Tracking The Four: Syracuse Gets Melo & Its Swagger Back

Posted by EJacoby on February 7th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

What made Syracuse look so beatable in the past three games? Perhaps the answer is as simple as we thought, and Orange big man Fab Melo is just that important to the team’s success. He returned on Saturday and the Orange completely ran St. John’s off the floor in a performance worthy of a number one team. Meanwhile, Indiana and UNLV each split their two-game schedules full of tough road matchups. Murray State continues to cruise along undefeated and is getting closer to its big matchup with St. Mary’s. Let’s see how each team got it done this week:

Syracuse Orange

Michael Carter-Williams Had the Memorable Highlight from Syracuse's Dominant Win Last Week (AP Photo)

  • Trending UP Because… – They put together perhaps their best performance of the season on Saturday by scoring nearly 100 points on the road at St. John’s in their only game of the week. Center Fab Melo returned from suspension for the game and had a solid individual performance (14 points, two blocks, 5-6 shooting), but it’s the collective play of the team’s defense and transition offense that is more telling of his impact. The Orange (23-1, 10-1 Big East) held its opponent to 38% shooting on two-point attempts, whereas they were allowing an average of 44.4% in three games without him. Melo was on the receiving end of several lobs in transition as the team consistently found easy offense in the 95-70 win. The Cuse look to have their swagger back and will try to keep up this strong form with two home games this week.
  • This Week’s Key CogMichael Carter-Williams. This week was a reminder of how truly deep this team is. Carter-Williams is a McDonald’s All-American freshman averaging just 12 minutes per game this season, and he looked like the best player on the floor during his 17 minutes against St. Johns’s. The frosh had 13 points on 5-6 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, and just one turnover in limited playing time.
  • Play of the Week – This was a no-brainer, as our guy Carter-Williams throws down a vicious dunk in transition that was one of the top plays of the week.
  • Talking PointMelo talked about his return to the team after a three-game suspension: “I had fun. It felt good to be back on the court with my teammates. I felt a little rusty and I wanted to do everything at once but Coach told me to slow down and I did.”
  • Coaching Legend Jim Boeheim continues his ascent up the coaching wins list. Saturday’s victory was the coach’s 879th career victory, tying him with Dean Smith for third all-time. The only men ahead of him are Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, with Knight’s 902 victories a very passable number next year.
  • Stats Central – Although Kentucky owns a near unanimous top ranking, the Orange have the far more impressive overall resume. If the season ended today (which, of course, it doesn’t), then Cuse would be the top overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, boasting the #1 RPI ranking and 12 victories over RPI Top 100 teams. Kentucky has seven Top 100 wins, by comparison.
  • What’s Next? – Syracuse has two tough opponents this week, but both games are at home. First comes rival Georgetown on Wednesday (7:00 PM ET, ESPN), followed by struggling Connecticut on Saturday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). The Hoyas look like the second best team in the Big East right now, and the Huskies could be playing for their postseason lives come this weekend. It’s never easy against these talented conference rivals.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

  • Trending EVEN Because… – They did lose last week to a team in the mid-70’s of the RPI, but it was a two-point loss in Laramie against tough conference foe Wyoming. The Rebels had several chances to tie or win the game on their final possession of the game, and we can’t knock the team very much for this tight road game. They also easily disposed of Colorado State earlier in the week at home. UNLV (21-4, 5-2 MW) remains in good shape in the Mountain West and has a huge matchup coming up on Saturday.
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Morning Five: 11.05.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 5th, 2010

  1. Xavier has taken another one on the chin; or more precisely, in the eye. Senior forward Jamel McLean (8.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 52.1% FG in 2009-10) suffered an orbital fracture in an exhibition against Northern Kentucky University on Tuesday and will miss 3-6 weeks. That leaves XU with nine scholarship players as the season looms, but the combined efforts of Sean Miller and Chris Mack have seen Xavier to three straight Sweet 16s, and only the truly naive would count them out this soon.
  2. One could understand if the mood were a bit gray in Tennessee’s practices these days, what with the NCAA investigating Bruce Pearl’s recruiting methods and the prospect of further sanctions on the program, but everyone is doing their best to forget all that business during practices and team activities, at least. There’s no other way to be if you’re a UT coach or player, but it can’t be easy ignoring that dark cloud gathering overhead.
  3. The game lineup for was released on Thursday, and it’s mid-major heaven. Out of the 53 games, we count 63 teams from the smaller-profile conferences as participants. Interestingly, an exec is quoted in the short article as saying that regular season “total hours of college basketball consumption went up by 266% last season” when compared with 2008-09. Nice stat, but…”consumption?” Even if that is what we’re all doing, nobody likes to be reminded that, in the eyes of many of the suits, we’re not watching college basketball. We’re consuming units of product. Hmm. Our copy of Wish You Were Here has to be around here somewhere…
  4. The dark days of Kutchergate at Iowa are thankfully behind us, now, and in the wake of the landmark decision from the NCAA on the matter, the students at one relatively new OVC school are thinking of ways by which they can capitalize. Beware, St. Louis-area programs!
  5. The West Coast Conference will be some fun viewing this year, and even with most prognosticators installing Gonzaga as the morning line favorite, one could reasonably call it a four-horse race — and it’s an eight-team league. It’s been a long rebuilding process for Pepperdine, but are they being underestimated this time? They have 14 players returning, including four seniors and seven juniors. They have 100% of last year’s scoring and 99% of their rebounding and assists coming back. Seth Rubinroit of the Malibu Times makes the case for the Waves.
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