Syracuse entered the ACC Tournament feeling pretty good about their NCAA Tournament chances for the first time since 2013.
Despite being without leading scorer Tyus Battle due a lower back injury, the Orange defeated Pittsburgh, 73-59, in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday night. Syracuse trailed the Panthers, 36-30, at halftime, but used an 8-0 run with all 8 points scored by Buddy Boeheim to take a 43-39 lead early in the second stanza. The Orange would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
After shooting 60-percent from three-point range in the first half, Pittsburgh cooled down and shot just 30.8-percent from deep after the break. Conversely, Syracuse heated up from beyond the arc down the stretch, shooting 54.6-percent from three in the second half.
Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with 24 points, on 8-of-16 from three-point land, and seven rebounds. Sidy N’Dir added 10 points in the losing effort.
Boeheim paced Syracuse with 20 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Elijah Hughes and Frank Howard scored 18 points apiece. Hughes also grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists, and came away with two steals.
The Orange squared off with Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday night. Battle missed his second straight game with a lower back injury. After rallying back from as much as a 17 point deficit in the first half, Syracuse tied the game at 46 on a triple by Boeheim with 13:02 to go. The Blue Devils pulled away down the stretch to win 84-72.
In a turnover plagued affair, Duke outshot the Orange as the Blue Devils shot 53.7-percent from the floor, compared to 48.1-percent shooting for Syracuse.
The real difference in the game was that Duke has the best player in the country and the likely #1 pick in the NBA Draft Zion Williamson. Williamson, who returned after missing five consecutive games with a sprained knee, erupted for 29 points on a perfect 13-of-13 from the floor, 14 rebounds, and five steals. Fellow freshman phenomenon RJ Barrett tallied 23 points, on 8-of-16 from the field, and six rebounds. Freshman point guard Tre Jones finished with 15 points and eight assists.
Howard led the Orange with a career-high 28 points, on 11-of-2o shooting, and three assists. Boeheim poured in 15 points, while Oshae Brissett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Despite the loss, Syracuse entered the NCAA Tournament with a record of 20-13. Howard was named to the ACC Tournament Second Team, while Williamson was named the MVP after Duke won the championship game over Florida State, 73-63, Saturday night.
Battle is expected to return in the NCAA Tournament, but playing without him in the ACC Tournament gave others the opportunity to step up, specifically, Howard and Boeheim.
Player of the Week: Frank Howard
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Frank Howard. After a lower leg injury caused him to miss the first four games of the season, Howard did not play to the form he showed he was capable of during his junior campaign. The senior point guard averaged 23 points on 50-percent shooting in Battle’s absence at the ACC Tournament. With Battle back and Howard and Boeheim shooting with confidence, the Orange just might be poised to make another run in the “Big Dance.”
Up Next: The NCAA Tournament vs. #9 Baylor
For the first time since 2013, Syracuse did not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. This year, the Orange were firmly in and earned the 8-seed in the West Region. Syracuse will take on the 9-seed Baylor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tip-off is set for Thursday night at 9:57pm. The game will be seen on truTV. The Bears are 19-13 overall and are coming off an 83-66 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Baylor is led by Tristan Clark who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
If the Orange were to defeat the Bears, they would take on the winner of the game between the 1-seed Gonzaga and the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson, who defeated Prairie View in the First Four Tuesday night.
Syracuse amid Two-Game Skid Heading into the ACC Tournament
After losing to #2 Virginia at home on Monday night, Syracuse traveled to Clemson on Saturday in hopes of avoiding two consecutive losses heading into the ACC Tournament. The Orange jumped out to an early 23-13 lead with 6:48 left in the opening stanza following a free throw by Oshae Brissett. Buddy Boeheim connected on a jumped with 14 seconds left in the frame to give Syracuse a 31-24 advantage at the halftime. Bourama Sidibe made a layup with 15:53 remaining to give the Orange a 38-33 lead. The Tigers responded with a 14-0 run, capped off by a free throw by David Skara, to take a commanding 47-38 advantage with 11:27 to go that would prove to be too much for Syracuse to overcome down the stretch. Clemson pulled away to earn a 67-55 win to improve their NCAA Tournament resume in the regular season finale for both teams.
