Looking Ahead: Syracuse Basketball

Off-season Recap and looking ahead to the 2018-19 Season

jim
Sporting News

After Syracuse fell to Duke 69-65 in the Sweet Sixteen to close out their 2017-18 campaign, many questions surrounded the program. Top recruit Darius Bazley elected to decommit from the Orange and enter the D-League after high school—the first recruit to ever do so. Oshae Brissett, who had a stellar freshman season, made it clear early on that he would be returning for his sophomore season. Questions also swirled regarding whether or not Tyus Battle, the team’s leading scorer, would return to Syracuse for his junior season. Battle decided on Wednesday he would return to the SU Hill for his junior year to refine his game and be better prepared for the NBA in the future.

Matthew Moyer, who started 20 games in his redshirt freshman season before suffering an ankle injury against Boston College transferred to Vanderbilt, leaving the Orange, already without Bazley with just two forwards on its roster (Brissett and rising sophomore Marek Dolezaj) before Syracuse received a commitment from Robert Braswell a 6’9” forward from Blythewood, SC. Braswell joined the 2018 class which despite losing Bazley, includes 4-star guard Jalen Carey and 3-star guard, Coach Boeheim’s son, Buddy Boeheim.

Battle’s return solidified the Orange roster that will return all five starters from a team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. Let’s take a look at each piece to the puzzle for the 2018-19 season.

Tyus Battle, Guard

tyus
nunesmagician.com

Tyus Battle led the 2017-18 Syracuse squad in scoring at 19.2 points per game and was one of the most relied upon players in the country last season. Battle logged 39 minutes per game and played 96.2% of Syracuse’s minutes. Many may be surprised to see Battle returning because more than likely he won’t need to be used as much as he was last year during the 2018-19 season. To improve his own game and help the Orange improve as a unit, Battle must improve his efficiency next season. During his sophomore year, he shot 39.9% from the floor and 32.2% from three. If Battle can improve his shooting percentages and become more of a facilitator, he could become one of the best guards in the country next season.

Frank Howard, Guard

Frank Howard finished as the second most improved player in the ACC last year to North Carolina’s Luke Maye, according to the league’s coaches. Howard took command of the starting point guard position, a job he relinquished to John Gillon III in the 2016-17 season, and increased his scoring production by more than five points per contest between his sophomore and junior seasons. Howard’s ability improve as a facilitator and run the offense without turning the ball over will continue to determine how successful Syracuse will be next season. Like his backcourt-mate Battle, Howard will need to improve his shooting percentages if Syracuse wants to build off their run to the Sweet Sixteen. He shot just 37.6% from the field and 32.7% from deep last season.

Oshae Brissett, Forward

Oshae Brissett bursted onto the scene as a freshman averaging 14.9 points and a team best 8.8 rebounds per game. Brissett earned a spot on the ACC All-Rookie team and his performance in the NCAA Tournament has Orange Nation excited about what he can do in his sophomore season. Brissett’s ability to get to the basket, draw fouls, and step out and hit the three makes him a match-up nightmare for most teams. If Brissett can improve his stroke from beyond the arc, not only will Syracuse be a formidable foe in the ACC, but the forward can improve his stock for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Marek Dolezaj, Forward

marek
The Daily Orange

Marek Dolezaj was the best surprise of the 2017-18 season for the Orange. Dolezaj, who sent in a video to the Syracuse staff last spring, was a late addition to the roster. Dolezaj stepped into the starting line-up after Moyer suffered a sprained ankle against Boston College and never gave up his spot in the starting five after that. The Slovakian became a crowd favorite for his basketball IQ and relentless motor on the glass. Dolezaj may be the best passer on the team, but Syracuse will benefit if he gets more aggressive and looks for his own shot more this upcoming season. Similar to Tyler Lydon and other Orange bigs in the past, Dolezaj will need to get stronger to be more of a post presence in the ACC. He showed flashes of his potential in the mid-range with 20 points against Wake Forest in the First Round and 17 points in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament against TCU. Dolezaj could be even more of a threat in Syracuse’s offensive attack if he can develop a three point shot this offseason.

