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Syracuse Seeks Victories as ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Takes Place in Nations Capital This Week 1

Posted on March 12, 2024 by Chris Kent
Capital One Arena in Washington, DC is the host site for the 2024 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament this week.

The regular season is over and now it is time to win or go home as Championship Week in college basketball is here. Syracuse heads to the 2024 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament this week in Washington, DC with work to do to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. How the Orange fare in the ACC Tournament combined with what happens around the country in all the postseason conference tournaments this week will impact whether or not Syracuse gets an NCAA bid.

The Orange are trending in the right direction as they have been playing their best basketball of the season over the last month. Syracuse went 5-2 in its’ last seven regular season games. Included was an 86-79 home win over then No. 7 ranked North Carolina on Feb. 13 and a quality 87-83 road win at North Carolina State a week later on Feb. 20. The win over North Carolina started the seven-game closing surge and marked the first time the Orange beat a top-10 team since a 95-91 overtime win at No. 1 Duke on Jan, 14, 2019. Although a loss at Georgia Tech followed, Syracuse won its’ next four games to have a shot at getting a double bye in this week’s conference tournament. However the Orange fell out of that scenario and ultimately earned the seventh seed and a first-round bye in this week’s tournament. Syracuse will play on Wed. March 13 at 7 pm in the second round against the winner of Tuesday’s opening round game between 10-seed North Carolina State and 15-seed Louisville. Should the Orange win its’ second round game they would advance to play Duke, the No, 2 seed, in the quarterfinals on Thursday March 14 at 7 pm.

Syracuse head coach Adrian Autry succeeded the legendary Jim Boeheim and has guided the Orange to a 20-win season in this his first season as head coach.

In a year of transition for the Orange program following the retirement of hall-of-fame head coach Jim Boeheim, who spent 47 years at the helm, first-year head coach Adrian Autry has stepped in nicely as Boeheim’s successor. Autry has guided Syracuse to its’ first 20-win season since the 2018-19 season when it finished 20-14 overall and 10-8 in the ACC. Following the legendary Boeheim, who he played for and worked for both as assistant coach and associate head coach, Autry has done a commendable job this year in taking over the program. Autry has lead the Orange to a 20-11 mark thus far and finished with a winning record in the competitive ACC at 11-9. Two wins this season over a good and rugged Pittsburgh team, the No. 4 seed in this week’s ACC Tournament, the road one being a quad one win, help Syracuse’s chances for making the NCAA field. The NCAA selections will be announced this coming Sunday, March 17 on CBS.

The Orange will be out to surprise and make some history this week by making a run toward the ACC Tournament Championship game, something they have never appeared in. The furthest Syracuse has ever gone in the ACC Tournament is the quarterfinals where they are 0-4 (not counting 2020 when they advanced to the quarterfinals to play Louisville only to have that game and the rest of the ACC tournament be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The Orange have never played more than two games in an ACC Tournament and they have an all-time record of 5-8 in the event. Syracuse is in its’ 11th season as an ACC member having officially joined the conference in the summer of 2013.

Guard Judah Mintz excels at driving to the basket to score and finding open teammates.

Lead by a group of six productive sophomores, the Orange are a young team. Sophomore guard Judah Mintz was just named to the All-ACC Second Team and leads Syracuse in scoring and assists with 18.7 points per game and 4.5 assists per game. His 4.5 apg and 2.10 steals per game were both third best in the ACC this season. Maliq Brown, another sophomore, became the first center in ACC history to lead the conference in steals per game at 2.23 en route to being named to the All-ACC Defensive Team. Brown shoots a team-best 69.3 percent from the field, mostly on the interior. Brown was inserted into the starting lineup in early January after 7-4 center Naheem McLeod – a transfer from Florida State – was lost for the season due to an injury. Brown has picked up the slack left by McLeod in the middle as he is scoring 9.5 ppg and leads the Orange with 7.0 rebounds per game.

