Posted on: February 19, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2011 9:48 pm

'Cuse takes 45 minutes, 47 FTs to subdue Rutgers

Rick Jackson had 7 blocks vs. Rutgers. This is not one of them.

Posted by Eric Angevine

If this game was any indicator, the Big East had better look out for Rutgers next season. The Scarlet Knights hung in at the Carrier Dome in spite of a near triple-double from Rick Jackson, three DQs and an incredible 47-14 free-throw differential, forcing OT and coming within five points of the home team in an 84-80 road loss.

Rutgers shot the lights out from deep, knocking down 39 percent of their attempts from behind the arc. Guard Mike Coburn led the visitors with 18 points and 6 assists.

Syracuse had the inside edge as expected, and got a star turn from Jackson (above, defending against Gil Biruta), who finished the game with 18 points, 12 boards and 7 blocks. Frontcourt mate Kris Joseph kicked in 21 and 8. Brandon Triche and freshman C.J. Fair each had 17.

Syracuse moved to 9-6 in the Big East, ahead of UConn and West Virginia and just behind a massive logjam of 9-5 teams that includes Villanova, Georgetown, Louisville and the surprising St. John's Red Storm.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 16, 2011 4:28 pm

Jim Boeheim's media criticism makes me a fan

Posted by MATT JONES

I don't know Jim Boeheim at all. I mean I know him in the same way that you know him, as the follicly-challenged Syracuse coach with an absurdly hot wife who plays zone defense and once coached Carmelo to a title. That is the simple version of Jim Boeheim and from my perspective, he has never been particularly interesting or objectionable. He is a great college basketball coach housed in a city thats best asset is Dinosaur Barbque.

But after the events of the past week, I am now officially a mark for all things Boeheim. It started Monday night when Boeheim lashed out at some local media members in a way that seemed to me as an outsider, completely deserved. The coach blasted the media for an article comparing him to other Big East coaches, specifically Rick Pitino, and for criticizing his team based upon a "little segment like this" in the season. He noted that it would be much more fair to look at his entire career saying,

“There are some coaches in the Hall of Fame that I’ve beat 80 percent of the time. And you’re going to look at a couple of coaches that beat me? I’ve coached against Rick Pitino when he was at Providence five times and once at Kentucky where we were 6-0 against them. One of his teams went to the Final Four, we beat them three times. So now we’re all the sudden going to put in the paper that I’ve lost six straight to Rick Pitino? Why don’t we put that I beat him six straight? Go ahead. That’s really good. Why don’t you keep doing that? That’s really good. I appreciate that.”

When I first saw the story, I literally applauded at my desk. The lack of perspective and rush to judgment in the sports media is an egregrious error repeated daily by self-righteous sports journalists across America.  Over the years, it has become my biggest pet peeve. Ignoring the role that randomness plays in small sample sizes, journalists make broad generalizations about a coach's ability based on small slices of their career and then use it to provide evidence for whatever conclusion they choose to make. It is an age-old game, and one that has only increased as sportswriters have become paradoxically both more famous and less intelligent.

So I loved when Boeheim made clear that such conclusions were not only bad journalism, but also unfair. But then when Boeheim went on a radio show and addressed the topic again, well an official man-crush began. Boeheim did a radio interview with 1620 The Score in which he said:

"I asked [the reporter a question]. You guys ask me questions all the time, that's part of my job. When you get asked a question back, you react like you do, you don't like it. But you know why? Because the media probably has the thinnest skin of any group in the world. Not in the country, in the world."

Instead of a round of applause, those comments deserve a standing ovation. While the media does a great deal of noble work and some might argue I am now a member of the group (it pains me to accept that reality), Boeheim is correct that no group is more thin-skinned. Even though their profession is built on the notion of questioning those in power, if the microscope is ever turned back upon them, the media inevitably recoil. In my early years as a lowly blogger, I felt the scorn on a daily basis of media that did not take kindly to my watchdog role. So to see Boeheim acknowledge this truth and call out a group of reporters in the process...well, bravo my friend.

Maybe in his old age, Boeheim is going to become a Charles Barkleyesque truth teller, who simply says what we all know with no fear of repercussions. Maybe he will speak other truths, such as the fact that the Big East is overrated and Rick Reilly criminally overpaid. But until then, at least he acknowledged a reality that most who worry about the power of the pen refuse to say. Far too many in sports media are insecure hypocrites who can't take the criticism they dish out.

Jim Boeheim said it, and now has a new fan.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 10, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: February 10, 2011 12:23 am

SU will benefit if it addresses its flaws now

Posted by Matt Norlander

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rick Jackson doesn’t want to talk about or acknowledge Syracuse’s flaws.

