NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 4th, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Michigan

  • A report broke Thursday morning that Wolverines guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft when their season comes to an end.
  • A great profile by Rod Beard of the Detroit News on the decisive leadership of Trey Burke. Burke’s leadership on and off the court has helped lead Michigan to its first Final Four in 20 years.
  • Michigan forward Mitch McGary has lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the season and the now lighter freshman has been a key component of the team that is set to make its first Final Four appearance since 1993.
  • On Thursday, Michigan coach John Beilein refused to discuss the report that his guards Burke and Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft.
  • Michigan freshman reserve point guard Spike Albrecht was headed to Appalachian State before the Wolverines gambled and gave him a late scholarship offer. That gamble has paid off majorly for the Wolverines, as Albrecht has developed into a very capable back-up to star guard Trey Burke.

Syracuse

  • Bud Polquin of Syracuse.com writes that it is coach Jim Boeheim‘s fourth Final Four appearance and it is probably not his last.
  • A lot has been made about rumors that this could possibly be Jim Boeheim‘s final season at Syracuse, but the veteran coach made known that “he fully intends to coach Syracuse in the ACC.” 
  • The path Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has taken in his Orange career to the Final Four is quite similar to the path former Syracuse point guard Lazarus Sims took to the 1996 Final Four.
  • Syracuse has decided that its motto for the week is to become legendary.
  • It is possible that Syracuse forward C.J. Fair will declare for the NBA Draft following the end of the season, but the junior is just focused on playing in the Final Four right now. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 28th, 2013

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  1. Jim Boeheim retirement rumor-mongering has become something of a cottage industry in recent seasons, so it’s always relieving when the man himself can add some clarity to the things that bounce around the world of message boards and e-mail chains. In his Sweet Sixteen presser yesterday, Boeheim took the time to end speculation as to whether he will coach the team in the 2013-14 season: “There is no process. There is no process. I’m coachin’ next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I’m not going to kid around about it anymore, I’m coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it.” That is, unless he isn’t: “About September, if I don’t want to coach, I won’t coach.” That last little bit seems to open the door for a Jim Calhoun/Kevin Ollie situation, although Mike Hopkins has been the established head coach in waiting at Syracuse for years, so that type of manipulation seems unnecessary.
  2. Match-ups between elite programs like Syracuse and Indiana are always great fun for a variety of reasons. Because these types of schools dip into the same small pool of blue-chip recruits, a lot of these players have long relationships, and these back stories can only help build intrigue for the games. IU”s Victor Oladipo spent a lot of time on Wednesday talking about his relationships with Syracuse’s DMV-area forwards Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair. Oladipo is very close with the entire Grant family, and descibed Jerami as a “little brother” while calling Fair a “good player” who is “a real cool dude to chill with.”  Much of the pregame speculation on the Syracuse end of things has been about whom Oladipo will be tasked with guarding. That assignment may very well be Fair, who has been SU’s most consistent scorer all season.
  3. The Marquette-Miami game has its own built-in storyline heading into tonight’s Sweet Sixteen bout. Hurricane assistant Eric Konkol coached guard Trent Lockett, who has come on as a big factor in the backcourt for the Golden Eagles, at Hopkins High School. Both took an unconventional road to this NCAA Tournament match-up. Konkol found himself in the high school ranks after coaching under Jim Larranaga at George Mason while his wife worked on a degree at the University of Minnesota. He rejoined Larranaga in 2010, moving with him to Miami. Lockett spent his first three years at Arizona State, where he averaged over 13 points per game as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Marquette. Lockett had a big game in the Round of 32 against Butler, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbing six rebounds.
  4. Dueling articles are always fun. Think Progress‘ Travis Waldron penned a piece called “The University of Louisville is Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, where his basic thesis is that because Louisville is the most profitable college basketball program but their basketball alumni don’t all matriculate to the NBA and make millions of dollars within a year or two, they’re evil… or something. I’m not a fan of using someone’s alma mater and inherent biases to try to invalidate their arguments, but when Waldron brought up his Kentucky background a lot of things were cleared up. SB Nation‘s Louisville blog Card Chronicle writer Mike Rutherford responded with his own post: “The University of Louisville is Not Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, and I think he sums things up pretty well in response to Waldron – “You forgot the #BBN hashtag as your signature.”
  5. Alas, this year’s sprint towards NIT glory was not to be for the Providence Friars, who fell in the quarterfinals to Baylor in Waco last night.  The Friars had big performances from the usual suspects - Bryce Cotton led the team with 23 points while Vince Council and Kadeem Batts were close behind with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Kris Dunn was the only other Friar to score, however, and Baylor took advantage of Providence’s limited depth to cruise to a 79-68 victory. With Providence now out of the NIT, the three remaining Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament are the conference’s last representatives in postseason play this season.
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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

