Posted on: December 10, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 10:59 pm

Syracuse's Scoop Jardine welcomes No. 1 spot

By Jeff Goodman

It's really been a huge distraction for Scoop Jardine and the Syracuse Orange.

That's sarcasm, folks, since Syracuse -- which has been under the national microscope for the last few weeks in the midst of the Bernie Fine sexual assault allegations -- will likely take the No. 1 spot on Monday when the new national polls are released.

The Orange improved to 10-0 after Saturday's rout over George Washington -- and with top-ranked Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State both losing, the 'Cuse should move up to No. 1.

"All everyone is talking about is the scandal and I've used that to the guys as far as people disrespecting us as a team," Jardine told CBSSports.com on Saturday. "We didn't have anything to do with the scandal, don't know anything about it. This is our season."

Jardine has a point. Each time Syracuse wins a game, the first thing everyone talks or thinks about is Fine.

"They talk about that and maybe show one or two highlights," Jardine said. "No disrespect to everything that's going on, because obviously it's serious, but this is our season."

Jardine said that this team has taken a cue from its even-keeled leader, Boeheim, who hasn't appeared rattled throughout all the scrutiny.

"He hasn't let is distract him," Jardine said. "And it hasn't been a distraction to us, either."

Jardine said he welcomes the bulls-eye on the team's back once it gets anointed as the No. 1 team in the nation.

"It's something I want," Jardine said. "Something we want."

Next up for Syracuse, though, is its first true road game on Saturday against N.C. State. The Orange have beaten Florida and Marshall at the Carrier Dome and Virginia Tech and Stanford at Madison Square Garden, but a hostile environment is a different story.

"Kentucky went to Indiana and look what happened," Jardine said. "We know you can get beat anytime on the road."

But already, Jardine is enjoying it. He read a text he just received moments after the game from former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

"Great job. We're number one. Time to really focus. Time to turn it up a notch and lock in."

With everything that's been going on since the middle of last month, one thing that can't be questioned is this team's focus.

Photo: AP
Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:18 am

Bernie Fine to avoid state prosecution, charges

By Matt Norlander

The investigation involving former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine has become as much about timing as anything else.

And because the sexual-molestation allegations against Fine came years -- decades, even -- after they allegedly occurred, the former Syracuse assistant coach will not face legal action in the state of New York.

Because Bobby Davis and Mike Lang waited so long to come forward to tell their stories, the statute of limitations on these crimes has been passed, and so Fine will not be charged or prosecuted by state authorities.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick held a press conference Wednesday morning, essentially stating he believes what Davis and Lang are claiming, that Fine did molest the boys on multiple occasions throughout the 1980s and '90s. He applauded Davis for coming forward and told Lang -- neither of whom were in the room; Fitzpatrick was speaking to them generally -- he too did the right thing by speaking up.  He apologized to them as well.

"Bobby, I'm sorry it took so long," Fitzpatrick said. The presser was as much about updating the public on the state of the case as it was Fitzpatrick's personal grief session to the alleged victims involved and potential victims everywhere.

The big part of this case remains to be the audio tape of the phone call between Davis and Laurie Fine, Bernie's wife. It is the evidence out there that all but clarifies any doubt people might've had in regard to Fine's inappropriate actions. Here's what Fitzpatrick said about that recording.

"The significance of this tape cannot be overstated. Anyone listening to that tape cannot fail to understand that Bobby Davis is not being truthful, which makes it all the more confusing as to why the very people whose job it is to determine credibility, sufficiency of corroboration, what investigative leads to follow, namely Onondaga County prosecutors, were never informed of the existence of the tape and neither was the Syracuse police department. This was not a confidential source. Bobby Davis wanted his name to come forward."

The first part of that statement was a clear shot at Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse head coach who finally apologized last Friday after initially belittling, doubting and publicly admonishing the claims made by Davis and Lang.

Fitzpatrick and the State of Syracuse are powerless to do anything now, though.

Fine's not in the clear, though, not by a long shot. Federal authorities continue to investigate this, and the key now becomes the story and claims of Zach Tomaselli, who is the third accuser in the case. Tomaselli claims he was molested by Fine in 2002 while the Orange were in Pittsburgh for a game against the Panthers. If that story rings true and can be corroborated, authorities can charge Fine with severe penalties thanks to broader, un-cuffed laws.