It was an ugly game for both sides. The Tigers shot just 33.9-percent from the field, including just 5-of-20 from three, and turned the ball over 15 times. On the other hand, the Orange shot it at a 37.5-percent clip, including 6-of-19 from deep, and turned the ball over 18 times. The difference in the game was Clemson’s strength on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded Syracuse 45-30.
Marcquise Reed posted a double-double with 24 points, on 7-of-17 from the floor, 10 rebounds, and five steals to lead Clemson. Elijah Thomas posted a double-double of his own with 13 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Shelton Mitchell added 10 points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Brissett paced the Orange with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Boeheim chipped in with 11 points off the bench, while All-ACC Third Team performer, Tyus Battle, finished with 10 points and three rebounds.
With the loss, Syracuse finished the regular season with an overall record of 19-12 and 10-8 in the ACC. The Orange earned the six-seed and a first round bye in this week’s ACC Tournament when Louisville fell at Virginia on Saturday.
Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Oshae Brissett. The versatile Canadian prospect has failed live up to the standard he set as a freshman averaging only 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season, compared to 14.9 points and 8.8 boards a year ago. However, he is still an important piece to the puzzle for the Orange. Brissett’s efficiency has always been a question mark, but his shooting percentage has jumped from 35.4-percent last season to 39.1-percent this year. His free throw percentage and three-point percentage have both taken a hit this season though. He went from being a reliable 78.7-percent free throw shooter as a freshman to shooting just 66.7-percent from the charity stripe in his sophomore campaign. Brissett set his sights on possibly entering the NBA Draft this year, but a major strike against him will be that he has shot just 26.5-percent from three-point range, down from 33.1-percent a season ago. If he can buck these trends, as he did against Clemson when he shot 5-of-5 from the line and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, the Orange will be poised to make noise in the postseason once again.
Up Next: The ACC Tournament vs. #11 Boston College/#14 Pittsburgh
Sixth-seeded Syracuse will take on either the 11-seed Boston College or the 14-seed Pittsburgh in the Second Round of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday night at 9:30pm. The Orange swept the season series from both the Eagles and the Panthers. Syracuse beat Boston College 77-71 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts on January 30th and 67-56 in the Carrier Dome on February 9th. The Orange defeated Pittsburgh 74-63 at home on January 19th and 65-56 at the Peterson Events Center on February 2nd. The Eagles finished the regular season 14-16 overall, 5-13 in the ACC, while the Panthers are 13-18 overall and 3-15 in ACC play. Boston College is led by Ky Bowman who is averaging 19.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and four assists per game, while Xavier Johnson leads Pittsburgh as he is averaging 15.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per contest.
If Syracuse were to win their second round game, they would take on third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Syracuse Splits with Wake Forest and Virginia—Regular Season Finale Ahead
After losing back-to-back games for the first time in ACC play, Syracuse looked to get back on track when they took on Wake Forest and #2 Virginia this week.
The Orange traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Saturday to square off against Wake Forest. Syracuse used a 14-4 run, capped off by a jumper by Tyus Battle, to take a 20-11 lead with 12:02 left in the first half. The Orange built their largest advantage of the opening stanza, 34-20, when Marek Dolezaj converted a layup off an assist from Frank Howard with 5:09 remaining in the opening stanza. The Demon Deacons rattled off a 10-4 spurt to pull within eight, 38-30, at the break. Wake Forest got the closest they would in the final twenty minutes when Sharone Wright Jr. dropped in a layup to make it 40-35 Syracuse with 19:14 to go. The Demon Deacons would get no closer the rest of the way. Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse a 60-37 lead when he capped off the decisive 20-2 run with a layup assisted by Howard with 11:17 to play. The Orange coasted to a 79-54 victory over Wake Forest.
Syracuse shot 54.4-percent from the field and held the Demon Deacons to just 32.7-percent shooting. The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone forced Wake Forest into 23 turnovers, which led to Syracuse outscoring the Demon Deacons 27-15 in points off turnovers.