“I don’t know. You’re going to have to tell me,” Jackson said after the Orange’s 64-56 home loss to Georgetown Wednesday night. “I can’t point out our flaws and what we need to work on. You can decide that.”

In a minute.

“That’s as good a defensive game as we’ve played this year,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. That could be worrisome for Orange fans. It wasn’t a standout defensive game, really. Georgetown shot better than 50 percent from the floor effectively (53.8) and turned it over on 22 percent of its possessions (SU got careless 24 percent of the time). Eighty-three percent of the Hoyas’ baskets came off of assists, which is what the Georgetown offense is designed to do.

Plainly: Syracuse, big-picture, may have slowed the Hoyas a bit, but the Orange didn’t make their opponent alter from its game plan.

It had been nine years since Georgetown won in the Salt City, though that statistic’s a little misleading, as the Hoyas and Orange haven’t played in each other’s gym every year since the Big East expanded to 16 teams. The primary reason John Thompson III got his first win in the Carrier Dome was due to the switch Georgetown flicked up down in the final portion of the ball game. The Hoyas took advantage of an absent-minded Syracuse defense in the last eighth of the game, finishing off the Orange with a 15-3 run in the final 5:37 to win 64-56.

SU guard Brandon Triche said Georgetown didn’t surprise he or his teammates at all. That’s why they were most frustrated in leaving with an L.

“It’s tough to lose, and it’s even tougher to lose when you know what they’re going to do,” Triche said, following up his statement by saying the team has become one that sees its play embellished when it has the confidence to match.

“I think our confidence was high, and it’s gotten a little bit lower,” Triche said. “We’re a team whose guys are built on confidence. When it goes down, we’re a different team. I don’t think it’s any [other] type of flaws. Defensively, the last couple of games, we’ve actually been improving and being more active.”

There were times when the Orange appeared to lack urgency and got fooled by Georgetown’s collective court-seeing ability. It was an aberration to Syracuse’s defensive behavior from earlier in the game, but of course it came at the wrong time. Losing a sense of urgency and spacing on the floor isn’t a good sign.

“We had opportunities to score — a lot of them — but we missed layups, and it just didn’t go in,” Scoop Jardine (right) said. “We had the game won, and it hurts to lose tough ones like this at home.”

So let’s get to those flaws. Every single team has them. Which are Syracuse’s? Well, let’s start by stating: Syracuse is a strong, competent squad with a ceiling that hovers somewhere between the Elite Eight and the Final Four and a floor that could be losing in the first round as a 7-, 8- or 9-seed. It’s the Orange’s lack of offense in a big spot that’s truly concerning. It wasn’t there tonight, and with no premier, make-it-happen-in-a-big-spot point guard and a lack of a true, consistent deep threat, it’s destined to happen again.

“We just had a great offensive game last week. We had a bad one tonight. I don’t understand that (question),” Boeheim said when a reporter asked if Syracuse was beyond a point of improving its offense this year. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to have a bad one tomorrow.”

Boeheim is right. Such crippling droughts — I mean, just 56 points at home? — haven’t been abundant this year. But down the road, when it happens again, are there enough components for the Orange to overcome a really bad shooting night?

“This was a great defensive effort against a very good offensive team, but we’ve just gotta score points,” Boeheim said. “The main difference between this year and last year, you know, I think we’re as good defensively, but we can’t score enough. … Certainly that’s going to catch up to you.”

It absolutely will. Georgetown hit six 3s in the first half, which allowed the Hoyas to keep pace with Syracuse, then have an opportunity to kill their bitter rival with backdoor passes and opportunistic rebounding. The former is a familiar Hoyas trait. The latter? Unh-uh. By game’s end, the 14 Orange turnovers, 39-percent shooting and Georgetown’s 45-percent offensive rebounding percentage seemed to be the catalysts for the outcome.

“The games that we’ve struggled in, we’ve shot less than 40 percent and less than 30 percent from the 3,” Boeheim said.

Those games are fresh in the team's mind, as Syracuse has dropped five of its past seven after an 18-0 start that some were skeptical about due to the relatively weak nature of the schedule, inflated by the fact Syracuse didn’t leave New York to play a game until Jan. 8 against Seton Hall.

One thing we saw in Syracuse Wednesday night: a hand-tied Rick Jackson. The Orange forward got into foul trouble for the first time this season in a big game, drawing his fourth whistle with 14:40 to go in the second half, prompting Boeheim to play freshmen Baye Moussa Keita, C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters.

Jackson admitted the quick triggers from the officials impacted his play.

