December Highlights

Let’s take a look at some of the teams that dominated the storylines in college basketball in the month of December.

Studs: Duke, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida State

Duke Blue Devils

zion w
SB Nation

The Duke Blue Devils are 11-1 and haven’t lost since they were defeated by Gonzaga in the finals of the Maui Invitational on Thanksgiving Eve. Since then, Duke has taken down the likes of Indiana and #12 Texas Tech. Zion Williamson has emerged as the star of the team, even though it has three other top-tier freshman in RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones. Williamson has been an absolute beast and has catapulted the Blue Devils back to the top of the polls. He presents a matchup nightmare for almost every team in the country and has been a monster in all phases of the game. Yes, his dunks are highlight worthy on a nightly basis, but the play of the year thus far may have been that he jumped so high to block a shot against Princeton that he hit his head on the backboard. Williamson is averaging 19.8 points, on 65.2-percent from the field, and 9.4 rebounds per game. His efficiency and athletic prowess have NBA scouts drooling. Halfway through the season, Zion is atop the draft board and most teams tanking want to have a shot at him.

Tennessee Volunteers

admiral
Chicago Tribune

The Tennessee Volunteers are a complete college basketball team and are early season favorites to earn back-to-back regular season SEC titles. Tennessee is experienced and tough at every position. Rick Barnes has a pair of frontcourt bruisers in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams who are dominating forces that can beat you in the post or from deep. Since their lone loss that came in overtime to then #2 Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off, in which Williams fouled out, Tennessee has won six consecutive games, including victories over Gonzaga, Memphis, and Wake Forest. The Volunteers have climbed to #3 in the country. After defeating then #1 Gonzaga, a game in which Schofield tallied 30 points and corralled six rebounds, the senior said that his main reason for coming back to school was to become one of Barnes’ favorite players that he ever coached. That’s what college basketball is about. Schofield is averaging 18.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Although Williams, the reigning SEC Player of the Year that is averaging team-highs of 16.6 points and 8.5 boards, may get all the postseason honors, Schofield is the heart of this team that has its eyes set on something bigger than just a conference title.

Nevada Wolfpack

martins
Mid-Major Madness

With only one game, at Utah, left on their non-conference schedule, the Nevada Wolfpack are 12-0 and could be flirting with entering the NCAA Tournament as a one-seed with an undefeated record. Road conference games are always tough in any league, but this could be a bad year for the Mountain West which makes the prospect of an unblemished record for Nevada more reasonable. The Wolfpack have risen to #6 in the nation with wins over BYU, Tulsa, UMass, Loyola-Chicago, USC, then #20 Arizona State, Grand Canyon, and South Dakota State. Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline are leading the team in scoring with 18.8 points per contest apiece. Martin and Caroline also average 5.6 and 9.6 rebounds per game, respectively. Caleb’s twin brother Cody facilitates the offense and has an assist to turnover rate of 3.2:1. Last year, Eric Musselman’s team played Cinderella. This season, Nevada has a target on their back and are poised to make a run even further than they did a year ago.

Florida State Seminoles

terance
Tomahawk Nation

After a surprise run to the Elite Eight, the Florida State Seminoles carried that momentum into the 2018-19 season and are off to an 11-1 start, with their lone loss coming against Villanova in the championship game of the Advocare Invitational in November. Florida State has wins over Florida, Tulane, UAB, then #19 LSU, then #19 Purdue, UConn, and St. Louis. With their leading returning scorer, Phil Cofer, missing the first nine games of the season, the Seminoles haven’t skipped a beat and sit at #9 in the AP Poll. Terance Mann leads the Seminoles in scoring and rebounding with 12.3 points and 6.8 boards per contest. Florida State may not be getting the attention it deserves with Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina looming at the top of the ACC, but don’t be surprised to see the Seminoles near the top of the conference standings when all is said and done.