Wake Forest was led by Chaundee Brown who scored 14 points, on 5-of-11 shooting, and grabbed six rebounds. Brown also dished out two assists and came away with two steals. Isaiah Mucius came off the bench and finished with 10 points and three rebounds in the losing effort.
Battle paced the Orange with 21 points, on 9-of-13 from the floor, three rebounds, and five steals. Hughes added 18 points, on 8-of-12 from the field, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome on Monday night to celebrate Senior Night in their final regular season home game against #2 Virginia. Seniors Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu, along with walk-on seniors Adrian Autry, Antonio Balandi, and Ky Feldman, were honored before the game. Chukwu may be granted a medical hardship waiver as a result of the eye surgery which ended his sophomore season prematurely. If approved, he may return to the team next season.
The Orange entered halftime with a 34-32 advantage over the Cavaliers as Howard drained a triple with 42 seconds left in the opening stanza. With Syracuse clinging to a 43-42 lead following a three-pointer by Battle with 15:09 left on the clock, De’Andre Hunter drilled a trey on the ensuing possession to spark an 11-0 run for Virginia. Kyle Guy gave the Cavaliers a double-digit lead, 53-43, when he knocked down a three of his own at the 10:29 mark. Buddy Boeheim pulled the Orange within seven, 53-46, with 9:45 remaining in the game, but that was the closest Syracuse would get the rest of the way. Virginia outscored the Orange 26-7 down the stretch and claimed a 79-53 win that sent most of the 29,052 in attendance packing before the final buzzer.
The Cavaliers shot 54.9-percent from the floor, including a blistering 72-percent from beyond the arc. The Dome Effect did nothing to stymie Virginia, as the Cavaliers connected on a school record 18 threes on just 25 attempts. Syracuse shot a dreadful 33.3-percent from the floor and converted ten fewer tries from distance than Virginia did as they connected on just 8-of-25 of their attempts from three-point range.
Virginia’s “Big Three” of Guy, Hunter, and Ty Jerome, combined for 78.5-percent of the team’s scoring. Guy led the Cavaliers with 25 points, on 8-of-10 from deep, seven rebounds, and two assists. Hunter contributed with 21 points, on 7-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Jerome posted a double-double with 16 points and 14 assists. Jerome also corralled three rebounds and came away with three steals.
The Orange were led by Battle, Hughes, and Boeheim who chipped in with 11 points apiece. Battle collected five rebounds, while Hughes grabbed three steals.
For the third time in as many tries, Syracuse lost a game against a top-five team in which they led at halftime. The Orange will need to play for an entire 40-minutes if they want to make another deep run in March.
With the loss, Syracuse fell to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in the ACC. The Orange are tied for sixth in the league, but hold the tiebreaker over Louisville for the #6 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
Player of the Week: Elijah Hughes
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Elijah Hughes. Hughes averaged 14.5 points, on 61.1-percent from the field, and four rebounds per game this week. The East Carolina transfer’s efficiency and aggressiveness will be a key if the Orange hope to be a factor in the postseason.
Up Next: Clemson
Syracuse will look to close out the regular season on a high note when they travel to South Carolina to battle with Clemson on Saturday. Tip-off is set for noon and the game can be seen on CBS. The Tigers are 17-12, 7-9 in the ACC and are coming off a heartbreaking 81-79 loss to North Carolina. Clemson travels to Notre Dame on Wednesday before returning home to host the Orange in their regular season finale. Syracuse hopes to sweep the season series from the Tigers as the Orange defeated Clemson 61-53 at the Carrier Dome on January 9th. The Tigers are led by Marcquise Reed who is averaging 19.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and three assists per contest.
A Wild Week for the Orange Culminates with Upset over Top-Ranked Duke
Wow! Syracuse battled through a wild week defeating Clemson at home, being blown out by a subpar Georgia Tech team in the Carrier Dome, and traveling to Durham, NC to topple the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Three games in six days is tough for any team, but the way the Orange weathered that storm was a script that no one could write.
