Monday, January 31, 2011

Is This Rock Bottom ??


Well, that sucked. The Syracuse Orangemen's 18 game winning streak seems like it was all a dream right about now as the Cuse is in the middle of a 4 game losing streak. Watching Duke lose to St. Johns yesterday helped me keep my head up, but in the end Syracuse has lost to two teams that we haven't lost to in years. Literally. Syracuse hasn't lost to Marquette since the 1980's.

Another slow start. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, Morgan State and Norfolk State played the longest 3 minutes of basketball in recorded history and Cuse fans watching on ESPNU were tortured until they were able to join coverage around the under 12 minute time out in the first half.

Marquette jumped out to a 10-3 lead and was in control the entire first half. When the half-time buzzer rang the Orangemen found themselves down 11 points. Once again, Syracuse was getting beat on the glass and being careless with the basketball. On Syracuse's final four possessions of the first half they turned the ball over three times.

The most frustrating part of the second half was when Syracuse was down one with the ball in Marquette's end and COULD NOT INBOUND THE BALL. Inbounding the ball is certainly day 1 stuff, however this Syracuse team could not overcome the inbound pass on two occasions with a chance to take the lead. The Orangemen were able to tie the game, but could never get over that hump.

Once again Syracuse was out-rebounded, although this game was by a narrow margin (2). Baye Moussa Keita led the Cuse in boards with 7, and added 4 points and 2 blocks before fouling out. He played some major minutes for the Orangemen and helped out on the glass on a day when Rick Jackson was held to just 4 rebounds.

Rick Jackson finished the day 6 of 7 from the floor for 14 points, however he was held to a season low in rebounds. Kris Joseph led the Orangemen with 18 points. The most interesting person on the floor was Scoop Jardine, however.

Scoop Jardine finished with a career high 13 assists and 13 points on 5 of 12 shooting. He also was credited with 5 turnovers, although in true Scoop fashion of late, it felt like many more. There were times late in the second half when I honestly felt worried every time Scoop touched the ball, and since he's the team's point guard, that's not a good feeling to have!

Speaking of point guards, Dion Waiters did not spend one second off the bench in this one. While Jim Boeheim took to the airwaves last week and said there was no issue with Dion Waiters, it's extremely curious to notice he didn't get any playing time on Saturday. Mookie Jones picked up 4 first half minutes while another regular contributor, James Southerland, also sat on the bench for the duration of the game.

In Southerland's place, freshman C.J. Fair had another strong outing. In 15 minutes of action Fair finished the day shooting 5 of 7 from the floor for 10 points and picked up 3 rebounds and 3 blocks. C.J. Fair should continue to see increased minutes, as his shot selection is always in high percentage areas and he is not afraid to pick up rebounds in the lane, something James Southerland has struggled to do of late.

Where do we go from here?

The loss, Syracuse's 4th straight, drops the Orangemen to 5-4 in Big East play and 18-4 overall on the season. It also drops Syracuse to 7th in the Big East Standings. The Cuse took another hit in the rankings this week, coming up 17th in both the AP & ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Polls. This week is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse to get off the canvas and salvage a season which once seemed so promising.

The Orangemen will first travel to #5 UCONN on Wednesday at 7PM. Syracuse will follow that up with a trip (which is by no means a vacation) to Tampa, FL to take on USF at 2PM. If Syracuse can find a way to win these two games, that will do a lot towards increasing the confidence around this program.

On a side note, if there was one class I wish all SU players would enroll in, it would be "How To Draw a Foul." It's been 5 years since I was a student at Syracuse University, is that course still offered?


photo courtesy of syracuse.com


Friday, January 28, 2011

Syracuse Travels to Marquette with the Season on the Line


If you are a fan of Syracuse basketball, you are sick of losing right about now. We could live with losing in Pittsburgh and get over a loss to Villanova. But what we witnessed on Tuesday night in the Carrier Dome is something we are all going to need rectified, and quickly.

The last time the Orangemen won a game was January 15th against Cincinnati. When we take the court on Saturday at 3:00PM on the road in Marquette it will have been two full weeks since the Cuse has tasted victory.

Right now, the main problem for Syracuse is protecting the basketball and taking the time to find the proper high percentage shots. And defense. Running down the floor and throwing up 3 pointers and runners in the lane are no longer going to cut it. Shooting 4-10 or 3-11 from the floor is not going to beat many Big East teams when that's the production out of your starting guards.

Missing layups and being out-rebounded by unranked and over matched teams can not and should not happen. And if Syracuse wants to save a season that started 18-0 and reached a #3 ranking in the country, than the Cuse are going to have to buckle down and get to work Saturday against the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Thankfully for Syracuse, Marquette has 4 losses in their past six games. Unfortunately for Syracuse, they haven't lost to the underachievers of the Big East (like Seton Hall). The Golden Eagles' four losses have come against Pittsburgh on the road, in Louisville, in Notre Dame and at home against UCONN. They have lost the 4 games by an average of 5.5 points. Syracuse lost their last game to then 2-5 in Big East play Seton Hall by 22 points!

Although Jim Boeheim went on the air with The Score 1260 yesterday and said his team did not quit on Tuesdsay, the effort displayed by Syracuse was never there. Seton Hall jumped out to an early 10-2 lead before Syracuse even knew what hit them, and the Cuse never recovered to even make it a game. From start to finish it was a complete embarrassment for the team, the university, and the alumni. How can Seton Hall score 90 points in a 40 minute game on Syracuse at home? The Pirates averages 68.1 points per game, 208th in the nation!!

We know we can play better than this, we've seen it. Now that we got what should be the worse loss of the season out of our system, we have to pick up the pieces and move forward.

Rick Jackson needs to keep being Rick Jackson. A double-double machine. Kris Joseph needs to be Kris Joseph and lead this team in scoring. Scoop Jardine needs to play like a true point guard and CREATE opportunities for his teammates while taking the ball to the hoop and generating high percentage shots for himself. Brandon Triche needs to play with a head on his shoulders and not throw blind passes in the lane to no one, while knocking down outside shots and playing tough defense at the top of the zone.

Fab Melo needs to find a way to do whatever he did in the second half of the Cincinnati game and keep doing it for every second he's on the floor. It's not too much to ask to use your 7-foot frame to establish position inside and grab every rebound that comes off the hoop. If you aren't going to score that's one thing, but its no excuse not to rebound the ball and play defense.

As for the guys off the bench, when they get on the floor they have to energize the guys who are out there through strong defense and smart play. Coming out and going 0-2 from 3-point range in the first 40 seconds you are on the floor isn't why Jim Boeheim is putting you in the game.

Frankly, I'd like to see C.J. Fair get more minutes. If he takes a shot, more often than not its right around the rim, and he can rebound the basketball in the lane.

Normally I'd dissect a few key players on the opposing team during a preview such as this, however today I'm not going to do that. Syracuse needs to shut down any opponent that touches the court. The defense has to be as good as the defense that held Notre Dame to 58 points in the Carrier Dome on new years day.

One might say that to think an 18-3 team has a must win game in late January is "crazy," But make no mistake, this is a must win game. After Saturday, Syracuse will face-off against #5 UCONN, travel to USF, host #20 Georgetown and then travel to #19 Louisville.

Lose Saturday, and I have very little faith in this stretch of games. However, if we can win, then we can use those next four games to springboard ourselves back into respectability with the nation's elite and begin to gear up for a serious tournament run.

The question for the team is, what kind of season do you want to finish with?


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Morning After


Waking up this morning was like waking up from a bad dream.

Did that really happen?

Is it possible that Seton Hall (a team that was 2-6 in the Big East, a team that had an 8-12 overall record, a team that Syracuse hasn't lost to at home since 2006) came into the Dome and absolutely blew out the #9/#10 ranked Syracuse Orangemen?

That's the reality we are waking up in today. Syracuse, after winning 18 straight games to open the season, have now lost three straight games and the latest is the most humiliating.

It's one thing to lose to #4 Pittsburgh on the road. It's one thing to lose to #7 Villanova at home. But to lose to unranked and outmatched Seton Hall in this kind of fashion. To not only lose at home, but to be blown out. That is completely and 100% unacceptable for a program that was just last week ranked #3 in the nation.