Surprises: Texas Tech and Ohio State

These four teams were all expected to be good, but two surprise teams thus far are Texas Tech and Ohio State. The Red Raiders and the Buckeyes were surprise teams a year ago and Chris Beard and Chris Holtmann have their teams shocking the college basketball world yet again in 2018-19.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

jarrett
SportsRadio 1340 The Fan

After making it to the Elite eight a season ago, Texas Tech lost their leading scorer Keenan Evans to graduation and second leading scorer, freshman, Zhaire Smith to the NBA Draft. Their top returning scorer, Jarrett Culver, is the key reason why the Red Raiders are #11 in the country. Culver is averaging 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. Texas Tech has wins over USC, Nebraska, and Memphis and barely lost to Duke at Madison Square Garden a week ago. The Red Raiders have hopes of ending Kansas’ streak of 14 consecutive Big Twelve regular season titles.

Ohio State Buckeyes

kaleb
Eleven Warriors

Ohio State lost do-everything big man Keita Bates-Diop to the NBA Draft and was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten entering this season. The Buckeyes are now 11-1 and have wins over Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota, Illinois, and UCLA—with their lone loss coming to Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in November. Kaleb Wesson is averaging 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game to lead Ohio State.

If one thing is for certain it’s that Texas Tech and Ohio State were underrated two years in a row and that Beard and Holtmann are two budding stars in the college basketball coaching circle.

Freshly Squeezed (12/3)

Syracuse Riding a Three-Game Win Streak

ehosu
The Edwardsville Intelligencer

Syracuse entered last Wednesday’s tilt with Ohio State in desperate need of a nonconference win over a ranked team on the road. The Orange got exactly what the doctor ordered and pulled off a 72-62 victory over the 16th-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Syracuse followed that performance up with a 63-55 win over Cornell in a hotly contested “Battle of the Boeheim’s.”

Ohio State jumped out to an early 9-2 lead by connecting on their first four shot attempts. The Buckeyes cooled off and the Orange tied the game at 17 on a three-pointer by Marek Dolezaj. The teams traded baskets to close the half and Tyus Battle gave Syracuse momentum heading into the break with a spinning layup to pull the Orange to within two points (31-29) at halftime.

Syracuse wasted no time in the second stanza as Oshae Brissett made a layup of the first possession to ignite a 10-2 run to give the Orange a 39-33 lead. Ohio State used a 10-2 run of their own to take a 43-41 lead. Syracuse ripped off an 11-0 run to take a 55-45 lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way and came away with a much needed 72-62 victory.

The Orange had their best shooting night of the season as they shot 48.9-percent from the field and 45.8-percent from beyond the arc to earn the win. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone noticeably bothered the Buckeyes throughout the night as Ohio State was held to just 32.6-percent from the field and 27.3-percent from three point land.

Despite battling foul trouble throughout the evening, the Orange were victorious. Syracuse committed 29 fouls in the tightly-called affair and lost three players, Bourama Sidibe, Frank Howard, and Dolezaj, to disqualification. Ohio State finished 26-for-35 from the charity stripe.

The Buckeyes were led by CJ Jackson, who tallied 19 points, on 4-of-14 from the floor, and four rebounds.

Battle paced the Orange attack with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Elijah Hughes poured in 18 points on 6-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-9 from deep. Brissett added 14 points and four rebounds.

obosu
Syracuse University

Coach Boeheim commented on his team’s performance postgame. “Our overall defense was good,” Boeheim said. “We guarded the three-point line better than we have all year. We did a good job inside, but it was Tyus and really Oshae, and Elijah in the second half that made some big plays.”

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge ended in a 7-7 tie.

After their impressive road win over the Buckeyes, Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome to face the Cornell Big Red in the “Battle of the Boeheim’s” Saturday night. Coach Boeheim, Buddy, and the Orange squared off against Jimmy, the eldest of the Boeheim brothers, and the Big Red.

Syracuse vs. Cornell
Syracuse.com

Syracuse looked to lack the intensity they played with against Ohio State. The Orange took a 33-24 lead into the break and built a 15 point lead (39-24) early in the second half, but Cornell refused to go away. The Big Red went on a 21-8 run to take a 48-47 lead with 7:53 remaining. Battle put the Orange ahead for good with a three-pointer that gave Syracuse a 52-50 lead with 5:51 to go. The Orange escaped the “Battle of the Boeheim’s” with a 63-55 win.

Cornell shot 46.5-percent from the field and drained 9-of-24 of their attempts from downtown to give Syracuse a run for their money. The Orange shot 50-percent from the floor and 8-of-21 from distance.

Defensively, Syracuse forced the Big Red into 14 turnovers.