“How you usually play, and the refs call flop after flop, of the ball fouls and things like that, it takes the physical play away from you,” Jackson said. “You don’t know what you can do out there. … It kind of makes you timid.”

In fact, Boeheim and most of his players said they weren’t happy with Georgetown drawing charges that seemed like flops. Syracuse players are pretty convinced it got a bad trio officials that weren’t the typical Big East, let-them-play-rough crew.

“It wasn’t defensive fouls; it was our offensive fouls,” Jardine said. “I think they was flopping on them a couple of times and he (Jackson) just got the bad end of it tonight. … Arinze (Onuaku) went through the same thing. It’s like that for big men when they’re as productive as they’ve been.”

Said Boeheim, “They looked like flops to me.”

Jackson’s foul problems will likely be the exception to the rule. And even when he left the game, Syracuse took the lead in his absence.

Look back on its season so far, and what was the game that stands out more than any other for this team? The Dec. 7 win against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, right? And that’s rotted away with each passing week. (To be fair, the New Year’s Day win at home over Notre Dame is looking very good, as the Irish are on a six-game tear, going to 20-4 Wednesday night with an overtime home win against Louisville.)

Syracuse can and will continue to beat up on teams that won’t sniff the NCAAs, even most likely snagging wins against strong competition. The zone’s not going to duct tape the kitchen pipes when the water’s bursting through later on this season against teams that will play better, on a neutral floor, than Georgetown did tonight.

“I’m not worried,” Jardine said.

If Syracuse players don’t address their worries and flaws soon, the team may become a shell of what it was in December, when it was undefeated and considered a national-title contender.

Photos: AP
Posted on: February 9, 2011 10:55 pm

Video: Post-game with SU's Kris Joseph

Posted by Matt Norlander

I wanted to get Rick Jackson, but there was a massive horde around him, plus, he took the longest to get out of the shower. (I've got people waiting here, Rick!) So I popped over to Kris Joseph's locker. Kris is a good quote and has an equally compelling personality, win or lose.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Syracuse, video
Posted on: February 9, 2011 9:18 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 10:17 am

Podcasting: SU-Georgetown chat/Matt Jones joins

Posted by Matt Norlander

Normally, this podcast won’t be so long, I don’t think, but today it’s a bit of a doozy. Since Matt Jones will be doing some hosting duties whenever I’m not shooting this thing off to the Internets, I didn’t want to wait another episode to get him on. So Jonesy (Jonesy, is it OK if I call you Jonesy?) and I are the second part of this podcast.

We breeze our way through conference talk of all the BCS-level leagues, plus the A10 and Mountain West. There’s some good dialogue about surprise teams in there, too, plus we complain about the free food fed to us when we work.

The first half of the podcast (I didn’t mean to Tarantino this blog post) is a joy as well, as I had to get Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard on to talk about Georgetown-Syracuse in advance of that big game tonight. Waters is a pro’s pro, and it was an honor to have him on. He’s dialed into the culture of that city and that program so well, I was stupid to not have him join me sooner. I hope you like our 20-minute convo.

Is Georgetown the better team right now? And what’s Jim Boeheim really like? (There’s a particular nugget in there many will be surprised to learn, I think.) Waters also gets into his early days of journalism, how he sort of lucked his way into a round of golf with Michael Jordan and what some of the best places to eat in Syracuse are. Yes, more food talk.

Listen below, and please search and subscribe in iTunes, too. We’ll be back with another podcast for you Friday morning.

Podcast No. 3: All things Syracuse-Georgetown, plus expansive conference talk

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 2, 2011 11:09 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 1:49 am

Lamb ready for spotlight, but now's not the time

Posted by Matt Norlander

HARTFORD, Conn. — If Kemba can’t …

It’s a proposition most UConn fans didn’t want to even begin to maybe even think about possibly mulling within their minds. But the elephant in the room is unable to be tucked under the lampshade anymore.

Sometimes, Kemba can’t. Wednesday night, certainly, Kemba Walker couldn’t. It was such a disappointing performance in the eyes of his coach, Jim Calhoun, that the Hall-of-Famer didn’t want to talk about anyone on his team — except for this particular freshman that’s no longer a secret in the Big East.

“Individually, I have no comment about any of our players, except for Jeremy (Lamb),” Calhoun told the room filled to the brim with media in the bowels of the XL Center.

The good news? If Kemba Walker can’t, Lamb (right) can. He proved it in UConn’s 66-58 loss to Syracuse. Ah, the loss. That’s the problem, yes? Yes.