Immediate feelings after the loss: Shock. Embarrassment. Humiliation. Disbelief. Anger. Disappointment.

Could 90-68 really be the final score? And can Syracuse really be on the losing end? If you missed the game and just saw the final score you would have definitely thought that the person giving you this information got the order of the teams wrong. But no. This is real.

From the opening tip to the final buzzer the Syracuse Orangemen were out worked, out hustled, out shot and were lacking the sense of urgency and poise necessary to make this a game.

If I were Jim Boeheim I would have told my players to stay in the locker room after the game. I would have told them to keep their sneakers on, and that we are waiting for the stands to clear out, because there's going to be practice. No basketballs. Just your sneakers and a whistle. Be ready to run. In hockey, they call it a bag skate. I'm not sure what they call it in basketball but to quote Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle, "you guys don't want to work during the game, no problem, we'll work now."

Rick Jackson was Rick Jackson. 12 points 11 rebounds 6 blocks 3 steals 3 assists. Unfortunately Scoop Jardine was the Scoop Jardine we have been seeing lately. Scoop was 4 of 10 from the field for 11 points with 2 assists and 3 turnovers. Brandon Triche was 3 of 11 from the floor and 1 of 6 from 3-point range to also finish with 11 points and 3 assists (and 3 turnovers).

James Southerland started in place of Fab Melo, and only succeeded at being invisible. Southerland was 1-5 from the field, 0-4 from 3-point range, had just 2 rebounds in 19 minutes and for much of the time he was out there he was difficult to even notice on the floor. Kris Joseph finished with 17 points to lead the Orangemen in scoring.

The defensive effort by the Cuse was 100% unacceptable. How a team like Seton Hall can score 90 points on you in a 40 minute game is beyond me. Jeremy Hazell came out of the gates literally on fire and finished with 28 points on 10 of 17 shooting from the floor (5 of 10 from 3). Not one player on the Syracuse team could match his intensity on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

I think going forward C.J. Fair should take some of the minutes we are watching James Southerland receive. He actually understands how to run a full court press, a facet of the game that looks lost on the rest of the team, and he can rebound the basketball. Fair was 3 of 5 from the floor for 6 points with 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 16 minutes. Dion Waiters finished 0-4 from the field. His only other stat was that he had 1 foul in 14 minutes.

Where do we go from here? It looks like Syracuse has three tough road games coming up against Marquette on 1/29, in UCONN on 2/2 and in South Florida on 2/5. The Orangemen better not treat that trip to Tampa like a vacation, because they will come home with the same level of embarrassment we are all forced to live through today.

This team needs a serious gut check. They need to find out if they are going to just shrivel up and die or if they are going to start hitting back and earning some of the respect back that they have most definitely lost after last nights game. The good news is that there are plenty of ranked opponents left on the Orangemen's schedule. It's not as if we play in the ACC and we only have one ranked team on our schedule. There will be opportunities to get some big, big wins under our belt as the season moves along, and they better take advantage of it!


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Syracuse Looks to Snap Two Game Skid Against Seton Hall


Syracuse is struggling. That's a given. The Orangemen, who won their first 18 games of the season, have now dropped two consecutive Big East games against two top tier teams in the nation (then #4 Pittsburgh and #7 Villanova).

Seemingly the poster child for the past two defeats is Scoop Jardine. Scoop has combined to make 5 of his last 21 shot attempts (23.8%) from the floor in the past two games, and watched the final 6 minutes of the Villanova game on the bench. He has pulled down zero rebounds in the same stretch and scored a mere 2 points in 22 minutes against Villanova (1-8 from the field).

It's clear Syracuse is going to need to get their mojo back. If a person was faced with a long dry-spell or felt as if they were lacking in mojo, they would head out and try to track down a slump breaker. Thankfully for Syracuse, they won't have to look too far. And thankfully, we're looking at the Seton Hall Pirates.

Like an ugly girl at a party, The Pirates enter the Carrier Dome tonight at 7PM with an overall record of 8-12, and a very poor 2-6 mark in Big East play. Since Syracuse defeated Seton Hall in Newark, NJ on January 8th 61-56, the Pirates have gone 1-3, and have lost three games in a row (at Pittsburgh and two home games against Georgetown and Rutgers). Seton Hall may very well be our slump breaker.

The Orangemen need to treat this game as a springboard. Use it as an opportunity to get their legs back under them, get their confidence back, and get back some swagger that the team hasn't had since watching Kris Joseph go down with a concussion in the game against Cincinnati.

Since the tangling with Syracuse, the Pirates have gotten their leading scorer Jeremy Hazell (6'5" 188 pounds) back from a hand injury and a gun shot wound. Although Seton Hall is 1-3 since his return, Hazell is averaging 15.5 points per contest. Hazell is averaging 19.1 points per game on the season (he missed 13 games), and had he been in action against Syracuse 17 days ago, the outcome might have been very different. In the seven games Hazell has played, he has failed to score in double digits just once, January 15th in Pittsburgh, when he was held to 9 points on 3 of 13 shooting.

When we last saw the Pirates Herb Pope (6'8" 236 pounds) pulled down 20 rebounds and scored 14 points. It seems as if that game kicked some life in Pope, as he's averaged 15.25 points and 10.25 rebounds since January 8th. The 20 rebounds against Cuse was Pope's season high, as were the 16 points he dropped on Georgetown on January 18th.

In the last meeting between the two squads Pope and Jeff Robinson (6'6" 230 pounds) combined to out-rebound the entire Syracuse Orangemen basketball team. Robinson pulled down 14 boards and added 17 points to help keep the Pirates in the ball game. Although Robinson hasn't been pulling down rebounds at nearly the same pace, he has been scoring the ball, averaging 12.8 points per game over his last four.

For Syracuse, they absolutely and desperately need to get their guards going. Syracuse can not afford another stinker from the guards, not just on offense but defensively as well. They must help out rebounding the basketball. It can not be all Rick Jackson underneath. And the same goes for James Southerland.

Southerland had an impressive 8 rebounds against Cincinnati, however in the following two games (both losses) James has grabbed only 1 rebound in a combined 54 minutes of action. With Southerland standing 6'8" I'm not even sure how that's possible. He has to get involved in rebounding the basketball otherwise he's going to see his minutes dwindle in favor of a player who can rebound the ball, a player like C.J. Fair.

C.J. had a season high 9 rebounds in the loss to Pittsburgh while helping fill the void left by an injured Kris Joseph. Fair also scored a season high 16 points in 36 minutes. However, on Saturday Fair played just 10 minutes and had 1 rebound. Not great numbers, but he should have seen more time off the bench, especially with Syracuse getting beat on so many rebounds late in the 2nd half.

Kris Joseph returned from his concussion to score a team high 23 points on 8 of 15 shooting Saturday against Nova. He made his first 4 three-point attempts before missing his final 3 tries of the game from long distance. While he had just 3 rebounds in 34 minutes, expect to see that number increase as he is averaging over 5 boards per game.

Tip-off tonight is at 7PM on SNY and as usual, be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for full recap and analysis.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Monday, January 24, 2011

Villanova Unleashes 3-Point Clinic on Syracuse


When Rick Jackson misses an uncontested monster slam in the first five minutes of a game, it can't be a good sign for the Syracuse Orangemen. Jackson was able to recover and score 16 points along with 15 rebounds, however the Cuse could not keep up the pace with which Villanova was knocking down 3-pointers. Nova made 11 of 24 3-point shots (8 in the first half) and knocked off the Syracuse Orangemen 83-72 in the Carrier Dome in front of a crowd of 33,736, the second largest on campus crowd in NCAA history.

While the officiating at times was extremely stressful, the loss should fall squarely on the shoulders of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, two Philadelphia born Syracuse guards. Waiters shot 2 of 12 from the field (1 of 7 from 3) and Scoop Jardine was 1 for 8 from the floor (0-3 from beyond the arc). Jardine was only credited with two turnovers however he was the culprit in many more failed offensive drives. Jardine finished with just 2 points and 3 assists. Waiters had six points 5 assists and 2 steals for the Cuse, slightly better than Jardine's numbers but not enough to get it done.

