ACC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 17th, 2013

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  1. Testudo Times: Here’s a great film review of Roddy Peters in his recent game against Boston College. The in-depth look certainly supports my hypothesis that Peters has loads of potential on the offensive end. The play I found most interesting was the one where he picked apart the Eagles’ defense. It’s also rather alarming how easily the Eagles were picked apart by a freshman point guard, but that’s a post for another time. While he’s still not a shooter, Peters’ ability to get in the lane and find the open man is one that’s tough to teach. When he and Jake Layman develop more chemistry over time, they will be nearly impossible to stop.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: One big advantage Syracuse has over most opponents is on its front line, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice it from the stat sheet. Jim Boeheim wants to change that perception, though, by forcing the ball inside more. And he’s right if you look at Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman‘s numbers. The duo are hitting 72 and 68 percent of their field goals, respectively. Both are mostly scoring in the paint (through dunks and layups), but even if those numbers drop with increased possessions, that’s still a great pair of offensive options for the Orange.
  3. Boston Herald: Dennis Clifford received yet another setback in his potential return, which may end up forcing him to redshirt. He was originally scheduled to be back in action by now, but a source told Tom Layman that Steve Donahue is hoping to have Clifford back when conference play resumes the first week of January. Clifford has been dealing with nagging knee injuries since coming to Chestnut Hill, most recently trying to reduce the pain from arthritis in both knees. If he comes back the Eagles will be a much better team, as his shot-blocking will help to shore up the team’s interior defense. But at this point (and with this record), Donahue may be thinking about redshirting Clifford anyway and giving him the whole season to get back to 100 percent.
  4. Cardiac Hill: Stephen Gertz asks if Pittsburgh is better off without Steven Adams in the lineup. I’ll go ahead and posit no. Adams was the team’s most efficient rebounder (though Talib Zanna has stepped up significantly in defensive rebounding in his absence), most efficient shooter (albeit from close range), and an elite shot-blocker (an area Pittsburgh could decidedly use improvement). Also based on the success Adams has had in the NBA, I think he’s a much better basketball player this year than he was last season.
  5. WTVD: This story is head-scratching, but Will Graves – who was allegedly kicked off the 2011 North Carolina team for drugs — was recently cited for marijuana possession after consenting to let police search the house he rented from Roy Williams to finish his degree. First things first, major props to Williams for following through with Graves (who also worked part time for the Tar Heels as a video coordinator) and helping him finish his degree. But it’s not a good look for Graves.
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ACC M10: 12.10.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 10th, 2013

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Author’s note: As technical difficulties prevented yesterday’s M5, please accept 10 blurbs as repayment.