So, now, a question must be posed: Is Lamb’s production, in the here and now, a good thing? That’s certainly up for debate. Sure it’s fantastic to see others around Walker playing well … but at Walker’s expense? Consider, after mentally and physically relying on Walker for 17 games, the Huskies have watched Lamb blossom into something more than just a No. 3 option, even if he’s not quite a No. 2. (After the stats average out in the wake of the loss to Syracuse, Lamb and Alex Oriakhi will be in a dead heat for second-leading scorer on the team behind Walker.)

Lamb has spent the last four games — wherein the Huskies went 2-2 — stepping up for his junior teammate, who’s averaged a bad-for-him 14.5 points in those games, dovetailing with a season-low eight points Wednesday night against Syracuse.

Lamb’s average in that four-game span: 20.8 points. It’s clear he is already mature and comfortable enough to be the No. 1 option, if it comes to that, for this team.

“Yeah, I think we can definitely still win games like that,” Lamb said when asked if him playing the alpha is ultimately good for UConn.

Of course he’s got the confidence right now — can you blame him? Down the stretch Wednesday night, the offense wasn’t going through the potential player of the year (though that’s a star that’s beginning to dwindle). All the expectation was on the rail-thin freshman who’s got the fledgling form of a real offensive threat.

“Jeremy’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” Oriakhi said. “For the games he’s having, I’m definitely not surprised. …   I think we were looking for Lamb a little bit more. He was the hot hand, so, you know, whoevers hot on the team, that’s who we’re going to give it to.”

The somewhat-worrisome news for Huskies fans can be found in this quote:

“We were still running plays for Kemba, but it was misunderstandings sometimes,” Lamb said. “Sometimes I was supposed to get the second option and stuff like that. Sometimes the pick wouldn’t come, we were forgetting plays, so … I was ready to knock down shots.”

Lamb followed that up by saying, “If I’m the No. 1 scorer, I think it’s going to make teams harder to guard us, because they can’t key in on two people.”

True, but as of late, that’s not been needed against UConn. The pressure of making up for lost production from Walker, Oriakhi and fellow frosh Shabazz Napier? Lamb has a lion’s pride in that respect.

“No pressure,” Lamb said. “I don’t even think about it.”

Lamb already has the respect of not only his teammates, but his opponents and the coaches who scheme against him in the Big East.

Perhaps the strongest of commentaries on the Walker/Lamb dynamic came from Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who admitted he didn’t scheme too differently from what he’d done against UConn (read: Walker) a year ago. He praised his team’s collective defensive effort, then went to discussing Lamb jumping off the tape in the games he’d watched while preparing for Wednesday night’s critical matchup.

“He’s (Lamb) been playing good,” Boeheim said. “The two guys I was worried about, him — (Roscoe) Smith has games where he’s made threes; tonight he didn’t. But that’s what you get when you rely on freshmen. ... Lamb is very good against zones. He’s smart, he can shoot — he’s got that in-between shot — he’s a very, very good offensive player.”

You’re not going to convince many people that UConn can be scary in any way if Walker’s held in check for the better part of 40 minutes. After the game, Walker was soft-spoken, leveled, and in an interesting position during interview session. He took questions from a small group of reporters, while three TV cameras and another seven print reporters huddled around Lamb.

Places had been traded on both the floor and in the interview room. Walker remained leveled and unemotional.

“We have nine more games left,” Walker said. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ve lost four games. We’re way ahead of where people thought we would be.”

He makes a solid point: the team is still ahead of expectations. Even if this two-game slide brings on a mild state of panic in amongst Connecticut fans, many still believe the team was playing with house money for a large portion of the year.

“He’s still a great player,” Lamb said of his teammate. “I just think tonight he let referees get in his head. Once he didn’t get certain calls, he got a little frustrated. … Right now I’m hitting, and Kemba’s having some tough nights. But it’s not like I’m the only one who’s doing something.”

It seemed like that down the stretch Wednesday night. This is a mini-crisis for UConn. Now, will it become an identity crisis? The Huskies, for as much as they need Lamb’s production, can’t have questions on who’s running the show if they stand a chance to make a run down for the remainder of this season and in the NCAA tournament.

“A month from now, I think we’re really going to forget about this,” Oriakhi said. “Kemba’s going to get out of this slump.”

Lamb finished up by saying, going forward, the offensive philosophy will probably adjust in scope.

“I think the team will definitely be looking for me more, but at the same time, Kemba’s still going to get buckets,” Lamb said. “Like I said, he had a tough time tonight and a tough last game, but great players bounce back. He still going to do what he do.”

The sooner Walker gets back to doing what he do, the better UConn — and Lamb, strange as it may seem — will be. It’s not yet time for Lamb.

Next year, the show will be his. And then he’ll really be able to know what pressure’s like.