Syracuse gets most of its’ outside shooting and scoring from sophomores Chris Bell, J.J. Starling, and Justin Taylor. Bell is the best and most reliable 3-point shooter on the team as he converts at a team-best 41.5 percent clip from behind the arc. Bell made eight 3-pointers in a win at North Carolina State this season, one short of tying the single-game school record. Starling and Taylor are also threats from beyond the arc along with Mintz.
Bell, Starling, and Taylor have been mainstays with each starting all 31 games this season. Bell scores 12.0 ppg and has made a team best 81 3-pointers on the season. Starling counters with 13.5 ppg while Taylor scores 5.1 ppg. Starling shoots 46.0 percent from the field and his ability to penetrate and find teammates helps in the halfcourt. Taylor shoots 35.7 percent from the field and has made 25 3-pointers this season.

Quadir Copeland brings versatility and athleticism off the bench for the Orange and scores in a variety of ways.

The Orange are at their best when they are able to run, score in transition, and create steals to generate scoring opportunities. Mintz is the catalyst for that style of play as he can get to the rim and create scoring opportunities for others. While Syracuse can execute in the half court, they can go stale in that mode if their shots are not falling and they don’t get rebounds. Helping to combat that is the play of Quadir Copeland, another sophomore and a key reserve. Copeland brings energy and creativity with his passing and athletic ability. After playing in 20 games as a freshman, he has played in all 31 games this season and been a big contributor. As a freshman, Copeland averaged 2.1 ppg., 1.6 rpg., 0.5 apg., and 0.5 steals per game while playing in 20 games during which he shot 34.1 percent from the field. Copeland has improved upon all those averages this season while playing in all 31 games to date. He has per game averages of 9.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 steals. In addition, Copeland is shooting 48.1 percent from the field, a big improvement from a year ago which has given balance to the Orange offense. Copeland’s play came to the forefront this season on Jan. 20 when he drained a 3-pointer as time expired lifting Syracuse to a 72-69 home win over Miami.

More clutch play like that might be needed by Copeland and the Orange this week if they are to have a long stay in the ACC Tournament. A recent projection by NCAA bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Syracuse listed as a team that was being considered for an NCAA bid. The strength of the Orange resume is highlighted by their two wins each over Pittsburgh and North Carolina State along with the big win over North Carolina. Syracuse also has a neutral site win over Oregon. However the Orange missed opportunities for strengthening their resume with losses to both Tennessee and Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational back in November. Tennessee was ranked No. 7 and Gonzaga No. 11 in the AP poll at the time of those games. If Syracuse is to move onto solid ground, it will have to land some wins this week and hope that the results of other teams they are competing with for NCAA spots work to their advantage. The game results of the Orange and those of many other teams across the country this week will have much to do in determining the fate of Syracuse.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Highlights Championship Week 3

Posted on March 07, 2017 by Chris Kent

Championship week has arrived for college basketball! Conference tournaments abound across the country from coast to coast featuring all the power conferences, mid-majors, and small conferences that make up Division I in the NCAA. There will be great performances by teams, individuals, and coaches while the games themselves are bound to feature some come-from-behind efforts that pluck victory from the jaws of defeat with some buzzer beaters. This is what makes the month of March so special. It is the madness before the madness of the NCAA Tournament. It will feature bubble teams that solidify their spot in the NCAA field and bubble teams who see their bubble burst. Seedings for the NCAA Tourney are on the line and will be impacted by what happens over the next seven days. Quite simply it is couch potato heaven for college basketball junkies across the land.

The 2017 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament is taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY for the first time ever.

The 2017 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament is taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY for the first time ever.

