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Posts Tagged ‘Syracuse Orange’

College football bowl season is nearly upon us.  It’s always a fun time and there are a number of matchups I’m excited to see.  Here are my top five:

5.  New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Kansas State vs. Syracuse
December 30

Okay, okay, so I’m a little biased here.  Sure the football may be near unwatchable but the Orange are back in a bowl!  Kudos to Coach Marrone for the job he’s done in turning around the program.  I look forward to watching the future progress.

4.  Capital One Bowl – Alabama vs. Michigan St.
January 1

It’s hard to believe that the Crimson Tide lost three games this season.  I expected their running game to dominate everybody but it certainly did not.  The Spartans are a great surprise story who really rallied around their coach.

3.  Allstate Sugar Bowl – Ohio St. vs. Arkansas
January 4

Two of the best college quarterbacks face off in this one with Terrelle Pryor leading the Buckeyes against Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks.

2.  Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs. TCU
January 1

TCU takes the Pac-10’s spot in the granddaddy of them all.  This will be the Horned Frogs chance to prove they belong in the discussion about the best teams in college football.  It certainly won’t be easy.  Wisconsin has destroyed their opponents in the last month of the season.

University of Phoenix Stadium

The biggest game of the college football season will take place here at University of Phoenix Stadium

1.  National Championship Game – Oregon vs. Auburn
January 10

This should be a very exciting, fast-paced game.  Soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton looks to continue his dream season against the Ducks.  Oregon is first in scoring and Auburn is sixth – I hope the scoreboard operator is ready.

What bowl games are you most looking forward to?  Post a comment below and let’s discuss.

Photo source: purpcheese

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I believe an NCAA mega conference expansion is inevitable.  I’ve also written that when everything shakes out I’d prefer that Syracuse become a member of the ACC.  I’ve been thinking through what I think will actually happen and now have predictions for the full mega conference expansion.  Because I think it is going to happen in phases, I am going to post it in phases.  I believe phase one will be the initial Big Ten expansion. 

As others have written, the Big Ten expansion is mostly about television markets.  Because of the Big Ten Network, universities that are featured in major televison markets stand to bring in a substantial amount of revenue for the existing programs in the conference.  The Big Ten can add a program that on its face doesn’t seem to bring a lot from a competitive standpoint, but because of the market that university operates in, can still bring in enough revenue to supplement the current annual Big Ten pay out per school of $20-22 million through new advertising and subscriptions.

The ultimate prize in the conference expansion is Notre Dame.  The huge NBC television contract and national popularity would greatly enhance revenue for any conference Notre Dame would join.  That impact would be even more substantial if the Big Ten can secure the Irish because of the Big Ten Network.  While I think Notre Dame will still resist this initial Big Ten expansion, I don’t think they’ll be able to stay away for long.  Their athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, has expressed the school’s desire to remain an independent.  However, he said in March, “You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand. It’s not hard to do.”  Swarbrick also said, “The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame.”

To me that means that if major programs start leaving the Big East, Notre Dame will likely be forced to follow suit.  So what does the Big Ten do to force Notre Dame’s hand?

I think the Big Ten will not jump directly to 16, although they would if Notre Dame was ready to join the conference.  I think the Big Ten will likely expand to 14 programs and invite three Big East schools – Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.  The Big Ten will add these three schools because:

  1. Each matches the academic profile of the conference.  Academic fit is extremely important to the Big Ten.
  2. They open up bigger television markets (New York, New Jersey and Pittsburgh).
  3. Their exit from the Big East will essentially cripple the conference and force each current member, especially Notre Dame, to make major decisions.

So what happens next?  Which conference will make the next move?  Look for my next post in a couple of days.

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It is now inevitable that there will be a major football-based expansion of the current power broker conferences in the NCAA, likely leading to four mega conferences.  I’ve been saying this was a natural progression since the recent ACC expansion and referenced a “massive” expansion in my post about Rutgers leaving the Big East for the Big Ten.

The Big Ten seems to be ready to make the first move, but I agree with Michael Felder at In The Bleachers who says that the ACC, SEC and Pac 10 would be wise to make their moves first.  The Big East and Big 12 should be trying to sure up their conferences by considering creative expansion as well.  The Big East has tried to take a step in that direction by hiring Paul Tagliabue.  I don’t think that is going to help.

So it appears that the conference alignment for my beloved Syracuse Orange is going to change dramatically.  If the Big Ten expands by more than one program the Orange will be heavily considered for an invitation.  Brian Bennett of ESPN’s Big East Football blog posted his Big East expansion worry-o-meter today.  He lists Syracuse as the third most likely school to get an invitation from the Big Ten behind Rutgers and Pittsburgh. 

