Five Teams Nobody Can Quite Get a Handle On…

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

As the pre-Midnight Madness polls trickled out last Friday, it became glaringly obvious to us that consensus was more the exception than the rule. Aside from Duke at the top, teams like Butler and Kentucky somewhere in the middle and a precipitous decline for Purdue following Robbie Hummel re-tearing his ACL, agreement was about as prevalent as a British parliament session. Examining polls from a handful of websites that compiled a top 25 to prepare for the start of practice — ESPN’s Andy Katz, TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, CBS’ Gary Parrish, Fox’s Jeff Goodman and yours truly here at RTC – we found five teams with a noticeable amount of dissent attached to their name in the preseason. Let’s examine those schools and break down what they need to do to match optimistic projections and how they can avoid sinking to the depths of other predictions.

Team #1: Syracuse (Preseason Rankings: #7, #10, #13, #19, #20)

Overrated at #7 if: the Orange are unable to replace the leadership, chemistry and production provided by fifth year seniors Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and fourth year junior Wes Johnson. At times last season, Syracuse was a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor. Players embraced their roles offensively and Jim Boeheim had the perfect roster at his disposal to stymie opponents with his patented 2-3 zone. The jury’s still out on whether Kris Joseph will be able to step into Johnson’s shoes and replace that versatility on the wing. Scoop Jardine was that sparkplug off the bench last season — will he be able to channel that effort for 35 minutes per night rather than 21.3 MPG? As many accolades as Fab Melo and Dion Waiters achieved in the high school ranks, depending on freshmen can be risky business. Asking them to drop just three spots in the polls after losing that considerable amount of production seems unreasonable and unrealistic.

When Boeheim Speaks, We Should Listen (TSN/B. Leverone)

Underrated at #20 if: Remember last summer when Boeheim hyped up that transfer from Iowa State named Wes Johnson? He’s been doing the same with Fab Melo, telling SI.com’s Seth Davis that his seven-foot freshman will be “a strong contender for national rookie of the year.” Plus, let’s face it: storied, winning programs like Syracuse prefer to reload than rebuild. Last October, we were wondering how the Orange would replace Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris (in hindsight, that looks foolish, but it was true at the time). Why should we believe any differently this time around? NBA scouts have tabbed Joseph as a future lottery pick, Jardine and Brandon Triche shot well enough in 2009-10 to believe they can pick up Rautins’ slack, and Melo is an immediate upgrade offensively over Onuaku. In a conference that lost personnel across the board, Boeheim has a shot to put together back-to-back Big East title squads.

Team #2: Missouri (Preseason Rankings: #8, #12, #13, #16, #16)

Overrated at #8 if: Missouri’s returning talent isn’t that good in the first place. The Tigers return their top three scorers from a season ago, but it’s not as though Missouri lit the world on fire in 2009-10: they lost games to Oral Roberts, Oklahoma and Nebraska before garnering a #10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s also concern about the Tigers frontcourt — Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratcliffe, Justin Safford and Steve Moore -- regarding their ability to contain the behemoths that face them in the Big 12. Any team that takes care of the basketball, keeps the action in the halfcourt and boasts legitimate scoring big men can negate Mike Anderson’s chaotic full-court press and take the Tigers out of their comfort zone. The prized recruit of Anderson’s class, 6’8 power forward Tony Mitchell out of Texas, is dealing with eligibility concerns and hopes to join Missouri in time for the bulk of Big 12 play, but that proposition is in serious jeopardy.

Underrated at #16 if: people underestimate the ability of Anderson to get the most out of his team. He’s positively giddy about the prospects of this year’s roster. There’s scoring punch on the outside with Kim English and Marcus Denmon, a dynamic point guard duo with Mike Dixon and Paul Pressey and plenty of candidates to thrust themselves into stardom in the frontcourt, especially Ratcliffe, the ultra-talent top junior college recruit. The Tigers full-court press keeps them in any game against any opponent if they’re able to force turnovers and impose their will. Anderson has the speed, versatility and athleticism to pressure opponents into oblivion. English is a phenomenal scorer and potential all-conference performer. If he develops more of a well-rounded game and improves efficiency, Anderson also boasts a go-to scorer when the Tigers need a clutch bucket.