Syracuse took on the Clemson Tigers on Wednesday night in their second ACC matchup of the 2018-19 campaign. The Orange jumped out to a 21-10 lead thanks to a 19-5 run capped off by a dunk by Oshae Brissett with 8:41 left in the opening stanza. Clemson shortened Syracuse’s advantage to eight, 30-22 at the half. The Orange grabbed control of the game as a triple by Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse a 51-36 edge with 9:13 remaining. The Tigers made it a six point game, 54-48, when Marcquise Reed nailed a trey with 4:46 to go, but the Orange hung on and secured four consecutive defensive stops to earn a 61-53 victory to improve to 2-0 in conference play.
Syracuse shot 41.7-percent from the field and held the Tigers to a 35.8-percent clip. The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone perplexed Clemson all night as the Tigers committed 17 turnovers.
Reed led Clemson with 16 points, on 5-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, and three assists. Elijah Thomas chipped in with 13 points on, on 4-of-6 from the field, and seven boards.
Hughes paced Syracuse with 14 points and seven rebounds. Tyus Battle added 12 points, three boards, and three assists. Frank Howard tallied 12 points, on 4-of-8 from the floor, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out four assists. Marek Dolezaj stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, on 3-of-5 shooting, four boards, four helpers, two blocks, and two steals.
The Orange looked to remain undefeated in league play when they squared off with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Saturday evening. Both teams struggled to score in the opening twenty minutes and Georgia Tech took a one point lead, 27-26 into the break. The Yellow Jackets blew the game wide open with a 24-7 spurt that ended with a layup by Jose Alvarado to build a 51-33 edge with 12:17 left in the game. Syracuse ran a full-court press for the final 14 minutes of the contest, but failed to get anything going offensively, which allowed Georgia Tech to pull away to a 73-59 win on the road.
The Orange had improved their shooting over the last few weeks until the Yellow Jackets’ zone stifled their offensive attack. Syracuse shot a dreadful 31.6-percent from the floor and an even more pitiful 21.2-percent from beyond the arc. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, shot the lights out—59.5-percent from the field and 50-percent from three-point land.
Alvarado led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, on 5-of-6 from the field, and three rebounds. James Banks III poured in 16 points, on 6-of-10 from the floor, grabbed seven boards, blocked three shots, and came away with three steals. Curtis Haywood II dropped in 15 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, corralled four rebounds, and distributed seven helpers. Abdoulaye Gaeye finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
Brissett scored a team-high 15 points, pulled in seven boards, and dished out three assists. Hughes recorded 12 points and three rebounds, while Battle contributed with 11 points.
After suffering a bad loss at home to Georgia Tech, the Orange were staring down a .500 in record in conference play as they were set to battle with #1 Duke on the road on Monday. In desperate need of a signature win, Syracuse needed a few bounces to fall their way and an improved shooting performance in order to pull off an unforeseen upset. The Blue Devils, and their four star freshman, were fresh off a last second win at Florida State two days earlier and came into tip-off favored by 17.
Cam Reddish, the third-ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 was out with flu-like symptoms, but Duke’s remaining star frosh raced out to an early 12-0 lead only three minutes into the contest. However, the tide was about to change. The Blue Devils’ freshman point guard, Tre Jones, separated his right shoulder when he collided with Howard as the two players were chasing after a loose ball five and a half minutes into the first half.
The Orange came all the way back to tie the game at 29 with 6:37 remaining in the opening stanza. Syracuse claimed their first lead of the game, 36-35, on a free throw by Paschal Chukwu with 4:49 to go before intermission. RJ Barrett, the top recruit in the Class of 2018, extended Duke’s lead with a jumper to 49-44 with 1:19 to go before the break. The Orange trimmed the Blue Devils’ halftime edge to one, 49-48, as Hughes made what could possibly be the shot of the year as his 75-foot heave at the buzzer was true.
Syracuse began the second half by taking the lead (50-49) on a layup by Brissett less than a minute in. Duke reclaimed their advantage, 52-50, on a layup by Marques Bolden with 18:49 left. The Blue Devils built an eight point edge, 67-59, on a layup by the second ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 and the leading candidate for National Player of the Year, Zion Williamson, with 13:41 to go. The Orange were not ready to go away easily. Syracuse reclaimed the lead, 81-80, with 3:10 left on a layup by Chukwu. Williamson had a chance to win it for Duke at the free throw line after a questionable foul was called on Chukwu. The diaper-dandy converted on only one-of-two attempts from the charity stripe and the game was tied at 85. Battle’s shot at the buzzer clanked off the back iron and the ACC rivals were headed to overtime for the second time since the Orange joined the conference in 2013-14.
