The first exhibition game for a Pac-12 team this year went down on Thursday night, and while the rest of the sports world was enthralled by a magical World Series Game Six, or even Case Keenum throwing like nine or 12 or 15 touchdowns (sorry, lost count) against Rice, defending Pac-10 champion Arizona was busy losing to Seattle Pacific. Sure, it was an exhibition game, and sure, anyone who wants to overreact to this game needs to remember Syracuse losing to Le Moyne a few years back and then proceeding to be a top five team all year, but we got a couple of things out of the game Thursday night. First, and foremost, we got to watch college basketball again, and we got to see an entertaining game and a close finish. More importantly for the long haul, we got a look at the new Arizona. Freshman guard Nick Johnson looked like a guy unafraid to take a big shot in the closing minutes, while back court mate Josiah Turner looked very much like a freshman playing in his first collegiate game. He got the start at point over Jordin Mayes, but despite a few flashes here and there, he looked like a work in progress. For a bit more detail on this surprising game, check out our debut version of After the Buzzer, Pac-12 Edition from late last night.
As was mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Five on the main RTC site, a scrimmage between current Washington players and Washington alumni was cancelled after head coach Lorenzo Romar mentioned the game on a local radio station and some of the players invited fans on Twitter. Holding the scrimmage would not have been a violation, but publicizing the scrimmage in such a manner would have qualified as a secondary violation. Dumb, right? Well, luckily for the players (both current and former), the scrimmage did occur, with former Huskies like Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Quincy Pondexter and others apparently playing for the alumni team. Unfortunately for fans, security was in place keeping anybody from seeing the game. Well done, NCAA.
USC’s redshirt sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon is just one among the several Trojans battling injury concerns in the early going (Jio Fontan and Curtis Washington, the two other prominent injuries on the roster). But for Dedmon, at least, there is a bright side to his injury. A natural lefty, what little basketball Dedmon has played (he didn’t start playing organized basketball until his senior year in high school), he has mostly played with his right hand. However, since breaking his right hand on October 11, Dedmon has spent the past few weeks giving his left hand some work. While the injury may not be ideal for the undermanned SC roster, head coach Kevin O’Neill thinks “in the long run, it’s going to help.” Dedmon’s hand will be re-evaluated next week with the hope that he’ll be ready to go when the Trojans open their season on November 11 against Cal State Northridge.
In yesterday’s Morning Five, we talked about how Arizona State was toying around with the idea of using two seven-footers, sophomore Jordan Bachynski and junior Ruslan Pateev, in the lineup at the same time. If you wondered why, consider these troublesome stats: Last year ASU didn’t outrebound a single conference opponent, opposing post players typically went off against the Sun Devils (for example, career-highs for Derrick Williams, DeAngelo Casto and Matthew Bryan-Amaning in three straight games, which were preceded by double-doubles by Josh Owens and Markhuri Sanders-Frison), and the trio of Kyle Cain, Pateev and Bachynski combined to average 10.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in Pac-10 games. Suffice it to say, there is room for improvement up front for ASU, and with Cain bulking up and Bachynski getting more comfortable after a two-year Mormon mission, advances should be on the horizon.
Finally, we’d like to unveil a little Friday fun at the five spot. Connor and I will engage in a little pick ‘em on Friday mornings, starting with Pac-12 footballgames for now, but moving onto some of the more interesting basketball games as the season progresses. Each week we’ll put our picks for the weekend games here, keep track of them as we go along, and eventually declare a winner and award Paul Bunyan’s Old Oaken Skillet (okay, we’re still working on the name) at the end of the year. Each week we’ll pick the most interesting game and try to call a score on that one (in bold below), while the other games we’ll pick straight up. Here are our picks for this week:
The Lede. In the “Did that just happen” category, we have the Seattle Pacific Falcons, who promptly marched into the McKale Center on Thursday night and stunned the Arizona Wildcats, 69-68, in the first Pac-12 exhibition game of the season. This wasn’t your usual “LeMoyne over Syracuse” upset, where a D-II team gets very lucky and catches multiple breaks. The Falcons came in with an excellent game plan, executed it to perfection, and just flat out-played the Cats for 40 minutes. SPU understandably came out tight, with the Wildcats scoring the first six points of the game and the Falcons not making a basket until Jobi Wall put home a three two and a half minutes in. From there until the final ten minutes of the SECOND half, it was all Falcons, building up a thirteen-point advantage that they would hold on to for most of the game.