After starting the season 18-1, Syracuse looked to be poised for another run at a Big East title and a top seed in March. However, the Orange struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing seven of their last 12 contests in Big East play. With their hot early start and a few big wins — including one at then top-ranked Louisville — the NCAA Tournament was never really in question, but their seeding looked to be in real jeopardy as the losses piled up. Jim Boeheim was able to right the ship in his last Big East Tournament, and with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown before a tough championship game loss to Louisville, Syracuse seems to have regained a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.

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Has Syracuse Regained Its Midseason Momentum; Or Is This a Mirage?

Region: East
Seed: No. 4
Record: 26-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Montana in San Jose

Key Player: Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s most talented player, and C.J. Fair is certainly the most consistent player on the squad, but no individual may be more important to Syracuse’s Final Four aspirations than senior forward James Southerland. Southerland put on a clinic from long range in the Garden last week, hitting 19 of his 33 three-point attempts in Syracuse’s four games. When he is on, he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and his mere presence really spreads the floor for the Orange, opening things up for Carter-Williams to penetrate opposing defenses and Fair to get good looks on his dangerous mid-range jumpers.

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Big East Tournament Day Three: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 14th, 2013

The quarterfinals are here, which means the Big East tournament is in full swing, and the top four seeds will get their chance at the league as-we-know-it’s final crown.  Georgetown and Cincinnati open today’s festivities at Noon, followed by a 21st century ACC donnybrook between Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

#9 Cincinnati

Cincy

The Bearcats knocked off Providence 61-44 yesterday afternoon.

No. 9 seed Cincinnati had a strong showing against Providence yesterday afternoon, defeating the Friars 61-44 behind 17 points from Sean Kilpatrick and 15 points and 10 rebounds from JaQuon Parker.

Next game: Cincinnati will look to upset top seeded Georgetown at Noon.

  • Best Case: Cincinnati nearly took down Georgetown at Fifth Third Arena in February, losing a tight one, 62-55.  Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright were a combined 3-of-15 from three point range in that one; if Cincinnati’s guards can knock down some shots from the outside they should not have much of an issue keeping up with Georgetown’s scoring.  Consistent guard play is the key for the Bearcats; if Kilpatrick keeps up his solid play and Wright finally returns to the level that he was playing at before he missed time due to injury, Cincinnati can make a run in this tournament.
  • Worst Case: The Bearcats get frustrated against Georgetown’s probing Princeton offense and Otto Porter flashes his normal brilliance, and the Hoyas run away with a double-digit victory.  Cincinnati’s next conference tournament game is played in front of 4,000 fans at the Izod Center against Tulane.

#5 Syracuse

C.J. Fair continues to act as a steadying presence for Syracuse.

Syracuse struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but a strong second half propelled them to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall. The Orange dropped their game at The Pete earlier this year, but were without forward James Southerland. Will an Orange-friendly crowd and Southerland’s three-point prowess make the difference for Jim Boeheim’s squad?

Next game: Syracuse faces No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in the 2:00 PM slot.