Matt Morgan, one of the best players in mid-major college basketball, led the way for Cornell. Morgan scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point range. Morgan has now scored in double figures in 59 consecutive contests. Jimmy Boeheim stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds, four assists, and a block.

Battle led the way for the Orange as he scored a season-high 26 points on 10-of-17 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from three, and five rebounds. Brissett finished with 19 points and eight boards. Buddy Boeheim joined his older brother on the court and knocked down a three in five minutes off the bench.

boeheim brothers
Democrat and Chronicle

Coach Boeheim was not happy with his team’s effort against the Big Red. “There’s a lot of things we’re not doing well,” Boeheim said. “Tyus and Oshae played well enough for us to win. Otherwise there wasn’t a lot of good things. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is. Really bad.”

Syracuse will need to play better on Tuesday when they take on CAA favorite Northeastern.

Player of the Week: Tyus Battle

tbc
The Daily Orange

This week’s player of the week is Tyus Battle. After playing out of position in the first four games while Frank Howard was out due to injury, Battle struggled to play up to his potential. Since Howard returned to the lineup against Colgate last Wednesday, Battle is averaging 23.3 points per game, shooting 64.9-percent from the field and 72.7-percent from three. If Battle continues playing like he has over the last week and a half, he will have a chance to live up to the All-American hype he generated in the preseason. This week, he was honored as the ACC Player of the Week.

Up Next: Northeastern and Georgetown

The Orange are set to enter a stretch in their schedule where they will not play a game away from the Carrier Dome until they travel to face Notre Dame on January 5. Syracuse will return to action on Tuesday when they take on Northeastern at 7pm. The Huskies are 4-4 and are coming off an 81-67 victory over former Syracuse assistant, Rob Murphy, and Eastern Michigan. Northeastern will be very familiar playing against zone. The Huskies are led by Jordan Roland who is averaging 15.9 points per game.

The Orange will host former Big East arch rival Georgetown on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 3:30pm. Second year head coach Patrick Ewing and his Hoyas are 7-1 and are coming off an 88-87 win over Liberty Monday night. Big man Jessie Govan leads the way for Georgetown as he is averaging 19.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Hoyas have an electric backcourt consisting of freshman guard James Akinjo and Mac McClung. The duo is averaging 21.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per contest. Last year, Syracuse traveled to the nation’s capital and emerged with an 86-79 0vertime victory over their long-time arch rivals. Syracuse and Georgetown in the Dome will certainly not disappoint.

A November to Remember

The college basketball season is off and running. What have we learned so far?

rui
Moscow-Pullman Daily News

As the calendar turns to December, teams are entering the second month of their seasons looking to take advantage of their last few opportunities to grab wins in the nonconference portion of the schedule before 2019 and conference play commences.

The month of November was a wild one from the tip. From Duke blowing out Kentucky on opening night through Feast Week, we’ve seen some marquee matchups, upsets, surprises, and teams that look like they have a legitimate chance of cutting down the nets in Minneapolis in early April.

The four most impressive teams thus far are Gonzaga, Kansas, Virginia, and Michigan.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Although Duke came roaring out of the gate, the young Blue Devils got punched in the mouth in the championship game of the Maui Invitational by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga held on to beat Duke 89-87 in college basketball’s most intriguing matchup thus far this season. The Bulldogs ran through the Maui Invitational without forward Killian Tillie, who is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury. Mark Few’s team is deep and talented—led by junior Rui Hachimura, who has been a beast. The Japan native has NBA scouts drooling and is averaging 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Even without Tillie, Gonzaga is still incredibly deep and talented. Zach Norvell Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Josh Perkins are all averaging double figures. The top ranked Zags still have nonconference games against Creighton, Washington, Tennessee, and North Carolina, but if they can make it through those contests unscathed, they may just be dancing with an unblemished mark in March.