  1. Boston Globe and BC Interruption: Both of these stories were written following Boston College‘s loss to USC. The former stressed Steve Donahue’s point of view: “The bottom line is we have a group of kids who are not playing with confidence.” The latter was from a fan, calling for Donahue’s job. Strangely enough the two aren’t that far off from each other. This was Donahue’s year to show he could make the leap, and he scheduled accordingly. Unfortunately his team didn’t play like the group that almost played spoiler in the ACC Tournament last season. They played like the athletically overmatched group that they are on paper. The team’s performance last March shows its potential (as do countless previews coming into this season), but Brian Favat is right about the season effectively being over barring a miraculous conference run. What exactly has been the problem?
  2. BC Interruption: Defense! The fine bloggers over at BC Interruption are breaking down the Eagles and their technical difficulties so far this season, starting with transition defense. Luckily, Boston College doesn’t turn the ball over that often, but the second GIF example certainly points to a team running at half-speed. That’s what Steve Donahue has to fix before the end of the season to keep fans in his corner. Everyone knows he won’t beat anyone as an elite recruiter (although he is a good evaluator of talent), but he’s got to show that his X’s and O’s can create a competitive team if he wants to stick around Chestnut Hill a lot longer. The one thing people forget about the Eagles this season is that they’re still pretty young — not nearly as young as the last two seasons, but well below average nevertheless. That’s the main reason I’d probably lean towards giving Donahue another season after this one.
  3. Streaking the Lawn: Speaking of ACC teams with rough starts, Virginia appears to have taken a step backwards since last season. The big reason for that is the Cavaliers’ sudden propensity to turn the ball over. Weirdly enough, this is a spot Jontel Evans isn’t missed (at least on paper), but all of Virginia’s players are turning it over at a higher rate than last season. That combined with stop-and-go offense certainly points to point guard issues (something many forecasted as the team’s Achilles heel). Whatever the underlying reason, Tony Bennett needs to get more offensively from Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Filling out our trio of below mediocrity is Maryland. Mark Turgeon held true on his promise to start Varun Ram against George Washington, although the redshirt junior played fewer minutes than he had in the blowout loss to Ohio State. But Ram isn’t the answer, and I expect Turgeon knows this. Seth Allen isn’t the answer either, which is why Turgeon has to find another way to curb the team’s rampant turnovers. As Dez Wells and Allen mature, I expect both to get better at valuing the basketball, but expecting any changes overnight is naive.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: According to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics, Pittsburgh has the 12th-ranked defense in the country, but Jamie Dixon still isn’t happy with it. Specifically, his team’s rebounding against Loyola Marymount appeared to get under his skin, despite winning the game by 17 points. This certainly sounds like a coach trying to keep his team focused heading into conference play. If you haven’t watched the Panthers play already, Lamar Patterson is worth the price of admission. He’s the quiet leader (who admittedly hasn’t played much real competition) for ACC Player of the Year at this point.
  6. Syracuse Post-Standard: Dajuan Coleman came to Syracuse loaded with potential but has still yet to earn a significant spot in the team’s rotation. But before you’re too quick to write him off as a bust, remember that it took three and a half years for Brian Zoubek to find his role on Duke’s 2010 national championship team. Like Zoubek, Coleman is an elite offensive rebounder but that’s where the comparisons should end. Big men generally take longer to adjust to the college game, and Jim Boeheim’s system is probably nothing like what Coleman saw in high school. His breakout season might not be this year, but expect progressively more good games as the season unfolds for the sophomore.
  7. South Bend Tribune: Jerian Grant is really blossoming this season. He’s on par with North Carolina’s Marcus Paige right now as far as best guards in the league as conference play trickles to a start. Grant is shouldering a similar load — strictly speaking about possessions here — but he’s much more efficient. The big difference between this year and the last couple has been Grant’s consistency. His two-point field goal percentage is up over 15 points and his three-point field goal percentage is up nearly 10 points. That’s outrageous. Also notable is that Notre Dame is 1-2 this season when Grant scores fewer than 19 points.
  8. Greensboro News-Record: Nate Britt is finally starting to look a like he’s ready to play significant minutes this season, which is very good news for a North Carolina team that’s not very deep at the two. Playing Britt allows JP Tokoto to move to his more natural small forward position. Marcus Paige will continue to be the star of this team unless PJ Hairston eventually comes back into the fold, but meaningful minutes for Britt can only help Roy Williams’ squad.
  9. Winston-Salem Journal: Devin Thomas is a big part of why Wake Forest is so much improved over last year. He’s arguably the best rebounder in the league, which evidences his high-level motor. His intensity has gotten him in trouble at times (see: Wake Forest’s game against Kansas), but it also gives him a bit of an edge. Also, what sort of odds would you have gotten at the beginning of the season on Wake Forest at 8-2 and Boston College at 3-6 at this point in the season?
  10. Fayetteville Observer: While its offense has taken a few steps back towards earth, Duke’s defense is finally coming around. A lot of the change is from an effort and focus standpoint. Mike Krzyzewski even slapped the floor a couple of times against Michigan to help fire up his team. What remains to be seen is if and how Duke can put it all together. If Marshall Plumlee can give Coach K productive minutes like he did against the Wolverines, Duke may retake its lofty ranking yet. If not, the team will be highly dependent on the match-ups before them.
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ACC Team Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 23rd, 2013