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Big East M5: 03.11.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 11th, 2013

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  1. Anticipation of a full weekend slate games with massive Big East implications was slightly overshadowed last Friday when a statement from the league confirmed the Catholic Seven would make its exit on June 30, 2013. Realignment savant Brett McMurphy reported that the departing schools would not only inherit the Big East name and Madison Square Garden tournament, but also pocket $10 million of the $110 million in exit fees from prior defections. Most astonishingly, Mike Aresco surrendered the 29 NCAA Tournament units those schools accumulated in the past six years, which Forbes claims will distribute at least $7.25 million in 2013 alone. Conversely, the current Big East finds itself nameless, poised to lose Notre Dame a year early, and displaced from its ancestral roots. The amorphous confederation is exploring the name “America 12,” and Hartford and Memphis are early front-runners in the bid to host its refugee tournament, which would complete its metamorphosis into a Conference USA Touring Edition.
  2. UConn played its final game of the 2012-13 season last Saturday in Gampel Pavilion, overcoming Providence 63-59 in overtime to earn its 20th win of the year. More importantly, on Senior Day and perhaps Shabazz Napier’s final game as a Husky, his team won a measure of vindication after months of being told this season was meaningless. The injured guard’s overtime heroics continued as he battled an injured ankle to put up 16 points and eight rebounds in 44 minutes. If Napier does elect to return next season, his maturation as a junior will have been one of the most indispensable benefits of this year’s dress rehearsal. Speaking after Saturday’s win of his personal development, Kevin Ollie said, “Shabazz used to think he can do it by himself. Now he knows he needs his teammates. When somebody is down, he’s always, always there to pick them up.”
  3. Another Saturday rivalry matchup with Big East title implications quickly devolved into a painful juxtaposition of teams speeding in opposite directions, as Georgetown held Syracuse to its lowest point total (39) since 1962. Michael Carter-Williams was the only Syracuse player to reach double digits, but finished with two assists to five turnovers; the Orange as a team had a 4:13 assist-to-turnover ratio (31%). It was a nightmare scenario for the Orange, who will almost assuredly finish the regular season ranked outside the top 20 after reaching #3 in the polls in late January. The Hoyas wrapped up the top seed while Cuse enters the Big East Tournament seeded fifth, having lost four of their last five and seven of 12.
  4. The Big East released their regular season player honors yesterday, and Louisville (Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith, Peyton Siva) and Syracuse (Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche) led the pack with six of the 16 players on the All-Big East first, second and third teams. Dieng and Smith represented the first Cardinals to make first team since Terrence Williams in 2009, while Bryce Cotton was Providence’s second selection in three years after Marshon Brooks was honored in 2011. Georgetown’s Otto Porter was the first team’s only unanimous selection and is poised to take home Player of the Year once it’s announced.
  5. On the topic of Senior Day vindication, Rick Pitino described Louisville’s 73-57 thumping of Notre Dame as a “a storybook ending” for graduating senior Peyton Siva and junior Gorgui Dieng, who is likely to declare for the draft. The two combined for 33 points on 65% shooting, avenging last month’s five-overtime choke job in South Bend before a KFC Yum! Center record crowd of 22,815. Dieng racked up his second double-double in the past three games, and tallied five blocks as he helped stymie Jack Cooley, who finished with seven points and three defensive rebounds. Siva hit multiple threes in a single game for the first time since mid-January, showing a shooting touch and aggressiveness that had been noticeably absent in Big East play. In the process, the Cardinals claimed a share of the Big East regular season title with Georgetown and Marquette. Moreover, Kevin Ware capped off the afternoon’s euphoria by delivering this subversive number –– deemed saucy by the CBS crew –– after being called for a foul on a dramatic fast break block (h/t Card Chronicle):
Kevin Ware eschewed traditional forms of foul protest