Hughes controlled the opening tip in the extra session and raced down the court to give Syracuse and 87-85 advantage. Less than a minute into the overtime period, Alex O’Connell nailed one from deep to give the Blue Devils an 88-87 lead. On the ensuing possession, Battle hit a jumper to put the Orange ahead for good. Barrett’s three at the buzzer missed and Syracuse emerged with a 95-91 upset over #1 Duke in overtime.
With the win, the Orange improved to 12-5 on the season, 3-1 in ACC play, and Syracuse became the first school other than North Carolina to upset a top-ranked Duke team at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Orange shot 43.8-percent from the floor, including 44-percent from three, and held the Blue Devils to just 38.7-percent from the floor and a miserable 20.9-percent from behind the three-point line. Syracuse outrebounded Duke 51-48.
Williamson led the Blue Devils with a career-high 35 points, on 12-of-20 shooting, and 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Williamson also blocked four shots. Barrett was an assist shy of a triple-double with 23 points, on 8-of-30 from the field, 16 rebounds, and nine assists. Bolden recorded a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks off the bench, while O’Connell came off the pine to hang 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists on the Orange in the losing effort.
Battle paced Syracuse with 32 points, on 12-of-28 from the floor, four rebounds, and four assists. Hughes added 20 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, and five boards. Howard scored 16 points in the second half, on 7-of-13 from the field, corralled six rebounds, and dished out five assists. Brissett finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Chukwu came off the bench and recorded a double-double featuring 10 points, a career-high 18 rebounds, and three blocks.
Coach Boeheim commented on his team’s win over Duke in his postgame press conference. “When (Chukwu) plays like that,” Boeheim said, “we’re a different team.”
Coach K commented on the result in his postgame press conference. “This was a very difficult night for our basketball program,” K said. “We’ll figure out ways of handling it.”
Player of the Week: Paschal Chukwu
From Battle’s first half dominance against Duke and Hughes’ continued steady play, this week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Paschal Chukwu. After not playing against Clemson, and playing just 15 minutes against Georgia Tech, Chukwu played the game of his life in helping the Orange earn a signature win at #1 Duke. He was a force inside against Williamson and stepped up to hit key free throws and collected rebounds down the stretch to get defensive stops when his team needed it most. If Chukwu can build on Monday night’s performance and be a legitimate threat on the interior, Syracuse will be able to remain atop the ACC standings.
Up Next: Pittsburgh
The Orange return home to face Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2pm. After being the laughing stock of the ACC a year ago, first-year head coach Jeff Capel has rejuvenated the program. The Panthers are 12-5 overall, 2-2 in conference, and are coming off a 75-62 win against #11 Florida State on Monday night. Pitt is led by Xavier Johnson who is averaging 17.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. Last season, Syracuse swept the season series from the Panthers.
Syracuse defeated St. Bonaventure to close out non-conference play and open their ACC slate with a triumph over Notre Dame on the road.
The Orange opened their non-league finale against St. Bonaventure with a 17-2 run capped off by a jumper by Frank Howard with 14:08 left in the first half. Syracuse would continue their hot streak into the break as they shot 57.7-percent in the opening stanza to earn a 46-25 advantage. The Orange shot 58.3-percent from the field over the course of the final 20 minutes to pull away with a 81-48 blowout victory. Leading up to the game, Howard said that they were not taking the Bonnies lightly and did not want to lose to St. Bonaventure for a second season in a row—Syracuse made sure this was no contest right from the jump.
Kyle Lofton and Jalen Poyser led the Bonnies with 12 points apiece.
The Orange were led by Tyus Battle who scored 21 points on a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor. Elijah Hughes poured in 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Buddy Boeheim added 12 points on 4-of-8 from the field.
