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Crucial Week Lies Ahead for Syracuse Orange as Huge Games Loom 0

Posted on February 20, 2018 by Chris Kent

An absolute crucial week is about to commence for the Syracuse men’s basketball team. Come late Saturday night, it could end up making or breaking the season for the Orange.

SU LogoWhile Syracuse’s regular season finale on March 3 with nationally ranked Clemson (20-6, 9-5) will carry weight for its’ NCAA Tournament hopes as well, this week’s back-to-back games against ACC bluebloods North Carolina and Duke will be enormous for the Orange as they seek to secure an NCAA bid. Although Syracuse will also compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament March 6-10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY where its’ play could also factor into their chances for an NCAA bid, leaving most or all of their NCAA fortunes to that event would be risky when it is not yet even known what the seedings or matchups are going to be.

The Orange (18-9, 7-7) will play three of their final four regular season games against teams currently ranked in the top 15 and who also have a top 10 RPI. A win or two against those teams would place Syracuse on solid instead of shaky ground by the end of the regular season. This would be to their advantage and seem to make their NCAA path easier. Although it is possible for a team “on the bubble” to play its’ way to an NCAA bid based on what they do during championship week, it is a tougher road.

The competition level ramps up for the Orange on Wednesday Feb. 21 when defending national champion North Carolina (21-7,

Roy Williams coaches with fierce intensity and has another 20-win season in 2017-18.

Roy Williams coaches with intensity and has another 20-win season in 2017-18.

10-5) visits the Carrier Dome for a nationally televised prime time game at 7 pm EST on ESPN. Ranked 10th in this week’s AP Poll and possessing an RPI of five, the Tar Heels are riding a five-game winning streak that has featured wins over Duke, North Carolina State, and Louisville. Meanwhile, Syracuse has won three of its’ last four games and comes off a 62-55 win at Miami on Feb. 17.

North Carolina has another strong team this year and is lead by the trio of senior guards Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson along with 6-8 junior forward Luke Maye who leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 18.4 and 10.5 averages respectively. Berry II and Pinson not only give the Tar Heels production but a pair of senior leaders in the backcourt who have played in the last two national championship games. Berry averages 17.7 points per-game and dishes out 3.1 assists per-game while Pinson adds 9.3 ppg along with a team-best 4.5 apg. Junior guard Kenny Williams also scores 11.5 ppg.

Berry II is one of the better point guards in North Carolina history. Named to the All-Final Four Teams each of the last two seasons, Berry II is one of just two players in ACC history to be named the ACC Tournament MVP in one season (2016) and garner Final Four Most Outstanding Player in another (2017), joining Duke legend Christian Laettner, arguably the top NCAA Tournament performer of all-time. Read the rest of this entry →

Syracuse and Kansas Sport a History on the Basketball Hardwood 2

Posted on December 03, 2017 by Chris Kent
Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

In one of the most thrilling finishes in NCAA championship game history, Syracuse beat Kansas 81-78 to clinch its’ first and only men’s basketball national title in school history in 2003. Hakim Warrick’s block of Michael Lee’s 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds to play secured the title which became official when the Jayhawks’ ensuing possession resulted in a missed 3-pointer by senior guard Kirk Hinrich as time expired.

It was a euphoric moment in Orange history.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, in his 27th year at the helm at the time, won his first national title in his third trip to the championship game. Boeheim and the Orange had come up short in two prior championship games against Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996. The third time for Boeheim as head coach at Syracuse (he was an assistant coach on the school’s first Final Four team in 1975), proved to be the charm.

The two met again on Dec. 2 as they dueled in the Hoophall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. where Kansas won 76-60. Both teams were 6-0 entering the game. Each school posted home wins over Texas Southern, Oakland, and Toledo in earlier rounds of this Invitational in November.

Since their ’03 title clash, there have been many changes in the college basketball landscape. Conference realignment has dominated among the six power conferences and both schools have been impacted by this. The Orange left The Big East after the 2012-13 season to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have welcomed in such teams as West Virginia to the Big 12. We’ve had mid-major teams like George Mason (2006), Butler (2010, ’11), and Virginia Commonwealth (’11) make The Final Four with Butler finishing as the national runner-up in both 2010 and ’11. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Old Fuddy Duddy Watching the NBA Draft 9

Posted on June 23, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

I have decided in this column to serve as the old “fuddy duddy”, which is defined as being old fashioned and fussy.