Kevin Ware eschewed traditional forms of foul call protest

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Big East M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 6th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse’s senior game tonight against DePaul features two members of the Orange making their definite final appearances at the Carrier Dome as players: Brandon Triche and James Southerland. However, few would bet that these are the only two scholarship players who will move on after this season. The best bet is that Michael Carter-Williams will join them despite his recent bouts of poor play. Some Syracuse fans argue that he could use more seasoning in college, and they’re not wrong, but many forget that despite being a true sophomore, MCW is already 21 years old now and will be 22 before next season. MCW would be the eighth Syracuse player in six seasons to leave school early, with four of those players — Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, and Dion Waiters — picked in the first round of the NBA Draft.  Waiters, who played with Carter-Williams last season, weighed in: “Michael’s a 6’6″ point guard. You can’t teach height. If he comes here, he’ll get nothing but better.” In his Syracuse.com piece on the subject, Bud Poliquin also mentions C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas as possible early departures, but those seem like stretches from this observer.
  2. In the classy moves by coaches department, Rick Pitino announced that junior Gorgui Dieng will be allowed to participate in Senior Day festivities in anticipation that the center will make the jump to the NBA after this season. “He has given us more than we have asked for. It is in his best interest to come out, and I think he is ready… He has been great for us. I have enjoyed coaching him so much. It is going to be a very difficult Senior Night. I have had some difficult ones, but this may be the most difficult.” There is definitely an argument to be made for keeping senior days for those who finish out their four years of eligibility, but I have no issue with exceptions being made for people like Dieng who were both great players and, by all accounts, students in addition to players during their time in college.
  3. This is the point of the season where teams look to ramp it up and start playing their best ball as they head into postseason play. Pitt’s Talib Zanna had been in an extended slump, averaging just 5.5 points per game for an extended period after averaging 13+ PPG for the first two months of the year. Recently, however, it seems like Zanna has started to find his rhythm again, and that doesn’t bode well for teams at the Garden next week. In Pitt’s last home game against Villanova, Zanna went off for 14 points and 19 rebounds in an overtime victory. Pitt closes the season at DePaul on Saturday before preparing for their final Big East Tournament.
  4. Cincinnati basketball hasn’t been the most beautiful version of the game this season, and things have only been worse in that regard with the constant injury issues that have befallen Cashmere Wright. He popped his shoulder out of the joint for the sixth time in Monday’s loss to Louisville, according to Mick Cronin. In the last few games, it seemed like Wright had been getting closer to 100 percent, which he clearly hasn’t been since a mid-January injury against DePaul. If Wright can’t find his shot and the lion’s share of the Bearcats’ scoring falls on Sean Kilpatrick’s shoulders in the postseason, Cincinnati will continue to struggle to score in the season’s most important games.
  5. Scott Martin’s career has been plagued by injuries, so if the Notre Dame forward can’t maintain a long career overseas, he has a fallback plan in coaching. Mike Brey believes that Martin is well-suited for the sideline: “I think he’s going to be a hell of a coach.” In a Chicago Tribune article, Martin discusses how he’s begun to watch the game through an analytical lens and former Irish teammate Ben Hansbrough admitted that he and Martin discussed coaching after their careers had wrapped. Martin’s constant injuries may have derailed a promising career, but it is good to hear that he has a strong plan for after basketball…well, after playing basketball, anyway.
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Can Syracuse Still Win the Big East Without James Southerland?

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

We won’t know for sure whether James Southerland‘s season is done or not until Friday but there are some who feel that allegations that Southerland had a tutor write his term papers will be too much for the university to overlook and Southerland’s Syracuse career will come to an ignominious end. At first the Orange didn’t seem to be affected by Southerland’s absence, continuing their winning streak and rising to the top of the conference standings. But in the last two weeks Syracuse has looked vulnerable and back-to-back losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh have left the Orange just a half-game ahead of Marquette, causing some fans to wonder whether the lack of Southerland’s scoring punch and defense are finally catching up to Jim Boeheim‘s club.

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Jim Boeheim Knows The Importance Of James Southerland On His Team’s NCAA Tournament Chances

The team got back to its winning ways with an easy home rout of Notre Dame on Monday but in the long-term the question remains — can Syracuse win what is sure to be a hotly contested Big East title race without the services of their senior sixth-man? The team obviously remains in excellent position as the schedule heads into the home stretch but the team also has four games against ranked opponents left on the schedule and can ill-afford a regression to mediocrity at this point. But is Southerland’s absence really the difference-maker for the Orange, or are the team’s struggles rooted in something else?

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Michael Carter-Williams Impresses Jim Boeheim in a Rhode Island Homecoming

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 10th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite writers who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Syracuse and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has had more impressive games this season than last night’s 17-point, six-assist, six-rebound, five-steal effort against Providence.  The 6’6″ guard, who grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and played his high school ball 15 minutes from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, Rhode Island, has flirted with triple-doubles on various occasions this season, missing the milestone by a single assist or rebound three times already. Last night, the general steadiness with which Carter-Williams ran Jim Boeheim‘s offense impressed the venerable head coach.