Apparently Villanova had a very clear recollection from the devastating defeat in the Dome last season, because they came out shooting unconsciously from long distance, particularly Maalik Wayns, who scored 17 first half points on his way to a 21 point game. Both Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) finished with 16 points and Nova shot 22 of 24 (91.7%) from the foul line. Villanova came into the Carrier Dome like they had something to prove, something to avenge, and they left with a very important Big East victory.

Down 10 points with 4 minutes to play, Syracuse was able to narrow the deficit to a mere 4 points with 2:37 on the clock, however Villanova's foul shooting was the difference down the stretch.

Down 8 points with 3:07 left on the clock Rick Jackson got absolutely bear hugged by Maurice Sutton, but the officials must have been gazing at the large number of Syracuse fans in attendance because no foul was called. Seconds after Syracuse cut the lead to 4 points however, Kris Joseph was called for a foul for breathing heavily on a Nova player which sent them to the line for a 1-and-1.

Down six and gaining momentum, Syracuse appeared to force Nova into a 5-second violation on the inbound, however after six or seven seconds elapsed Nova's bench was granted a time out as the officials said Jay Wright was calling for it prior to the 5-second violation. Coming out of the time out Dion Waiters barely brushed against a Nova player and the Wildcats were back on the line for 2 more points. But as I said, we are not going to blame the officials for this loss. Just pointing out the obvious.

The loss brings Syracuse to a still extremely impressive 18-2 record overall, 5-2 in the Big East. Villanova grabs a leg up on the Orangemen with the win, improving to 17-2 record and a 5-1 Big East Record. Syracuse will move on and play Seton Hall on Tuesday at 7PM on the home of the Big East Network: SNY.


Not that this is at all related to the outcome of the game, but I'd be upset with myself if I didn't bring this up. It was unfortunate we all had to see the fan with the "Syracuse is Good" sign in the student section. You're paying a tremendous amount of money for a college education, certainly you have the capacity to come up with a more clever sign. It was neither ironic nor amusing.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Orangemen Look to get Back on Track against Villanova


After losing their first game of the season on Big Monday in Pittsburgh, the #3 Syracuse Orangemen look to rebound on Saturday in the Carrier Dome at 12 noon against the #7 Villanova Wildcats. Villanova is also coming off a loss on Monday, their second of the season, when Kemba Walker knocked down a mid-range runner at the buzzer to give #8 UCONN a 2-point victory in Storrs, CT.

Ticket sales at the Carrier Dome have nearly equaled last year's NCAA on campus attendance record, with over 33,000 tickets sold as of Wednesday afternoon. Last season's match up, which Syracuse won 95-77, had 34,616 orange-clad fans. At that time, Syracuse was ranked #4 and Villanova was ranked #7. This year Villanova comes to the Carrier Dome sporting a 16-2 overall record, 4-1 in the Big East.

There are a lot of familiar faces on this year's Wildcat squad, most notably the Coreys. Corey Fisher (6'1" 185 pounds) is leading Villanova in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per game and Corey Stokes (6'5" 195 pounds) is right behind him with 15.8 points per contest. Against UCONN on Monday Fisher scored a season high 28 points and has been shooting 32.1% from behind the 3-point line on the year.

Corey Stokes, who was cited for public urination 2 days before the game in the Carrier Dome last year, has yet to be caught pissing outside this season and has shot 43.8% from beyond the arc on the year. Stokes struggled in the game against UCONN going 0 for 6 from the floor in 38 minutes and made just 4 of 14 shots the game before that against Maryland. Stokes has made just 16 of his last 42 shots over the past five games (38%).

Sophomore Maalik Wayns (6'2" 185 pounds) out of Philadelphia, PA is averaging 13.5 points and 5.3 assists per game for the Wildcats. Wayns posted a season high 22 points against Maryland on January 15th and is averaging 15.3 points over his last 7 games. Also a sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou (6'10" 250 pounds) is leading the Wildcats in rebounding with an average of 7.8 per game along with 8.7 points. Yarou scored a season high 18 points against Louisville on January 12th while shooting 8 of 12 from the field and pulling down 11 rebounds. As a team, the Wildcats average 39.6 rebounds per game, which ranks 29th best in the nation.

The Syracuse Orangemen (18-1, 5-1 Big East) are hoping to have leading scorer Kris Joseph back after he missed Monday's Pittsburgh game with a concussion. Word around campus is that Kris Joseph is feeling much, much better and Orangemen fans everywhere are hoping to see him in uniform and on the court for Saturday's marquee match up.

After showing signs of life against Cincinnati, Fab Melo relapsed into his old self on Monday against Pittsburgh. Melo played just 2 minutes, the first 2 minutes of the game, and missed his only field goal attempt while grabbing zero rebounds. Baye Moussa Keita didn't do any better, playing six minutes while not putting up a single statistic.

Tip off for the #3 Syracuse against #7 Villanova Wildcats will be at 12 o'clock and the game will be televised live on ESPN. For those fans who are unable to make the game, be sure to follow @CuseConnection on twitter to catch all the updates as we tweet live from Marshall St. starting on Friday night and then live from the Carrier Dome for the Big East showdown beginning early Saturday morning.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Syracuse v. Villanova: Bring Your A-Game


With ticket sales for Saturday's showdown between #3 Syracuse and #7 Villanova already past 33,000 fans, one has to wonder how we got here without the obligatory "Beat the Record" t-shirts and banners.

In years past when Syracuse set out to break attendance records there were always t-shirts, bumper stickers, towels, internet marketing campaigns and so on. This year Orangemen fans must have been forced to rely on word of mouth. The closest thing to a "Beat the Record" t-shirt is the "Beat Nova II" t-shirt that has been floating around the internets. As if this was only the second meeting in school history.

In fact, this is the 66th time the two schools have met on the hardwood, with Syracuse holding the edge, 35-30. While Syracuse University hasn't instructed us fans to break the on campus attendance record, with three days to go and less than 2,000 tickets to sell, it feels like it's inevitable.

The only thing this game is missing is an official declaration of an "Orange Out." Which leads me to my next point: WEAR ORANGE TO THE GAME. If you are going to this game, or any game for that matter, be sure to wear Orange. You don't need the athletic department to tell you what color to wear do you?

Well, incase you do, take it from me. Leave your blues, your whites, and especially your grays in your closet (or drawer), take out your trusty orange colored clothing and be sure to represent the right way on Saturday.

Another difference from last year's game is that this game is at 12 noon while last year's game tipped off at a pre-game friendly 9:00PM. That's a nine hour difference. Last year's crowd was on its feet and on the sauce. There were "let's go orange" chants from start to finish. Crowd noise was at a level not heard since Carmelo Anthony put the Cuse on his back.

This year, Syracuse fans will have to go the extra mile. It's easy to pre-game your heart out for a 9PM start. True champions are made in the trenches though. Being a fan isn't all fun and games. Sometimes you have to sacrifice. For a Big East matchup like this, it's important that we as fans replicate the atmosphere last year that ran the Wildcats out of the Carrier Dome.

If that means waking up at 7AM so you can get your tailgate started by 8:30AM, then so be it. The Orangemen have had a history of slow starts at noon tip-offs, and Syracuse can not afford to have one Saturday. In all likelihood, there are going to be over 34,000 fans in the Dome, and it better sound like it!

We're not going to the Dome on Saturday to take a nap or eat a relaxing brunch. We are not going to the Carrier Dome and setting attendance records to merely say "we were there." Students are not sleeping outside the Dome for 5 days in freezing cold temperatures to be seen on TV (hopefully).

So when we do arrive to the Carrier Dome Saturday and find our seats just before tip off, remember we are there to cheer as loud as humanly possible. If you are going to the game to enjoy some peace and quiet, you've gone to the wrong place.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pittsburgh Hands Syracuse First Loss of the Season


The opening 8 minutes inside the Petersen Events Center last night were something out of a horror movie if you're a Syracuse fan. As Pittsburgh made basket after basket and Syracuse missed shot after shot and carelessly turned the ball over the crowd only grew louder and louder as Syracuse fans everywhere were left saying "the horror, the horror!" When the dust had settled the Pittsburgh Panthers had jumped out to a 19-0 lead on the #3 Syracuse Orangemen.