Paschal Chukwu, Center

Paschal Chukwu returned to the court last season after only playing six games in the 2016-17 campaign due to a torn retina in his right eye. Chukwu, who stands 7’2” and is the tallest player in school history, was a defensive force in the middle of the 2-3 zone. The big man blocked 2.7 shots per game, ranking 13th in the nation. Chukwu will need to get stronger in order to be more of a physical presence in the post during conference play. Offensively, he needs to improve this offseason. Chukwu showed flashes of what he can be on the offensive end in the Sweet Sixteen loss to Duke as he was strong with the ball, caught lobs and finished at the rim against Duke’s zone. Don’t expect him to be an elite back to the basket scorer, but if he can be stronger and more comfortable at the rim, combined with his improved free throw shooting, the Orange could have an inside threat this year.

paschal chukwu preview

Bourama Sidibe, Center

Bourama Sidibe battled through tendinitis in his left knee throughout the entirety of his freshman season. Sidibe showed flashes of what he can be when healthy as he scored 18 points, pulled down 16 rebounds, and recorded three blocks in at win at Pittsburgh. He underwent surgery to repair the knee on March 30, and his recovery is ahead of schedule. The rising sophomore is already lifting weights and participating in shooting drills and should be cleared to play before the summer is over. A better offensive player than Chukwu, Sidibe’s health and continued development could give Syracuse a one-two punch at the center positon that they lacked a year ago.

Howard Washington, Guard

Howard Washington tore his ACL in practice on January 18, bringing his freshman season to an end. Washington struggled in limited playing time his freshman season, but showed his basketball IQ and ability to run the offense when he came in to spell Frank Howard before his injury. Although he may not be fully recovered by the time the 2018-19 season tips off, there will be a spot in the rotation upon his return next season.

Elijah Hughes, Guard

Elijah Hughes is a redshirt sophomore who sat out the 2017-18 season after transferring from East Carolina where he averaged 7.8 points per game and started seven games his freshman season. He is expected to see time as a back-up guard this season and will look to provide more consistent three-point shooting to the Orange’s offensive arsenal this season.

Jalen Carey, Guard

jalen
syracuse.com

With Darius Bazley’s decision to enter the G-League Jalen Carey becomes the most touted recruit in Coach Boeheim’s 2018 recruiting class. A 6’3” guard from New York City, who attended high school at Immaculate Conception in Montclair, NJ, will see minutes at both guard positons this season. Carey can get to the rim and shoot the three. Many scouts referred to Carey as the best scorer in New Jersey this past season. He will have a chance to make an immediate impact for Syracuse.

Buddy Boeheim, Guard

Coach Boeheim’s youngest son Buddy will join the Orange roster this season. The 6’5” combo guard will likely see time on the wing his freshman year due to the lack of depth at the forward position. Buddy averaged 26.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in his junior season at Jamesville-DeWitt High School before transferring to Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH to play against other DI recruits his senior year. He will be a threat from distance immediately and will look to open the driving lanes for the other Syracuse guards.

buddy
highschoolsports.syracuse.com

Robert Braswell, Forward

The final commit to Syracuse’s 2018 recruiting class is Robert Braswell, a 6’9” forward from Blythewood, SC, who was extended an offer after Bazley entered the G-League. Braswell is described as a long, lanky athletic forward, who went through a late growth spurt and because of that grew up playing guard and his handles reflect that. Although his commitment is seen as a better addition to the roster in the long-term, rather than the short-term, Braswell may see time if an opportunity presents itself as the current Orange roster only features four other big men.

Expectations

Syracuse’s exciting run to the Sweet Sixteen combined with Tyus Battle’s decision to return to the SU Hill has some drinking the “Orange Juice,” as ESPN projected them as #16 in their latest preseason poll. I do believe that with all five starters returning, Syracuse should expect to be a Tournament team next year. The familiarity of the 2-3 zone to ACC opponents, the shooting struggles, and Boeheim’s tendency to trim the bench may not lend to as drastic of a shot up the rankings as some are projecting. A reasonable expectation would be for the team to finish in the Top 25 and end up as a five or six seed with a chance at another run deep into the NCAA Tournament. With that being said, it’s good to finally hear some good news in the offseason regarding Syracuse basketball. How many more days till November 6?

2018 Postseason All-Americans

2018 First Team All-Americans

With the season behind us, let’s dive in and take a look at the five best players in college basketball this season who earned the right to be called All-Americans.