Carter-Williams' steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.

Carter-Williams’ steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.

Carter-Williams’ play for Syracuse this year has been almost revelatory, considering the sophomore played few meaningful minutes last season. After the game, when asked about his guard’s ascent from little-used freshman to All-American sophomore, Boeheim made a comparison to perhaps the greatest point guard in school history:  Sherman Douglas, who sat behind Pearl Washington as a freshman before leading the Orangemen to a national championship game berth as a sophomore. Boeheim spent a large portion of his presser discussing Carter-Williams’ play, as one would expect in Providence, saying that “MCW” is “playing as well as you can expect.”

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Back To Earth: Temple Loss Exposes Some Issues For Syracuse

Posted by mlemaire on December 23rd, 2012

Maybe we should have seen this coming just five days after Syracuse blew a 20-point second-half lead against Detroit and only won by four points, but everyone was too enamored with the story of the 900th win for Jim Boeheim and the meteoric rise to stardom of sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams to realize that the Orange were not without their warts. On Saturday afternoon, playing its first worthwhile opponent since its season opening win against San Diego State, some of those warts were exposed as Temple rebounded from an ugly loss to Canisius to upset the No. 3 Orange, 83-79. To be fair to Syracuse, Temple is a veteran and talented basketball team that will absolutely be playing in March if they can survive a brutal conference slate in the Atlantic 10, and senior guard Khalif Wyatt was abnormally brilliant in a winning effort. But the Orange had plenty of chances to take control of this game and just seemingly got outhustled and outplayed at every turn by the gang from Philadelphia.

Syracuse Struggled With the Temple Defense

Syracuse Struggled With the Changing Temple Defense

The Orange came into the game with the second-most efficient defense in the country thanks to imposing length and athleticism at every position, but you would not have known it by watching the Owls get to the free throw line at will and hoist uncontested three-pointers for most of the game. For whatever reason, their lock-down zone defense took the afternoon off. Give the Owls credit for consistently finding the high-post pass to set up a number of options and executing an excellent zone offense. But while Syracuse still created a number of turnovers, they also committed a lot of fouls, were often out of position trying to help defend dribble penetration, and were very nearly outrebounded by a much smaller and less physical team. Most of these issues are easily correctable and some could be attributed to a lack of effort or focus rather than inability, but the Orange have enjoyed a very easy non-conference slate, and if they cannot achieve some consistency on the defensive end, conference opponents will be able to take advantage of those lapses much easier than Eastern Michigan or Monmouth could.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #2 Syracuse

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 11th, 2012

In our St. John’s preview, we stated that the Johnnies went through about as much adversity as one team could in a single season. If that’s the case, Syracuse was a close second. The Bernie Fine scandal would have been enough to derail most teams, but it seemed to put a chip on the shoulder of the Orange, who spent a portion of the year ranked first in the nation after Kentucky lost at Indiana. The Fab Melo saga was harder to overcome, and came to a head in Syracuse’s Elite Eight loss to Ohio State. Syracuse lost four of its main rotation players from last season – guards Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, forward Kris Joseph, and center Fab Melo – but look to plug in a couple of impressive underclassmen and make another run at a final Big East championship and perhaps a Final Four.

Jim Boeheim has been knocking on the door of his fourth Final Four over the last few years.  Will this young Syracuse squad be the one to break through? (AP)

Schedule

Syracuse doesn’t have too many marquee games on the non-conference slate. Their most intriguing match-up is their first game against San Diego State, which will be played on the deck of the USS Midway in San Diego on Sunday afternoon. SU also travels to Arkansas for the SEC-Big East challenge, and will take on one of the teams filling the void they are leaving in the Big East – Temple – at Madison Square Garden. In the Big East schedule, Syracuse shares home-and-homes with Villanova, Providence, Louisville, and Georgetown. The Hoyas host the Orange in their last ever Big East game, which should be one for the ages.

