Posted on: December 2, 2008 12:38 pm

Dear Gary (on Syracuse and its surprising nature)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Why did you say (in the Monday Look Back) that Syracuse is a surprise? I knew the Orange would be good.

-- Walt

Congrats, Walt.

But the reality is that the Orange were unranked in the preseason and picked eighth in the Big East. Now, they have wins over two teams that were ranked 19th (Florida) and 24th (Kansas) in the preseason AP poll, which was enough to vault them to 16th in the latest AP poll. In other words, by any definition, Syracuse is a "surprise" to Big East media, Big East coaches, Las Vegas oddsmakers and all the AP voters ... except Kevin McNamara.

Kevin is at the Providence Journal.

He had Syracuse 13th on his preseason ballot, which makes him the only reputable person I know who can honestly say that Syracuse has not surprised him in the least bit. Every other AP voter had Syracuse lower than 16th in the preseason. So just because some Syracuse fan always thought his Orange would start strong doesn't mean the Orange haven't been surprising, because fans always think their team will start strong, finish strong and be better than any reasonable human believes. I mean, I have an entire inbox of emails from Kentucky fans who sent notes in November explaining how their Wildcats would compete with North Carolina for the national title. Then they lost to VMI. But the point is that had UK been great there would've technically been a UK fan who wouldn't have been surprised, but that wouldn't have meant that it wasn't surprising to the general public.

Same goes for Syracuse.

The Orange have won two games as underdogs.

They have gone from unranked to ranked 16th nationally.

Thus, they have been a "surprise" ... which is what I predicted they'd be.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 7, 2008 10:19 am
Edited on: November 7, 2008 10:21 am

Dear Gary (on possible surprise teams)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Who do you think will be a surprise Elite Eight or Final Four team this season? Could it be the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who are trying to make a statement from their earlier disappointments? Could it be UNLV, which by a slim few are projected to be for real? Or do you have somebody else in mind?

-- Josh

First, Gonzaga making the Elite Eight will not be a surprise. That's a preseason top 10 team with one of the nation's best rosters. So regardless of what the Zags have or have not done in the past, it should shock nobody if they end up in the Elite Eight or even the Final Four.

Anyway, how about this: Let's identify teams ranked outside the top 20 of the AP poll who might make an Elite Eight.

I'll list four.

1. Syracuse

2. Wake Forest

3. Ohio State

4. Alabama

I picked all four based on the idea that they have the talent to advance. I love Syracuse's roster (specifically Jonny Flynn), Wake Forest and Ohio State have great young players and Alabama intrigues me because of the possibilities with Ron Steele and JaMychal Green. So anyway, I guess those are my "surprise" teams for this season.


Posted on: October 27, 2008 2:49 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2008 11:43 pm

A breakdown of the player rankings

Now that the player rankings are done I thought it might be a good time to look at the results.

So what I did was break the rankings down by number of players per team.

(Note: The rankings consisted of the top 40 points and combos, 30 wings and 30 big men for a total of 100 players.)

Here's a list of the schools best represented.

Teams with four players in the rankings

  • Connecticut: A.J. Price, Kemba Walker, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien
  • Gonzaga: Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye, Josh Hetyvelt
  • North Carolina: Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough
  • Syracuse: Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku, Eric Devendorf

Teams with three players in the rankings

  • Louisville: Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Samardo Samuels
  • Memphis: Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier
  • Michigan State: Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe
  • Pittsburgh: Levance Fields, DeJuan Blair, Sam Young
  • Texas: A.J. Abrams, Damion James, Connor Atchley
  • UCLA: Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Josh Shipp

Teams with two players in the rankings

  • Alabama: Ron Steele, JaMychal Green
  • Arizona: Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill
  • Arizona State: James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
  • Clemson: K.C. Rivers, Trevor Booker
  • Duke: Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson
  • Georgetown: DaJuan Summers, Greg Monroe
  • Kansas: Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich
  • Marquette: Jerel McNeal, Dominic James
  • Nevada: Armon Johnson, Luke Babbitt
  • Notre Dame: Kyle McAlarney, Luke Harangody
  • Oklahoma: Willie Warren, Blake Griffin
  • Southern California: DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson
  • Tennessee: Tyler Smith, Scotty Hopson
  • Wake Forest: James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu

What I found interesting in this is that Syracuse has a pretty damn good roster for a team officially picked to finish eighth in the Big East. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku, it's clear the Orange have a talented group of returning players, which is why I'd like to go on record and predict Syracuse will be the biggest surprise of any team in America. I think I've finally decided I like this team. Better late than never, right?