The Syracuse Orange had a great season last year, largely overachieving on their way to a 30-10 record and a Final Four appearance. After struggling to an 11-7 conference record in the swan song for the mighty Big East Conference, they rode a wave of momentum behind their tenacious zone defense all the way to Atlanta where they fell to Michigan. Much of their overall success was due to senior leaders Brandon Triche and sixth man extraordinaire James Southerland. Losing these two seniors and play-making savant Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA Draft lottery removed much of the nucleus head coach Jim Boeheim relied upon in the 2012-13 season. However, Syracuse does return arguably the team’s most valuable and versatile player in C.J. Fair, who led the team in points and rebounds per game from the forward slot. Much of the team’s success this year will rely on Syracuse’s patented zone defense and Fair’s ability to shoulder an even larger offensive role without Southerland, Carter-Williams and Triche around to help shoulder the burden. There certainly will be a nice “shock factor” present in unleashing their vaunted defense against the rest of the new ACC this season that will have Boeheim cushioning his already exorbitant wins total.

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Returnees

  • Senior forward C.J. Fair: Widely considered one of the best players in the ACC. Should be in a compelling year-long battle for ACC Player of the Year with Virginia’s Joe Harris and Duke’s Jabari Parker. A second team all-Big East performer last season, Fair is a versatile and athletic leader for this Syracuse team. Big things are expected from the Baltimore native in a transition year for Syracuse athletics to the ACC.
  • Sophomore forward Jerami Grant: The 6’8” DeMatha alumnus is pegged by many analysts to have a breakout season. While he did not have a successful freshman season, he is a future project based on his rangy and lanky body type and the athleticism he has exhibited. He certainly has successful basketball genes in his family, seeing as his brother Jerian is a senior point guard star at rival Notre Dame and his father Harvey had a successful NBA career with multiple teams.
  • Redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney: This redshirt two-guard sure has no trouble scoring the basketball. He is a prolific shooter but needs to improve other facets of his game to secure his spot in Syracuse’s starting lineup. The Delaware native has two years of practice with Boeheim under his belt which should help his knowledge of the 2-3 zone and offensive schemes.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Syracuse Orange

Posted by BHayes on August 28th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

In many ways, the 2013-14 season looks to be business as usual at Syracuse. The roster is deep and talented, expectations are sky-high, and Jim Boeheim is manning the sidelines for the Orange. But you can rest assured that there will have never been a Syracuse basketball season like this one. The day is finally here – the Orange, charter members of the Big East conference, are now officially ACC constituents. Heading south with them are former Big East brethren Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The addition of these three formidable basketball programs makes the ACC, at least on paper, the toughest hoops conference in the land.

Jim Boeheim And CJ Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse's First Year In The ACC

Jim Boeheim And C.J. Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse’s First Year In the ACC

  • Team Outlook: Duke will undoubtedly be eager to remind the newbies that the ACC is its conference to rule, but Syracuse should be as poised as any foe to upend the Blue Devils. The Orange frontcourt is loaded, with junior and all-Big East second teamer C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) leading the charge. Surrounding Fair up front is a trio of high-upside sophomores. Rakeem Christmas (5.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG), DaJuan Coleman (4.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG), and Jerami Grant (3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) are all expected to see an uptick in production in year two, but of the three, it is Grant who has the best chance to quickly transform himself from role player into star. Junior Baye Keita (8.6 block percentage) will also see minutes up front, while Duke transfer Michael Gbinije and freshman B.J. Johnson will battle to find time in this crowded frontcourt. Not surprisingly, given the remarkable depth up front, the question marks for Jim Boeheim and the Orange all appear in the backcourt. Gone are Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, leaving Trevor Cooney as the sole backcourt returnee who saw any time a year ago. The sophomore is an engaged and capable defender, but will be expected to shoot the ball better from the outside this time around (he was just 27% from three as a freshman). He may also be tasked with handling some backup point guard duties, as there is no obvious reserve for presumptive starter Tyler Ennis. Ennis, a freshman from Ontario, California, may be the most important player on the Orange roster. With said deficit of ball-handlers, the consensus top-25 recruit will have the rock in his hands a whole lot, and what he does with it will go a long ways towards determining the fate of this Syracuse season. With all the talent around him he does not need to be nearly as dynamic as MCW was a year ago, but with few other options around, he most certainly has to play a solid floor game for the Orange to begin to tap their full potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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Season In Review: Syracuse Orange