Then a spark went off, and at the 11:56 mark Scoop Jardine finally hit a 3-pointer to put the Cuse on the board. That bucket sparked a 17-0 run for the Orangemen to miraculously push the score to 19-17 with 6:08 left in the first half. Even Dick Vitale, who has been saying the same four phrases since 1985, was left speechless at the Orangemen's dramatic turn around.

James Southerland drilled a three pointer with 34 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to 1 point, however with 3 seconds left in the half Ashton Gibbs knocked down a 3-pointer of his own to put Pittsburgh back up 4 points at the break. It was that kind of night.

The Orangemen and the Panthers would trade blows to open the 2nd half, and with 13:52 on the game clock James Southerland swished a 3-pointer to tie the game 41-41. The Orangemen were in business. The Cuse had clawed back, overcame a 19-0 run and the most hostile building in the nation and had evened the scored early in the second half.

Unfortunately, those good vibrations only lasted 16 seconds, because Travon Woodall came down the court for Pittsburgh and knocked down a 3-pointer of his own to give Pittsburgh a 44-41 lead. Just like that, the wind was right back out of the Cuse's sails.

That 3-pointer with 13:36 remaining was the ball game, as Syracuse was never able to mount another run inside the Petersen Events Center. Final score 74-66 Pittsburgh. Syracuse was denied matching the best start in school history, and with the loss are 18-1 on the season, 5-1 in Big East play. This was Pittsburgh's 5th straight win over Syracuse, and 13th win in the last 16 contests.

In the absence of Kris Joseph, James Southerland got the start. Southerland played 38 minutes and shot 3 of 8 from the field for 8 points. Unfortunately he only grabbed 1 rebound all game. Fab Melo, Baye Moussa Keita, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche all combined for ZERO rebounds for Syracuse, who were out-rebounded 41-27 by Pittsburgh.

Rick Jackson was the usual rock for the Orangemen that he's been all season. He had a team high 11 rebounds and 10 points while notching his 12th double-double of the season. Jackson also picked up 2 assists 3 steals 3 blocks and turned the ball over just once while staying out of foul trouble all night.

C.J. Fair came in off the bench for the Orangemen and played 36 extremely strong minutes, leading Syracuse in scoring with 16 points and pulled down 9 rebounds (5 on the offensive glass) while blocking 2 shots. Fair was extremely impressive while Syracuse mounted a 17-0 run in the 1st half, as was freshman Dion Waiters who played 25 minutes.

Waiters scored 9 points and had 6 rebounds 3 assists 2 steals while making 1 turnover, and was a big spark for Syracuse off the bench while the other two guards, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche struggled. Jardine was 4 of 13 from the floor, and all 4 of his made shots were 3-pointers. Triche wasn't much better, shooting 4 of 9 from the floor. When Syracuse needed both players to step up with Kris Joseph out, neither responded as Orangemen fans would have hoped, but thankfully Syracuse had C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters ready to play off the bench.

In one miraculous statistic, Syracuse only turned the ball over seven times to Pittsburgh's twelve. So that's one bright spot. Another is the way Syracuse fought to get back into the game after they were seemingly run out of the gym in the games opening 8 minutes.

The Orangemen could have just packed it in, however they dug deep and found a way to score points while clamping down on defense on the other end. Syracuse held Pittsburgh off the scoreboard for nearly 6 minutes after allowing 19 unanswered points. That is definitely something to hang their hats on. As was the play from C.J. Fair.

The #3 Syracuse Orangemen return to the court on Saturday at 12:00PM when they take on the #7 Villanova Wildcats in the Carrier Dome on ESPN. If you don't already have tickets you might want to get on that, as ticket sales have already passed the 31,000 mark. If you are going to the game, I know it's early, but please make some noise.

The Cuse Connection will be making their first visit to the Carrier Dome this season for the game, and will be tweeting live all weekend from Marshall St. and the Carrier Dome. Be sure to follow us on twitter @CuseConnection to stay up to the minute with all the action.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Monday, January 17, 2011

#3 Syracuse Orangemen and #4 Pittsburgh Panthers Face Off at Petersen Events Center


Tonight the #3 Syracuse Orangemen will face their toughest test of the season as they look to match the best start in school history. Syracuse, 18-0 (5-0 Big East) will travel to the Petersen Events Center to take on the #4 Pittsburgh Panthers (17-1, 5-0 Big East), just one win shy of the mark set by the 1999-2000 Orangemen that started their season 19-0.

Syracuse will be playing without leading scorer Kris Joseph, who suffered a concussion after being slammed to the floor during the first half of the Cincinnati game on Saturday. To add insult to injury, the Orangemen have lost 5 of their last 6 games at the Petersen Events Center, and Pittsburgh has lost just once in the last 51 games at the P.E.C. The Panthers have won 19 straight games at home and by an average of nearly 20 points.

With Joseph on the mend, Syracuse fans are expecting sophomore James Southerland to get the starting nod. Following Southerland off the bench will be freshman C.J. Fair as Syracuse looks to find a way to carry on without Joseph, who was averaging 18.4 points in his previous seven games prior to being knocked out of the Cincinnati game.

With the Orangemen down one of their core-four players in one of the most hostile buildings in the Big East, you cannot stress the importance of Rick Jackson. Pittsburgh is one of the most physical teams in the conference, and don't think that the Panthers won't start roughing up Jackson inside to try and bait him into taking a few early fouls.

The Panthers' know that Rick Jackson is the heart of this undefeated Syracuse squad, so expect to see them get physical with him early. Syracuse has been fortunate in their first 18 games to keep Rick Jackson out of foul trouble, the leading rebounder in the Big East, and Jackson has only been called for 4 fouls in a game twice so far this season. Once was against William & Mary and again in the first Big East game of the season against Providence.

In the scary event of seeing Rick Jackson in foul trouble, this Syracuse fan would not be surprised to see Mookie Jones pop off the bench for 3-5 minutes with Kris Joseph on the shelf. Mookie certainly has a lot to prove, and would certainly give as much as he has got if he could sniff the floor tonight.

Syracuse saw some signs of life out of freshman center Fab Melo on Saturday as well. In the second half Fab Melo went on a tear, after which he declared "I felt very comfortable out there today. I think I'll play even better the next game." This was after Melo scored 6 points blocked 4 shots and pulled down 4 boards. We are going to need Melo to do more than just "think" he'll play even better. We are going to need to see it if Syracuse wants to have a chance to remain undefeated tonight.

For the #4 Pittsburgh Panthers, junior Ashton Gibbs (6'2" 190 pounds) is leading the team averaging 16.3 points per game and is shooting 44.6% from 3-point range. Gibbs likes taking a lot of three pointers and knocked down a season high 5 threes twice so far this season (although both times he attempted 10 in the game). Gibbs has also scored a season high 24 points twice this year, and scored 22 points on Georgetown on January 12th.

Brad Wanamaker (6'4" 210 pounds) out of Philadelphia, PA is the 2nd leading scorer, averaging 12.8 points 5.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Wanamaker also shoots with 40.7% accuracy from beyond the arc, however he attempts much fewer long range shots than Gibbs. Brad Wanamaker scored a season high 24 points in the opening game of the season against URI and scored 21 points on December 11th in the team's lone loss to Tennessee.

Senior Gilbert Brown (6'6" 210 pounds) from Harrisburg, PA averages 11.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for the Panthers. Although he doesn't attempt many 3-pointers, he managed to knock down 5 of 6 in Providence on January 4th and shoots 41.4% from behind the 3-point line. Brown had a season high 28 points on December 18th against Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES) a team that is 4-12 this season. In the game he made 4 of 5 three point attempts.

The game featuring the #3 Syracuse Orangemen and #4 Pittsburgh Panthers is a part of ESPN's Big Monday, and tip-off will be at 7:30PM on ESPN. Check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com


Syracuse Remains Undefeated, Lose Kris Joseph to Head Injury


The good news for Syracuse: The Orangemen remained undefeated and beat the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon 67-52 with 24,338 in attendance. The Bad news for Syracuse: Kris Joseph got slammed in the first half taking the ball to the hoop, which resulted in Joseph slamming the back of his head on Jim Boeheim Court.