Team #3: North Carolina (Preseason Rankings: #6, #9, #12, #14, #14)

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30 Days of Madness: Six OTs

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so for the next two days, we’ll be re-visiting some of the timeless moments from Championship Week.  Enjoy.

Championship Week

Dateline: 2009 Big East Tournament – Syracuse vs. Connecticut

Context: Once in a very long while, a game comes along that unites a generation of fans, and this 2009 Big East quarterfinal matchup was such a game even though it was only a quarterfinal in a conference tournament.  Where were you when…  will start the discussion, and any fan of the sport will be able to seamlessly jump right into the conversation no matter his age or location.  Everyone will be able to faithfully answer that question in five, ten, twenty, or fifty years.  “I was at my brother’s house sitting on his sofa when Devo hit the three,” will say one; “Not me, I was actually on the road that night, but I kept having my wife give me updates over the phone,” will say another.  This game was such compelling theater that Madison Avenue has already made a commercial referencing it (starring Jay Bilas) and the Big East Conference has an entire website devoted to it at SixOvertimes.com.  And yet, unlike most games of such posthumous magnitude, this one doesn’t have a signature moment…  er, not one that counted, at least.  At the end of regulation, after a Kemba Walker putback layup for UConn to tie the game 71-all with 1.1 seconds remaining, Syracuse inbounded the ball the length of the court; it was partially deflected and then caught by Eric Devendorf, who turned and drilled what appeared to be the game-winner from 28 feet.  Multiple replays showed the ball still barely touching his fingertips as the red light came on, so the basket was negated and the two teams continued to play.  And play they did.  Even though there was no true signature moment that defined the six overtimes, there were plenty of great smaller moments: Rick Jackson’s dunk in OT to send the game into another period; Walker’s halfcourt near-miss at the end of the second OT; Paul Harris’ Charles Smith moment under the rim in the fourth; Jeff Adrien on the floor after missing the game-winner in the fifth extra period; the fact that Syracuse never so much as held a lead from the end of regulation until the sixth overtime.  In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the story of this game might be the incredible number of missed shots that both teams had to win it throughout the first five overtimes, but our takeaway here was sheer volume – the number of points (244), the minutes of live action (70), the length of the game (3 hours, 46 minutes), even the number of fouls (66) and disqualifications (eight, including six starters).  In fitting with the Big East and NYC attitude, everything about this game was more, and by the end of the night when an exhausted couple of teams shook hands completely spent in the wee hours of the morning (1:22 am), everyone in the building knew that they had witnessed a classic that will not soon be forgotten in the annals of this league. 

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RTC Team of the Week: Syracuse

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2009

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).

syracuse orange

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.

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ATB: Wesley Johnson Makes Syracuse Better Than Last Year

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2009

atb

Coaches vs. Cancer.