Posted by mlemaire on May 16th, 2013

The 2012-13 college basketball season for the Syracuse Orange was nothing if not entertaining to watch and follow. Hopes were high after the team rattled off 18 wins in its first 19 games including a gutty road win over then-No.1 Louisville. The optimism faded quickly as off-the-court issues sprung up again, the team lost seven of its final 12 regular season games, and some began to wonder whether the Orange had quit. Of course the Orange made those people look foolish in the Big East Tournament by reaching the title game and then made the doubters really eat crow by cruising with relative ease all the way to the Final Four before losing to Michigan. The team heads for the ACC next season and coach Jim Boeheim’s future remains murky, but for now, Orange fans have reason to walk a little taller these days.

Preseason Expectations

Everyone agreed that the Orange were at least a half-class below Louisville in the preseason conference pecking order, especially considering they had lost three of their four leading scorers from a year ago and one of the conference’s best defenders in big man Fab Melo. Despite all of that, expectations were still high for the Orange who had plenty of talent to fill the holes and now had a year of college basketball experience. Both the coaches and our microsite picked the Orange to finish second in the conference and while the regular season didn’t shake out that way, the NCAA Tournament vindicated our predictions.

Michael Carter-Williams Was The Big Reason Syracuse Was So Good.

Michael Carter-Williams Was The Big Reason Syracuse Was So Good.

The Good

Even if you didn’t watch any Syracuse basketball you could still say that Syracuse’s defense was excellent and feel good about your chances of being right. Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense has become famous, but this year’s team was particularly well-suited for it. There may not have been a longer and more athletic team in the country than Syracuse and opponents did not enjoy trying to score against that zone, just ask Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen or Marquette in the Elite Eight. The Orange’s team defense is the reason the team made it all the way to the Final Four. If you are one who likes to nitpick, you could point out that Michael Carter-Williams turned the ball over too much and has a long way to go before he becomes a shooting threat. That still won’t change the fact that MCW (11.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 39.9% FG) was one of the best players in the entire country and a big reason why Syracuse was so successful this year. He was a difference-maker on both ends of the floor and in every facet of the game and opponents should be glad he has moved on to the NBA. Efficient senior seasons from Brandon Triche and James Southerland helped the Orange get over the rough stretches of the season and junior C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 47.0% FG) came into his own this season, especially in the NCAA Tournament when he was a two-way monster for the Orange.

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Big East M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 7th, 2013