Kansas Jayhawks

lgv
The Edwardsville Intelligencer

The Kansas Jayhawks entered most preseason polls as the number team in the country, but for some reason are now ranked second even though they have yet to lose a game. Duke leapfrogged Kansas after their throttling of Kentucky on opening night in Indianapolis and Gonzaga did the same after beating Duke in Maui. Kansas looks every bit as good as they were expected to be in the preseason. The Jayhawks defeated fifth ranked Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament championship game in Brooklyn, 87-81 in overtime. After almost not being welcomed back to the roster by Bill Self, Lagerald Vick has played with a chip on his shoulder to begin the season. The senior guard is leading the team in scoring with 19.6 points per game behind 58.3-percent shooting from three point land. Memphis-transfer Dedric Lawson is averaging a double-double, while Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson are also averaging double figures in scoring. Prior to entering Big Twelve play in search of their fifteenth consecutive regular season conference title, Kansas has matchups with Stanford, Villanova, and Arizona State. At this rate, it would be pretty shocking if anyone were to derail the Jayhawks hopes of another league title.

Virginia Cavaliers

dah
SB Nation

After being the first one seed to lose to a sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers have bounced back with a vengeance to start their 2018-19 campaign. Just as it has been over the course of Tony Bennett’s tenure in Charlottesville, defense has been the key to Virginia’s early success. The fourth ranked Cavaliers are second in defensive efficiency and have held opponents to a mere 52.4 points per game. The main reason why the Hoos were bounced by UMBC in the first round of the “Big Dance” a year ago was that they were without their best player De’Andre Hunter in that game. Hunter is back and is leading the team in points (16.6) and rebounds (6.1) per game. Freshman point guard Kehei Clark has nearly a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio, which has allowed sharp shooters, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, to get open looks off the ball. The Cavaliers defeated Wisconsin 53-46 in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis and traveled to College Park to defeat Maryland 76-71 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Virginia has a date at South Carolina on December 19, and it is very likely that they will enter ACC play undefeated. With Hunter being more of a focal point on this year’s team, this may be the year that Bennett finally makes it to the Final Four.

Michigan Wolverines

iggy
Deadspin

The reigning National Runners-Up from Michigan are back and look like one of the most impressive teams in the country. John Beilein’s team has climbed to number seven in the polls behind a tremendous defensive effort. The Wolverines are the top team in defensive efficiency and are hold opponents to just 51 points per contest. Michigan is led by freshman forward Iggy Brazdeikis who is averaging 16.9 points, on 54.9-percent shooting and 38.9-percent from three, and 5.7 rebounds per game. Charles Matthews and Jordan “Swaggy” Poole have chipped in and are averaging 15.4 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. The Wolverines have absolutely dominated their competition, winning by an average margin of 21.7 points on their way to a 7-0 start. Michigan avenged their loss in last year’s National Championship game with a 73-46 whooping of defending National Champion and then number eight Villanova. The Wolverines knocked off Providence, 66-47, in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Most recently, Michigan pummeled number eleven North Carolina, 84-67, in front of a raucous home crowd in Ann Arbor in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wolverines begin Big Ten play this weekend when they battle with number 19 Purdue on Saturday. As it looks right now, Michigan is good enough to be right back where they were last March, with hopes of getting one more win in 2019.

Bracket Busters: Buffalo and Furman

It’s never too early to pay attention to the teams from the one-bid leagues that are making noise in the nonconference portion of the schedule because that could be the difference between winning and losing your office March Madness pool. Two teams to keep an eye on this year are Buffalo and Furman.

Buffalo Bulls

cj
The Buffalo News

The Buffalo Bulls are no stranger to being “Bracket Busters,” as last year they eliminated number overall pick Deandre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo is off to a 6-0 start this season and have climbed to number 21 in the polls, largely in part to their 99-94 overtime win over then number thirteen West Virginia in Morgantown. Senior guard CJ Massinburg is averaging 20.5 points per game, on 51.9-percent from the field and 51.5-percent from deep, and 7.8 rebounds per game. Massinburg, along with Jayvon Graves, Nick Perkins, and Jeremy Harris, will look to have the Bulls dancing into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year.

Furman Paladins

jl
Zagsblog

Can you name a school that has beaten half of last year’s Final Four on the road this season? Probably not. The correct answer to that question would be the Furman Paladins. Furman blessed the “Fighting Sister Jeans” with a 60-58 win in Chicago and followed that up with a 76-68 upset of then number eight Villanova. The Paladins of the SoCon are 7-0 and will look to pull off another upset on the road when they take on LSU in Baton Rouge on December 21. Jordan Lyons, Matt Rafferty, and Clay Mounce hope to lead Furman to the “Big Dance” for the first time since 1980.