Addition by Subtraction? Syracuse 87, North Carolina 71.  We all knew that Roy Williams’ Carolina team was likely to take a bit of a step back this season after losing four players (Hansbrough, Ellington, Lawson, Green) to the NBA Draft, and we expected the same from Syracuse after losing the core (Flynn, Harris, Devendorf) of its Sweet Sixteen squad.  But is it possible that Syracuse, with the addition of multi-dimensional forward Wesley Johnson and the natural progression of players such as Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine, are actually better than they were in 2008-09?  Forget the loss to Le Moyne in the preseason — when the games have actually counted, they’ve mauled every opponent they’ve faced by an average of 27.5 pts.  Albany and Robert Morris, sure — but highly-ranked California by 22 and North Carolina by 16?  Not so much.  As Roy Williams put it after the game, Syracuse “beat the dickens out of us,” and he wasn’t exaggerating.  The Orange broke out of a 39-37 deficit at halftime with a ridiculous 22-1 run that had Carolina looking as befuddled as they’ve been in what seems like a long time (don’t let anyone tell you that it’s actually been that long, though – the 2008 Final Four game against Kansas looked similar for long stretches).  The key to that stretch of play was that North Carolina all of a sudden looked much like the young, inexperienced team that they are.  Williams made sure to stress that youth isn’t an excuse, but during the blitzkrieg by SU it was clear that many of the Heels were uncertain how to stem the tide, incapable at this point in their development of settling their nerves with several bad decisions on both ends of the court.  At the end of the night, it was obvious that the better team (with the best player, Johnson) won the game.  We have to be careful to crown anyone with anything this early in the season, but there’s no doubt that Syracuse is much further along than UNC, and we found ourselves wondering (along with Ray Floriani) if this year’s version of the Orange might actually be better off with the talented trio of Flynn, Harris and Devendorf out of the picture.  Sometimes those players, particularly Harris and Devendorf, could cause more problems than they solved for Jim Boeheim.  Is it possible that the group he has now — last year’s backups  + Johnson (transfer) and Jardine (redshirt) — have better team chemistry and trust for each other, resulting in wonderfully efficient execution on both ends?  Boeheim would never admit to it, but there could be something to this.

wesley johnson syracuse

Can We Send Cal Home 0-3? Ohio State 76, California 70. Memo to Pac-10 teams.  Don’t bother sending your schools back east unless they plan on actually showing up for the games.  For the second consecutive night, Mike Montgomery’s California team got completely outclassed by a bigger, more athletic foe that simply imposed its will on the Bears in the first half, rendering the second stanza as (mostly) garbage time.  Ohio State was much better tonight than they were last night, hitting five threes in the first half over the much shorter Bears, and generally controlling the game from start to finish.  Dallas Lauderdale in particular tortured the Cal interior players, getting credited for seven blocks and generally intimidating any Cal player of consequence who entered his lane.  Evan Turner was masterful as usual, notching another near-triple double of 26/14/6 assts on 9-14 FG.  More importantly for Thad Matta, Turner cut down his turnover total to a more reasonable (yet high) four, quite a few less than his ten last evening against UNC.  Jerome Randle was once again the only bright spot for Cal, as he dropped 26/3 assts in what was clearly a frustrating couple of games for the competitive guard.  The loss of Theo Robertson for these last two games with a stress reaction was undoubtedly a tough blow, but we’re not convinced that Cal would have beaten either Syracuse or Ohio State even with Jason Kidd back on campus.  Their problems with the interior players are just too damning, and there doesn’t appear to be any easy solution.  So what have we learned from this?  First, if Cal is indeed the best team in the Pac-10, then there won’t be a single Pac-10 team beyond the second round in March (again), and secondly, if there’s a better player than Ohio State’s Evan Turner (22/15/6 assts), he’d better start putting up some ridiculous games soon or the NPOY race will be over before it gets started.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #3 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Predicted order of finish:

  1. Villanova
  2. West Virginia
  3. UConn
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Louisville
  6. Georgetown
  7. Syracuse
  8. Seton Hall
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Marquette
  12. South Florida
  13. Rutgers
  14. Providence
  15. St. John’s
  16. DePaul

Preseason Awards.

  • Player of the Year. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
  • Newcomer of the Year. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Breakout Player of the Year. Kemba Walker, UConn

big east logo

All-Conference First Team.

  • Kemba Walker, UConn
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
  • Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown
  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

All-Conference Second Team.

  • Jerome Dyson, UConn
  • Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
  • Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
  • Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette

All-Conference Third Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville

All-Rookie Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Maalik Wayns, Villanova
  • Dante Taylor, Pitt
  • Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

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2010 ESPN College Gameday Sites Announced

Posted by zhayes9 on August 18th, 2009

Saturday mornings in the winter have become a schedule of habit for yours truly- stumble out of bed, put the coffee in the pot and settle down on the couch for another edition of College Gameday: Hoops Edition. The likely candidates will return for another run in 2010 including Rece Davis as the host and Hubert Davis, Digger Phelps, Bob Knight and Jay Bilas (assuming Erin Andrews will once again be involved) providing analysis and heated bracket discussion. While I’d love to see Hubert tied up behind the Bristol studios with his mouth taped shut and replaced by someone smart like Doug Gottlieb or Steve Lavin (or anyone who doesn’t think the eye test is the best way to determine NCAA Tournament teams), the Gameday crew has grown on me. Bilas has always been the most informative and intelligent analyst on the network covering college basketball, and once you can look past how big of a buzzkill Bob Knight is, he provides tremendous insight. Much like Chris Fowler on the football counterpart, Davis does a formidable job moderating and challenging his partners.