There was no foul called on the play, which was completely ridiculous, and after spending several minutes on the floor Joseph was able to walk off on his own and headed directly to the Syracuse locker room. Kris did not return to the game and he has been ruled out for tonight's match up on the road in Pittsburgh. It is believed that Kris Joseph suffered a concussion on the play, however he never appeared to lose consciousness.

Another storyline that emerged from the game was the play of Fab Melo in the second half. Melo played 15 minutes in the game, the most since December 20th against Morgan State. Fab Melo scored 6 points on 3 of 4 shooting from the floor, grabbed 4 rebounds (3 offensive) and blocked 4 shots. It was the kind of performance Syracuse fan's have been waiting for after watching Melo score 9 points against Morgan State. Hopefully it is the start of something big for Fab Melo that he can build on and learn from. Melo told reporters after the game "I felt very comfortable out there today. I think I'll play even better the next game." We are going to need it!

Rick Jackson was once again a beast in the middle for the Orangemen. Jackson logged his 11th double-double of the season finishing the Big East conference tilt with 15 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the field with 11 rebounds to lead the Cuse. Jackson also dished 3 assists swatted 2 blocks and had a steal.

With Kris Joseph out for the 2nd half and the final 6 minutes and change in the first, it was on James Southerland to step up his play. He responded as well as one would hope, playing 25 minutes and shooting 3 of 4 from the field including 2 of 2 from 3-point range. Southerland finished the game with 8 points and zero turnovers. We will need to see more of the same from Southerland tonight, as he is expected to start in place of KrisJo.

The win pushed Syracuse's record to 18-0, 5-0 in Big East games, and leaves the Cuse just 1 win shy of the best start in school history. Syracuse began the 1999-2000 season 19-0. The next game is tonight at 7:30 against the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Panthers are 17-1 (5-0 Big East) and have been a thorn in Syracuse's side for years. The game is part of ESPN's "Big Monday" showcase and will be televised live on ESPN.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Undefeated Syracuse Orangemen Host Cincinnati


Coming off a rousing 76-59 victory over the Red Storm of St. Johns, the #4 Syracuse Orangemen will host the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Carrier Dome Saturday for a 12:00PM tip-off. The Bearcats, ranked 25th in the AP Top-25, come to Syracuse after knocking of the USF Bulls 74-66 and are 16-1 on the year, 3-1 in the Big East.

Cincinnati's lone loss came January 9th when the Bearcats traveled to Philadelphia, PA to take on the #7 Villanova Wildcats. Nova beat Cinci 72-61 on that fateful day. Cincinnati also has a very balanced and deep bench which boasts a 9 man rotation.

Leading the Bearcats in scoring is Dion Dixon (6'3" 195 pounds) who is averaging 12.5 points per game and shoots 31.1% from beyond the arc. While Dixon isn't much of a rebounding threat, he has averaged 7 rebounds per game in his last 3 outings and had a season high 23 points on December 21st at Miami of Ohio.

Local kid Yancy Gates (6'9" 260 pounds) out of Cincinnati, OH is the second leading scorer on the team, averaging 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Gates shoots 50.3% from the field and scored a season high 22 points against Xavier on January 6th while pulling down 14 rebounds (also a season high).

Freshman guard Sean Kilpatrick (6'4" 215 pounds) is a serious scoring threat and spark off the bench for Cinci. Although he averages just 10 points per game, he shoots 41.5% from 3-point range. Kilpatrick was 4 of 5 from three in the last game against USF en route to a 18 point night, twelve of which came in the first half. He also posted a season high 26 points on December 1st against Wright State while going 5 for 5 from beyond the arc.

Leading the 17-0 (4-0 Big East) Syracuse Orangemen has been Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche. All four players are averaging in double digits this season, and Rick Jackson is also averaging 11.8 rebounds per game to lead the Cuse.

Kris Joseph is averaging 18.4 points in his last 7 games and has been piling up the rebounds in that same time period. Brandon Triche is coming off back-to-back strong shooting efforts and 15 point games while the Philadelphia Connection has been pacing the Cuse.

Rick Jackson has averaged 10.5 points and 11.5 rebounds during Big East play while his Scoop Jardine has averaged 16.6 points in his last 5 games. All four players have picked up their games another notch since Big East play began, and Rick Jackson has been playing an increased role at the center position.

With Rick Jackson playing increasingly more minutes at center, that means that Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita have been playing sparingly. While Keita was able to hold his own defensively during the non-conference portion of Syracuse's schedule, his defensive shortcomings have been exposed in the Big East.

With #5 Pittsburgh lurking in the shadows of Big Monday, it's very important for Syracuse to not get caught looking past the Bearcats. The Orangemen must have the same sense of urgency they have shown all season on defense, and not let the Bearcats get hot from the floor. Cincinnati is 16-1, they are no pushover, and in an extremely tough Big East, every game will be a dog fight.

The game will be televised live on the Big East Network, SNY, and tip-off is at 12:00PM from the Carrier Dome. Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for recap and analysis.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Former Syracuse Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni Back in Big East


Interesting developments in the Syracuse Orangemen football landscape.

Yesterday afternoon many onlookers believed that the University of Connecticut was going to announce the hire of Mark Whipple as new head football coach for the Huskies. Apparently the Connecticut High School Coaches Association sent a letter to the UCONN athletic director Jeff Hathaway, giving Paul Pasqualoni their full endorsement.

Perhaps that was enough, because late afternoon Thursday word came down that the next head coach at Connecticut is indeed our old friend Coach P.

Paul Pasqualoni was an assistant under Dick MacPherson from 1987 until 1991, at which time he was named head football coach at Syracuse University. Born in Cheshire, CT, Coach P led the Orangemen to a 107-59-1 record during his 14 year career and a bowl game record of 6-3.

The departure of Donovan McNabb and the inability to bring in another star quarterback signaled the downturn of Syracuse football under Paul Pasqualoni. While the team enjoyed a successful 2001 season, the Orangemen toiled away in mediocrity the following three seasons (4-8, 6-6, 6-6).

After getting blown out in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2004 51-14 at the hands of Georgia Tech there was a growing sentiment around campus that a change had to be made. Even though Chancellor Nancy Cantor said that Pasqualoni would be back for the 2005 season, newly hired athletic director Daryl Gross took just 12 days to fire Coach P and usher in Greg Robinson.

In Syracuse's first campaign without Coach P, Greg Robinson steered the Cuse to a 1-10 record, the worst season in the history of SU Football. [The Syracuse team that went 4-2 in the Big East in Pasqualoni's final season went 0-7 in the Big East under Greg Robinson his first season at the helm.]

Coach P went on to be a position coach in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys before being hired by Bill Parcells in 2008 as the defensive coordinator to help turn around the struggling Miami Dolphins.

Pasqualoni then returned to the Cowboys for the 2010 season and took over the defensive coordinator duties after Wade Phillips was fired mid-season.

Which leads us to today. Now Paul Pasqualoni is back in the Big East and coaching the Connecticut Huskies. I'm sure many of you out there are unsure how to respond to this news. Pasqualoni's career at Syracuse started 73-27-1 and had Syracuse in the nation's season ending Top-25 six of his first eight seasons. Over the next 66 games however, Syracuse was a mere 34-32.

So how do we react when Paul Pasqualoni returns to the Carrier Dome on the visitors sidelines?

I think the only respectable thing to do is give Coach P. the standing ovation he's earned during his 14 year stay in Syracuse, regardless of how his tenure ended, and then proceed to beat the PANTS off of the huskies!

As Syracuse fans we can not forget about the 10-win seasons, the 6-3 bowl record, and the top NFL talent he brought in over the years. Even when Syracuse football was at the lows under Coach P, there were always NFL players on our roster, which is something we can not say about GROB's tenure. There was always a chance for SU to pull an upset under Pasqualoni. In our darkest hours with Pasqualoni, you can bet Syracuse would have at least one win against a top-25 team.