Jalen Brunson, G, Villanova

Michigan v Villanova
aol.com

Jalen Brunson was the Player of the Year in college basketball, so naturally he is a First Team All-American. The junior guard served as the floor general of the nation’s best team and eventual National Champion, Villanova. Brunson averaged 18.9 points and 4.6 assists per game and shot 52.1% from the floor and 40.8% from three. He posed a tough match-up for opposing defenses as he could shoot the three, take it to the hole, post-up and be a threat in the mid-range. After the Wildcats defeated Michigan in the National Championship game, Brunson decided to forego his senior season and enter the NBA Draft, where he is projected as a late first round or early second round pick. He has etched his name in Villanova lore as he was a starter on two National Championship teams in three years.

Trae Young, G, Oklahoma

trae young
Liberty Ballers

When Trae Young decided to stay home in Norman, Oklahoma and play for the Sooners rather that head off to Kentucky, very few people predicted that he would have the success he did in his only year in college. Young became the first player ever to lead the nation in both scoring and assists. The freshman scored 27.4 points per game and dished out 8.8 assists per game, leading Oklahoma to the NCAA Tournament where they fell in the first round to Rhode Island in overtime. Oklahoma relied on Young’s scoring and play-making. Although his numbers dipped toward the end of the season, he shot 42.2% from the floor and 36% from three. Young’s NBA Draft stock improved more than any other player in the country as he is now projected to be a top-ten pick in the NBA Draft.

Devonte’ Graham, G, Kansas

devonte graham
SI.com

Devonte’ Graham’s decision to return to Lawrence for his senior season was a good one as the guard led his team to the Final Four for the first time since 2012 where they lost to Villanova. Graham led Kansas in scoring with 17.3 points per game on 40% shooting from the floor and 40.6% from beyond the arc. The senior point guard also corralled 4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per contest. After graduation, Graham will likely be chosen in the NBA Draft—he is projected to be an early second round selection.

Marvin Bagley III, F, Duke

marvin
newsday.com

The reclassification of Duke’s Marvin Bagley III was one of the biggest stories in college basketball heading into the 2017-18 season. Bagley III certainly did not disappoint as he led the nation’s most talented team in both scoring and rebounding. He also won ACC Player and Rookie of the Year honors, despite missing four games during conference play due to injury. The freshman averaged 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game and led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight where they lost to Kansas. The big man shot 61.4% from the floor and was a beast on the offensive glass. Bagley III will likely be a top five pick in this year’s NBA Draft. If he can improve his shooting from distance and his defense, he has all the ability to be an impact player at the next level.

Deandre Ayton, F, Arizona

deandre ayton
azcentral.com

Arizona’s Deandre Ayton rounds out the 2018 First Team All-American selections. Ayton is a physically imposing big man that shined in his one year in the Desert as he picked up both Pac-12 Rookie and Player of the Year honors. The freshman big man led the Wildcats to the Pac-12 Regular Season and Tournament Championships before getting upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Buffalo as he posted a double-double per contest at 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds. Ayton shot 61.2% from the floor during his freshman campaign. He is projected to be a top-three pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Scouts will hope that Ayton can develop a jumper and improve his shot blocking ability in order to become an elite NBA player.

Second Team All-American

Keenan Evans, G, Texas Tech

Trevon Bluiett, G, Xavier

Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova

Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State

NCAA Tournament Recap

2018-19 NCAA Tournament in Review

villanova
beIN SPORTS

If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a little empty not having any college basketball to look forward to this weekend. Let’s take a step back to remember the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

This year’s “Big Dance” featured an upset for the ages, a Cinderella run that made a nun an international sensation, buzzer beaters, the agony of defeat and, most importantly, the best team won it all.

The National Champs: Villanova

Michigan v Villanova
The Denver Post

Jay Wright did it. Two National Championships in three years. Villanova has become the program to beat in college basketball. The Wildcats dominated in March as they won all of their games in the NCAA Tournament by double-digits. Wright joined an exclusive club by cutting down the nets for the second time in his career as he joined Coach K and Roy Williams as the only active coaches to win multiple championships. National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will likely forego their senior seasons and enter the NBA Draft, but Coach Wright will bring back three starters, Phil Booth, Eric Paschall, and Omari Spellman, and Donte DiVincenzo, who came off the bench and scored 31 points in the title game on Monday. The Wildcats have been the most dominant program over the last five years and with Wright at the helm, there is a culture of winning in Philadelphia. Villanova will be back next year to defend their title and create a dynasty.