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  1. An ugly fight broke out at Tuesday night’s Notre Dame-St. John’s game between the Red Storm’s Sir’Dominic Pointer and Irish freshman Cam Biedscheid. After battling over a rebound, Pointer appears to take a swing at Biedscheid, who then retaliated. Despite the fact that Pointer seemed to be the aggressor in this situation, Pointer and Biedscheid will both miss their teams’ next games because both engaged in the fight.  Mike Brey tried to appeal Biedscheid’s suspension to the conference to no avail: “There’s no appeals process, which is disappointing… Once it’s deemed a fight, which it was, and he was throwing punches, it is what it is.”
  2. Mike Brey seems about ready to hop off the conference realignment carousel. With the news that the Catholic 7 will be breaking away from the Big East to become… the Big East… it is unclear whether Notre Dame next year will stick around with UConn, Cincinnati, and friends, or join the Catholic 7 for a season, or head to the ACC a season early. If the ACC will have the Irish, that solution seems to make the most sense, but then again, this is conference realignment. Sense was checked at the door years ago.
  3. James Robinson has flown a bit under the radar this season for Pitt nationally, but those in the program hold the freshman in very high esteem. Former Panthers great Brandin Knight sees great potential in the young point guard: “He’s just one of those guys that you get the feeling that there’s something special about him… He has the poise and he really understands the game. He’s very mature beyond his years.”  Robinson averages 6.1 points and 3.5 assists per game in 26.7 minutes of action for Pitt, and in the team’s last game against Villanova he scored 14 points in the overtime win.
  4. Villanova has had a number of statement wins this season, but coming into Wednesday night the Wildcats were still not a sure thing for the NCAA Tournament. Knocking off Georgetown last night should help secure Nova’s spot in the Big Dance. The game with the Hoyas was an ugly affair, with three Georgetown players fouling out and the Wildcats hitting 30 free throws while the Hoyas could only muster four there. The win keeps Villanova from entering postseason play on a multiple game slide, and sets them up well for next week’s Madison Square Garden processions.
  5. Another day, another weird story coming out of Syracuse. Moments after the Orange defeated DePaul Wednesday evening, the school’s official Twitter account published a message speculating that it could be Jim Boeheim’s last game as Orange head coach with a link to a blog post, which stated that according to “sources,” Syracuse was under investigation by the NCAA and Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross had asked Boeheim to step down. After the game, Syracuse released the statement that the story was completely false, as most who read it had assumed, but the larger story here is that there has been a long line of social media incidents stemming from the official Syracuse University accounts. Last year, one of the student interns who runs @SyracuseU tweeted about the upcoming DaJuan Coleman decision before the center had formally made his college choice between Syracuse, Kentucky, and Ohio State — a clear violation of NCAA rules. There have been numerous other instances of similar mistaken tweets. On an individual level, these tweets seem like minor mistakes, but when taken as a group, it shows that the school needs to take their social media presence more seriously.
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Big East M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 28th, 2013

