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


  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


  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


  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


  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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Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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