The feds recently raided Fine's home and on-campus office, confiscating dozens of items in the process.

Fitzpatrick also went back on some words on his own, saying Syracuse University and the city police department did do their diligence in looking into the case. He was initially very public and very critical toward the university and the PD. His insistence on making news by way of press releases and press conferences doesn't sit well with some, still.

Fine was fired by the university Nov. 27.

Photo: AP
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:49 am

Florida's guards remain a double-edged sword

Matt Norlander

If you aren’t an only child, then you know what I’m about to describe.

When you’ve got a brother, or a sister, or a couple of brothers or sisters (or some combination of siblings) it’s a wonderful thing. Growing up with them truly is one of the greatest gifts anyone could ask for. Those who grow up solo miss out on a linkage that would take so much longer to describe than this blog post will allow.

But you know what? Your bros and sisses can be real pains in the a--, too. There’s resentment that builds up over years of fights and competition and all the other dynamics that make families the haywire mess of dysfunction we all know so well. But most times, no matter the faults, you accept your siblings, issues and arguments and all. It’s because you have no choice to. You were born into this circumstance, and you’d likely never change it.

Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are family at Florida. And they are the brothers with the problems. The ones who can make a situation harder than it needs to be. But Florida’s going to have to learn to live with them. Just how it’s going to be.

The Gators got good news Monday. Erik Murphy is expected to return for Wednesday’s home game against Arizona. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be back for the game after that. With Murphy, Florida’s a much different team. Plus, Brad Beal won’t be asked to play the 4, something he had to do against Syracuse. Beal had a bad offensive night in that role. Murphy’s unlike any other player they have, and with him, the guards aren’t looked to as much for offense.

But it doesn’t mean Boynton and Walker won’t still seek to give Florida that offense as much as they can.

On about eight occasions last Friday night I watched those two put up a shot or make a play that was an “oh, no!” kind of moment. Half the time, that sequence was a quick-trigger 3. On some occasions, the 3 feel through the hoop. I turned to SI.com's Andy Glockner and we exchanged looks of acknowledgment: that’s so Boynton. And so Walker. That’s so Florida. It’s who they are. It’s how they’ll lose and how they’ll win more times than not this season. It’s what happened last year, and it’s why Florida made it to the Elite Eight, before falling to a less-talented Butler team.

A similar fate awaits the Gators this year, I think.

You can’t deny the numbers right now, though. In fact, it’s a good sign — Florida’s scoring almost 1.2 points per possession, the best in college basketball right now (according to KenPom.com, the national average is .99 points per possession). It’s shooting the ball well (57.5 effective field goal percentage), not turning it over (giving it away on just 17.6 percent of possessions).

Boynton has an O rating of 134.5. That’s really great. Walker’s sits at a firm 123, also fantastic. And to be fair, Walker isn’t taking as many shots as Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario when he’s on the floor. Rosario is also a guy who wants his.

Florida is getting by quite well despite the 5-2 record.

Those two losses have come to Ohio State and Syracuse. North Florida, Wright State, Jacksonville — these are the types of teams UF’s beaten so far. The backcourt play hasn’t been an issue against the patsies. But for as nice as the numbers look, I know what my eyes see. They see players who too often can pass up a 3 out of an offensive sequence because it’s tempting to them like a brownie is tempting to me. I don't think Florida will have issues with 90 percent of its schedule.

In tight moments, I remain skeptical, because the shots can't always fall, especially not when Rosario, Walker or Boynton are bringing our their catapult, convention be damned.

One month into the season, it’s clear Florida can’t change its stripes with Boynton and Walker. I asked Donovan to address his backcourt situation after seven games. He dodged the question like the veteran coach he is. The legitimate question of “How can Florida share the ball with those three?” remains on the table. They’ll win plenty, they’ll win dramatically, but I can’t shake the feeling when the Gators lose, it’s not going to be because on the hands of Patric Young, Murphy or Beal.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:12 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:23 am

Why did Bernie Fine have nine cellphones?

By Matt Norlander

There is plenty of flying shrapnel humming around the Syracuse/Bernie Fine case. Monday, the public was made privy to the items that federal authorities recently seized at Bernie Fine's house and workplace.

It's what you'd expect. All of his at-home electronics, including a raid on his Manley Field House office, too. But it's not what the authorities took the possessions, it's that Fine -- who still has not been charged with any crime and has denied all accusations -- reportedly was in possession of nine cellphones.

