Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. Mondays Are Slow. If Friday is the worst weeknight for quality college basketball games, Monday isn’t far behind. You have your two ESPN Big Monday match-ups, and those are typically fun, but beyond that, the schedule is as dry as can be. There were a few notable exceptions tonight. Seton Hall-Pittsburgh was entertaining. Oklahoma State-Iowa State was a promising commentary on the Cyclones’ future. Grambling State lost… again! I’m gasping for air here. We’re better off saving the prelude and jumping into the night’s action.
Your Watercooler Moment. Offense Coming Along For Syracuse.
Snapping an offensive downturn, especially when that downturn is at least partially thanks to the ineligibility of key reserve shooter James Southerland, is not the easiest thing to accomplish in the midst of conference play. Offensive problems are intrinsically harmful; if you can’t score, then by and large you can’t win games. And those intrinsic problems may still exist for Syracuse after Monday’s win over Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome. We just don’t know, because for as good as the Orange looked in shooting 48.9 percent from the field, and as effective as C.J. Fair (18 points) and Michael Carter-Willliams (eight assists, one turnover) can be even without Southerland around to spread the floor, the fact of the matter is Syracuse just played a team that’s surrendered an average of 1.07 points per possession this season. That mark leaves Notre Dame tied with Seton Hall for the Big East’s worst defense (before Ken Pomeroy’s rankings adjusted for Monday night’s games). That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of positives to take away from the win. The Orange held Notre Dame to 35 percent from the field, and the Big East’s most accurate three-point shooting team to 6-of-20 from beyond the arc; Rakeem Christmas chipped in 12 points and blocked four shots on the other end; Jerami Grant (14 points on 6-of-8 shooting) continues to make a case for next year’s MCW breakout candidate. After losing two straight road games, it has to feel good to return to one of the nation’s most unassailable home venues. The Orange’s offensive questions won’t go away, not quite yet. First, they have to prove they can beat a capable defensive squad (that Louisville win was nice, but it came before Syracuse put up 57 and 55 points, respectively, against Cincinnati and Pitt), preferably on the road.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Big 12 Home Teams Stay Strong. Of the two winning teams Monday night from the Big 12, only one (Iowa State) is actually worth talking about. West Virginia held on against Texas at home, in a game I didn’t personally watch but can only imagine was one of the most ugliest conference games we’ll have all season. On to more important matters: Iowa State is slowly but surely creeping up the Big 12 ladder. Monday night’s win over Oklahoma might not sound like much, but it did push Fred Hoiberg’s team into third place in the league standings, and the Cyclones have a huge chance to ascend further when they travel to Kansas State Saturday. Iowa State has some nice wins in the run of conference play – KSU, Baylor, pushing Kansas to overtime (even if it was a loss, it is nonetheless worth mentioning) and OU. Winning in the Little Apple would top them all. Read the rest of this entry »