The Runners-Up: Michigan

michigan
ClickOnDetroit

Michigan was the hottest team in the country entering the NCAA Tournament and rode their streak all the way to Championship Monday where they ran into the buzz saw that was Villanova. Mo Wagner’s decision to return to Ann Arbor paid dividends as he led his squad back to the National Championship game for the first time since 2013. John Beilein had the best defensive squad of his career that gave opponents fits throughout the month of March. The run to San Antonio almost didn’t happen as the Wolverines needed a buzzer beater by freshman Jordan Poole to get past Houston in the second round and led to one of the best celebrations of the Tournament. Wagner and seniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson will depart, but Michigan will be back with a talented recruiting class next season.

The Surprises: UMBC, Kansas State, Buffalo, Loyola-Chicago, Nevada, Florida State, Texas A&M, Marshall, Syracuse

UMBC Shocks the World—Upsets Virginia

umbc
WTOP.com

We witnessed history in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. For the first time in history, a 16-seed upset a 1-seed in the first round. Many had hinted at the fact that an Ivy League school, Penn, presented the best chance for a 16-seed to take down a 1-seed in their match-up with Kansas. When that didn’t happen on the first Thursday of the Tournament, many thought we would have to wait at a chance for history until next year. Enter Jairius Lyles and the UMBC Retrievers. In the final set of first round contests, UMBC took the world by storm—both on the court and on Twitter. The Retrievers stayed with Virginia and did not back down when the game was tied at 21 at halftime. UMBC outscored the #1 overall seeed 53-33 in the second half, busting pretty much every bracket filled out this year as the Cavaliers were a favorite to win it all. The three point shooting and defense by the Retrievers sent Kyle Guy and the rest of the Virginia team home crying as the first #1 to lose to a 16-seed in NCAA Tournament history. Tony Bennett was without a key piece, De’Andre Hunter, that Friday night in Charlotte. Maybe this would not have happened with him in the lineup, but Bennett will have to wait another year for a chance at the Final Four.

K-State to the Elite Eight

k state
K-State Athletics

Kansas State got past Creighton in the first round and instead of having to face Virginia, they were up against Cinderella UMBC in the second round. The Wildcats dispatched the Retrievers and then took down Kentucky in Atlanta to make the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018. More impressively, Kansas State made their run without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade, who suffered a foot injury in the Big 12 Tournament. Although they were unable to get past Loyola-Chicago and make the Final Four, the Wildcats may have saved Bruce Weber’s job.

Buffalo Beats Zona

ub
Hartford Courant

Buffalo knocked out Arizona in the first round. The Wildcats were a favorite to make a run to the Final Four, but an impressive shooting performance and stout defense by the Bulls made for an early exit for Sean Miller’s team. With the outcome of the FBI investigation still unknown, the future of Arizona basketball is uncertain as they will lose Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Alkins to the NBA and Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic to graduation.

Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago

sister jean
Uproxx.com

Loyola-Chicago became the fourth 11-seed to make the Final Four and in doing so, their Team Chaplain Sister Jean became an international sensation at 98 years young. Donte Ingram’s buzzer beater to beat Miami was one of the highlights of the first round, but the Ramblers proved they weren’t done yet. They took down the 3-seeed Tennessee on a jumper in the waning seconds by Clayton Custer. Marques Townes’ dagger was enough to beat Nevada and advance to the Elite Eight where they blew out Kansas State. Their run came to an end with a loss to Michigan in the Final Four, but the Missouri Valley Champs took the world by storm in the month of March.

Nevada’s Comeback

nevada
The Undefeated

Nevada led for only 1:56 of its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, but managed to make the Sweet Sixteen. The Wolfpack trailed Texas by 14 points in the second half, but came back to win in overtime to advance to the Round of 32. There, Nevada erased a 22 point Cincinnati lead and came back to eliminate the second seeded Bearcats from the “Big Dance.” The Wolfpack lost to Loyola-Chicago in the Sweet Sixteen, but they will return most of their core from this year’s team and could be a top ten team next season.

Florida State to the Elite Eight

fsu
Zimbio

Many were saying that Florida State was the worst at-large team to receive an NCAA Tournament bid this year. The Seminoles proved the haters wrong and took down Missouri in the first round before they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Tournament, knocking off top-seeded Xavier in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Florida State’s run would not end there, as they took down a Gonzaga team without Killian Tillie. The Seminoles ended their season just short of the Final Four as they fell 58-54 to Michigan. If nothing else, they proved they belonged.