That's a detail that could potentially lead to serious collateral damage for Syracuse's basketball program down the road.

Even for a college coach, nine phones staggering number (still high if you want to assume five of those phones he no longer uses/are outdated). Plenty of cynics will greet this with mock applause, as assistants have been known to use extra phones as if they were a regular on "The Wire." For all the issues and problems Bernie Fine had in his life, there's really no plausible reason for him to explain having that many phones attached to his name.

We here at the blog mock Borzello for grotesquely having three.

There are plenty of issues bigger to this case than whether or not Fine was hardcore in helping Syracuse cheat. All of the sexual molestation allegations come in novel-weighted pages before we get to any NCAA impropriety, and I'm not saying that such impropriety is definitely even there. I'm saying Fine had nine cellphones and he was an assistant coach at a major D-I college basketball power.

Also, Fine was long off the recruiting trail, too. He wasn't he one working on landing the better Orange prospects in the past decade-plus. From a basketball standpoint, it doesn't make sense that he'd have that many cells to begin with. Those close to the program know Fine wasn't a cog in the recruiting machine at SU anymore.

Still, the question I can't get out of my head: Why so many phones, Bernie? (At the same time, I'm not in the mood to dip down into that dark territory right now.)

From the Post-Standard, here's an excerpt of what police were looking for and confiscated. (Note: Authorities couldn't care less, and it's out of their jurisdiction, if they ever came across information that showed illegal NCAA activity)
Two safety deposit boxes rented by Fine were also searched at local banks, according to the inventories from the execution of four search warrants. Seven letters were seized from one safe deposit box.

Authorities led by the U.S. Secret Service and Syracuse police searched Fine's house in DeWitt Nov. 25 and Fine's SU office Nov. 29. Records show the agents were looking for pornographic material and records relating to any association with boys, past or present, and any records of boys living in Fine's home. The agents also sought all records of interstate or foreign travel, such as records of air travel and hotels.

From Fine's home ... the Secret Service seized nine cell phones, three iPads, two laptop computers and one desktop computer, the documents show. They seized six still or video cameras, 16 VHS tapes and nearly 150 CD's or DVD's, the records show. The agents also seized a bag of negatives, seven safe deposit box keys, file cabinets, two boxes of documents and two boxes of checks from the home, the records show.

From Fine's office at SU's office ... the agents seized a laptop computer, a desktop computer, 135 CDs, 217 VHS tapes, and a box of documents and photos, the records show.

The irony of this is, the NCAA recently rejiggered its bylaws in regard to cellphone usage. It finally let go of so many strict, stale rules with phones, including text-messaging and Facebook/Twitter-related activity. But Fine had these phones before those rules were alleviated. It's a ways down the road, and the NCAA is acquiescing everything (rightfully) to to authorities right now, so this is just a side note to this mammoth case that's got 20 times as many questions as answers right now.

The potential victims remain the center of this case, but from a basketball and athletics perspective, Syracuse is by no means in the clear. Fine could ruin his school's name even more if one clue leads to another, and suddenly he's caught red-handed in cheating. This could come back to Jim Boeheim once again, too.

Sometime in the future, the NCAA may want to or be able to look into the records and see just who was getting called from all of Fine's phones.  The irony: AAU coaches and runners could end up being the best of the bunch, the stuff we'd all prefer to see, if anything wrong is on the phone records at all.


More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: December 5, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 9:40 am

Podcast: This one's all over the place

By Matt Norlander

Jason McIntyre has built up the most successful independent sports blog in Internet history. He runs TheBigLead.com. He also happens to be a fanatical college hoops fan.  (Fun fact: I did a couple of hoops posts for TBL back in '08, and almost became a freelance writer on the site until he greedily and rightfully wanted to take on that endeavor himself prior to the '09-10 season. Now look who's coming on whose podcast.)

In what's one of the more fun podcasts we've had so far, Jason and I go back and forth on a number of topics. Some hoops, some not -- the whole thing really flies by. The man's got his opinions; his polarity is what's made his blog a must-read on a daily basis for so many. And why he's well over 31,000 Twitter followers.

It was a pleasure to finally get Jason back on after a glitch in the recording of a previous podcast prevented it from publishing. It's good to step outside the realm of talking strictly hoops and go after some other subjects, and we do that here.