Anyway, if you want to see how the player rankings broke down by conference, I did that too.

Big East (23 players ranked)

  • Connecticut (4): A.J. Price, Kemba Walker, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien
  • Syracuse (4): Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku, Eric Devendorf
  • Louisville (3): Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Samardo Samuels
  • Pittsburgh (3): Levance Fields, DeJuan Blair, Sam Young
  • Georgetown (2): DaJuan Summers, Greg Monroe
  • Marquette (2): Jerel McNeal, Dominic James
  • Notre Dame (2): Kyle McAlarney, Luke Harangody
  • Cincinnati (1): Deonta Vaughn
  • Villanova (1): Scottie Reynolds
  • West Virginia (1): Devin Ebanks

ACC (15 players ranked)

  • North Carolina (4): Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough
  • Clemson (2): K.C. Rivers, Trevor Booker
  • Duke (2): Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson
  • Wake Forest (2): James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Boston College (1): Tyrese Rice
  • Georgia Tech (1): Iman Shumpert
  • Maryland (1): Greivis Vasquez
  • Miami (1): Jack McClinton
  • Virginia Tech (1): A.D. Vassallo

Big 12 (12 players ranked)

  • Texas (3): A.J. Abrams, Damion James, Connor Atchley
  • Kansas (2): Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich
  • Oklahoma (2): Willie Warren, Blake Griffin
  • Baylor (1): Curis Jerrells
  • Iowa State (1): Craig Brackins
  • Missouri (1): DeMarre Carroll
  • Oklahoma State (1): James Anderson
  • Texas A&M (1): Josh Carter

SEC (11 players ranked)

  • Alabama (2): Ron Steele, JaMychal Green
  • Tennessee (2): Tyler Smith, Scotty Hopson
  • Florida (1): Nick Calathes
  • Kentucky (1): Patrick Patterson
  • LSU (1): Marcus Thornton
  • Mississippi State (1): Jarvia Varnado
  • Ole Miss (1): Chris Warren
  • South Carolina (1): Devan Downey
  • Vanderbilt (1): A.J. Ogilvy

Pac-10 (10 players ranked)

  • UCLA (3): Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Josh Shipp
  • Arizona (2): Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill
  • Arizona State (2): James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
  • Southern California (2): DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson
  • Washington (1): Jon Brockman

Big Ten (seven players ranked)

  • Michigan State (3): Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe
  • Michigan (1): Manny Harris
  • Ohio State (1): B.J. Mullens
  • Purdue (1): Robbie Hummel
  • Wisconsin (1): Trevon Hughes

Non-BCS (22 players ranked)

  • Gonzaga (4): Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye, Josh Hetyvelt
  • Memphis (3): Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier
  • Nevada (2): Armon Johnson, Luke Babbitt
  • BYU (1): Lee Cummard
  • Davidson (1): Stephen Curry
  • Dayton (1): Chris Wright
  • Rider (1): Ryan Thompson
  • Saint Mary's (1): Patrick Mills
  • Siena (1): Kenny Hasbrouck
  • Temple (1): Dionte Christmas
  • Tennessee-Martin (1): Lester Hudson
  • Tulsa (1): Jerome Jordan
  • UAB (1): Robet Vaden
  • UTEP (1): Stefon Jackson
  • Virginia Commonwealth (1): Eric Maynor
  • Xavier (1): Derrick Brown
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 25, 2008 8:08 am

Dear Gary (on Syracuse)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Since the start of college football season is nearly upon us, many Central New Yorkers (myself included) have necessarily turned our thoughts to Syracuse basketball.  Generally, the feeling is upbeat, even though SU lost Donte Green to the draft. While Green was a great physical talent, the consensus opinion seems to be addition by subtraction -- sort of.  With Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins back from injury, and without Green chucking up threes with a low success rate, their poor outside game from last year should be much improved. And while Green was long, I never got the feeling he changed the game on the defensive end of the floor. Moreover, I think the departure of Green will permit Paul Harris to continue to develop on the offensive end, to the point where he may be one of the Big East's best two-way, and most valuable, players.  Finally, with the aforementioned guards coming back, Jonny Flynn will have fresher legs late in games and down the stretch. Succinctly stated, the Orange may come back very strong this season. Do you agree?
-- Brendan

I agree that it's possible.

(How's that for hedging my bet?)