Photo: AP
Posted on: February 2, 2011 9:54 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2011 9:56 pm

Video: Post-game w/ Kemba, Scoop Jardine

Posted by Matt Norlander

Interesting game, yes? Kemba Walker was held to a season-low eight points. Just a guess: he'll not stay out of double digits in the points column in another game this season.

I got one on one with Walker just before the media horde came in after me. Here's the interview. Something to note: win or lose, Walker's as soft-spoken as he is in the video below. Apologies for the difference in volume between my questions and his answers.

Scoop Jardine, below, well ... I'm not sure how to define what his mood was. He seems happy, in a way, but he notes how the four-game losing streak, not the win tonight, was the turning point for SU this season.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Syracuse, UConn, Video
Posted on: February 2, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2011 12:13 pm

Hartford is the fork in the road for SU's season

Posted by Matt Norlander

If you’re looking for drama and stakes at the beginning of February in college basketball, tonight’s game will fulfill your appetite.

The Syracuse-Connecticut rivalry has not only come to prominently exist within the past 12 years, it’s intensified to levels that come close to Syracuse-Georgetown, which, for anyone who knows the ins and outs of Hoyas and Orange, is really saying something.

You have two Hall of Fame coaches in the December of their careers and still remaining nationally relevent, chasing NCAA crowns each season.

What’s the latest infusion and wrinkle in the rivalry? Well, the primary story line heading into tonight: Jim Boeheim’s never lost five games in a row. Should Syracuse lose, the panic button won’t merely be pushed — it’ll get ripped off the wall in frustration.

Syracuse started 18-0 and is now 18-4. Tense times for teams make good copy for writers and frantic fever pitches for fans. So tonight will be the newest chapter in the Big East’s neo über rivalry. And though the game’s in Hartford, and the weather’s been the national story for the past few days, and Kemba Walker’s trying to keep pace with Jared Sullinger and Jimmer Fredette for national player of the year, tonight, this one’s all about Syracuse.

Should the Orange fall, it’ll mean more than a plummet in the Big East standings (to 5-5); SU will, without a doubt, be a bubble team. Michigan, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Notre Dame, St. John’s, Cincinnati: these are the banner wins for Syracuse. Not bad, but plenty of other teams possess more impressive scalps than that. The out-of-conference schedule, though not overly weak, will become a nuisance if the Orange wobble throughout the rest of the Big East season.

And if Syracuse wins? The coast is clearer, the skies bluer, the air fresher. Perhaps the problems won’t be gone, but the losing streak will be. And it will have ended with a very nice win over a Connecticut team that’s all but locked up its reservation for The Big Dance. That’s the chasm between winning and losing that stares Syracuse in the face tonight.

Again, great copy.

Strategically, let’s look at what could happen tonight, plus the trends of the past few games. The Orange should have more than Walker to deal with. The problem as of late has been that famous, patented 2-3 zone. It’s failed Syracuse, evidenced by SU’s 63 percent effective field goal percentage against Marquette, on the road, Saturday … yet the Orange trailed all 40 minutes. In the befuddling 90-68 home loss to 10-12 Seton Hall last Tuesday, the Pirates shot 62 percent, effectively, from the field.

No player on Syracuse’s roster is used as much as Scoop Jardine (above, left), but I wonder if this comes down to Alex Oriakhi (above, right) going against the Orange’s Rick Jackson. In a guard-oriented affair, could the paint play be key? It’s nice to see when such script-flips occur. Jackson is a strong rebounder on the defensive end, snaring 23.7 percent of live balls of the tin. He’s not elite, but he’s considerably better than Oriakhi (18.9 percent).

Expect Connecticut to try and puncture the zone since it’s shown soft spots in the past two weeks. That’s the real benefit for UConn — Walker’s a terrific penetrator, and he’ll probably be foaming at the mouth by tip-off. One last thing: Watch for C.J. Fair, who was very efficient against Marquette for Syracuse. Fair’s a freshman who hasn’t seen a lot of time, but if he’s able to produce, his injection into the rotation could be a B12 shot for the Orange.

Calhoun and Boeheim are very close friends. Calhoun probably hates that he’s the one with the chance to give Boeheim his first five-game losing streak of his career, but that’s how it goes. The pressure is all on Boeheim’s team tonight. If Connecticut loses, it will enable fans to lament a bit — after all, this would be back-to-back home losses — but the Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence slate forthcoming allows for opportunity to get back in the swing of winning. For Syracuse, a loss would bring about speculation on a number of levels. Even for a veteran coach of 36 years, it’d be an unprecedented scenario.


Category: NCAAB
Tags: Syracuse, UConn
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com