The roundup:
  • From the beginning: Introducing Jason to the podcast.
  • 2:50: Coach K and Pat Summitt earned the Sportsman/Sportswoman of the Year. Right choice? And did you ever notice how SI, in retrospect, almost always picks the right person for this?
  • 4:45: All thoughts on UNC-UK, and why the argument being propped up against a title game rematch in hoops (like LSU-Alabama in football) is beyond foolish.
  • 9:40: Lots of draft talk/potential here. Barnes, Sullinger, Thomas Robinson, Perry Jones, Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Brad Beal, plenty more. Looking big picture can be fun, even if it's early.
  • 15:55: NBA draft and the age limit.
  • 18:45: Tables get turned on me, and J-Mac tosses some questions my way. We talk about media-type stuff, and he fluffs CBSSports.com up and mentions the big hires we've made. I was completely awkward talking about this, but it's that kind of awkward energy that I know you're looking for when you tune in. There's also talk of how we do what we do here at the blog, the method behind it, etc. 
  • 28:04: The college basketball season is one month old, and here's the big debate. Big Ten the best conference? I think so. McIntyre says the Big East. And he hates tempo-free stats. And Wisconsin. Oh, yes. It's about to get ugly up in this piece.
  • 35:09: How can someone be a fan of Syracuse and Georgetown? Listen as McIntyre tries to persuade you.
  • 38:50: Our favorite announcers in the game wraps up the chat.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts go up here and on iTunes. The Wednesday show is dedicated to keeping the egos of CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish inflated. Mondays and Fridays are for the real people to come on. Here's the iTunes link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. If you're still going strong and hanging on to a Zune, then, yes, you can listen on that as well.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:12 am

Let us recognize how strong Syracuse has played

By Matt Norlander

When it’s highly acclaimed to start seasons, Syracuse doesn’t always bode well. Playing with prosperity has served as an ever-present, unshakable opponent for a number of Jim Boeheim’s teams. The year Syracuse won the national title, they were a 3 seed — and not a ranked team prior to the 2002-03 season.

But this year, expectations haven’t slowed or scared the Orange.  Amazingly, this year, of all years, that’s not the case.

Syracuse decidedly beat No. 9 Florida Friday night at the Carrier Dome, 72-68. You might’ve forgotten that, considering everything that happened afterward.

The nation’s second-most effective turnover team forced Florida into 20 giveaways. A month into college basketball, Syracuse is also best, appropriately enough, at swiping the ball (18 percent of opponents possessions). The Orange pickpocketed the Gators 10 times.

What else, what else … oh, yes, Syracuse is tops offensive rebound percentage, snaring 45.2 percent of its misses. They are gaudy numbers, ones that signal the 2-3 zone could be in for one of its better years up in central New York. We had Syracuse ranked No. 4 in the preseason here at CBSSports.com, and the Orange have done us the kind favor of looking rather on-point in that prognostication. (No other major media outlet or magazine, to my knowledge, had SU that high.)

The primary point here: What I took strictly from a basketball sense after ‘Cuse got that good win over the Gators is Boehiem’s team played as well against inferior competition thus far as it did against a group that many think can make the Final Four. I’ll amend that and say SU didn’t play well in all areas, but still convincingly beat UF. Not easy to do, even if the Gators didn’t have Erik Murphy, who’s a matchup problem for a lot of teams.

“This is our first really bad shooting game,” Boeheim said afterward. The Orange were 40.6 from the field at 17.6 from 3 (an abysmal 3-of-17). No matter — Florida never had control of the second half.

If you check out Syracuse’s schedule, you’ll see the Orange just got a win over the best non-conference opponent it will face until the NCAA tournament, and maybe even then Syracuse doesn’t get to play a team as good as Florida is right now.

It’s got North Carolina state on the road Dec. 17, but most should agree home against ninth-ranked Florida’s a tougher game than a road game against improving-but-raw N.C. State. The next conceivable — and I’m going to be kind here — tough game Syracuse will have against a team that can threaten it is home against Marquette on Jan. 7. The next true test  of high caliber is the UConn game at home, and that doesn’t come until Feb. 11.

It’s going to take a little while longer (actually, who knows what the timeline is; when and if more information about the Bernie Fine case comes out, all of that will still remain the bigger story) for Syracuse’s basketball team to get recognized more for what it’s doing this year. But this group is experienced in these kinds of distractions. And it’s played well amid them.

