons, careless play would get a stare from Jim Boeheim.  Not a fun thing to endure, but something that can be avoided by playing focused defense and hoping that he would forget about it by the next timeout.  This year, a careless play will land anyone on the bench.  There is no room for mental mistakes anymore.

And what must really have Syracuse fans ecstatic is that this kind of depth will allow Syracuse to play some full court press defense.  Against Albany, Syracuse did this for a large chunk of the first half.  This both dictated tempo and tired down Albany. If Syracuse can use that against some of the more methodical teams on its schedule, this will be a great weapon for Boeheim.  The season is still very young, but it is apparent that this Syracuse team is for real.

The question for ACC fans is this.  How great would it have been to have Syracuse, Pitt, Duke, and North Carolina all mixing it up this year?

Harrison Barnes, Consensus Pre-Season All-American

The basketball elite at ESPN have made their votes and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina was deemed a consensus Preseason All-American.  All fifteen voters agreed that Barnes should be a first-team All-American.  Three of the fifteen even voted him as the Preseason Player of the Year.

It should also be noted that a few other ACC players received some recognition too.  Barnes’ teammate, Tyler Zeller, was named to the second-team on several ballots.  Two more Tarheels, Kendall Marshall and John Henson, appeared on a second-team ballots as well.  It is easy to see why North Carolina is a consensus preseason #1.

No other current ACC team placed any players on the list.  Instead, it was the North Carolina show.

But in terms of future ACC members, Syracuse and Pitt were represented.  Kris Joseph (Syracuse) and Ashton Gibbs (Pitt) each appeared in several ballots.  Joe Lunardi even placed Gibbs on his preseason first-team.

Congrats to all of these players.  Let’s hope that they all stay healthy and have the opportunity to prove the voters right in providing these accolades.  The pressure is on to live up to the hype.