While this years’ heavyweights such as Kansas, Gonzaga, Villanova, and North Carolina look to show why they are the cream of the crop for likely NCAA #1 seeds, there are plenty of other national title worthy contenders like Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Oregon. Other schools like Big East competitors Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall, Providence, and Marquette all won at least 10 conference games this season and could make some noise in March. Smaller schools from less worthy conferences like Vermont (27-5, 16-0) of the America East and Middle Tennessee (27-4, 17-1) of Conference USA could make a run. Both schools are riding winning streaks with Vermont having won 19 straight and Middle Tennessee seven. Both Vermont and Middle Tennessee have produced significant upsets in NCAA history. In 2005, 13th-seeded Vermont upset a fourth-seeded Syracuse team that was fresh off a Big East Tournament Championship. Middle Tennessee, a 15th seed, upset second-seeded Michigan State in last year’s tournament. Results like these explain why March is so thrilling and dramatic. It captivates audiences across the country based on upsets by the little schools like these. They get on a run and gain the support of their schools so much that it can carry them on a fairy tale ride.

Before we get that far, the conference tournament championships are to be decided this week. In the process, the NCAA field will be determined with some teams sneaking in, others being left out, and others altering their seed and positioning for better or worse. Here is a look at one of the power conferences, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and how its’ conference tournament shapes up this week. The ACC Tournament Championship game will be played Saturday night March 11 at 9 pm EST and it can be seen live on ESPN.

North Carolina (26-6, 14-4), #1 seed

The ACC Tournament is being held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY for the first time ever. North Carolina enters the tournament as the outright ACC regular season champion and is the defending tournament champion. The Tarheels (26-6, 14-4) ended the regular season with a 90-83 win over arch rival Duke on Mar. 4 to split the annual season series.  North Carolina has played in the ACC Tournament Championship game each of the last two years, falling to Notre Dame 90-82 in the 2015 title game before beating Virginia 61-57 in last year’s finale.

Head coach Roy Williams has his team playing at a high level yet again after coming within a whisker of winning an NCAA title last

Roy Williams has lead North Carolina to the top seed in the tournament.

Roy Williams has lead North Carolina to the top seed in the tournament.

year. Despite losing four-year starting guard Marcus Paige and Associated Press All-American forward Brice Johnson, North Carolina has enjoyed another stellar season. Both took key production with them as Johnson averaged 17.0 points-per-game and 10.4 rebounds a game while Paige scored 12.6 points-per-game and dished out 128 assists on the season. Yet the heels have retooled this season and may be a better all-around team. Junior forward Justin Jackson was just named the ACC Player-of-the-Year and leads the team with 18.3 ppg. He also dishes out 2.6 assists and hauls in 4.7 rebounds-per-game. Junior guard Joel Berry II adds 15.1 ppg and dishes out a team best 3.7 apg while senior post player Kennedy Meeks scores 12.5 ppg and leads the team with 9.1 rpg. Berry is the team’s best 3-point shooter at 42.4 percent (75-for-177) while Jackson has made a team-high 85 trifectas on the season.

North Carolina’s victories over Florida State, Louisville, and Notre Dame this season allowed them to create a two-game cushion

and ultimately win the ACC regular season title. They will likely have to face one of these teams in the ACC tournament again and this can always be interesting a second time around. Carolina will have to bring the same intensity and high production on offense that saw them score 85.2 ppg in the regular season if they are to beat these same teams again in postseason play.

Florida State (24-7, 12-6) is the second seed followed by Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6) and Louisville (24-7, 12-6) as the third and fourth seeds respectively. These three schools along with North Carolina all received a double bye and won’t play until the quarterfinal round beginning on Thursday March 9. You can easily make a case for any of these top four seeds to win the tournament championship as they were very competitive against each other during the season. While North Carolina beat each of the other three to create separation from them in winning the regular season crown, all four teams were very competitive against each other.

Florida State beat both Louisville and Notre Dame at home and lost at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish split home and home wins with both Florida State and Louisville while Louisville lost to Florida State and split home and home wins with Notre Dame. Basically, the top four seeds in this year’s ACC Tourney beat up on each other in the regular season. Even though North Carolina beat the other three teams, the games between the four teams were very competitive and could of gone either way. What each team learned from the other one in those games should be a factor in preparation for potential matchups among the quartet this week. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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