Keep your eyes glued to the tube as we propel our way through the remainder of the nonconference slate and into conference play in December.

Freshly Squeezed (11/26)

Syracuse Bounces Back with Win over Colgate

elijah
Syracuse University

After falling to UConn and Oregon, Syracuse bounced back to pick up their third win of the season with a 77-56 victory over longtime instate rival Colgate on Thanksgiving Eve at the Carrier Dome. It was the Orange’s 53rd consecutive win over the Raiders—the longest winning streak against an opponent in Division I.

Colgate had Syracuse on their heels early, as the Raiders connected on eight three pointers in the first 20 minutes and trailed the Orange just 35-32 at the break. Colgate continued their hot streak from deep as they sunk three of their first four attempts from distance in the second stanza. With the game tied at 42, Elijah Hughes hit a three to spark a 22-3 run that put Syracuse up for good. Tyus Battle took the game over and scored 10 points over that stretch.

The Orange shot 43.3-percent from the field and 35-percent from three and held the Raiders to 35.3-percent from the floor and 30-percent from beyond the arc. Syracuse also forced Colgate into 16 turnovers.

Will Rayman and Jordan Burns tallied 13 points apiece to lead the Raiders in the losing effort. Rayman grabbed eight rebounds, while Burns dished out five assists.

Battle paced the Orange with 24 points on an efficient 8-of-10 shooting. Hughes and his frontcourt-mate Oshae Brissett poured in 17 points apiece and pulled down six and nine rebounds, respectively. Sophomore center Bourama Sidibe recorded his second career double-double as he finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The big man also came away with three steals. Sidibe saw an uptick in his minutes as starting center Paschal Chukwu left the game with a groin strain after playing only four minutes. His status for Wednesday’s game against Ohio State remains uncertain.

The most important takeaway from last Wednesday’s tilt with Colgate was that it was Frank Howard’s first appearance of the season. The senior point guard nailed a trey on his first shot attempt, dished out five assists, and came away with three steals in 19 minutes of action.

frank
Syracuse.com

Coach Boeheim commented on Howard’s impact in his postgame press conference. “It was good to have Frank (Howard) back,” Boeheim said. “He made a couple really smart plays to start the second half. He got the ball back to Elijah and gave it to Tyus, and we got a couple of threes because of it.”

Hopefully, a week of practice will have Howard fully back in the swing of things when Syracuse travels to Columbus to take on Ohio State on Wednesday.

Player of the Week: Tyus Battle

tyus_c
Syracuse.com

In a week where the Orange only played one game, Tyus Battle proved to be Syracuse’s player of the week. The junior guard looked much more comfortable with his running mate Frank Howard back in the lineup. Battle was able to play off the ball and act as more of a scorer as opposed to having to run the offense and get others involved as he had in the first four games of the season. He also started to heat up from three against Colgate. Battle connected on all three of his attempts from three point land against the Raiders. He will need to play even better if Syracuse wants to take down the Buckeyes in this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Up Next: Ohio State and Cornell

The Orange travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7:15pm. Ohio State enters the contest undefeated and ranked 16th in the country. The Buckeyes are coming off an 89-62 win over Cleveland State and have also won at Cincinnati and at Creighton. Once again, Chris Holtmann’s team is taking the college basketball world by surprise. Ohio State is led by Kaleb Wesson who is averaging 14.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

After squaring off with the Buckeyes, Syracuse will return to the Carrier Dome to host Cornell. The game will feature Coach Boeheim, his son Buddy, and the Orange against his oldest son Jimmy and the Big Red. Cornell is 3-3 and are coming off a 91-74 loss to UConn. The Big Red are led by one of the best players in mid-major college basketball, Matt Morgan, who is averaging 26.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Jimmy Boeheim is averaging 13.8 points and 4.6 rebounds so far in his sophomore season. Last year, Coach Boeheim and Syracuse defeated Cornell 77-45, but not before Jimmy drained his first career three right in front of his dad’s bench. Buddy will make his debut in the family rivalry Saturday night. Tip-off is set for 8pm.

Freshly Squeezed (11/19)

Syracuse Stumbles in New York City

tyus_o
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

After going 2-0 to start off the season, the Syracuse Orange dropped both games in the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden last week.