There would certainly be positives in joining the Big Ten.  The league currently pays out $22 million to each of its members per year.  The Big Ten Network offers a lot of potential for additional revenue, especially if expansion hits major television markets.  The Big Ten should also provide an opportunity to re-ignite the football rivalry with Penn State and start new rivalries with other Midwest high profile programs.

If the Orange are not invited to join the Big Ten it is likely that they will be one of only a handful of football playing schools left in the Big East.  They should be a nice target for an ACC expansion.  Syracuse was initially invited to join the ACC in the first phase of the early 2000s expansion but was then uninvited.  Nice work John Swofford.  This time the invite would be for real. 

A major positive of joining the ACC would be the conference’s focus on basketball.  While this means there won’t be as much revenue in the mix, it does play to the strength of the sports programs at the school.  How electric would the Carrier Dome be for a late February match up against Duke or UNC?  Immediately Syracuse would take its deserved place among the blue bloods of the sport.  Another plus of ACC membership would be lacrosse.  The ACC would inarguably be the best lacrosse conference in the country.

So where would I like to see Syracuse end up?  It’s taken me a while to figure this out and that is why this post has been delayed.  I’d like to see them join the ACC.  It’s hard to pass up the money the Big Ten would bring but the ACC would be the more natural fit to me.  I like the conference’s emphasis on basketball and I think the football program would have a better chance for success.  I also think that it would be likely that UConn would be invited to join the ACC as well.  That would bring a good rival into the conference with the Orange.

On a personal note, joining the ACC would enable me to see the Orange much more often as living in Raleigh I could go to games at N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke.

So share with me Orange fans, what conference would you like to see Syracuse join?

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It’s always fun to look back on predictions and see how they compared to the final results…especially if you were not the one that made the predictions.  I did not put any preseason college basketball predictions in print so instead of looking back at my predictions I will look at the predictions of the Sports Illustrated team.  First, I’ll give credit where it’s due:

Hit the Bullseye

  1. Kansas – SI picked the Jayhawks at #1 and although they did not achieve their ultimate goal they did have a wonderful season that was worthy of the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
  2. Michigan St. – Chosen by SI at #2 the Spartans rallied from a challenging season to make the Final Four and had a solid chance to beat Butler.
  3. Kentucky – Maybe dead on, SI picked the Wildcats in the #5 slot. 
  4. Washington – While the Huskies did not have the best regular season, they made a nice mini-run to get to the Sweet Sixteen.  SI picked them at #9.

Hit Below the Bullseye

  1. Butler – SI wasn’t way off on this one – they picked Butler at #14.  Doubtful that anybody would have picked the Bulldogs at #2.  Although they should be picking them there for next season.
  2. Syracuse – The #1 seed and Big East regular season champions were picked at #35 by SI before the season.
  3. Kansas St. – Right below the Orange SI picked the Wildcats at #36.  Kansas St. played their way to a #2 seed in the big dance.
  4. Baylor – The Bears’ excellent season was a surprise to many, including the writers of SI who did not pick them to make the tournament in their college basketball preview.

Overthrew the Target

  1. Texas – Picked #4 by SI the Longhorns were never able to pull all their talent together in a way that resulted in a lot of wins.
  2. North Carolina – Many were surprised by the poor performance of the Tar Heels this season.  SI picked them at #7.
  3. Connecticut – The Huskies played like a group of individuals instead of a team throughout most of the season.  They did not live up to expectations, including those of SI who picked them at #10.
  4. Michigan – I personally expected a lot out of this team coming into the season and so did SI who picked them at #15. 

The team that most outperformed my expectations was Pittsburgh.  I did not expect anything from them but they really had an excellent season built on the foundation of high effort and defense that they’ve been exhibiting for quite some time.  Michigan is the program that most underachieved when compared to my expectations.  With the return of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims along with the three other starters from the previous season I thought the Wolverines would be really good – they certainly were not.

What teams surprised you most, both positively and negatively?

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So it’s been nearly 48 hours since the 2009-2010 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season ended.  I needed to give myself a cooling off period before writing my final words on the season.  Thursday night’s loss to Butler was incredibly frustrating…but before we go there, let’s give the boys their due. 

This season started with moderate hopes.  The Orange figured to be fighting for an NCAA tournament birth at the end of the season…an experience with which Syracuse University supporters are all to familiar.  But the season started and we quickly learned that this squad was much better than expected.  In sensational back-to-back evenings in mid-November the Orange dominated Cal and UNC to win the 2k Sports Classic.  We also discovered early that Wes Johnson was an incredible addition to the team.  The transfer’s athleticism, rebounding and shooting ability brought pure excitement.