Who can forget about the three straight Big East Conference Championships? Had Michael Vick not spurned the Orangemen there would have been a lot more of them. Also, had Daryl Gross not been so quick to pull the trigger on Coach P. Ray Rice would have been wearing orange and blue instead of running wild in Piscataway, NJ for Rutgers establishing their program when he could have been rejuvenating ours.

This Cuse fan wishes Paul Pasqualoni well, but not too well. Hopefully he doesn't spend the next ten years beating the crap out of Syracuse, and hopefully he never finishes with a better Big East record than we have. However, if we were looking for a new rivalry in the Big East, we just got one.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

Orangemen Cruise to NYC Victory over St. Johns


The Syracuse Orangemen did what they do best last night: play tough defense and win at Madison Square Garden. St. Johns (10-5, 3-2), in the midst of their best start in 11 years, was no match for the #4 Syracuse Orangemen as they cruised to a 76-59 victory in front of 14,440. The win pushes Syracuse to a perfect 17-0 record (4-0 Big East), the second best start in school history. Furthermore, it was win number 1,800 in program history.

The Red Storm jumped out to an early 15-7 lead on Syracuse with 9:02 left in the first half. Many Syracuse fans were concerned it was going to be another game like the Seton Hall game, when the shots just wouldn't fall. Would Syracuse need to lean on their defense to pull out a victory?

Not so much. The Orangemen responded with an 18-3 run to take them to a 25-18 lead with under four minutes to play in the first half. Syracuse got balanced scoring during the run from Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. It was the kind of balanced scoring attack you love seeing from the Cuse.

The defense kept protecting the hoop and Syracuse was able to muscle their way to a 35-24 lead at the break. The Orangemen closed out the half on a 10-6 run to put a little breathing room between themselves and the Johnnies.

The second half was all Syracuse, as they pushed their lead to as many as 22 points inside Madison Square Garden. Rick Jackson picked up his 10th double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and adding 10 rebounds for the #4 ranked Orangemen. Jackson was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field, along with 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

Kris Joseph continued his hot play of late, leading all scorers with 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the floor, and had five rebounds. Brandon Triche had his second straight 15 point game for the Cuse, and was 3 of 6 from behind the arc.

C.J. Fair showed no ill effects from his ankle injury, playing 20 minutes (the most since missing 3 games with the injury). He was just 1 of 5 from the floor and finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds, but it's good to have him back to full health as he provides great rebounding potential and energy off the bench.

Scoop Jardine picked up 14 points, however committed 7 turnovers to lead the Cuse in that category. After the disastrous free throw shooting in Newark, NJ on Saturday afternoon, Syracuse was a much improved 5 of 8 from the stripe.

The Orangemen next take the court on Saturday January 15th when they host the #25 Cincinnati Bearcats (16-1, 3-1 Big East) in the Carrier Dome at 12:00PM. The game will be broadcast live on The Big East Network, SNY.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Orangemen Returning to Madison Square Garden to face St. Johns


Now that the snow has stopped falling in New York City, we can focus our attention on the Big East Conference showdown between the Syracuse Orangemen and the St. Johns Red Storm. At this moment, it's very difficult to determine if it's a "road" game for the Orangemen, or a "home" game. At the very least, the good folks over at ESPN can call it a "neutral" court game without losing much sleep.

For the 114th time in Jim Boeheim's career, he will lead his team out into a sea of Orange at Madison Square Garden. While Syracuse fans are used to dominating the scene inside the Garden, they will meet a rejuvenated St. Johns basketball program, led by new head coach Steve Lavin.

Steve Lavin, who joins the Red Storm after working the broadcast booth since 2003, coached the UCLA Bruins from 1996-2003. He guided the Bruins to an overall 145-78 record in seven seasons and has St. Johns off to a 10-4 overall record, 3-1 in Big East play.

The Red Storm are coming off a 76-61 loss at #15 Notre Dame on Saturday. Five days prior St. Johns knocked off the #13 team in the nation at that time, the Georgetown Hoyas 61-58 at the Garden, the team's biggest win of the season. St. Johns has also won on the road in West Virginia (81-71) and at Providence (67-65).

Leading the charge for St. Johns is Dwight Hardy (6'2" 182 pounds) out of the Bronx. Hardy is averaging 16 points per game. After a somewhat slow start to the season, Dwight Hardy has scored over 20 points six out of his last eight games. Additionally, he had a season high 30 points in a loss at Fordham University on December 11th. He is also shooting 27.3% from 3-point range this season.

Justin Brownlee (6'7" 225 pounds) out of Tifton, GA has been coming up big for Red Storm of late as well. Averaging 14.6 points per game this season, Brownlee has averaged nearly 17 points in his past 5 games and almost 7 rebounds during that same span.

D.J. Kennedy (6'6" 213 pounds) from Pittsburgh, PA has been averaging 11.6 points per game and shooting 34.8% from behind the arc. Kennedy's offensive production has gone way down since Big East play has started, and has averaged just 7.6 points per game in his last 3 contests. In the win against West Virginia on the road, Kennedy had 17 points and 11 rebounds along with 6 assists.

Syracuse is coming off a very quiet offensive game against Seton Hall on January 8th. The Orangemen shot just 44.2% from the field on that day and were an abysmal 17 of 36 from the foul line. Syracuse also turned the ball over more than the Pirates and two Pirates (Pope and Robinson) out rebounded the entire Syracuse squad.

The lone bright spot for the Cuse was Brandon Triche's 6 minute shooting clinic in the second half that gave Syracuse the cushion they needed to hold on for the victory. Triche finished with 15 points on 4 of 5 shooting from 3-point range.

The Orangemen held onto their #4 ranking in the nation in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 25 polls this week. Syracuse is 16-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Big East. Syracuse has won 9 of their last 10 games against St. Johns, however this St. Johns team features ten experienced seniors and already has a win against a Top-25 Big East team under their belt. The Johnnies are currently sitting in 5th place in the conference.

Be sure to follow @CuseConnection on twitter, as we will be tweeting pictures and emotions live from the Garden throughout the game. As usual, check back with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Football Honors for Orangemen


We learned earlier that Syracuse senior running back Delone Carter was chosen to participate in the East-West Shrine Game. Since 1925 the East-West Shrine Game has been played showcasing the nations top senior college football players, and is the longest running college football all-star game.

Now we learn that linebacker Doug Hogue and center Ryan Bartholomew have also been invited to participate in the 86th annual game, which will take place January 22nd at 4:00PM in the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fl. The game will be televised live on the NFL network.

In addition to the game, players and coaches tour a Shriners Children's Hospital before the game and the children and players participate in "games, crafts and other activities."

Furthermore, freshman field goal kicker Ross Krautman has been named a freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. Krautman was tied for 2nd in the nation in field goal percentage and lead the Orangemen in scoring this past season with 84 points.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Monday, January 10, 2011

Syracuse Overcomes Terrible Shooting to Knock Off Seton Hall 61-56


It was an ugly day inside the Prudential Center in lovely Newark, NJ. Jump shooting, foul shots and ball control were three important aspects of the game that were lost on the Orangemen. Thankfully for undefeated Syracuse, Seton Hall was even worse.

Seton Hall missed all 17 3-point shots they attempted in the 1st half. In a first half where Syracuse's defense held the Pirates to just 19 points, Orangemen fans everywhere were left in absolute disbelief about what had just transpired on the court. The Orangemen scored just 3 points in the final 5 minutes and change of the first half.

Twenty points. Twenty minutes. That was what the #4 ranked Orangemen put up on the then 7-8 Seton Hall Pirates in the opening half. Brandon Triche said it best after the game, "I'm sure it wasn't a great game for the fans." No Brandon, it wasn't.

Thankfully for Cuse fans Triche exploded in a six-minute span in the second half. About 2 minutes into the second stanza with the score tied 22-22, Brandon Triche put on an absolute clinic for the 10,862 fans in attendance, many of them rocking the orange and blue.

BTriche got things started with a 3-point basket, his first points of the game. Triche then grabbed a steal and dropped in a layup. Over the next four minutes and change Triche swished three more 3-point field goals and pushed the Orangemen to their biggest lead of the game in the process.