Here’s the schedule for this season:

January 16th: Storrs, CT- Notre Dame at Connecticut (women’s)
January 23rd: Clemson, SC – Duke at Clemson
January 30th: Manhattan, KS – Kansas at Kansas State (7 p.m.)
February 6th: Champaign, IL – Michigan State at Illinois
February 13th: Lexington, KY- Tennessee at Kentucky
February 20th: Seattle, WA – UCLA at Washington
February 27th: Syracuse, NY- Villanova at Syracuse
March 6th: Durham, NC – North Carolina at Duke

The women’s game doesn’t surprise me; in fact, I viewed it as inevitable for Gameday to make a trip to Storrs this season to commemorate the perfect season for UConn. And why not? I’ve never watched a full women’s college game in my life, and don’t plan on tuning in to that particular edition because Geno Auriemma will be prominently involved, but it’s well deserved. As for the other men’s contests, I think ESPN did a nice job considering they can only work with Saturday games and make the schedule in August rather than on a weekly basis, i.e., college football. You have potential top-ten teams in Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Villanova entering raucous environments in Clemson, Manhattan, Champaign and Syracuse, respectively. Expect some memorable RTC moments on Saturday nights this season.

Some quick thoughts:

Best Game- UNC-Duke always gets us tingly inside, but the best game takes place in SEC country this season- Tennessee-Kentucky. The Big Blue will be rocking in appreciation of their highly-anticipated top-five team under new coach John Calipari and will surely bring the heat for their most hated sweaty headman, Bruce Pearl. These two bitter rivals will be the top two teams in the SEC this season. Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism battling down low with DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson will be tremendous to watch.

Likely Stinker- Most would vote for a possible 57-56 final in Champaign as the likely stinker, but I’ll go with Villanova-Syracuse. Some believe the Orange could surprise with the addition of Wesley Johnson, but Villanova is loaded and took care of Syracuse late last season at the Dome even with Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris around. This one has the potential for blowout city rather than upset city.

Who Knows Game- Kansas State isn’t likely anything more than a bubble team this season, yet Gameday is making the trip to Manhattan to see preseason #1 Kansas battle the Wildcats in what should be an insane environment. You’d think the Jayhawks’ immense talent would be able to wipe the floor with Kansas State, but don’t underestimate Denis Clemente, Jacob Pullen and stud frosh Wally Judge. Feels like this could either be an 18-2 KU run to start the game or the most memorable upset of the conference season.

Missing Powers- A little bit surprised to see Texas without an appearance on Gameday. I love their makeup this year under Rick Barnes and coupled with a strong Big 12 + Austin providing a worthy destination = surprised at their absence. Purdue was snubbed. Butler was also a candidate to get some national TV love.

Cult of Personalities- As I mentioned before, the battle between Bruce Pearl and John Calipari, especially coming off the Josh Selby rumors/saga, will be eaten up by ESPN. It’s not exactly Rick Pitino-Calipari, but the storylines will develop.

Plus, we get more halfcourt shots. And those are always fun.

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Team of the 2000s: #9 – Syracuse

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

And we’re back with the second installment of our Team of the 2000s feature.  Just to refresh the schedule we anticipate, we’ll be putting up #10-#6 this week, and #5-#1 next week.  Yesterday we picked Maryland as our tenth selection (over Gonzaga, Pitt, and several others) and we’re declaring today that the ninth best program of the 2000s is none other than the Syracuse Orange…  let the flames begin.

