ATB: Carrier Dome Brings Orange Comfort, Iowa State Climbs and What’s Happening to Old Dominion?

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 5th, 2013


Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Mondays Are Slow. If Friday is the worst weeknight for quality college basketball games, Monday isn’t far behind. You have your two ESPN Big Monday match-ups, and those are typically fun, but beyond that, the schedule is as dry as can be. There were a few notable exceptions tonight. Seton Hall-Pittsburgh was entertaining. Oklahoma State-Iowa State was a promising commentary on the Cyclones’ future. Grambling State lost… again! I’m gasping for air here. We’re better off saving the prelude and jumping into the night’s action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Offense Coming Along For Syracuse.

Signs of Improvement on offense were visible in Syracuse's win (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Signs of Improvement on offense were visible in Syracuse’s win (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Snapping an offensive downturn, especially when that downturn is at least partially thanks to the ineligibility of key reserve shooter James Southerland, is not the easiest thing to accomplish in the midst of conference play. Offensive problems are intrinsically harmful; if you can’t score, then by and large you can’t win games. And those intrinsic problems may still exist for Syracuse after Monday’s win over Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome. We just don’t know, because for as good as the Orange looked in shooting 48.9 percent from the field, and as effective as C.J. Fair (18 points) and Michael Carter-Willliams (eight assists, one turnover) can be even without Southerland around to spread the floor, the fact of the matter is Syracuse just played a team that’s surrendered an average of 1.07 points per possession this season. That mark leaves Notre Dame tied with Seton Hall for the Big East’s worst defense (before Ken Pomeroy’s rankings adjusted for Monday night’s games). That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of positives to take away from the win. The Orange held Notre Dame to 35 percent from the field, and the Big East’s most accurate three-point shooting team to 6-of-20 from beyond the arc; Rakeem Christmas chipped in 12 points and blocked four shots on the other end; Jerami Grant (14 points on 6-of-8 shooting) continues to make a case for next year’s MCW breakout candidate. After losing two straight road games, it has to feel good to return to one of the nation’s most unassailable home venues. The Orange’s offensive questions won’t go away, not quite yet. First, they have to prove they can beat a capable defensive squad (that Louisville win was nice, but it came before Syracuse put up 57 and 55 points, respectively, against Cincinnati and Pitt), preferably on the road.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Big 12 Home Teams Stay Strong. Of the two winning teams Monday night from the Big 12, only one (Iowa State) is actually worth talking about. West Virginia held on against Texas at home, in a game I didn’t personally watch but can only imagine was one of the most ugliest conference games we’ll have all season. On to more important matters: Iowa State is slowly but surely creeping up the Big 12 ladder. Monday night’s win over Oklahoma might not sound like much, but it did push Fred Hoiberg’s team into third place in the league standings, and the Cyclones have a huge chance to ascend further when they travel to Kansas State Saturday. Iowa State has some nice wins in the run of conference play – KSU, Baylor, pushing Kansas to overtime (even if it was a loss, it is nonetheless worth mentioning) and OU. Winning in the Little Apple would top them all.
  • Can Pitt Win The Big East? I don’t know if Pittsburgh can win the Big East, but the Panthers – following Monday night’s win over Seton Hall – are just two games out of first place and have an easier schedule than any of the teams ahead of them in the standings. The soft part of their conference slate began Monday night. However hairy it got in the second half against Seton Hall, Pitt officially began the lighter half of its league slate against the Pirates, and the rest holds few truly daunting challenges. Perhaps the toughest is a road game Saturday at Cincinnati, which the Panthers already lost to on New Year’s Eve. A follow-up trip to Marquette could be tough. If Pitt can get through that, or at least come out with a split, it’s smooth sailing into the conference tourney – Notre Dame, at Saint John’s, South Florida, Villanova, and at Depaul. Depending on how things shake up at the top, Jamie Dixon’s team is in position make a push for a regular season championship.

…and Miss.

  • Bad, Bad Things At Old Dominion. This season will be Old Dominion’s last in the CAA. Starting in fall 2013, the Monarchs will head on to Conference USA, where a Memphis-less landscape of emptiness should allow ODU to win, and win a lot, pretty quickly. At the time, this felt like a nice pickup for C-USA. The Monarchs have built a reputation as one of the CAA’s more buoyant annual contenders, and were picked to finish fourth in the preseason CAA media poll. It hasn’t been talked about nearly enough, mainly because ODU isn’t alone in dragging down the CAA’s conference standing, but the Monarchs aren’t just bad. They’re 2-20 bad, and – after Monday night’s home loss to George Mason — 0-10 in a league ranked 19th in KenPom’s ratings and 25th in the RPI. And to think Virginia somehow managed to blow a neutral-court date with the Monarchs back in December – the selection committee will not look fondly upon that result.

Fast Break of the Night. In lieu of windmills and tomahawks, I elected to go with an excellent end-to-end play from Syracuse’s win over Notre Dame. Rakeem Christmas’ big swat springs Brandon Triche for a tricky underhand finish, and the foul.

Monday Night’s All Americans.

  • C.J. Fair, Syracuse (NPOY) – Without Southerland, Fair will need to step up his scoring output. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Irish.
  • Will Clyburn, Iowa State – After playing one season at Utah, Clyburn has remade himself in the Big 12, where he’s averaging 15.0 points per game and just under eight rebounds per contest. He upped his season scoring mark Monday by dropping 19 points.
  • Steven Adams, Pittsburgh – Here’s a player who, as far as I can tell, needs another year of college ball to refine his offensive game before jumping to the NBA. To wit: In helping hold off Seton Hall Monday, Adams had 15 rebounds but only eight points.
  • Deniz Kilicli, West Virginia – In an uncharacteristically down year for the Mountaineers, Kilicli’s beard remains awesome. Fourteen points and eight boards for the WVU big man in Monday’s win over Texas.
  • Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse – It was’t just Christmas’ 12 points that impressed me. Taken alongside five rebounds and four blocks, Christmas gave the Orange a complete interior effort.

Tweet of the Night. Before Jerami Grant arrived at Syracuse and developed into a key first-year bench player, Notre Dame knocked off Syracuse at the Joyce Center last season to kill the Orange’s chances, however slim, at an unbeaten season. Jim Boeheim’s team entered that game 20-0, but left with a trademark Irish 50 percent three-point shooting performance and a nine-point loss to sour over on the flight home. Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant, Jerami’s brother, scored 11 points and had six assists in that game. On Monday, the siblings traded places at the winning table.

Chris Johnson (290 Posts)

My name is Chris Johnson and I'm a national columnist here at RTC, the co-founder of Northwestern sports site and a freelance contributor to

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