Texas A&M Takes Down the Tar Heels

texas am
The Portland Press Herald

In a season filled with ups and downs, Texas A&M’s NCAA Tournament run proved to be just that. The Aggies battled through injuries and suspensions to earn a 7-seed in the “Big Dance,” but drew the 10-seed Providence, who was one of the hottest teams entering the Tournament. Texas A&M ended the Friars’ season and went on to the Round of 32 where they pummeled North Carolina. In a poetic end to their tumultuous season, the Aggies were crushed by Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen. With Tyler Davis and Robert Williams both declaring for the NBA Draft, it will be interesting to see what the future looks like in College Station.

Marshall Shocks Wichita State

marshall
Uproxx

In a year where there were no 12-5 upsets, the 13-seeds stole the show. Buffalo beat Arizona and Marshall knocked off Wichita State. Jon Elmore’s sharp-shooting led the Thundering Herd past the Shockers and into the second round where they were ousted by in-state rival West Virginia, but an upset win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is definitely something that Marshall, who finished fourth in Conference USA, should be proud of.

The 2-3 Zone Did it Again

cuse
SportSpyder

Syracuse snuck into the NCAA Tournament as the last team to make the field, but the Orange were not satisfied with only receiving a bid. Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone puzzled opponents as Syracuse defeated Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State, three teams averaging over 80 points a game to less than 60 on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Their run was cut short as they fell 69-65 to Duke, but the NCAA Tournament run put a positive ending on a season where the Orange remained on the Bubble to the very end. If leading scorer Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett return, Syracuse could be poised to make another run in next year’s Tournament. Darius Bazley’s decision to decommit from the Orange and enter the G-League was unfortunate and leaves the team’s status for next season more uncertain, but Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, and East Carolina-transfer Elijah Hughes will provide more depth at he guard position for next year’s team.

Game of the Tournament: Duke vs. Kansas—Elite Eight

kansas duke
Kansas guard Malik Newman drew a block on Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. in overtime–a pivotal turning point in the game that the Jayhawks won to advance to the Final Four. The Japan Times.

The line in “One Shining Moment”—In the blinking of an eye that moment’s gone, couldn’t be more of a reality for the Duke Blue Devils as Grayson Allen’s potential game-winning rolled off the rim and out at the end of regulation. Kansas’ Malik Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in the overtime period to punch their ticket to San Antonio where they lost to eventual champion Villanova in the Final Four. Both Duke and Kansas will be title favorites heading into next season. Coach K and the Blue Devils have adopted the one-and-done strategy. The 2018-19 roster will look completely different for Duke. All five are their starters from this season’s team will be first round draft picks. Duke has the top recruiting class in the country next season as they welcome four of the top fifteen recruits in the country, including all of the top three recruits, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish, to Durham next fall. Tre Jones, the 12th ranked recruit and younger brother of 2015 Final four Most Outstanding Player, Tyus Jones, who also played at Duke, will also join the squad. Kansas is the way-too-early preseason #1 with Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick returning. The Jayhawks have a pair of five-star guards coming to Lawrence in the fall: Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes. Bill Self will also add Memphis-transfers K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson and Cal-transfer Charlie Moore, all of which will be eligible to play next season.

Duke v Kansas
Grayson Allen’s career ended with an Elite Eight loss to Kansas where he missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation. Dirtfork.

The Road Begins Now

final four logo
ncaa.com

The 2017-18 season has come and gone and it was surely a wild one. Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats who reign superior this year. The Road to the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis begins now.

The Final Four

The Road Ends Here

Four teams have arrived in San Antonio—all with hopes of winning the National Championship. Find out who will advance to Monday night and who will win it all.

#11 Loyola-Chicago vs. #3 Michigan, Saturday, 6:09pm., TBS

Loyola-Chicago of the Missouri Valley Conference has taken the world by storm and is the fourth 11-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to make the Final Four. With wins over Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State, the Ramblers have proven that although they are small in stature, they can play with anybody in the country. Defensively, Loyola-Chicago has trumped their opponents—limiting them to 63.5 points per game in the Tournament. Four players, Clayton Custer, Aundre Jackson, Marques Townes, and Ben Richardson, have each led Loyola-Chicago in scoring over their four games in the “Big Dance.” Sister Jean is in San Antonio and the Ramblers want nothing more than to cut down the nets on Monday night.

clayton custer
The Des Moines Register

Entering the NCAA Tournament, Michigan was one of the hottest teams in the country. The Wolverines have won 13 consecutive games, including wins over Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State. The best seed Michigan has faced in the Tournament was 6-seeded Houston, who they needed a buzzer beater to get past. The Wolverines have a top five defensive team and have proven to be stout throughout their run to the Final Four. Michigan has held their opponents to 59 points per contest over the past two weeks. Mo Wagner, Charles Matthews, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will look to lead the Wolverines to their first National Championship game appearance since 2013.