#9 – Syracuse

team2000cuse2

Overview.  This selection will be one of our more controversial top 10 selections. How can a team miss the NCAA tournament 3 of the 10 years of the decade and still manage to sneak into the top 10 when perennial Sweet 16 teams get left on the outside looking in?  Simple. Win a national title. Ok. It’s a little more complex than that, but in my eyes to be an elite program you have to win a national title (or at least come agonizingly close as a subsequent team on this list has done). Are we overvaluing that “One Shining Moment?” Perhaps, but to even the most hardcore college basketball fans like ourselves the eras are defined by the champions not the near-misses (with potential exceptions like the Jameer Nelson St. Joseph’s team). In this case, the Carmelo Anthony/Hakim Warrick/Gerry McNamara team outweighs the 3 NIT bids – two of those years were controversial snubs and the other was a late-season nosedive the year before Carmelo showed up in upstate New York. Beyond that the Orangemen have made two Sweet 16 appearances to go along with two Big East Conference tournament titles (in years they flamed out in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament). Despite missing the NCAA tournament two of the last three years, the Orangemen have shown signs of a resurgence with last year’s Sweet 16 appearance that followed their epic 6-OT win against UConn in the Big East Tournament and the addition of what appears to be a strong recruiting class.

8360118  Syracuse v Memphis

Pinnacle.  As I noted before, the 2003 national title is the clear-cut choice here. Before Kevin Durant and Kevin Beasley, there was Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony may not have put up as spectacular numbers as the other two in his freshman season (and consequently didn’t win any national POYs from any major media sources – RTC didn’t exist at the time or he would have at least one award), he does have the one thing that neither of those two freshman picked up in their layovers in college: a national title. The 2003 Orangemen team will never be mentioned among the all-time great teams, but they rebounded from an opening-game loss to Memphis to finish a very respectable 30-5. Jim Boeheim started the same 5 for all 35 games: two freshmen (Anthony and McNamara), two sophomores (Warrick and Craig Forth), and one senior (Kueth Duany). Despite how history will remember this as “Melo’s team”, the Orangemen did feature three other double-digit scorers. In the NCAA tournament, Syracuse was only seriously challenged twice: once against a Marquis Daniels-led Auburn team staging a furious comeback in the Sweet 16 (a game I attended) and the championship game where Warrick blocked a potential game-tying 3 by Michael Lee in the waning seconds to give Boeheim his first and only national title to date.

Tailspin.  2008. After following up the 2003 title with a Sweet 16 trip (minus Melo), the Orangemen were upset in the 1st round in back-to-back years  (2004 and 2005) including infamously to the Taylor Coppenrath-led Vermont Catamounts. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Orangemen, right? Wrong. Try back-to-back Selection Sundays in 2007 and 2008 where Jim Boeheim’s crew was the proverbial “last team left out”. Following that 2008 season, there were several vocal critics in the upstate New York area who were calling for Boeheim’s head.

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: B+. It’s amazing how quickly things have turned around for Boeheim. While the Orangemen lose a lot in the backcourt (Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf) along with Paul Harris and Kristof Ongenaut, they are absolutely loaded on the inside where they boast returnees Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson along with 4-star recruit DaShonte Riley and Iowa State transfer (and Big 12 All-Rookie selection) Wesley Johnson. That alone should be enough for the Orangemen to compete in a relative down year in the Big East with DeJuan Blair and Hasheem Thabeet no longer roaming the paint. Syracuse won’t contend for a national title next year, but their fans aren’t thinking about the 2010 Final Four. They are thinking about cutting down the nets in 2011 when they will be bringing a loaded freshman class to the NCAA tournament with Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, and C.J. Fair. While this class can’t match the one that John Calipari stole brought with him to Kentucky, it’s an impressive haul for Boeheim. The question is whether Boeheim can continue this kind of recruiting success after they start reading the weather forecast for Syracuse in the middle of winter (actually, that’s never hurt him before, his players can’t read… we kid, we kid)…

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Welcome Team Narcissism: Class of 2009