When Brandon's 3-point shooting clinic was over (which included a 4-point play) Syracuse was up 42-33 with 11:43 left to play. Triche finished the matinee with 15 points (which tied him for the team high), on 5 of 7 shooting from the floor, 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

If Syracuse had any luck from the charity stripe, the game never would have been so close at the final buzzer. As a team Syracuse shot 17 of 36 from the foul line (47.2%). Seton Hall only got to the foul line 13 times and made 11 of their attempts (84.6%).

Kris Joseph, who also scored 15 points to lead the Orangemen, was the biggest culprit of the day. KrisJo was a miserable 8 of 17 from the foul line. Joseph also grabbed 8 rebounds.

Speaking of rebounds, as a team, the Cuse were out-rebounded by Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson. The Orangemen had 32 rebounds. Pope had 20 boards and Robinson had 14 off the glass. Rick Jackson had 14 rebounds so we can not fault him, but out side of Joseph and Jackson Syracuse's next highest rebounder was Baye Moussa Keita, who had just 3.

Keita fouled out in 14 minutes with 2 points (2 of 4 from the foul line) and all his rebounds came on the offensive glass. His freshman center counter-part Fab Melo gave Syracuse their first two points of the ball game in the opening seconds, and did not score again the rest of the way. Melo finished with 11 minutes 2 points 1 rebound and 2 turnovers.

Outside of Syracuse's offensive problems on the floor, the Orangemen fans gathered inside the Prudential Center were a little disappointing. It was an early start (12:00) and the game was fairly boring, however I felt as if the fans inside "the rock" could have done a little more. Particularly those fans in sections 1-4 behind the hoop on the floor.

The amount of Orange in those sections compared to the amount of noise coming from them was at a level that is unacceptable in Cuse nation. If you were sitting in those sections, I'm not saying you didn't cheer. However, you could have done more to encourage those around you to stand up and be heard.

You made the trip to Newark, NJ. Many of you probably woke up early to do it. Why just sit there? Cheer! Stand up! There was a lot of sitting down and not enough "let's go orange" coming from that area of the building for my liking. Let's try and work on that for next time.

Good news for those fans and the poor shooting Orangemen. They will get a chance to redeem themselves on Wednesday, when the Orangemen travel to Madison Square Garden to take on a surprise team in the Big East, St. Johns, at 7:00PM.

More good news: none of us have to watch that game again. Burn the tape. Syracuse got the win, and remain undefeated. That's all that matters. The Orangemen improve to 16-0 on the season and 3-0 in Big East play. With the loss, Seton Hall falls to 7-9 on the year 1-3 in conference play.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Seton Hall Scouting Report - Syracuse's First True Road Test



Regardless of the number of orange t-shirts and jerseys in the stands at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on Saturday afternoon at 12:00PM, the #4 Syracuse Orangemen will actually be playing their first true road game of the season.

Newark, NJ (located just down the road from Jim Boeheim's doorstep) is the home of the Seton Hall Pirates. The Pirates (7-8, 1-2 Big East) defeated USF in their Big East opener, however have dropped their last two Big East games by an average of 18 points. Most recently, Seton Hall got beat up by Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals 73-54. The Cardinals opened the game by jumping out to a 24-2 lead against the Pirates.

Seton Hall scored their first basket 6:01 into the game, and didn't make another shot until there was 9:29 left in the first half. The Pirates looked extremely lazy on defense at times, and were very careless with the ball early on. Additionally, they took a lot of bad shots. The Pirates shot 29% from the field.

On the season, Seton Hall is shooting 40.4% from the field and 31.9% from 3-point range. They are without their senior leader Jeremy Hazell (who has averaged over 20 points per game the past two seasons), after he suffered a broken bone in his left hand and then got shot in the back during a robbery attempt over Christmas break. Hazell is expected to fully recover from the gun shot wound.

Senior Jeff Robinson (6'6" 230 pounds) out of nearby Trenton, NJ is the teams leading scorer in the absence of Hazell. Robinson is averaging 12.2 points per game and shoots 32% from 3-point range. Robinson grabs 5.9 rebounds on average, and had a season high 17 points and 10 rebounds against Richmond on December 26th. More recently, Robinson scored 14 points against Louisville Wednesday night.

Next up on the Pirates scoring list is Jordan Theodore (6' 174 pounds) out of Englewood, NJ. Theodore is posting 11.7 points per game and a 36.6% shooting accuracy from 3-point range. Against Arkansas on December 8th Theodore dropped a season high 24 points, and had a season high 10 assists against NJ Tech on December 19th. He is averaging just 8.6 points per game in Big East play.

Recently freshman Fuquan Edwin (6'6" 205 pounds) from Paterson, NJ has been coming on strong for the Pirates. After a slow start, Edwin is averaging 13 points per game in Big East play, and posted a team high 18 points and 9 rebounds against Louisville Wednesday night.

Junior Herb Pope (6'8" 236 pounds) out of Aliquippa, PA rounds out the Pirates leading scorers group. Averaging 8.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, Pope is one of the team leaders for the Pirates. Pope's numbers are down slightly from last season, and has only scored in double-digits 6 times through 14 games. After averaging a double-double last season (11.5 points 10.7 rebounds) Pope has just two double-doubles this season.

For the #4 in the nation and undefeated Syracuse Orangemen (15-0, 2-0), Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine have been lighting the lamp and leading the way. Joseph is averaging 19.2 points his last 5 games and had a season high 8 rebounds last Saturday against #15 Notre Dame.

Rick Jackson, the Orangemen's undeniable season MVP and low-post all-star, has scored in double digits in all but two games this season for the Cuse. Against Notre Dame on Saturday Jackson had a monster 6-blocks and played the majority of the second half at the center position.

Scoop Jardine is averaging 19 points his last 3 games and tied a season high 9 assists against Notre Dame this past Saturday. The junior from Philly was taking it to the Fightin' Irish playground-style. Getting into the lane, throwing up acrobatic shots and making them, and dishing the rock, Scoop was playing like a man among boys on the school yard against the over matched Irish.

James Southerland will look to continue his hot play of late, averaging 11 points per game in his last 4 outings. Southerland saw his minutes increase when C.J. Fair went down with an ankle injury. Fair is expected to be close to 100% for the Seton Hall game, and was limited to 4 minutes against Notre Dame in his first game back after sitting out the previous three with an injury. In four minutes, C.J. Fair contributed 2 points and 3 rebounds for the Cuse.

The game will be televised live on SNY, the Big East Network, at 12:00PM. The Cuse Connection will be tweeting live from the Prudential Center and lovely Newark, NJ beginning around 10:30AM. Be sure to follow @CuseConnection to stay connected as the #4 Syracuse Orangemen take on the Seton Hall Pirates.

Be sure to check back with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who is Mark Meadors?


Last night watching the Seton Hall-Louisville game (the Pirates got embarrassed), ESPNU showed a graphic about how many coaches in Division 1 basketball were assistants under Rick Pitino.

After some investigative research TCC uncovered that 21 of Pitino's former assistants and players went on to coach division 1 college basketball. Billy Donovan at Florida, Tubby Smith in Minnesota and Mick Cronin at Cincinnati to name a few notables.

This got me to thinking about Jim Boeheim's staff over the years. I knew that Rick Pitino was an assistant under Jimmy B. When Coach Boeheim hired Pitino in 1976 he was the first assistant he brought in to help lead the Orangemen.

I reached for my trusted "Orange Handbook" as I knew there was a picture in there with Pitino and Boeheim together (above). Sure enough there was three very young and very recognizable figures. From left to right: Rick Pitino, Mark Meadors, Jim Boeheim and Bernie Fine (sporting a real nice mustache).

Many of you are probably wondering the same thing I wondered when I saw this picture. Who is Mark Meadors? Bernie Fine has been Jim Boeheim's 'Gal Friday' since the beginning. Rick Pitino is one of the iconic coaches in the Big East. Jim Boeheim is god. That's all a given.

Who is Mark Meadors? [Note: I was born in 1984]

Thanks to the good folks at Orange Hoops, we learn that Mark Meadors played at SU for the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons. Meadors, who is from Wolcott, CT, averaged 2.1 points per game in his 29 game career at Syracuse.