Loyola-Chicago 69, Michigan 66

#1 Kansas vs. #1 Villanova, Saturday, 8:49pm., TBS

Kansas has powered past Penn, Seton Hall, Clemson, and Duke through the use of the three point shot. Mississippi State-transfer, Malik Newman, has stepped up in March, providing a third scoring option in addition to the veteran guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. Lagerald Vick can also shoot the three. With a healthy Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks have been unstoppable on offense in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas is averaging 81 points per game over their first four contests in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks are a formidable foe that will look to beat Villanova with a taste of their own medicine Saturday night.

Villanova has been one of the favorites to win it all since the field of 68 was announced on Selection Sunday. The Wildcats arrive in San Antonio with wins over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia, and have made it to the Final Four despite a poor shooting performance from behind the arc in their win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. Villanova has averaged 82.3 points per game in the “Big Dance.” The Wildcats have a balanced attack that can do it all on the offensive end. All five starters are strong shooters from distance and have the ability to drive it to the hoop. Look for AP National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges to lead Villanova to the title game.

jalen b poy
si.com

Villanova 84, Kansas 82

National Champion: Villanova Wildcats

mikal bridges
Newsday

Jay Wright has created a culture of winning at Villanova. The Wildcats are the most dominant program in the last five years, winning 88.4% of their games over that span. Look for Villanova to be on top of the college basketball world again and win their second National Championship in three years.

NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal-Syracuse vs. Duke

Syracuse’s Season Ends with Sweet Sixteen Loss to Duke

tyus duke
syracuse.com

Syracuse’s 2017-18 came to an end with a 69-65 defeat at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils in the Midwest Regional semifinal in Omaha, NE Friday night.

Grayson Allen made a jumper with 4:16 left to open up a 62-53 lead for the Blue Devils. The Orange responded with a 7-1 run to trim Duke’s lead to 63-60 with 1:27 to go on a jumper by Oshae Brissett. Syracuse cut the lead to 67-65 on a free throw by Tyus Battle with 7 seconds remaining. Two free throws by Gary Trent Jr. iced the game for the Blue Devils.

The Orange took a 27-24 lead with 5:20 left in the opening stanza on a free throw by Frank Howard, but Duke closed the half on a 10-0 run and took a 34-27 advantage into the break.

Syracuse had their best shooting performance of the NCAA Tournament as they shot 49% from the field. The Orange held the Blue Devils to 39.3% shooting. The greatest disparity was at the free throw line. Duke converted 20-of-28 attempts from the charity stripe compared to just 11-of-17 for Syracuse. The Orange turned the ball over 16 times, which led to Duke’s 18-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Syracuse outrebounded the Blue Devils, 37-33.

Duke was led by Marvin Bagley III’s 22 points and 7 rebounds. Allen scored 15 points, on 4-of-15 shooting, and dished out 8 assists. Trent Jr. scored 14 points, on 5-of-13 from the floor, and grabbed 5 rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

The Orange were led by Battle who poured in 19 points, on 7-of-15 from the field, and distributed 5 assists. Brissett tallied 15 points, on 5-of-15 shooting, and corralled 7 rebounds. Marek Dolezaj added 13 points and 4 rebounds. Paschal Chukwu finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

oshae duke
syracuse.com

Howard struggled from the field, shooting just 1-for-6, and contributed with 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance and reflected on the season and Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament run in his postgame press conference. “We knew we had our work cut out for us,” Boeheim said. “We started out playing as well offensively as we have in a long time. We had a little dead spot at the end of the first half that we just couldn’t quite come back from. These guys have had an incredible end of the year. I’ve never been any more proud of a team.”

The Orange finished their 2017-18 campaign with a record of 23-14, while Duke moved on to the Elite Eight where they fell to the 1-seed Kansas 85-81 in overtime on Sunday.

Syracuse exceeded expectations this year. If Battle and Brissett come back, the Orange could have a preseason top 10 team with a top recruiting class coming in. So far, the only player that will not return to the roster is Matthew Moyer. Syracuse will have Darius Bazley, Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, and East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes. The bar will be set much higher in 2018-19.