Last night was the NBA Draft and I must admit, my 11-year-old son had a much better grasp of the players being selected than I did. Not only because he is significantly closer in age to them, but also because in today’s electronic world, he is much more familiar with their exploits than I am. Though most of the top players played roughly 30 games at the college level, if you are interested and tech savvy, you can find all their highlights on YouTube.

Sorry to sound dated and bitter, but I fondly remember a day when players being drafted into the NBA were familiar to fans not because of a YouTube video, but because we had watched them play through usually three or four years of college. Even in a time when cable television was not yet prominent and not every game was available to watch, we still had ample chances to enjoy the top players for quite a while before they moved to the NBA.

When Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984 he had played 101 games as a college player, not to mention being on the 1984 Olympic team. While I don’t recall there necessarily being discussion then that he was going to be the greatest player of all-time (such labels weren’t really all that important in a time before sports talk shows), there was no question that he was a great player and would be a successful pro.

You can say similar things about all the other top draft picks from the 1970s and 1980s. In most cases, they were familiar to fans across the country because they had been showcased in college for multiple years.

Now not every great college player in the past panned out in the NBA. As is the case today, there were many players in past generations who were great college players, but just didn’t translate to the NBA. But even in those cases, you had four years to watch them play at college and the number of top picks who didn’t have at least some semblance of an NBA career was pretty minimal. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Inconsistency of Justice 2

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt primarily to oversee and make safer intercollegiate football as well as to oversee eligibility in intercollegiate sports. The name of the organization was changed in 1910 to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Over the last 111 years, this organization has grown to become one of the most hypocritical behemoths within the United States. Though considered a non-profit, the NCAA generates billions of dollars in revenue annually while their primary labor force receives no direct compensation from the association. To make it even worse, those “student-athletes” are penalized by the organization if they dare to attempt to receive anything other than a college scholarship and minimal gifts and awards for participating in tournaments or championship competition.

I could spend thousands of words illustrating examples of the hypocrisy and exploitative nature of the organization, especially when it comes to student-athletes. But, I do not intend to make that the subject of this column.

Instead, I want to briefly explore the announcement this week of penalties against the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball program and head coach Rick Pitino.

The NCAA is investigating what ineligible players may have appeared in games for the Cardinals from 2010-2014 as part of an alleged sex-for-pay scandal involving a Louisville assistant coach and basketball recruits. If any players were deemed to have performed while they should have been ineligible, then Louisville could be forced to vacate victories, including their 2013 NCAA Championship.

Though he has not been directly implicated, head coach Rick Pitino was suspended by the NCAA for five ACC games next season.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if a Louisville coach was involved in paying women to have sexual relations with basketball recruits, that is morally abysmal and just another example of how some in college athletics have crossed the line. However, much like the Penn State scandal of a few years ago where the university and football administration were without question guilty of failing to meet simple ethical standards, they weren’t necessarily guilty of anything that specifically provided the team with an on-the-field advantage by providing a special benefit or keeping a player eligible.

That lies in very deep contrast to the University of North Carolina, whose men’s basketball team won the NCAA Championship just two months ago. The University and many athletic teams, including the men’s basketball program, have been under the cloud of an academic scandal in which the credibility of an entire department at the college was fabricated for many years, in part to help ensure that student-athletes could remain eligible.

Yet, not only was UNC allowed to participate in the last two national championship games, their head coach, Roy Williams, is regularly lauded by the NCAA and coaches association for his “ethical” behavior.

There is an old saying that the NCAA is so upset with the actions at UNC that they put UNC-Wilmington on probation for ten years. In this case, it almost seems that the NCAA is working with the University to try and make the entire issue go away. It is a stark contrast to how the NCAA handles much less significant scandals at other institutions. Read the rest of this entry →

The Case for Gonzaga to Win the National Championship 2

Posted on March 30, 2017 by Bernie Stein
After years of coming close, Gonzaga is finally in the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four.

After years of coming close, Gonzaga is finally in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Gonzaga played as close to perfect as perfect as you can imagine in its Elite 8 annihilation of Xavier on Saturday. With the Musketeers on a red-hot run through the first three rounds of the tournament, most pundits figure they’d run out of gas at some point, but a 24-point whipping wasn’t what most had in mind.

