Friday Five - Sixth Edition

This is the sixth installment of “Friday Five,” a weekly column with analysis and insight on the Orange, the Big East and the rest of college basketball. Stand up fans, the next month are what make college basketball so special.

What goes up, must come down, right? The warm weather and hot basketball teams pushed the winter doldrums back a few months, raising Syracuse’s spirits. But now the snow is falling every day and night, and the hoopsters are walking a chilly line as tournament berths and seedings are decided. Who falls, who rises?

The starting five:

1 -             It’s fashionable to bash the Connecticut Huskies this year, a team that lost its leading scorer (point guard A.J. Price), its muscle (four-year starting forward Jeff Adrien) and a 7-foot, three-inch tree (Hasheem Thabeet). New point Kemba Walker has finally taken ownership of this floundering group, averaging 21.5 points with 4.5 assists and 3.0 steals in two games against Syracuse and Villanova, two of the top teams in the country.

2 -            It’s not safe to run with the bulls, is what I heard. So what if the best player in the Big East is a member of South Florida’s squad? Bulls' guard  Dominique Jones is suddenly unstoppable for USF, since scoring 46 points in an overtime win at Providence, Jones averaged 27.4 points in seven games, burning a path to the free throw stripe (65-for-85, 78 percent). But is he the new Jeremy Hazell? Lots of shots to get the point: not really: Jones is hitting at 46 percent clip from the floor and the Bulls have rattled off wins over Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Seton Hall and Cincinnati.

3 -            There are three simple reasons that SU coach Jim Boeheim struggles to beat his former assistant coach Rick Pitino (Pitino won five in a row), who is one spin up the color wheel as the head coach at Louisville Cardinals. One: Pitino’s charges press the entire game, wearing on the physical condition of the opponent; two: Pitino changed college basketball by putting the offensive focus on the shot with an extra point, a definite zone buster; and three, aggressive post defense with fronting and concentrated off-side help.

4 -             Break it down, Wes: The season has it’s parts: the Smile in the City of Lights, the Fall Awaking All Your Frights, and the Swollen Hand of Bad Shooting Nights. Wes played the hero role last Thursday, making a pair of big free throws against Connecticut.

5-             Halftime Snack has searched for a pivot push-off all season, finally finding one in the Mississippi State/Kentucky game on Tuesday night. The matchup between senior swatmaster, James Varnado from MSU, against the freshman phoner, DeMarcus Cousins. Youth won out as Cousins did his Wilt Chamberlain-impersonation, grabbing an offensive rebound at one point and bouncing up to slam the ball on the Bulldogs. Halftime Snack was disappointed in Varnado, a talented shot blocker. The Bulldog bigman kept reaching and broke the vertical plane (defender must stand straight up to avoid fouling), basic principles in the art of shot blocking. Ensuing foul trouble kept Varnado on the bench as Cousins (19 points) and the Wildcats stole the win in overtime, 81-75, in a game Miss. State should have won. Varnado needed to be on the floor, especially with the Bulldogs missing leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was serving a suspension.

Big East weekend predictions:

Orange: Syracuse has just a trip to Rhode Island on Tuesday on the slate over the next week, giving the team time to heal up some bruises before the big Nova game. Oh, trap. Is this Providence team trap-worthy? At this point, every team the Orange plays is in the game at some point, but don’t look for the upset. Syracuse 78, Providence 68.

Other Big East games:

USF 80, St. John's 77
West Virginia 74, Seton Hall 70
Louisville 76, DePaul 62
Rutgers 78, Connecticut 77
Villanova 73, Pittsburgh 72
Marquette 70, Cincinnati 67

National Scene: Ohio State at Michigan State is the cherry on top of this latest string of tasty Big Ten games (Purdue at OSU, Wisconsin at Minnesota). The Spartans are a half-game ahead of the Boilermakers, and a full game ahead of the Buckeyes, in the conference regular season standings with a home win going a long way toward getting the top seed in the postseason tournament. The Spartans sputtered when Kailin Lucas went down with an injury, but road wins at Penn State and Indiana can be glorified scrimmages at this stage. Regardless, let’s pick the road team with superstar Evan Turner: Ohio State 77, MSU 71

Record last week: 4-4
Overall: 29-17

Statnerd stat of the week – Free throw shooting can win games. Look at the team ranked 255th out of 334 Division I schools (a certain tangerine-tinted team), shooting 27-for-30 (90 percent) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night. Hitting at 65.8 percent entering the game, the Orange kept A.O. off the charity stripe and converted the freebies. Conversely, Georgetown (ranked 122nd with a 70.4 percentage) missed eight free throws, including four big ones down the stretch.

They said It:Is this the Kentucky North, what is this?” UL head coach Rick Pitino trying to calm Orange Nation after SU fell to the Cardinals on Feb. 14. “The University of Louisville is not chopped liver, (SU) fans should not roll in the snow and get really cold.”

"Let’s just tape a sign to the door that says its ‘Opposite Day.’" Michael Scott, manager-turned-salesman-turned-manager, on NBC’s The Office.

He’s the key to our whole team,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim talking about senior guard Andy Rautins following the Georgetown game.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.