2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—Midwest Region

The Sweet Sixteen

bagley iii ncaa
Duke Basketball Report

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a wild one—filled with historic upsets and late game heroics. Let’s take a look at the Sweet Sixteen and who will advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.

The Midwest Region—CenturyLink Center Omaha, Omaha, NE, March 23 & 25

The Midwest Region has its top two seeds, Kansas and Duke, still alive. The 5-seed Clemson and the 11-seed Syracuse will join them in Omaha after they knocked off the 4-seed Auburn and the 3-seed Michigan State, respectively. All four teams will be vying to punch their ticket to the Final Four in San Antonio.

#5 Clemson vs. #1 Kansas, Friday, 7:07pm., CBS

Clemson avoided the famed 5-12 upset in their first round win over New Mexico State and followed that up with a drubbing of the 4-seed Auburn, 84-53, in the second round. The Tigers arrive in Omaha for their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1997. Despite having lost their second leading scorer, Donte Grantham, to a knee injury in January, Clemson has continued to be one of the best surprises in college basketball this season. Brad Brwonell was on the hot seat, but following this season it looks like he is safe. The Tigers have been elite defensively, especially in the Tournament. Clemson has held their opponents to 35% shooting inside the arc throughout the first weekend. Big men Elijah Thomas and Aamir Sims blocked three shots apiece in their win over Auburn on Sunday. On the offensive end, the Tigers have struggled to score inside, but have been lifted by their guard play since Grantham went down. Marcquise Reed, Gabe DeVoe, and Shelton Mitchell are all averaging double figures in scoring and shoot better than 35% from behind the arc. This is a good match-up for Clemson to pull off an upset in hopes of making the Elite Eight for only the second time in school history. Kansas, too, relies heavily on their guards to make threes and has a limited interior presence. Expect a high scoring game in this one.

devonte graham ncaa
Zimbio

Kansas is in the Sweet Sixteen for the third year in a row and hopes to make it to the Final Four for the first time since 2012 when they lost to Anthony Davis and Kentucky in the National Championship game. Senior Devonte’ Graham and Svi Myhailiuk will look to use their sharp-shooting to avoid the disappointment of coming up just short again in March. Graham and Myhailiuk both average more than 15 points per contest and shoot better than 40% from three. Kansas will rely on their shooting to get them to the Elite Eight as they are weak on the inside. Starting center Udoka Azubuike suffered a sprained MCL prior to the Big 12 Tournament and played at total of 25 minutes over the course of the opening weekend. Azubuike scored 10 points in the top-seed’s win over Seton Hall in the Round of 32 and expected to start against Clemson. If he can play well, the Jayhawks should be in good shape against the Tigers. Expect the trio of Graham, Mykhailiuk, and Azubuike to be too much for Clemson and for the Jayhawks to advance in a close one.

Kansas 81, Clemson 76

#11 Syracuse vs. #2 Duke, Friday, 9:37pm., CBS

battle ncaa
Bleacher Report

Syracuse enters the Sweet Sixteen after barely even making the “Big Dance.” The Orange took down Arizona State in the First Four in Dayton before traveling to Detroit where they disposed of TCU and Michigan State. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone stifled opponents. Syracuse limited three teams that averaged 80+ points a game to 56 points or less. The Orange have lured their opponents into playing a style they need to win games, as the offense has been lackluster all season long. Syracuse has hot just 37.8% from the field throughout their NCAA Tournament run. The Orange rely heavily on their “Big-Three” of Tyus Battle, Frank Howard, and Oshae Brissett, who score 72.8% of the team’s points. If Syracuse has any chance of upsetting Duke, the Orange will need to rebound and Marek Dolezaj will need to make plays in the middle of the Blue Devils’ 2-3 zone. Coach K is familiar with Boeheim’s zone as he runs it himself. With that being said, Syracuse’s run may be coming to an end on Friday.

carter ncaa
247Sports

Duke is the most talented team in the country and the Blue Devils romped through the first weekend of the Tournament without a scare from either Iona or Rhode Island. Since losing to North Carolina in February, Coach K switched to 2-3 zone and his team’s defensive performance improved drastically and now ranks 24th in defensive efficiency. Offensively, Duke’s big men, Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., have dominated in the paint, making 62% of their 2-point field goals in the Dance. When the two teams met in late February, the Blue Devils shot just 2-of-28 from three-point range. If Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., and Trevon Duval get hot from distance it will be lights out for the Orange. Expect Duke to handle Syracuse’s zone and pull away in the second half.