Syracuse entered 2010 undefeated.  They would quickly lose though, during the second day of the new year at the Carrier Dome to Pittsburgh.  They would then regroup and win their next 11 games.  We watched Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson mature before our eyes.  All three became the players we could not have imagined they’d be.

This team was selfless and hard-working and having fun.  They ascended to a #1 ranking – the first time Syracuse had done so in 20 years.  What more could you ask for? 

Two late season losses and a first round exit (officially quarterfinals) from the Big East tournament cast doubt on this squad that had defied the odds.  As a result they were chosen as the fourth #1 seed in the NCAA tournament instead of the third #1 seed as expected.

But faith was restored on the first weekend of the Big Dance when the Orange safely eliminated Vermont in the first round and then blitzed Gonzaga in the second round even without the services of Arinze Onuaku.  The team we knew was back and so was Wes Johnson, apparently healed from the many injuries he had been battling.  He scored 31 points against the Bulldogs, pulled down 14 rebounds and dominated the beginning of the game.

Unfortunately it was not meant to be, as on Thursday night in Salt Lake City the Orange played their worst game of the year.  They looked like a bunch of nervous teenagers on the floor.  They threw the ball all over the place, they hurried shots and with the exception of a stretch in the second half they were not hustling on defense the way they had for most of the season.

Who’s to blame?  For me the answer is the coaching staff.  Here’s why:

1/ The players did not look ready to play in the first half.  It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to make sure that doesn’t happen.  All people are motivated by different things and the same is true for teams.  Whether it’s a “win one for the Gipper speech,” calm encouragement or individual pep talks, coaches need to know what their players respond to and certainly employ those tactics in the biggest games of the year.

2/ The players did not look prepared to play against Butler’s suffocating man-to-man defense.  They should have been completely prepped for that by the coaches.  There is no excuse for the players not being able to respond to Butler’s defense.  Syracuse plays in the Big East, they face teams that play that type of defense at least once a week if not twice a week during the regular season.

3/ The younger players do not receive enough in-game development.  Would it really hurt the team to go nine or ten deep and give some of the younger, depth players five minutes each a game?  With Arinze Onuaku going down this weakness was glaring.  DaShonte Riley was really not ready to play meaningful minutes.  He was just out there during the Gonzaga game and was pulled as soon as possible during the Butler game.  I love what Rick Jackson was able to do this year but let’s be honest, his play was awful against Butler.  He really hurt the team.  Kris Joseph was a ghost in that game.  In fact he wasn’t much better in the Gonzaga game.  He scored 11 points total in the last two games.  But was there really a single option to replace either of those guys?  No.  And why?  Because they were never developed.

Being that this is my last planned entry, I do want to thank the players that we will  no longer see wearing orange who made a sizable contribution while playing for Syracuse – Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson and Arinze Onuaku.  It was a pleasure to watch you gentlemen play.  And I also want to say that I am really looking forward to the offseason progress and watching the 2010-2011 team take the floor.

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So my NCAA Tournament bracket projections were not too stellar.  Two of my Final Four picks, Kansas and Villanova, let me down.  Plus I got a whole bunch of other games wrong.  Oh well, it’s time to move on…

On the eve of the Sweet Sixteen I’m taking a different approach to projecting the Final Four – I’m going to break it down by percentages.

West Region

Syracuse is definitely the favorite here.  I think Xavier and Kansas State are even at this point.  Xavier has been impressive in the tournament.

Syracuse 75%
Xavier 10%
Kansas State 10%
Butler 5%

East Region

I may be way off here but I think that Kentucky is going to struggle with Cornell.  The Big Red have been one of the most impressive teams in the NCAA Tournament so far.  With the loss of Truck Bryant West Virginia’s chances to advance have dropped greatly.

Kentucky 60%
Cornell 20%
West Virginia 10%
Washington 10%

Midwest Region

This region features the war of attrition.  Kansas is gone.  Georgetown is gone.  Kalin Lucas is gone.  The chips have fallen and Ohio State is left smiling.  I think the main reason Northern Iowa was able to beat Kansas is because of the two day turnaround after the first round.  They will not be able to sneak up on Michigan State.

Ohio State 65%
Tennessee 20%
Michigan State 10%
Northern Iowa 5%

South Region

This one is wide open.  Playing in Texas Baylor has a home-court advantage.  Duke seems to be hitting their stride when they need to be, although Jon Scheyer’s shooting issues are a concern.  Purdue has played much better than expected without Robbie Hummel and I think they have a good shot to beat Duke.  And, as Villanova learned, you can’t sleep on St. Mary’s.