Syracuse traveled to South Bend, Indiana to begin ACC play at former Big East foe Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish raced out to an early 20-10 lead on a dunk by John Mooney. The Orange pulled to within one, 23-22, with 7:52 remaining in the half. Nate Laszewski’s triple at the horn gave Notre Dame a 38-37 edge going into intermission. With Syracuse clinging to a 60-58 advantage, Hughes sparked a 10-1 spurt with a trey. The Orange refused to relinquish their lead and emerged with a 72-62 win over the Fighting Irish. Syracuse now has two Quad-1 road wins on their NCAA Tournament resume.
TJ Gibbs paced Notre Dame with 18 points and five assists. Mooney posted a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds in defeat.
Hughes led the Orange with a double-double, recording career-highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds. The East Carolina-transfer shot 8-of-16 from the floor, including 6-of-13 from beyond the arc. Oshae Brissett finished with a double-double of his own with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Battle finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
Player of the Week: Tyus Battle
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Tyus Battle. Although Elijah Hughes had a career game against Notre Dame, Battle earned ACC Player of the Week honors for his perfect shooting game against St. Bonaventure. The junior guard averaged 19 points, on 64-percent shooting, and 3.5 rebounds per contest this past week. Last season, he was criticized for his inefficiency on the offensive end. His scoring numbers are down (19.2 points per game last year, 17.9 points per game this year), but Battle has been much more efficient (48-percent shooting in 2018-19 compared to a 39.9-percent clip in 2017-18) thus far. With Hughes in the lineup, Battle has not needed to shoulder as much of the scoring load as he needed to a year ago. Improvements in Battle’s shooting and Howard’s health combined with a deeper bench should pay dividends as the Orange enter the ACC portion of their schedule. Syracuse is now 10-4 overall and 1-0 in the league.
Up Next: Clemson and Georgia Tech
Syracuse returns home for a two-game home stand against Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Orange hosts Clemson in their conference home opener on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 8pm. The Tigers are 10-4 on the season, 0-1 in the ACC, and are coming off an 87-68 loss to Duke on the road. Clemson is led by Marcquise Reed who is averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Last season, Syracuse topped the Tigers 55-52 in the Carrier Dome. This will be the first of two meetings between the two schools this year.
The Orange will return to the Dome to take on Georgia Tech on Saturday evening. Tip-off is set for 6pm. Syracuse will look to avenge last year’s 55-51 loss to the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. Georgia Tech is 9-5 overall, 1-0 in conference, and is coming off a 92-79 win over Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets will host #9 Virginia Tech on Wednesday before traveling north to battle the Orange. Georgia Tech is led by Jose Alvarado who is averaging 13.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per contest.
The ACC should be one of the most exciting conferences in college basketball this season. How will it all shake out?
As the calendar turns to October, postseason baseball is in full force, but the college basketball season will soon be upon us, as many teams are opening their campaigns with practices and Midnight Madness events. The summer without college basketball is always long and grueling, but the season is right around the corner.
First, I would like to dive into what looks to be the best conference in basketball once again, the ACC. Here are my projections for the 2018-19 season.
1.)Duke Blue Devils
Duke will likely be atop the ACC again this year. Coach K brings in the top recruiting class in the country with the like of RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson, and Tre Jones making their way to Durham. The question mark for the Blue Devils is whether they will be able to generate any production from returners Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. If this team can gel, it will be talented enough to win the ACC.
Virginia returns three key pieces from last year’s team that finished 31-3. It will be interesting how this team will rebound from being the first one seed to ever lose to a sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers led by Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will look to get back on the right track in 2018-19. Virginia’s X-factor is sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter who could be in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, and the NBA Draft Lottery.
3.)North Carolina Tar Heels
Although overshadowed by Duke’s recruiting class only eight miles down Tobacco Road, North Carolina may have the 2019 NBA Draft number one overall pick in Chapel Hill this season. Nassir Little is the reigning MVP of the McDonald’s All-America game and he along with the rest of the Tar Heels, most notably Luke Maye, will look to be contenders in the ACC.