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  1. Everyone remembers the last two days when I was saying that UConn was going to come to play Wednesday right? Okay so maybe I wasn’t going out on a very big limb with that prediction, but the Huskies sure made me look good last night when they took highly ranked Georgetown to double overtime before losing a game they probably should have won in agonizing fashion. Yes, Otto Porter deserves some big-time credit for his late-game heroics and his general excellence at the game of basketball, but the Huskies’ perimeter defense for most of the second half was atrocious and their offensive possessions down the stretch were not great either. UConn deserves credit for continuing to play inspired basketball without a postseason to look forward to, and Georgetown has the look of a No. 1 seed after taking a tough conference opponent’s best shot on the road and still coming out with a win. The Hoyas are hardly a finished product and if some team can figure out how to stop or even slow down Porter, John Thompson III‘s bunch will be in big trouble. But, in case you didn’t notice, Porter is pretty difficult to stop and when the backcourt duo of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks get going, opposing teams don’t have a lot of success. It is way too early to say Georgetown has the inside shot at a No. 1 seed because an early exit in the Big East Tournament can dash those hopes quickly, but they are definitely in the conversation as of right now.
  2. Notre Dame is still clinging to hope at winning the Big East regular season crown and one of the ways to improve their chances would be to get the services of senior forward Scott Martin back sometime soon. Martin has returned to practice after battling knee issues for much of the season but the Fighting Irish still have no idea when he will return to the court or if he will be able to return at all. Coach Mike Brey gave Martin’s comeback a 50-50 shot and it seems like the best the team and Martin can hope for is that the pain won’t be a major issue and Martin can play limited minutes. Even in limited minutes, Martin’s basketball IQ, floor-spacing ability, and improved long-range shooting would be a boon for a Fighting Irish team trying to find some consistency. And on a more personal note, it would be just awful for Martin if his sixth-year of eligibility and his last shot at the NCAA Tournament were wasted because of recurring knee problems. The quotes Martin gave to Jeff Goodman are, unfortunately, rather sad, and positive thinking alone won’t resurrect Martin’s career. My guess is that Brey and the team will find a way to get Martin on the court, even for a minute, on Senior Night next Tuesday but I wouldn’t expect him to make a large impact on the rest of team’s season.
  3. Until I got a chance to read this article, I had forgotten that Miami‘s star point guard Shane Larkin was at one point supposed to be playing for DePaul and coach Oliver Purnell. Even Purnell was willing to wonder what life might have been with a budding star like Larkin running the show, but alas, the Blue Demons don’t have Larkin, who has gone on to bigger and better things, while the Blue Demons have continued to slump. The story is a good one, especially because it is penned by a Virginian-Pilot reporter who was familiar with Purnell from the coach’s time at Old Dominion. The jist is that Purnell came to Chicago with the reputation of a program fixer, something DePaul was in desperate need of, and things have not gone according to plan. Aside from Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, the team is devoid of true Big East-caliber talent and the Blue Demons’ offense is so putrid at times that watching them play can be difficult. We have used this space before to wonder whether Purnell will get the axe at the end of this season, but I think at this point, the school is willing to let him have one more year to show some serious improvement before they kick him to the curb. Of course that extra season might have just as much to do with the fact that DePaul still owes Purnell a lot of money and they would like to try and recoup something of value from that investment. It’s hard to root against Purnell, who seems like such a nice guy, but Purnell’s coaching track record is not spotless, and unless he can turn things around out of the gate next season, the school may not even wait a full season to dump him.
  4. Hard to disagree with Cincinnati head honcho Mick Cronin‘s decision to make practice after the team’s blowout loss to Notre Dame light and fun. Nothing has been fun about the last few weeks for Cincinnati as they have watched themselves go from conference title contenders to bubble watchers in just six games and so Cronin’s decision to give the guys an “emotional break” seems like exactly what the doctor ordered for the team as they get ready to play UConn on Saturday. Of course that emotional break won’t help the Bearcats learn how to score, something they have not done a lot of in recent weeks. The game against the Huskies will be at home, and UConn is coming off their emotionally draining loss last night to Georgetown, so maybe the stars have aligned for Cincinnati to get back on track, or maybe the gritty Huskies will find a way to get up for this game as well and they will sink Cincinnati even lower. Maybe now, after their break, the team can relax, take some of the pressure off of themselves, and just play hard-nosed basketball. They better, because although they are safely in the tournament for now, the way they have played in the last six games, anything can happen before Selection Sunday.
  5. It is somewhat hard to follow Bud Poliquin‘s meandering, comma-filled article about Jim Boeheim‘s testy press conference after the team’s loss to Marquette but I think what the veteran columnist is trying to say is that people shouldn’t make a big deal of the fact that Boeheim got a bit snippy in a press conference because it happens all the time. Poliquin has a point. There are plenty of us who haven’t even been on Earth long enough to remember Boeheim’s first years at Syracuse and even we know that the legend likes to get combative and short when he doesn’t like the questions being asked. All of that said, Boeheim has been making plenty of news with his off-the-court remarks this season, and scolding a student reporter, or any reporter for that much, for asking pertinent questions about X’s and O’s and coaching decisions is a bit ridiculous. The questions that Boeheim didn’t like weren’t meant to question his coaching ability, they were questions that were being asked so they could get answers from the guy in the room with all of the coaching experience and ability. A question about why Boeheim didn’t use DaJuan Coleman against the Golden Eagles isn’t meant to criticize Boeheim’s decision-making, it is to learn more about his decision-making process. So yeah, let’s not make a big deal of the fact that Jim Boeheim got snarky in front of a microphone again, but only if Boeheim will agree to stop making innocent questions about a game such a big deal as well.
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Big East M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 1st, 2013