Syracuse fell to former Big East rival, UConn, 83-76 in Thursday night’s first round matchup. The Huskies jumped on the Orange right away and got out to a 13-4 lead. UConn’s defensive pressure had Syracuse’s freshman point guard Jalen Carey noticeably rattled in the early going, but Carey responded and helped pull the Orange to within six at the break. Syracuse rallied to within four (70-66), but back-to-back threes by Alterique Gilbert and Tyler Polley helped UConn pull away and preserve the victory.

Coach Boeheim was disappointed with his team’s effort against the Huskies. Boeheim pointed to his team’s lack of consistency on the offensive end and questioned his team’s hustle, specifically in regards to the rebounding disparity. UConn outrebounded Syracuse 46-32. The key for the Huskies was their efficiency from three. UConn shot a blistering 57.1-percent (12-of-21) from distance. The Orange, however, connected on just 6-of-22 (27.3-percent) of their attempts from beyond the arc.

Jalen Carey paced the Orange with a career-high 26 points, on 9-of-14 from the field, and seven rebounds. Tyus Battle finished with 16 points, on 7-of-17 shooting, and four assists. Elijah Hughes added 15 points on 5-of-14 from the floor. Oshae Brissett scored nine points and corralled five rebounds, but struggled from the floor, shooting only 3-for-12.

Fifteenth ranked Syracuse was joined in Friday’s consolation game by the thirteenth ranked Oregon Ducks, who lost in the first round to Iowa, 77-69. The Orange had no answer for five-star recruit Bol Bol, who completely dominated the interior. The big man stuffed the stat sheet with 26 points, nine boards, four blocks, and three steals as the Ducks won 80-65. Syracuse suffered from another dreadful shooting performance as they shot just 35.3-percent from the field, including 17.9-percent from three point land. Oregon shot 50-percent from the field and 35-percent from long range in the victory. In a game where the shots weren’t falling, Syracuse also failed to take care of the ball. The Ducks forced Syracuse into 17 turnovers. The Ducks also outrebounded the Orange 35-28.

Syracuse was led by Battle who tallied 17 points in the losing effort. Hughes and Carey scored 14 points apiece and came away with five and three steals, respectively. Brissett struggled from the field for a second consecutive night. The sophomore forward scored 11 points on 2-of-12 from the field and 1-of-9 from three, grabbed six boards, and dished out four assists.

The showing in the Garden showed that Syracuse has a ton of work to do if they are going to live up to the preseason hype they generated in the offseason. The Orange are in desperate need of efficient shooting and an experienced point guard to lead the offense. Frank Howard practiced last week, but was in street clothes on the bench at the 2K Classic. Syracuse faces Colgate this Wednesday, but would hope to have Howard back in the lineup when they face Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on November 28.

Although it is easy to identify Syracuse’s offensive inefficiencies, the defense gave up 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time since February of 2017. It will be interesting to see if Coach Boeheim reverts back to the lineup that got the Orange to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago to string together some stops when Howard returns to health.

The Iowa Hawkeyes took home the 2K Empire Classic trophy with a 91-72 victory over UConn in Friday’s championship game. Luka Garza (Iowa) was awarded MVP honors, while Tyler Cook (Iowa), Eric Cobb (UConn), Bol, and Carey joined him on the All-Tournament team.

Player of the Week: Jalen Carey

jalen_uc
Syracuse.com

Aside from the first few minutes of the UConn game, Jalen Carey was the clear bright spot for Syracuse in New York City. The freshman from Harlem looked to be right at home on the big stage as he averaged 20 points, on 54.2-percent shooting, and five rebounds in two games last week. Carey only turned the ball over three times after the first half against the Huskies. The diaper-dandy was able to create his own shot, but only finished with one assist in the two games in the 2K Empire Classic. His performance earned him a spot on the All-Tournament team and ACC Freshman of the Week accolades. With Howard’s return, Carey’s performance could have us see more of a three guard lineup from the Orange.

Up Next: Colgate Raiders

Syracuse will look to get back on track when they return to the Carrier Dome to host Colgate on Wednesday at 7pm. Jordan Burns leads the Raiders, who are off to a 3-1 start. The sophomore guard is averaging 18 points and five assists per contest. Last year, the Orange defeated the Raiders 72-58.