Honestly, I'm not worried about Syracuse (for all the reasons you mentioned) as much as I'm worried about Syracuse playing in the Big East. As I've noted before, I believe the 2008-09 version of the Big East could go down as the toughest league in NCAA history. It's gonna be a monster -- proof being that I have seven Big East teams in the top 16 of the Ridiculously Early But Still Kind of Fun Top 25 (and one) and genuinely believe a school not even good enough to make the semifinals of the Big East tournament could reasonably expect to make the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.

What does that mean for the Orange, you ask?

It means they're gonna take some losses -- just like Pittsburgh, Villanova and Marquette. But I like Jonny Flynn at the point and have always loved Paul Harris. So put me down as a pseudo believer, as someone who thinks Syracuse will finish between fourth and eighth in the Big East and make the NCAA tournament, either way.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 8, 2008 1:33 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2008 1:24 pm

DEAR GARY (on Flynn)

AKRON, Ohio -- Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: How about a little more on the Jonny Flynn-Chris Paul match-up and how it bodes for next year's Syracuse squad when Flynn is by my count about the No. 4 or 5 option on his own team behind Eric Devendorf, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and maybe Paul Harris. Did he seriously look like the starting point guard on a team you have picked to finish like 6th or 7th (actually eighth) in its own conference, or were you just way off on your Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one)?

-- N.M.

I've always loved Jonny Flynn, dating back to his high school days. Remember the column I wrote last November. He's a tremendous point guard, the kind of point guard I would want on my team. And though I'm not ready to tell you he was better than Paul on Monday night -- Paul and James were both just missing shots in their losses, mostly -- I can tell you Paul himself came away impressed by the Syracuse sophomore.

"Jonny Flynn did a good job as a point guard," Paul said. "He was talking, getting guys involved, competing. He was good."

As for the rest of your note, N.M., I can't imagine any scenario under which Flynn is the "No. 4 or 5 option" at Syracuse, not unless LeBron James and Chris Paul enroll and are joined by Carmelo Anthony. Flynn averaged 15.7 points and 5.3 assists per game last season, lest we forget. Furthermore, I wouldn't get too worked up about me picking Syracuse eighth in the Big East. That says more about the Big East than the Orange, and how much higher could Syracuse really be (at least in preseason projections)? I have seven Big East teams in the top 16, meaning I believe the Big East will be the toughest league we've seen in a while, perhaps ever. So being picked eighth isn't shameful, especially considering how Syracuse finished ninth last season and the eighth-place school was a 22-win Villanova team that went to the Sweet 16.

Posted on: June 3, 2008 11:19 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2008 12:42 am

Eight schools in play for Iowa State transfer

Iowa State standout Wesley Johnson has been granted a release to transfer to any one of eight schools.

On the list are Arkansas, Connecticut, Marquette, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia. Fine programs, all of them. But it was hard not to notice that Kentucky, Alabama and TCU were not included because those have been the three schools most connected to Johnson in recent weeks, so much so that sources have told CBSSports.com that the Iowa State staff privately felt behind-the-scenes tampering could've led to Johnson's initial decision to transfer.

Obviously, there is no proof. That's why everybody has mostly been quiet. But it appears ISU made it clear to Johnson that Kentucky, Alabama and TCU were not schools to which it would automatically release him. Otherwise, those institutions would've certainly made the list.
Posted on: May 22, 2008 5:44 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2008 6:43 pm

Lots of people go to Kentucky basketball games

The final figures are in: Kentucky led the nation in attendance this season. Again. It marks the 12th time in 13 years that the Wildcats have led in attendance, a statistic that demonstrates how UK has the most committed fans in the country ... and a really big home arena.

Kentucky averaged 22,554 fans to top the list by more than 2,000 people per game.

Interestingly, three of the top eight schools are from the SEC.

The entire Top 10 is below:

1. Kentucky (22,554)

2. North Carolina (20,497)

3. Syracuse (20,345)

4. Tennessee (20,267)

5. Louisville (19,481)

6. Maryland (17,950)

7. Wisconsin (17,190)

8. Arkansas (17,148)

9. Indiana (16,876)

10. Memphis (16,748)
Posted on: March 12, 2008 3:26 pm

This year, Syracuse knows what's coming

At least Syracuse won't be surprised again on Selection Sunday.

That's the good news for the Orange, that Wednesday's 82-63 loss to Villanova in the first round of the Big East Championship won't leave them anxious the rest of the week while wondering whether they're in or out of the NCAA tournament. Because unless they're delusional, they must know they're out based on the premise that a  bubble team can't get run off the court by a fellow bubble team in its league tournament and expect to be viewed favorably.

So the Orange will be omitted from the bracket for the second straight season.

Last year it was kind of shocking.

But this year it won't be at all.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Syracuse
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