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  1. The U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association released its Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List yesterday, which featured Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Louisville’s Russ Smith. The Big Ten placed four players on the list, followed by the Big East and Big 12 with two apiece. The award, which recognizes the best player in college basketball each season, hasn’t been claimed by a Big East player since St. John’s Walter Berry won it in 1986. While Carter was a consensus 4/5-star recruit with NBA prospects coming out of high school, the recognition denotes a long three-year journey for Smith, who was hardly even evaluated by national scouting services out of high school.
  2. Syracuse forward James Southerland will get an opportunity to appeal his recent academic suspension before a university panel next week, but not before missing two more games. Jim Boeheim’s leading three-point shooter will sit out for upcoming bouts at Pitt and at home against Notre Dame. But in light of DaJuan Coleman’s recent knee injury, Southerland’s presence under the basket might be missed most of all: The two combine to average 9.5 rebounds per game. The Orange bench will only go seven deep for at least two pivotal games, but at least for Syracuse fans there’s a definite possibility that Southerland could return this season.
  3. Speaking of timetables, Rick Pitino revealed during his weekly radio show yesterday that there’s a chance Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware could both return for Sunday’s game with Marquette. Blackshear (sprained shoulder) and Ware (“indefinite” suspension) both practiced yesterday for the first time this week. Blackshear was expected to recover from his injury this week, but news of Ware re-entering Pitino’s good graces came as a surprise to Louisville fans. He seemed firmly and perhaps irrevocably planted in the doghouse after the Pitt game, when his coach claimed he “isn’t coming back anytime soon.” We’re left to wonder what exactly it was that Ware did, but Pitino indicated it wasn’t an egregious offense like drug use.
  4. Though outrebounded by a Big East-record 55-24 margin, UConn managed to outduel Providence on the road in overtime last night, 82-79. It was a war of attrition Ryan Boatright claims last year’s Huskies would have surrendered: “Last year’s team, when it got tough like that, when they made all those runs, we would have folded.” Jeff Jacobs at The Hartford Courant outlines a strong argument that the Big East members’ agreement to exclude the Huskies from the conference tournament looks increasingly disingenuous as league members disperse to greener pastures. “It’s too bad all those schools that are fleeing the conference sit in judgment of UConn. At this point, the only schools that should count are Cincinnati, South Florida and the schools that are coming in to be part of the Big East’s future.”
  5. They may be sitting in third place in the league standings with a 6-3 record, but Steve Lavin recognizes his St. John’s team is “still a work in progress.” Despite two impressive wins over ranked teams in the top half of the conference, the Red Storm have narrowly avoided upset against their last two inferior opponents and the meat of their schedule undeniably lies ahead of them. Lavin’s players are well aware of the criticism and seem excited for an opportunity to make a statement against another hot team. Said D’Angelo Harrison, “Teams are probably still doubting us because if you look at our schedule we’ve played the bottom half of the league. We’re looking to prove ourselves at Georgetown next.”
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Big East M5: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 30th, 2013

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  1. The recognitions continue to roll in for Villanova sophomore Darrun Hilliard, who was named Player of the Week by the US Basketball Writers Association a day after the folks in Providence pegged him as its Big East Player of the Week. It’s a significant national distinction: Hilliard joins Victor Rudd (December 23) as the only Big East players to earn the honor this season.
  2. After watching the Villanova loss in which Louisville’s Chane Behanan struggled to handle a couple of passes down the stretch, his brother made an unconventional suggestion to improve his coordination: juggling lessons. Behanan gave Chip Cosby of Louisville’s cn|2 Sports a glimpse of his juggling baseline. Maybe he’s being tongue-in-cheek, but Cardinals fans should feel encouraged that Behanan plainly acknowledges his recent problem clutching the ball and is striving to improve.
  3. At 1-7 in the Big East, South Florida is squarely in last place in the league standings heading into February. Moreover, they’re averaging fewer points per game than all but 44 teams in Division I, and they haven’t eclipsed 70 points since before Christmas. Collin Sherwin at Voodoo Five tries to diagnose what’s right and wrong with Stan Heath’s offense right now. His conclusions are, in a word, bleak: “You can’t run a pick-and-roll if you don’t have anyone that can roll to the rim effectively. You can pick-and-pop, but our perimeter shooters aren’t exactly known for their quick triggers… And we really don’t have anyone (besides Collins) that can put the ball on the deck and get into the teeth of the defense.”
  4. Substantial Syracuse freshman Dajuan Coleman underwent knee surgery yesterday that will keep him off the court for four weeks. With Coleman rehabbing and James Southerland benched for a while, Jim Boeheim is left with only seven scholarship players. Syracuse’s enviable depth is suddenly a thing of the past, and Brent Axe at the (Syracuse) Post-Standard points out Coleman’s injury is just one of a series of mid- and late-season big man casualties for the program. Nonetheless, Axe questions how much of a substantive impact the loss of Coleman will have on Syracuse: “Coleman may start every game, but has barely been used by Jim Boeheim in game situations that matter.” It will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff elects to slide Rakeem Christmas to center or start backup five-man Baye Keita. The Orange have several days to deliberate this issue as they look to rebound from the Villanova loss against Pitt on Saturday.
  5. It’s not all doom and gloom in upstate New York, as CJ Fair was entrusted with the official Syracuse Athletics Twitter account yesterday, to the great benefit of humanity. CJ apparently liked Django and believes he’s the ‘Cuse player most likely to win the Hunger Games. No profound insights, but his blunt economy of language is what really made the cameo entertaining:
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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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Big East M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 10th, 2012