Freshly Squeezed (11/12)

Orange off to 2-0 Start

Le Moyne Syracuse Basketball
The Spokesman-Review

Syracuse tipped off its 2018-19 campaign with victories over Eastern Washington and Morehead State last week. As opposed to last season, there is a renewed buzz around the program heading into Coach Boeheim’s 43rd season on SU Hill. The Orange return all five starters from a team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in March. In addition, Syracuse brings in a class of newcomers that are ready to make an impact right away.

Our first glimpse of the Orange came Tuesday night when they took down the Eastern Washington Eagles 66-34 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone held Eastern Washington to a mere 10 points in the first half and made it tough for the Eagles to get back in the game the rest of the way. The zone held Eastern Washington to 22-percent shooting and forced the Eagles into 19 turnovers. The key reason for the hype surrounding the Orange this year was a hope that greater depth and better shooters would bolster their offensive attack this season. Syracuse shot just 38.7-percent from the field and 17.6-percent from three on opening night. The Orange were paced by Oshae Brissett’s 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals in the victory.

Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome on Saturday evening when they defeated the Morehead State Eagles 84-70 in the second game of the season. The Orange jumped out to an early 25-11 lead before Morehead State outscored them 19-11 to close the half. Clinging to a six point lead at the break, Syracuse traded baskets with the Eagles to begin the second stanza. The Orange pulled away with a 12-0 run to create a deficit that would be insurmountable for Morehead State to comeback from. Syracuse was more successful the second time out, as they connected on 41.2-percent of their attempts from the field. The Orange continued to struggle from beyond the arc as they were only 3-of-16 (18.8-percent) Saturday night. Tyus Battle led the way for Syracuse. The junior guard poured in 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, collected three rebounds, and dished out three assists in the win. East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes finished with 21 points, on 7-of-15 from the field, and eight boards. Brissett and senior center Paschal Chukwu both notched double-doubles as Brissett tallied 17 points and collected 12 rebounds, while Chukwu added 14 points and 10 boards. Coach Boeheim commented that the first two games were good learning experiences and that they gave his guys a lot to work on moving forward.

tyus_m
Syracuse.com

The missing ingredient at this point in the season is production from the point guard position. Frank Howard, Jalen Carey, and Howard Washington are all still recovering from injuries that have caused Battle to play out of position and Buddy Boeheim to step into a starting role in the first two games of his college career. The Orange turned the ball over 24 times in their first two games and would prefer to have their senior leader, Howard, back sooner rather than later. Carey has not adjusted to the college game yet and missed valuable practice time after spraining his ankle in the Orange vs. White scrimmage in October. Washington played seven minutes in the opener against Eastern Washington, but did not see action against Morehead State on Saturday. Washington is recovering from a torn ACL which he suffered in practice in January.

I would like to see Marek Dolezaj get more involved offensively. The do-everything Slovakian forward showed glimpses of what he can be on the offensive end with 20 points against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament and 17 points versus TCU in the NCAA Tournament his freshman year. Dolezaj is arguably the best passer on the roster, but he needs to make opponents respect his shooting ability. Dolezaj has made all four of his attempts from the field so far this season, but only took one shot (a dunk) against Morehead State. He made only two three pointers last season, but made one against Eastern Washington. It is rumored that he has been working on his stroke from three and it would be a tremendous lift for the Orange if we could see that in games. Get Dolezaj the ball!

marek
The Daily Orange

Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett

oshae
Democrat and Chronicle

This week’s player of the week for Syracuse is sophomore forward Oshae Brissett. Brissett is averaging a double-double with 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, good for the team lead in both categories. He also leads the team in steals with 2.5 thefts per contest. If Brissett is the best player on the Orange, there is no telling where the team can go this season. Although he missed a few layups Saturday night, Brissett is at his best when he takes it to the hoop. Add in a few more three pointers and Brissett will be among the class of the ACC.

Up next: UConn and Oregon/Iowa

2k
Phear the Phoenix

Syracuse will face UConn in the 2K Empire Classic Thursday at Madison Square Garden Thursday at 7pm. The Orange will take on either the winner or loser of Oregon/Iowa Friday night in the championship or consolation game.