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ATB: Syracuse Survives, OSU Recovers, and Upset City in the West…

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Half of our Elite Eight teams are set, with the East and West regions completing their semifinal matchups on Thursday night. The East Region in Boston finished as expected, with chalk advancing to the Elite Eight in the form of Syracuse and Ohio State for what should be a fantastic regional final on Saturday. But the story in Phoenix was much different, as the favored #1 and #3 seeds went down in games that were dominated by the lower seeds. Only one game on the night finished in single digits but there was plenty of exciting basketball that took place. And the one game that was a close one happened to be one of the Big Dance’s best. Let’s break it down… 

Your Watercooler Moment. Jordan Taylor’s Shot Falls Short, #1 Syracuse Survives.

Wisconsin is Devastated After Coming so Close Against Syracuse (Getty Images/J. Rogash)

Our first game of the night was a classic, one that featured two very different teams that both executed at an extremely high level offensively. Four-seed Wisconsin brought its patented ball-control, super-slow tempo game plan into Boston with hopes of knocking off top-seeded Syracuse with a methodical approach, good shooting, and strong collective defense. But no defense could stop what either team was bringing to the table in this one. The Badgers executed their plan offensively, hitting an amazing 14-27 from three-point range in a wonderful display of outside shooting that would usually be enough for a victory. But the Orange were just as strong on the other end, converting 55.1% of their field goals with easy baskets in the paint from a variety of one-on-one scorers. The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers and this game came down to the very last shot, one that fell short on a long three-point attempt from Jordan Taylor on a broken offensive play. Despite the fairly low 64-63 final score, the game featured crisp execution throughout its entirety. Syracuse was just one possession better, thanks to its easy offense earned through superior athleticism and playmaking in the half court. It’s on to the Elite Eight for the Orange!

Also Worth Chatting About. The First #1-Seed to Fall are Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Everyone knows that March is Michigan State’s month. Tom Izzo has brought the Spartans to six Final Fours in his tenure, and he had never been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament before the final weekend when his team was a #1 seed. That came to an end on Thursday, when Michigan State was outplayed from the start by Rick Pitino’s #4 Louisville Cardinals. The Spartans racked up more turnovers (15) than made field goals (14) while shooting 28.6% from the field. Louisville was too athletic and strong defensively, essentially beating Michigan State at its own game. The Cardinals won the battle on the boards, in the turnover margin, and from behind the arc (they shot 9-23 compared to 5-21 for MSU). Gorgui Dieng racked up seven blocks and three steals to go along with nine rebounds in an elite defensive performance, and Peyton Siva ran the offense well with nine assists. Izzo’s March mystique could not get his players to put the ball in the basket, and our first #1 seed finally goes down.

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Syracuse’s Fab Melo To Miss NCAA Tournament Because of an Eligibility Issue

Posted by mlemaire on March 13th, 2012

The bad breaks just keep coming for Syracuse and its basketball program. After one of the team’s best seasons in recent history and right as they prepared for the NCAA Tournament as a #1 seed, they learned that starting center and key cog Fab Melo will miss the entire tournament due to an eligibility issue. Melo missed three games earlier this season because of academics, but it is unclear whether this eligibility issue is about academics or something else as the school would not provide any additional details. [Update: It's apparently about academics and he is also apparently declaring for the NBA Draft]

It doesn’t take a basketball junkie to know that Melo’s absence is a potentially lethal blow to the Orange’s national title hopes. He was the best rebounder on a team that struggles to rebound the basketball and he was also the conference’s defensive player of the year this season. He is one of the main reasons why Syracuse limited opponents to an effective field-goal rate just 44 percent this season and the team’s staunch 2-3 zone relied on Melo to protect the rim — something he did very well during the regular season.

Fab Melo's Absence Could Crush Syracuse's National Title Aspirations

The onus now falls on freshman Rakeem Christmas and sophomore Baye Keita to pick up the slack and neither proved consistently capable of that during the regular season. The good news is that Keita and Christmas, while young, are athletic and energetic defenders who can block shots and rebound the basketball unless they run up against more experienced and physical post players. But the understated effect this blow might have on the Orange will be on the offensive end.

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