Posted by rtmsf on June 26th, 2009

Well, the 2009 NBA Draft has come and gone, and hundreds of players are waking up to the soul-crushing wreckage that inevitably follows.  For thirty players last night, hummingbirds are carrying $100 bills around the hotel room, there’s a case of empty Cristal at the foot of the bed, and the debilitating headache you’re sporting today is a badge of honor – Welcome to the Show.  For another thirty players, there’s a melancholy tease of ‘what could have been’ as you realize your dream is only marginally within reach – no guarantees from here on… you’re just a day-to-day wage-slave like the rest of us.  For the remainder who were waiting on that siren’s call from D. Stern last night, replace the Cristal with Boone’s and the tease with ‘what went wrong… I thought I was pretty good,’  and you have what we like to call Team Narcissism.

narcissismTeam Narcissism is filled with players who thought they were something they weren’t: draftable.  Or if they were draftable, they thought they were first-rounders when they were really second-rounders.  These are players who left college early based on the tenuous premise that they were ready for the NBA, and that the NBA would welcome them into its arms…  but… it didn’t quite work out that way.  Now they’re left with the option of scratching and clawing their way onto a team for a minimum salary, or heading overseas to try to catch on somewhere else.  Some of these players had absolutely no business declaring early, while others were victims of unfortunate timing and stock slippage.  Still, Scotty Thurman says hello.

Team Narcissism

  • Dar Tucker, Depaul (undrafted) – the 6’5 Blue Demon thought because he could score 18 ppg on a terrible FG% (39%) that this made him a draft pick?
  • Shawn Taggart, Memphis (undrafted) – Taggart should be a gearing up for a senior season as a featured player in Josh Pastner’s new offense.  He never had a chance at getting drafted this year.
  • Brandon Costner, NC State (undrafted) – never had a chance, so why not stay in school for one more season and get your degree (see: Taggart)? (correction: stay in school and improve your game?)
  • Paul Harris, Syracuse (undrafted) – the first of two Syracuse clowns who were egregiously fooling themselves into believing they had a shot to get selected last night.
  • Eric Devendorf, Syracuse (undrafted) –  it’s true, he probably had nowhere else to go, but given what we know about Devo, he also probably saw himself as a lottery pick.
  • Daniel Hackett, USC (undrafted) – can’t blame the kid for jumping off a sinking ship, but he probably could have returned and dominated on that team next year (plus get his degree).
  • Patty Mills, St. Mary’s (#55) - this was a free-fall last night.  Mills was a borderline first-rounder but his stock fell significantly in the last month, and he probably should have listened to the right people and returned to SMC for an injury-free junior all-american campaign.
  • Jodie Meeks, Kentucky (#41) - no surprise here, as Meeks was expected to go in the second round.  Still think it was a poor decision, though.
  • Chase Budinger, Arizona (#44) - another free-fall player, as Budinger was a lottery pick not all that long ago.  Don’t really blame him much for leaving early, though, as his fall was swift and recent.
  • DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh (#37) – good decision for an undersized Big Baby clone to leave early?  Probably depends on whether he makes the team or not, right?  Definitely a gamble.
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About That Syracuse National Title Next Year. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2009

Despite their embarrassing performance in the Sweet 16 against Oklahoma (aka “The Tony Crocker Show”), many people around the Syracuse basketball team expected that they might have a chance to win a national title next year if they returned their nucleus with Kristof Ongenaet being the only senior who played significant minutes. Although there had been talk of some of the stars testing out NBA waters, it was widely expected that only 1 player would declare. Well it turns out that Jim Boeheim may have some more work to do next season.

According to reports, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris have decided to enter the NBA Draft (neither has hired an agent yet) while Jonny Flynn has decided to “test the waters”. Interestingly, Flynn is the only one of these three who is in Chad Ford’s Top 100 although he has Harris listed as being “late first to early second” despite being ranked #103.