Remember February? A whole 10 months ago? It was then when an erroneous rumor surfaced that Syracuse was throwing games. The Orange started 18-0 (bet you forgot that, too), then lost four straight, and someone propped up a stupid rumor on a messageboard. After that became public, Syracuse beat UConn and won seven of its final nine regular season games.

Boeheim said the Fine mess hasn’t been a distraction for his team. It looks like he’s telling the truth. His team played well amid controversy last season, and it’s done so with aplomb again this year. You’d just have to look a little harder and beyond the bigger headlines to see it. Right now, Syracuse is the best team in the Big East, and one of the three best teams in the country.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 2, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 10:05 pm

Jim Boeheim's new tone and full apology

By Matt Norlander

An emotional — but not quite on the verge of tears — Jim Boeheim had his latest chance to react to the allegations against former Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine after undefeated Syracuse’s 72-68 win against Florida Friday night.

I’ve got a column coming on it, but here’s Boeheim’s somewhat scripted/still off-the-cuff statement/reaction quote in full. Boeheim said he was not advised on what to say, or whether to say anything at all. This was Boeheim's response after first giving a general reaction to the game.

“There are two topics I’m going to address tonight and I will talk professional bout the team and the game and what happened, and then I’m going to address something that’s personal to me. … I’m going to limit what I’m going to talk about, because of this ongoing investigation. But I want to make three comments. …

"I have talked to some people today and yesterday about what i was going to say, and these are my thoughts. I’m not good enough to put them down on paper. I just am not. No one said, ‘This is what you should say.’ No one indicated that I had to say something. This is what I feel, and I have to make three comments, and the first one is, I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made.

"I shouldn’t have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that and I regret any harm that I caused. It was insensitive to the individuals involved, and especially to the overall issue of child abuse. I spent yesterday afternoon at McMahon/Ryan House (a child advocacy center) talking to people, the director and some other people there, and although I have been involved with them, in terms of raising money, I think it’s important that we, and I, get involved more in terms of raising awareness. (Pause) What I said last week was out of loyalty. I reacted without thinking. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’m trying to learn from my mistake, and this has been a hard time. That’s all I can say. There’s an investigation going on that I fully support, because we all need to know, as much as we can, what happened.”


Posted on: December 2, 2011 9:37 am

Podcast: Seth Davis makes his return

By Matt Norlander

It is my honor to welcome back on to the podcast CBS/Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis, who was on this back when it was the College Hoops Journal Podcast. Seth is one of the classiest guys in the business; a true treat to have him come on.

I want to mention: today's podcast is a little "hot" here and there on Seth's end. Normally I record these podcasts Skype to Skype, but we did this one via Seth's house phone line, and I had no idea until after the call was done that his levels were so harsh at some points, so forgive the audio since it's not as smooth as it normally is. I'll make sure Seth boots up his Skype account for his next appearance.

Seth writes a weekly Hoop Thoughts column that I can't recommend enough, and you can also follow him on Twitter. Loved having him on, and will aim to get him back on in January and February as well.

The rundown:
  • From the beginning: One more time, with gusto: the Syracuse story. I can't recommend this part of the podcast enough. Seth and I have a respectable, intelligent (on his end) debate over morals and ethics with this story. It's about 14 minutes long, and I think is the first time I've ever really butted heads with someone on the podcast.
  • 14:45: Jim Boeheim's legacy and future.
  • 16:50: Ohio State, the fact Aaron Craft as the best point guard in the country, which Seth stated in his most recent column (linked above).
  • 19:39: What does Deshaun Thomas do for Ohio State if he becomes the offense force he's flashed himself to be?
  • 22:00: Seth's pick for best freshman so far. You won't see it coming.
  • 24:10: Seth will be at Vandy-Louisville before UNC-UK, so we touch on that one first.
  • 26:52: Here's the juicy part: Carolina-Kentucky talk. We close out the podcast talking this big game, and why Seth disagrees with my UK-will-win-by-double-digits prediction.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts go up here and on iTunes. The Wednesday show is dedicated to keeping the egos of CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish inflated. Mondays and Fridays are for the real people to come on. Here's the iTunes link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. If you're still going strong and hanging on to a Zune, then, yes, you can listen on that as well.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com