The UConn Huskies are 2-0 under first year head coach Dan Hurley. UConn is led by senior guard Jalen Adams who is averaging 18 points and 2.5 assists per game. The Huskies are looking to rebound from Kevin Ollie’s final year in Storrs where they went 14-18 overall and finished eighth in the American Athletic Conference with a record of 7-11. Last year, the Orange defeated the Huskies 72-63 at MSG. If one thing for sure, Syracuse versus UConn at the Garden is always a hotly contested matchup and is one of the most electric scenes in college basketball.

Oregon enters the 2K Empire Classic with a record of 2-0 and is ranked 13th in the country. The Ducks are led by five-star freshman Bol Bol who is averaging 17.5 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per contest.

Fran McCaffery’s Iowa Hawkeyes will enter the Garden with a record of 2-0. The Hawkeyes are led by junior forward Tyler Cook who is averaging 14.5 points, seven boards, and three assists per game.

The Orange will head to Madison Square Garden determined to remain undefeated and bring a trophy back to the Melo Center.

Champions Classic Recap

What did we learn about college basketball’s blue bloods on opening night?

zion_w
New York Post

Game 1: Kansas 92, Michigan State 87

quentin
Heavy.com

Kansas showed why they were ranked #1 in the country in most preseason polls. The Jayhawks raced out to a seventeen point lead. Kansas struggled to put the game away late as Michigan State cut the lead to three, but the early deficit was too much for the Spartans to overcome.

Freshman point guard Quentin Grimes demonstrated why he is expected to be one of the best point guards in the country. The “diaper-dandy” paced the Jayhawks with 21 points and four assists. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson was a nightmare for the Spartans. Lawson finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks in his Kansas debut. Junior Center Udoka Azubuike was a force on the interior with 17 points, although his missed free throws down the stretch allowed Michigan State to stay in the game. Freshman guard Devon Dotson did not disappoint in his first appearance in a Jayhawk uniform as he added 16 points, three assists, and three steals for the victors. Kansas has interior depth and the ability to connect from distance. The Jayhawks will be a tough out every night.

dedric_l
The Portland Press Herald

After a dreadful first half, Michigan State showed a lot of fight to make it a game in the second half. “I learned something about my team tonight,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “We played well in the second half and did some good things, but you don’t count games by halves.” Joshua Langford led the way for the Spartans with 18 points, while Kenny Goins posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. The Spartans were plagued by turnovers a season ago and that issue continued into Tuesday night as Kansas forced Michigan State into 18 turnovers. The Spartans will need to take care of the ball going forward.

Both teams will get a breather from top ten competition as Kansas hosts Vermont on Monday, while Michigan State returns home to face Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.

Game 2: Duke 118, Kentucky 84

rj
CBC

Although Kansas proved they were deserving of their top ranking in Game 1, Duke and their top ranked recruiting class scared the “Devil” out of the rest of the college basketball world in the nightcap. The highly anticipated matchup was never close as the Blue Devils took a seventeen point lead into the locker room. Duke refused to take their foot off the gas pedal and let Kentucky back in the game in the second half as their freshman proved that the Blue Devils are the best team in the country.

The freshman trio of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish were “magnificent,” according to Coach K. Barrett, the top recruit in the Class of 2018, scored 33 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out six assists. Williamson, the second ranked recruit in his class, dropped 28 points on the Wildcats and pulled down seven rebounds. Reddish, the third ranked recruit in this year’s class, poured in 22 points and was stout defensively with three steals. The trio accounted for 70 percent of Duke’s points in the win. The Blue Devils seem to have it all and will be a formidable matchup throughout the season.

cam

Kentucky was absolutely embarrassed by Duke Tuesday night, but it is only the first game of the season. “I haven’t lost faith in my guys. We’ve still got a good group,” Calipari said. Freshman guard Keldon Johnson poured in 23 points and pulled in four rebounds to lead the Wildcats, while Stanford transfer Reid Travis added 22 points and seven boards in his debut for the “Big Blue.” Although they will not play Duke every night, the embarrassing loss to the Blue Devils exposed the Wildcats. Kentucky will need to improve drastically, especially on the defensive end, if they want to prove that they are one of the nation’s top teams.

Duke will play host to Coach K’s alma mater, Army, on Sunday, while Kentucky will return home to square off with Southern Illinois on Friday.