Duke 62, Syracuse 51

Winner of the Midwest Region: Duke

allen ncaa
Los Angeles Times

Coach K adapts to his team’s strength and is a proven winner in March. Their NBA-ready talent on the interior combined with their elite guard play will lead them past Syracuse and Kansas in Omaha. The Blue Devils, along with Villanova, are the clear cut favorites to hear “One Shining Moment” played in San Antonio.

2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—East Region

The Sweet Sixteen

mikal ncaa
Sporting News

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a wild one—filled with historic upsets and late game heroics. Let’s take a look at the Sweet Sixteen and who will advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.

The East Region—TD Garden, Boston, MA, March 23 & 25

The East Region is the chalkiest regional left as the top three seeds, Villanova, Purdue, and Texas Tech, all advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The 5-seed West Virginia will join them in Boston after they knocked out 13-seed Marshall who upset 4th seeded Wichita State in the first round on Friday. All four teams have a legitimate chance to punch their ticket to the Final Four in San Antonio.

#5 West Virginia vs. #1 Villanova, Friday, 7:27pm., TBS

Aside from their senior leader Jevon Carter, West Virginia struggled mightily shooting the ball during the regular season, but the Mountaineers have dominated the offensive glass so far in the Tournament. Led by Sagaba Konate, West Virginia has pulled down 29 offensive boards over their first two games. The dominance on the glass has allowed the Mountaineers to shoot better than 50% from the floor in the “Big Dance” and put up, on average, 89.5 points per game in the first weekend. Carter versus Jalen Brunson is the best point guard match-up in the Sweet Sixteen. If Carter and West Virginia can speed up Brunson and Villanova and force turnovers and lead to easy transition baskets, the Mountaineers have a chance to pull off an upset and make it to the Elite Eight.

brunson ncaa
Sports News from around the World

Villanova steamrolled Radford and Alabama in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. With Virginia out, the Wildcats have emerged as the team to beat. Villanova’s offense seems unstoppable—the Wildcats are shooting 53% from two and 46% from three in their first two games in the Dance. As good as that is, that’s right on par with their shooting numbers during the regular season, only now, the trio of Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Donte DiVincenzo is shooting a greater volume of threes than they had throughout the first four months of the season. Expect the Wildcats to handle West Virginia’s press and emerge victorious on Friday night.

Villanova 84, West Virginia 78

#3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Purdue, Friday, 9:57pm., TBS

Texas Tech arrives in Boston after taking care of Stephen F. Austin in the first round and surviving a scare from Florida in the second round. The Red Raiders have themselves in the Sweet Sixteen thanks to their defensive performance. Texas Tech held the Lumberjacks and the Gators to 0.93 points per possession in Dallas last weekend, giving them a chance to muster up enough points to win the game. Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith have emerged as stars of the Tournament thus far. There are pros and cons for the Red Raiders who will be facing Purdue, a team that will likely be without their 7-foot-2” center Isaac Haas. Texas Tech doesn’t have a 7-footer of their own to defend Haas in the post, but if the Boilermakers elect to go small and shoot a barrage of threes, things could get ugly for the Red Raiders.

isaac haas ncaa
WTHR-Isaac Haas trying to shoot with a brace on his broken elbow that was not cleared by the NCAA prior the Purdue’s game with Butler.

Despite losing Haas in their opening round win over Cal State Fulerton, Purdue overcame Butler’s 60% shooting performance from inside the arc to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Although the engineers on campus in West Lafayette, Indiana have been tasked with trying to design a brace for Haas’ elbow that meets NCAA standards, it is unlikely that the Boilermakers will have their big man this weekend. Purdue will need to rely on Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, and P.J. Thompson to pick up the slack on the offensive end. Matt Maarms (and his perfectly groomed hair) will need to be a factor in limiting Texas Tech’s offensive threats inside the paint. Look for Purdue to get hot from three and advance to the Elite Eight in a close one.

vincent edwards ncaa

 

Purdue 71, Texas Tech 70

Winner of the East Region: Villanova

jay wright
NBC Sports

Unlike the South and the West, the East Region has been immune to upsets so far and I expect that to continue at the TD Garden this weekend. Jay Wright will have his team ready to get back to the Final Four in search of the program’s second National Championship in three years.