Mark Meadors was a forward off the bench on the varsity basketball team, however on the freshman team Meadors averaged 20.7 points per game. In an interesting twist that will more than likely never happen again, Meadors quit the basketball team before his senior season to coach the freshman team, known at the time as the "Tangerines."

Upon Meadors' graduation from Syracuse University in 1976 Jim Boeheim hired him to serve as an assistant on his first coaching staff. He remained in that role until 1979. From 1980 until 1983 Mark Meadors worked as the television color commentator for Syracuse Basketball games. He did games part-time until 1987, at which point Meadors was searching for regular, non hoops related, employment.

Meadors first worked at the Carrier Corporation, however took a job at Tronox, Inc. in 2000 as the Vice President of Human Resources after working at York International for over 12 years. Tronox, a company headquartered in Oklahoma City, is the world's 3rd largest producer and marketer of titanium dioxide pigment. In 2008, Tronox and Mark Meadors parted ways.

Currently Mark Meadors works at Terminix, a sales and inspection services company also located in Oklahoma City. According to his linkedin profile, this is a consumer services company, and Meadors is responsible for implementing the "6 point customer service formula" and insuring all customer needs are clearly understood and alternative solutions are presented.

From the looks of things, much like Bernie Fine, Mark Meadors no longer sports a mustache. I'd be interested to know if Mark still follows the team today. Perhaps we can get a followup story in the future if he accepts my Linkedin connection request.


Photo courtesy of the "Orange Handbook" by Bob Snyder, copyright 1996

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jim Boeheim Hates Packing


With Syracuse's next two games being their first true road games of the season, many pundits will still criticize the Orangemen regardless of outcome.

That is because the Orangemen will be playing at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ against the Seton Hall Pirates on Saturday afternoon. Then on Wednesday night Syracuse will travel to their "home away from home" and play St. Johns at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

It's unfortunate for Jim Boeheim and the Orangemen that they have such passionate fans. It really is. It's even more unfortunate that the talking heads at ESPN criticize and denigrate Syracuse for having a traveling and rabid fan base.

If the Orangemen take the court in any building within a 5-hour drive from New York City or Syracuse, NY, Syracuse fans are going to turn out and they are going to be LOUD. That's a given. Atlantic City is 127 miles from NYC and 315 miles from Syracuse. Does that matter to the buffoons who get paid to talk about basketball for national media outlets? Nope. Might as well have played the games at the Onondaga War Memorial.

When Syracuse plays St. Johns on their home court and the Orangemen have more fans than the Johnnies, is that a home game? Is it a neutral site? A true road test? A road game in the eyes of Doug Gottlieb?

It's pathetic how much attention is paid to Syracuse's travel itinerary. After these next two games, eight of Syracuse's remaining fourteen games (nearly 60%) will be against teams currently ranked in the Top-25. How many other schools outside of the Big East can say that?

Certainly not at Duke, where they are the lone ranked ACC school. They should play a tougher non-conference schedule and hit the road, prove their worth! Because they certainly won't get a chance to once they start playing conference games.

Furthermore, Syracuse will be traveling to Cincinnati, OH, Milwaukee, WI, Tampa, FL, Louisville, KY, Morgantown, WV and Chicago, Il to name just a few cities. Why does Syracuse have to explain themselves to these so called "experts"?

At the end of the day, the Orangemen will have traveled all over the country and have played the toughest competition in the nation. Why break your team down early in the season when you are still finding your identity when the real test is your conference schedule?

I like to call the Big East conference schedule the "gauntlet." After the grueling regular season, Big East teams go to a tournament even tougher to win than the NCAA tournament. In the NCAA tournament you play two games per weekend. And the first weekend if the school is a quality team, the opponent most likely won't be ranked!

In the Big East tournament in NYC you may play four (or five) straight days. And since the Big East has 50% of their conference ranked in the nations Top-25, you might play four straight games against ranked opponents. What other tournament in the country will offer that level of competition?

Yet Doug Gottlieb and this clown Jeff Goodman feel the need to point out year after year that Syracuse doesn't travel in the first month or so of the season. Frankly, who cares? When all is said and done the Orangemen and the rest of the Big East will have played the toughest competition in the country.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Monday, January 3, 2011

Orangemen Take Step Up In Rankings

Thanks to UCONN's 78-63 loss to Pittsburgh last week, Syracuse (15-0, 2-0) has taken the Huskies place at #4 in the nation in both the ESPN/USA Today and AP Top 25 polls that were recently released. The Orangemen are now the highest ranked Big East team in the country.

Big East teams receiving AP rankings are:
4. Syracuse
5. Pittsburgh
7. Villanova
8. Connecticut
13. Georgetown
14. Notre Dame
24. Cincinnati

Also receiving votes was Louisville.

In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll the rankings vary slightly. UCONN is ranked 9th in the coaches poll, Notre Dame remained at #15 and Louisville is ranked #23 while Cincinnati is ranked 25th. In total there are an amazing eight Big East teams ranked in the Coaches Poll.

For those of you keeping score at home, the ACC just has 1 ranked squad [Duke]. For complete rankings, click here.

Syracuse Defeats #15 Notre Dame 70-58 on New Years Day


It was one of the toughest tests so far this season for the Orangemen, and they responded just like we would have hoped. Notre Dame, who came to the Carrier Dome ranked 15th in the nation and coming off a victory against #9 Georgetown just days earlier, was dispatched of seemingly effortlessly by Syracuse and their trusted 2-3 zone. Notre Dame, who averages 78.8 points per game (31st best in the nation), was held to just 58 points during the New Years Day matinee.

Kris Joseph once again lead the Orangemen in scoring with 18 points on 8 of 17 shooting from the floor. While Joseph played a great game, it was Scoop Jardine who stole the show. Scoop had 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting and handed out 9 assists during the game, however lost on the scorers sheet is the schoolyard moves Scoop was handing out all night on the Fightin' Irish.

Scoop made it look like he was back on the playground, knocking down acrobatic shots and just schooling his defenders as he drove the lane. The one down side to Scoop's performance Saturday afternoon was the 5 turnovers he committed, a team high.

The biggest moment in the game came after Notre Dame surged to a 6 point 2nd half lead with a 7-0 run out of the locker room. With that, Jim Boeheim turned to Rick Jackson to take over the center position within the zone, and the Orangemen never looked back. Syracuse responded with a 29-7 run to push the lead to 63-47 Cuse.

Boeheim turned to Jackson to play the 5-spot after Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita each gave up easy baskets under the hoop during the Irish's offensive run at the start of the 2nd half. Rick Jackson responded, cementing the back line of the defense and turning away a game high six blocks for the Orangemen. Fab Melo played just 7 minutes and was held without a point for the third straight game. Melo grabbed 1 rebound and 1 steal.

Keita pitched in 11 minutes of action, the same number of minutes he played in the Big East opener against Providence. Keita managed just 1 rebound against Notre Dame. Thankfully, Syracuse had their newest weapons ready to explode off the bench.

James Southerland put forth another impressive performance for Jim Boeheim posting 12 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Southerland finished 5 of 7 from the floor (2-4 from 3-point range) and had 3 steals and a block for the Cuse.

C.J. Fair also returned from his brief ankle injury to play 4 minutes. Fair finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds, and picked up his lone bucket and two rebounds on the first sequence of the game he participated in. Jim Boeheim told reporters after the game that after Syracuse's seven day layoff before traveling to Seton Hall that C.J. Fair should be 100%.

Sitting court-side for the game opposite the SU bench was the 2011 recruiting class, Michael Carter-Williams, Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney which ranks #10 nationally. Behind them sat 2012 prized prospect DaJuan Coleman, who plays down the road at Jamesville-Dewitt High School.

The #5 Orangemen, who remain undefeated with the victory, are now 15-0 on the season for just the third time in Jim Boeheim's career. Syracuse is off until Saturday January 8th when they travel to Newark, NJ to take on the Seton Hall Pirates at the Prudential Center at 12:00PM. This is the best start for Syracuse since the 1999-2000 season, when Jim Boeheim's Orangemen jumped out to a 19-0 record. The win was number 844 in Coach Boeheim's career.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com