Jim will be busier this off-season than previously expected

Jim will be busier this off-season than previously expected

While Syracuse should be able to compete for a NCAA bid with Andy Rautins, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku returning and the addition of DaShonte Riley and Brandon Triche, their fans will have to hope that Flynn decides to return because if he decides to go pro (projected to be a late lottery pick) they might end up going from a national title favorite to the middle to back of the pack in the Big East next year.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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ATB: Epic Night in MSG

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009

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syr-uconn

Six OTsSyracuse 127, Connecticut 117 (6OT). Every once in a while there’s a game where as you’re watching it you just know something amazing is going to happen.  Maybe it’s the bounce the players have on the court or the electricity in the air of the crowd.   Maybe it’s the way a seven-foot-three giant outhustles a guy half his size for a loose ball on the floor, or the  way a shooter comes hard off a curl to drill a 28-footer like it was a floater in the lane.  It’s unclear how you know what you know, but you know that you’re witnessing something special, and you’re not alone – everyone in the joint can sense it, and the fans watching from home feel it too.  There are only a few games in our personal history that we can remember having that sensation.  The Laettner game was one – we realized it when UK started nailing threes all over the place to erase the 12-pt Duke lead in the blink of an eye.  The Arizona-Gonzaga second round game in 2003 was another.  Tonight’s Syracuse-UConn game was the latest.

Games like this, you don’t just watch.  All the senses are engaged.  You breathe them.  You taste them.  Even better, these games breathe you.  They inhale the collective emotions and anxieties of everyone in the building, and like a living organism, emit a beautiful poetry of synaptic orgasmica. The final game time was just shy of four hours (an absurd length for a hoops game), but the second half and OTs felt like about fifteen minutes.  It’s like nestling up with a loved one or stumbling across your favorite movie on TNT.  Time no longer matters.  That’s how you know.  Our Big East correspondent, Rob Dauster, was live-blogging this game from his Blackberry inside MSG tonight, and reading through his posts is like reading the wild scribblings of a man reaching hoops nirvana (and exhaustion).  There was one post that he made that absolutely crystallized this game for everyone tonight – Every single person is standing in this gym.”  Because that’s what it comes down to: the crowd, the players, the gym – all in unison, all making magic happen.  For what it’s worth, Rob, every single person at home was standing too.

Now let’s get to the game itself.  Obviously, we’ve been saying all year that Syracuse has F4 talent.  The problem has been that they haven’t been able to maximize that talent, but the Orange are now showing signs that they’re starting to figure it out.  This SU team has a swagger that we haven’t seen since the G-Mac days, but the key difference is that Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins are far more talented than McNamara’s last two teams.  We fully expect the Orange to have nothing left in the tank for WVU tomorrow night, but we’d be utterly shocked if this team laid an egg in next week’s NCAAs.  The Cuse plays hard, and we just have a sneaky suspicion this year that they’re going to make some noise in this year’s Tourney (Flynn’s Charles Smith impression notwithstanding).

As for UConn, they had three possessions in the first five OTs to win the game, and each time they dribbled the ball around and forced up some horrible shot.  Even the play that gave them the tie to send it to OT before Devendorf’s absurd three at the end of regulation was off of a broken play.  This is indicative of the same problem that has plagued this group of Huskies since they got to Storrs – they’re just not clutch.  Here we are discussing a group of juniors that spent several weeks at #1 this year, and they’ve yet to win a postseason game.  Not one!  Husky fans are going to get angry at us and declare that they were able to win some meaningless game against Gonzaga or whoever during the regular season… but they’re UConn, an elite program, and they should know better than that.  Legacies are built in March (that’s how Calhoun built his), and this group of players remains suspect until they prove once and for all that they can play championship level basketball in tournament formats.  We’re still waiting on it.

After 70 Mins of Action, Syracuse Moves On (photo credit: NYT)
After 70 Mins of Action, Syracuse Moves On (photo credit: NYT)

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03.05.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2009

Just another night of highly ranked teams playing as if they don’t want to be a high seed. However, I am always on top of my game and I bring 110% to the Fast Breaks everyday. So sit back, relax, and let me do the work for you.

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