Baylor 35%
Duke 35%
Purdue %20
St. Mary’s 10%

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As the year started to come to a close it seemed clear that there were three solid NCAA championship contenders – Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse.  That is still the case, but I think there are six other teams that are capable of winning the title – West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, Ohio St., Kansas St. and Duke.  After you get past those nine teams I think almost anything could happen in the tournament.

Here are my 2010 NCAA Tournament predictions:

Midwest

First Round
#1 Kansas v. #16 Lehigh
#8 UNLV v. #9 Northern Iowa
#5 Michigan St. v. #12 New Mexico St.
#4 Maryland v. #13 Houston
#6 Tennessee v. #11 San Diego St.
#3 Georgetown v. #14 Ohio
#7 Oklahoma St. v. #10 Georgia Tech
#2 Ohio St. v. #15 UC Santa Barbara

Second Round
#1 Kansas v. #9 Northern Iowa
#4 Maryland v. #5 Michigan St.
#3 Georgetown v. #6 Tennessee
#2 Ohio St. v. #10 Georgia Tech

Sweet 16
#1 Kansas v. #5 Michigan St.
#2 Ohio St. v. #3 Georgetown

Regional Final
#1 Kansas v. #3 Georgetown

West

First Round
#1 Syracuse v. #16 Vermont
#8 Gonzaga v. #9 Florida St.
#5 Butler v. #12 UTEP
#4 Vanderbilt v. #13 Murray St.
#6 Xavier v. #11 Minnesota
#3 Pittsburgh v. #14 Oakland
#7 BYU v. #10 Florida
#2 Kansas St. v. #15 North Texas

Second Round
#1 Syracuse v. #8 Gonzaga
#4 Vanderbilt v. #12 UTEP
#3 Pittsburgh v. #11 Minnesota
#2 Kansas St. v. #7 BYU

Sweet 16
#1 Syracuse v. #12 UTEP
#3 Pittsburgh v. #2 Kansas St.

Regional Final
#1 Syracuse v. #2 Kansas St.

East

First Round
#1 Kentucky v. #16 East Tennessee St.
#8 Texas v. #9 Wake Forest
#5 Temple v. #12 Cornell
#4 Wisconsin v. #13 Wofford
#6 Marquette v. #11 Washington
#3 New Mexico v. #14 Montana
#7 Clemson v. #10 Missouri
#2 West Virginia v. #15 Morgan St.

Second Round
#1 Kentucky v. #8 Texas
#4 Wisconsin v. #12 Cornell
#3 New Mexico v. #6 Marquette
#2 West Virginia v. #10 Missouri

Sweet 16
#1 Kentucky v. #4 Wisconsin
#2 West Virginia v. #6 Marquette

Regional Final
#1 Kentucky v. #2 West Virginia

South

First Round
#1 Duke v. Play-In Winner
#8 California v. #9 Louisville
#5 Texas A&M v. #12 Utah St.
#4 Purdue v. #13 Siena
#6 Notre Dame v. #11 Old Dominion
#3 Baylor v. #14 Sam Houston St.
#7 Richmond v. #10 Saint Mary’s
#2 Villanova v. #15 Robert Morris

Second Round
#1 Duke v. #9 Louisville
#5 Texas A&M v. #13 Siena
#3 Baylor v. #6 Notre Dame
#2 Villanova v. #7 Richmond

Sweet 16
#1 Duke v. #5 Texas A&M
#2 Villanova v. #3 Baylor

Regional Final
#2 Villanova v. #5 Texas A&M

Final Four

So that leaves three one seeds and a two seed in the Final Four.  Also, while I didn’t pick a lot of upsets along the way there were a lot of early games I could have gone either way with, and will not be surprised if they go in the opposite direction.

Kansas v. Syracuse
Kentucky v. Villanova

I think the Jayhawks will find a way to beat the Orange zone by moving guys in and out of the free throw line and block areas, and then finding the open man.  They also have the big bodies down low to challenge Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson and force the Orange to rely on the outside shot.  Kentucky has a lot of talent and certainly speed, but against Villanova I think their big guys, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, will make the difference.

National Championship Game

Kansas v. Kentucky

I think the Wildcats will score the mild upset victory in this great battle and be the ones cutting down the nets in Indianapolis.  I think Coach John Calipari will be very determined to beat Kansas and Coach Bill Self in this game after losing to them a couple of years ago.  I like Kentucky’s quickness, of course with John Wall, and their ability to match the Kansas frontline.

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