  1. After Georgetown edged Towson 46-40 on Saturday, the dust still settling from a tedious 37-36 decision over Tennessee the week prior, Daniel Martin at CollegeBasketballTalk says it’s time to start questioning the Hoyas. He points to streaky outside shooting in particular as the element that makes it most difficult to predict where John Thompson III’s team will end up in March. Against Towson, leading scorers Otto Porter, Markel Starks and Greg Whittington combined to shoot 2-14 (14%) from beyond the arc, and the Hoyas’ bench contributed but a single point. The team has racked up the most inefficient offense in the Big East, and it seems that an off night from Porter and Starks is all that separates the team that took Indiana to the wire from the one that couldn’t score 40 on Tennessee.
  2. Syracuse played this past Saturday as well, scoring more points than Georgetown and Towson combined as they stormed past Monmouth, 108-56. Sean Keeley at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician points out that it was the team’s most prolific offensive display since hanging 125 on East Tennessee State in 2007. This team certainly looks more talented than that NIT squad, a point C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman and Michael Carter-Williams each asserted with double-doubles. Carter-Williams in particular tallied 16 assists –– the third most in Syracuse history –– and is unquestionably playing better than any point guard in the Big East right now.
  3. Ed Donohue at VU Hoops crunched some numbers and reached some frightening conclusions about Villanova’s penchant for second-half collapses in the past two seasons. Since the beginning of 2011-12, ‘Nova has suffered a negative second half scoring margin in 66% of its 41 games, and has gone on to lose 10 games in which they’ve led at halftime. It’s an ominous statistic that certainly doesn’t improve the outlook on Jay Wright’s job security.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan writes that Russ Smith is burdened by the reputation for volatile play he earned in his first two seasons. Despite having cultivated that style beyond anyone’s expectations to the point of becoming an elite college guard, it’s difficult to transcend the “Russdiculous” moniker bestowed affectionately upon him by Rick Pitino. “Any mistake I do –– one mistake –– keeps that perception,” said Smith. Before the season, it was hard to imagine Smith becoming more essential to Louisville than Peyton Siva or Gorgui Dieng. Even the most unorthodox dark-horse advocates would have scoffed at the notion that Smith might receive All-American hype in December. But that’s exactly what Sullivan suggested after Smith poured in a career-high 31 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals against Kyle Korver’s little brother and a hapless band of UMKC Kangaroos on Saturday. The junior two-guard is now second in the Big East with 20.3 PPG (on a surprisingly efficient 45.4% from the field), and fifth in the nation in steals.
  5. Speaking of Louisville, Rick Pitino broke with convention to answer a reporter’s phone and coordinate cocktail hour during his post-game press conference on Saturday. It was a bizarre moment that fortunately appeared on YouTube almost immediately. More importantly, it represents a levity that you wouldn’t expect to see very often from Pitino prior to this past March, as he seems to really be enjoying his job again after several years where nothing seemed fun for the volatile head coach.

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The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

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