4.)Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies have an experienced senior class returning to Blacksburg this season that is one of the most successful in school history. Buzz Williams and company will look to make a run toward the top of the ACC and into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite having NCAA Tournament success in 2016 and 2018, the Orange have struggled to finish near the top of the ACC since their inaugural season in the league (2013-14). Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim, returns all five starters, including Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Paschal Chukwu, from a team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. Syracuse should be a contender for the ACC title this season and stay well away from the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble.
6.)Florida State Seminoles
After a surprising trip to the Elite Eight last year, Leonard Hamilton’s team will look to be a force in the ACC this year and get back to the “Big Dance.” The Seminoles have an experienced group that will only get better. Look for sophomore MJ Walker to have a break-out year as he fills in for Brain Angola who graduated in 2018.
In a year where Brad Brownell was on the hot seat, Clemson had one of its best years in program history and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997. Marcquise Reed is one of the best players in the ACC and will look to build on his Second Team All-ACC campaign from a year ago. The Tigers should be an elite defensive team, but if they fail to make the NCAA Tournament, it will be because of their offense.
Amid the turmoil surrounding the program left by Rick Pitino, the Cardinals found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble last season. Interim head coach David Padgett was replaced by Chris Mack, who arrived in Louisville after leading Xavier to a Big East regular season crown and a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. VJ King and Malik Williams came to Louisville as possible NBA prospects, but failed to generate much hype under Padgett. King, Williams, and a myriad of graduate transfers under the guidance of Mack will look to make a run back to the NCAA Tournament.
9.)North Carolina State Wolfpack
Kevin Keatts led the Wolfpack to the “Big Dance” in his first year in Raleigh after taking over for Mark Gottfried. This year, North Carolina State will have nine newcomers on its roster, most notably CJ Bryce, who followed Keatts from UNC-Wilmington to NC State.
10.)Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame found itself the first team left out of the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday last season. The Fighting Irish will look a lot different than they have in the past as they lost Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell to graduation. TJ Gibbs Jr. and Rex Pflueger will need to step up and take leadership if Notre Dame has any chance of making an impact in the ACC and getting back on the right side of the bubble.
The Miami Hurricanes lost to Cinderella story Loyola-Chicago in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Following that defeat, the Hurricanes lost Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown to the NBA Draft. Miami returns a core of players from last year’s squad that finished 22-10, but lack the talent that they had in Walker IV and Brown. Chris Lykes and Dewan Huell will need to step up in their absence.
12.)Boston College Eagles
Had Jerome Robinson returned to Chestnut Hill for his senior season, Boston College would have been a lot higher in the ACC Preseason standings. The reality is that the Eagles will need to replace one of the most prolific scorers in the conference’s recent memory. With Robinson gone, Ky Bowman is the lead man for Boston College for the first time in his career. He has been a consistent scorer throughout the first two years of his career, but will need to make a big jump to lead the Eagles in the post-Jerome Robinson era if they hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
13.)Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Danny Manning is squarely on the hot seat after another disappointing season for the Demon Deacons a year ago. A tumultuous offseason saw Manning lose Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore to the NBA Draft, however, both of which went undrafted. Later in the summer, a member of Manning’s staff, Jamill Jones, was charged with third-degree assault for punching a 35-year-old man from Florida in the face in New York City. The man later died due to his injuries. Additionally, Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State. The Demon Deacons are young and inexperienced. Aside from Chris Paul’s $2.5 million donation to the program, the future does not look bright for Wake Forest.
14.)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech will be in the basement of the ACC yet again. After the Yellow Jackets went 13-19 a year ago, their best player, Josh Okogie, to the NBA Draft and Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers to graduation. Jose Alvarado will look to build on an impressive freshman season in hopes of keeping Josh Pastner’s squad relevant in the ACC.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are in rebuilding mode after Kevin Stallings brought the program crashing down in only two seasons at the helm. The Panthers were the laughing stock of the ACC, and maybe even college basketball for that matter, a season ago as they failed to win a single conference game. Pitt went out and hired Coach K’s lead assistant Jeff Capel with hopes that his prowess on the recruiting trail could lead the program back to what it was under Jamie Dixon. For now, he is still left with the shambles that remain from the Stallings area. The good news for Pitt is that Jared Wilson-Frame and the rest of the Panthers have nowhere else to go, but up.
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
The Road Begins Now
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.