The Bulldogs are now two wins away from not just a national championship, but one of the single greatest seasons in NCAA college basketball history. Two wins would get them to 38-1, tying them for the most wins in a single season with Kentucky’s 2012 and 2015 teams and Memphis’s 2008 squad – interestingly enough all three coached by John Calipari.

The Bulldogs’ best number is their +22.3 points per game differential entering the Final Four. Only Duke’s 1998-1999 team had a higher average (25.9 ppg).

The Bulldogs are exciting because they have one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country in junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss and Premek Karnowski. Williams-Goss is the straw who stirs the drink, leading the team in minutes (32.4 per game), points per game (16.7), assists per game (4.6), steals per game (1.8), and free-throw percentage (.882).

How Karnowski responds to the pressure of this round will determine a lot. He’s 7-feet, 1-inch and weighs 300 pounds, but the Bulldogs have won in spite of him so far during the tournament. Against Xavier last weekend, he had just five points and three rebounds and sat a bunch with four fouls. During the tournament, he’s averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He’s not a banger but being that tall should be good for 15 and 8 every game.

The X factors for the Bulldogs are Jordan Mathews and Johnathan Williams, the team’s third- and fourth-leading scorers. Mathews is putting up 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while Williams leads the team in rebounds at 6.6 per game and adds in 10.3 points per contest. Read the rest of this entry →

North Carolina and Duke Take Center Stage at ACC Tournament in Brooklyn Behind Decades of Storied History 0

Posted on March 10, 2017 by Chris Kent

It is college basketball royalty when North Carolina (27-6) and Duke (25-8) meet in the semifinals of the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. The two will battle at 7 pm EST tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY with a trip to the ACC Tournament Championship game on the line. It is round three for the duo this year as the two posted home victories over each

The ACC Tournament is one of the richest traditions in all of college sports.

other in their two regular season meetings this season. The two met less than a week ago with the Tarheels winning 90-83 at home on March 4 in the regular-season finale for both.

North Carolina is the top seed in the tournament for the second straight year and has played in the last two championship games. A fifth seed in 2015, the Tarheels lost 90-82 to third-seeded Notre Dame in the title game before beating second-seeded Virginia 61-57 in the 2016 championship game as the top seed. The Blue Devils have not reached the championship game since 2014 when they were the third seed and lost to top-seeded Virginia 72-63.

Duke and North Carolina have not met in the ACC Tournament since 2011 when the second-seeded Blue Devils won 75-58 over the top-seeded Tarheels in the title game. The long and storied history of these two ACC and national powers is well documented. Since 1997, one or the other has reached the tournament semifinals for a now 21 straight seasons during which both have been in the round 12 times. During that same time period, the two have met in two tournament semifinals and played in four title games.

Besides the 2011 title meeting, the other three championship game battles came in a four-year span between 1998 and 2001 when one or the other was the tournament’s top seed. Duke won two of the three title games, winning 96-73 as the top seed in 1999 and posting a 79-53 win in 2001 as the second seed. The other title game came in 1998 when North Carolina, the second seed, won 83-68 over the top-seeded Blue Devils.

This four-year stretch of ‘98-‘01 was a marquee time period for both schools as they boasted some of their great all-time players. Both schools were at the top of the ACC and competed – as they always have and continue to do – at such a high level. Recalling each school’s history during this time is like reading a hall-of-fame biography. When you combine the personnel of the teams, their coaches, and their achievements, one can see why the two have had such a perennial strong conference and national presence. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Iron Man Randy Smith
      February 2, 2019 | 5:58 pm

      Randy Smith-BravesThe Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month may have had a pretty common name, but his iron man streak as an NBA player was anything but ordinary.

      In a streak that lasted more than a decade, Randy Smith played in 906 consecutive NBA games to establish an NBA iron man record that lasted more than a decade.

      That Smith made it to the NBA at all was somewhat of an underdog story.

      A three-sport standout at Bellsport High School in Long Island (basketball, soccer and track), Smith also was a three-sport All-American at Division II Buffalo State College. He helped lead the Bengals to three straight basketball conference championships and a spot in the 1970 Division II Final Four.

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