Get 'Em Out of Your System Now, Coach... (credit: Az Republic/D. Kadlubowski)
Arizona would finally regain the lead at 63-61 with 4:03 left, but Wall put the Falcons back on top with a layup two minutes later. The last minute of the game was absolute nuts, beginning with Arizona’s Solomon Hill bringing the Cats to within three with a free throw with 23 seconds remaining. After an SPU miss on the free throw line, Arizona pulled within one on a layup with five seconds to go. The inbounds pass would then be intercepted at half court, but a desperation three at the buzzer by the freshman Nick Johnson would fall short, clinching the surprising one-point victory for the Falcons. Read the rest of this entry »
Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh. This week they each pick their favorite moment of the decade — and their answers may surprise you.
DAVE ZEITLIN: Guys, in life I only have two rules: 1) Don’t commit murder; and 2) When a decade is coming to an end, I need to categorize everything in “best of” formats. Seriously, I eat that stuff up like I’m Rick Majerus at a buffet table. I’ve already listed the top 10 Penn basketball moments of the decade for my new Penn sports blog (yes, that’s a plug — now click on the link before I consider breaking rule No. 1) and I’ve read countless more of these types of lists. Who knows why? I guess I’m just a sucker for moments — glorious, spine-tingling, remember-where-you-were-when-you-see-them moments that shed a little light on why I devote way too much of my pathetic life to sports.
But this is a column where we get stuff done. So our goal is to pick out the truly best moment of the decade. Of course, this can mean a lot of things. For me,it’s hard to pick just one from the NCAA tournament, which features a handful of memorable games and plays every year. So after further consideration, I’ve decided my favorite moment of the 2000s happened this year. It wasn’t a do-or-die game for either team and many people didn’t even watch the end. But Syracuse’s six-overtime win over UConn in last season’s Big East tournament was truly epic — and my No. 1 choice.
I won’t recap the game for you. That would take up too much space, and I don’t even think I remember much of it. Here’s what I do remember: placing a friendly wager with my sports editor about the game (I picked ‘Cuse!), leaving work after the first overtime, listening to one or two overtimes in my car ride home, coming home and chatting with anyone who was online (was that you, Steve?) through the next couple of overtimes, and then pacing around my apartment and muttering like a crazy person during the final two overtimes. How many overtimes is that? I don’t even know. That game made me forget how to count.
Seriously, I didn’t know what to do during the last hour of that game. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run around the city and find people to talk to about the 2-3 zone. I wanted to drive to Syracuse, find the walk-on that played the final overtime because everyone else fouled out and hug him. I wanted to write the words “March Madness” on a piece of paper and then make out with it. It was that good.
Was it the most important moment of the decade? Definitely not. But it was my favorite. And now I’m eager to know — what are yours? There are no rules, no restrictions. Mike, this is your chance to pen a poem on why St. Joe’s was the best sports story in Philadelphia in 2004 other than a horse. And Steve, you can, um, write about how BU’s only trip to the tourney was spoiled by Bob Huggins being mean. I’ll be anxiously waiting — it’s just too bad there won’t be any six-overtime games to keep me entertained in the meantime.
A polarizing figure for our columnists
STEVE MOORE: First of all, that 2002 tournament game still gives me nightmares. Did Steve Logan really need to go back in the game when Cincinnati had a bazillion-point lead? Bob Huggins thought so. Bob Huggins also hates puppies. So there’s that. Also, what does a list of Top 10 Penn Basketball moments of the decade look like, exactly?
In our first college football-free weekend of the season (except for Mark Ingram’s Heisman and ESPN’s phenomenal documentary on “The U”) we had quite a few interesting story lines from the weekend, but one stood out on Sunday — the pair of upset victories by Atlantic 10 teams over highly ranked Big East teams in crosstown rivalry games (Temple against Villanova and Xavier against Cincinnati). Not only does it give those individual programs some bragging rights and a much needed boost on the recruiting trail, but it also gives a huge lift to the national perception of the Atlantic 10 and might cause some consternation amongst the Big East fans who like to promote their conference as the best in the nation for college basketball.
A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)
The A-10 Rising
Xavier 78, #19 Cincinnati 75 (2 OT). This might not be as shocking to the rest of the nation, but it might go down as the game of the year so far. It had a little bit of everything you could ask for in a game at this point of the season. Bitter rivalry? Check. Physical play? Check. Biting fan chants? Check (Brian Kelly). Big comeback? Check. Buzzer beater? Check (later waved off). National TV audience? Not so much thanks to ESPNU’s sparse national penetration, but RTC Live was there. In the end it was Terrell Holloway‘s 26 points and Jason Love‘s 19 rebounds that were the difference as the Musketeers overcame 22 points from Lance Stephenson in a game where neither team led by more than 4 points during the last 19 minutes of the game and that was only after the Bearcats fouled Xavier in an attempt to get the ball back when Dion Dixon missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 21 seconds left in the second overtime. To get a really good feel as to how intense this game was, definitely read our accounting from RTC Live above and check the highlight package below.
Temple 75, #3 Villanova 65: The Owls used an 11-0 run to start the 2nd half to overcome a 6-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Wildcats. The story of the game was Juan Fernandez who scored 33 points including 7 of 9 from 3-point range to knock off the highest ranked Big East team coming into the weekend. While the casual basketball fan will consider this a huge upset, those of us who follow college basketball closely knew that this would be a tough game for Jay Wright‘s crew against a team that had only lost by one to Georgetown (still undefeated) and St. John’s (only one loss by nine against Duke). The Wildcats managed to keep it relatively close with 23 from Scottie Reynolds, 16 from Antonio Pena, and 14 from Corey Fisher, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome Fernandez, 20 points from Ryan Brooks, and 10 points and 17 rebounds from Lavoy Allen. The loss was just the 2nd loss for Villanova in their last 23 games against one of their Big 5 rivals. After the victory, the fans began chanting, “We want Kansas!” in reference to their upcoming game on January 2nd. We love what the Owls have done so far this season, but the student body might want to be careful what they wish for because they might just get it. One bright spot for Villanova fans: Reggie Redding (think he might have been helpful against Allen today?) will return to action against Fordham on Saturday in his first action since he was suspended ten games for his arrest for possession of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.
In other action…
#1 Kansas 90, La Salle 65: The Jayhawks were able to overcame an off-night from Sherron Collins (1/12 FG) thanks to a season-high 31 points from Xavier Henry (the last KU freshman to score 30 points in a game was some guy named Paul Pierce) and a 12-point, 12-rebound effort from Markieff Morris. Cole Aldrich added 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 blocks while Tyshawn Taylor had 10 points and 6 assists with no turnovers. The Jayhawks’ next two games should be a bit more competitive as they face a pair of teams—Michigan (12/19) and California (12/22)—that have failed to live up to preseason expectations, but both have a lot of talent.
We will readily admit that we crushed the Orange for their embarrassing exhibition game loss to Le Moyne three weeks ago and even left them out of our Top 25 after that loss, but we can admit when we were wrong even if we are pretty sure most Syracuse fans felt the same way that we did at the time. We figured that Jim Boeheim was in for a long year waiting for next year’s much hyped recruiting class to come to upstate New York. After the Le Moyne loss, the Orange rolled off big wins at home against Albany (by 32) and Robert Morris (by 40), but those two programs were hardly in the same category as the three teams that would be travelling to Madison Square Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (UNC, Ohio State, and Cal) and we expected the Orange to have a difficult time competing with those teams even if we never really considered any of those teams that great (you will notice that my co-editors were a bit behind me on the Tar Heels being overrated if you look at that last poll).
The Orange opened up against Cal, a team we had already covered live twice this season (against Murray State and against Detroit), and destroyed the more highly touted Bears. After falling behind 5-0 to start the game, the Orange took the lead with 17:08 left in the first half and dominated Cal from that point forward with their frontcourt outscoring Cal’s 54-22. The Bears highly regarded backcourt struggled against the zone and shot just 30% as a team from beyond the arc only managing to outscore the Syracuse guards by 10 (51-41). The fact that the Orange dominated on the inside was no surprise to us. They have one of the best frontcourts (Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku) in the country and Cal’s frontcourt is lackluster to put it kindly. The real surprise was the play of their guards and redshirt sophomore Scoop Jardine (22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists) in particular.
We figured the next hurdle — defending national champion UNC — would be a much higher hurdle and it was. For a half. The first half of the game was as good as any we have seen this season with the teams trading quick runs and both teams making big shots. The Orange opened the game with an 8-0 run that had us questioning whether Roy Williams was trying to channel Phil Jackson by not taking a timeout and letting his team work things out on their own. The Tar Heels responded with a quick run of their own and took the lead at 12-11 with 15:06 left in the first half. The Orange briefly took a 9-point lead at 31-22 before the Tar Heels rallied again to tie it up before taking a 39-37 lead into the intermission. Then the Orange exploded opening up the 2nd half on an insane 22-1 run that left us speechless and led Williams to comment after the game that Syracuse “beat the dickens out of us”. Andy Rautins was the star of the game with an Andrei Kirilenko-like line of 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 steals (minus all the whining) and Wesley Johnson added a 25 points and 8 rebounds against one of the best frontcourts in the country. The Orange’s performance left us wondering if this year’s version might be better than last year’s version even without Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris. And for those of you who are wondering, the Orange will be in this week’s yet unreleased RTC Top 25, which should be out some time on Monday. The Orange need to be careful not to let the honor of being RTC’s inaugural Team of the Week get to their heads though because their next game is at home against a very good Cornell team that much of the country doesn’t know about, but has already won on the road at Alabama and UMass.
Opening night went pretty much as predicted in terms of winners and losers, but we did see a couple of notable events. Ohio State (16) rolled over Alcorn State 100-60 behind Evan Turner’s triple-double of 14/17/10; OSU’s only other trip-dub was in 1986 when Dennis Hopson drilled Ohio University with 27/11/10. Elsewhere, Syracuse exorcised the Le Moyne demons and put Jim Boeheim into the 800-win club by beating Albany 75-43; California was up by as many as 18, then got a little more than they wanted from a very game Murray State squad, but the 13th-ranked Bears still prevailed 75-70; and defending champs North Carolina (6) started the celebration of their 100th year of college basketball by donning throwback uniforms (with red highlights! *gasp!*) of the undefeated 1957 title team (a message being sent, there?) and spoiling Isiah Thomas’ coaching debut with Florida International by beating them 88-72. If you need more information, we’ve got detailed writeups of each game in our After the Buzzer post from last night.
You’ve heard enough from us — Luke Winn is all over last night with his Opening Night Impressions. His points, as usual, are all right on the money, especially his concerns about Cal’s lackluster play and the “teams of November.”
In the Syracuse win, guard Andy Rautins rolled his left ankle on an opponent’s foot and told the media afterwards, “It hurts. I rolled it pretty good.” He claimed that he would “take it day to day, see how it feels.”
Seton Hall guard Keon Lawrence was arrested and charged with DWI and driving with a suspended license after crashing his car into another motorist while driving the wrong way just before 3 A.M. on Monday. He and his passenger were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries; although the exact value has not yet been released, his blood-alcohol level by blood testing was said to have been over the 0.08 legal limit. Despite media reports of the DWI charge and the fact that he has been suspended from the SHU team, Lawrence is denying that either of those is true.
With their win over FIU on Monday night, North Carolina (1,985) is within three games of all-time wins leader Kentucky (1,988). Kentucky will get a chance to stretch the lead back out to four wins this Friday when they open their season against Morehead State in Lexington. If both teams stay out of the loss column until then, they would be at 1,995 to 1,992 when they meet each other at Rupp Arena on December 5th.
It is time to rejoice college basketball fans. After seven long months college basketball is back (officially). Since the last game of importance (UNC dismantling Michigan State), we’ve put up with the drama of Billy Gillispie getting fired and John Calipari getting hired (technically before the title game) along with John Wall, Lance Stephenson, and Renardo Sidney taking a ridiculously long time to decide where they would go to college (maybe just for one year) then waited to see if they would be eligible to play, which will probably be an ongoing drama throughout the season, and put up with a lot of really bad behavior by players and coaches. Now it is time for the games to begin. To be honest, the opening week is a little light on great games, but the pace should pick up next week as the early season tournaments get underway and we know that college basketball fans are craving a fix of real games so this week should still be exciting.
FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that will be Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he wished he had left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year). http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/inside/roywilliams/index-index.html?&url=http://mfile.akamai.com/8108/wmv/cstvcbs.download.akamai.com/8108/open/unc/08-09/video/m-baskbl/01jan/011709_unc_m-baskbl_pcpostmiami.wmv
Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shellshocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.
Murray State at #12 California on ESPN U:
FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: Ok, I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that is Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he should have left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question about Ed at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year–it’s the last question on the video as he is folding up his papers both while I am asking the question and as he is dodging the question).
Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shell-shocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.
Murray State at #12 California at 11 PM on ESPN U: This might be the most interesting game of the night even if it might be the least interesting to the casual fan, but we will be courtside covering the game for this year’s opening RTC Live (and we’ll be back two nights later when Detroit comes to Berkeley). I’m not expecting the Racers to pull off the upset although I think this game could be closer than a lot of people expect as Billy Kennedy brings a team that has the potential to win the Ohio Valley Conference into Berkeley. Kennedy will rely on his talented trio of Danero Thomas, Ivan Aska, and Isacc Miles against Mike Montgomery‘s talented group of perimeter players led by Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson. Montgomery’s trio (with some help from Duke transfer Jamal Boykin) should be enough to hold off the Racers, but if they come in believing the considerable hype we might just have our first upset of the regular season.
Hofstra at #1 Kansas on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not really expecting this to be a competitive game, but it is worth watching to see the consensus preseason #1 open up. Expect to see Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich play about 20-25 minutes in what should be a glorified exhibition. Hofstra has a pretty big name for a mid-major, but coach Tom Pecora will have the unenviable task of having to replace Antoine Agudio, the school’s all-time leading scorer, and he also lacks an interior presence to battle Aldrich on the inside–expect to see Aldrich dominate Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo on the inside. One match-up that might turn out to be interesting is at point guard with Collins going against Charles Jenkins (the only returning player in D1 to average more than 19 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4 APG last season). Outside of that check out the game to see Xavier Henry, who will have to work for his minutes this season on a deep and talented Jayhawk team.
Morehead State at #5 Kentucky on ESPNU: We would like to talk about how we think that one of the contenders for the Ohio Valley Conference title could take down Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen in their opening game, but it’s more likely that this could be a preview of a NCAA tournament game — a 1st round NCAA tournament game. Donnie Tyndall‘s team will have its hands full going into Rupp Arena with 23,500 rabid Kentucky fans ready to witness the rebirth of their program. One match-up that might be interesting will be Patrick Patterson (yes, Kentucky does have players outside of its freshmen) against Kenneth Faried, the odds-on favorite to win OVC POY. For the NBA scouts who might be reading this, you’ll have to wait to see John Wall who is sitting out as part of his suspension, but there will still be NBA talent on the court with Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins on the inside for the Wildcats.
Little Division II Le Moyne College got invited to the Carrier Dome for an exhibition game against the 25th-ranked Syracuse Orange earlier tonight, and most people probably figured this would be one of those common situations where the allegedly inferior little school walks out at the end of the night with some game experience against some top-quality players, a 50-point loss, and a nice big check.
So let’s give Le Moyne — and no, it’s not the capital of Iowa — some props: Le Moyne College is a Jesuit school located in DeWitt, NY, a suburb of Syracuse. Including both post- and undergraduates, it has about 3500 students. It is named after Simon Le Moyne, a Canadian priest and missionary from the 1600s. More information available in the place where I’m not afraid to admit I got the above tidbits — the school’s WikiPedia page.
It is most definitely a great night for the Le Moyne players, one that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. This is a team that played in front of 5,889 people in their home gym last year…meaning for the whole year. That’s an average of 393 fans every home game. The attendance for tonight’s exhibition was not listed on either team’s box score, but over 16,000 people attended last year’s game, also in the Carrier Dome. Have fun with this, fellas.
Now, it’s true that this really doesn’t mean that much in terms of Syracuse’s season, and these things do indeed happen sometimes. Michigan State’s loss to Grand Valley State to start the 2007-08 season comes to mind, but MSU went on to the Sweet 16 that year and then the national final the next season (last year). We doubt Jim Boeheim will take it as lightly, though — and we predict that the Orange players will have a nice long date with their running shoes tomorrow.
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Dick Vitale is perhaps ESPN’s most easily-recognized personality ever on the college basketball scene. Watch some fellow ESPNers do their best Vitale in celebration of his 35th year with the network.