Friday Five - First edition

Halftime Snack is transitioning from the weekly Football Friday posts, covering Syracuse and college football nationwide, to the new “Friday Five” with analysis and insight on the Orange, the Big East and the rest of college basketball.

To get ready for the basketball weekend, readers can find Halftime Snack’s five “starters,” picked just like any college coach in the country: “1” is the point guard, “2” the shooting guard, “3” the guard/forward hybrid, “4” is usually a forward, traditionally with power but in the modern game, with more dribble.  The “5” is the big man, the center, the protector of the paint, King of the Nylon, be big, be a brute, keep ‘em out!

Just like Football Friday, Halftime Snack will include quotes from around college basketball, predictions for the Orange games, and predictions for Big East games, as well as a “Stat Nerd” note, appeasing the statistician in all of us.

The inaugural “five”:

1 - The point guard position is the weakness in an otherwise daunting Orange offensive attack. This is not an attack on either Brandon Triche or Scoop Jardine; both have qualities that make it hard to defend the Orange. But by using the two-headed approach, SU head coach Jim Boeheim is promoting indecision and doubt (is one mistake going to get the player on the floor pulled?).  The change-of-pace works, but Boeheim has it backwards. Jardine is one of the best dribblers in the Big East, has better vision, and honed his finishing skills in the tough Philadelphia Catholic League. The up-and-down play of the freshman Triche (one good play for every two turnovers) is bound to put the Orange in bind one game.

2 - Is there a better player in the last five minutes than Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds? Made famous by his dash in Boston last March that sent the Wildcats to the East regional championship and Final Four berth, Reynolds was at it again at Lousiville on Monday. The senior single-handily turned around a 17-point deficit, scoring 30 second-half points to lead ‘Nova to a 92-84 Big East win. Did you ever notice how Reynolds balances on his tiptoes like a ballet dancer? Makes it easy to up-fake defenders and get to the free throw line.

3 - A combo position, how about a combo program? The Orange men and women’s basketball teams are a combined 31-2 in 2009-2010, with each team having a Big East loss in the Dome. Guess the new Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center was a good investment!

4 - The hottest name in college basketball wears this number for the Orange and when Wesley Johnson plays the power forward position, SU is at its best. Boeheim is still stubborn in starting the slower, bigger lineup with both Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson on the floor at the same time. Once one of the big boys heads to the bench and Kris Joseph comes in, the Orange speed up the game on defense, which leads to fast-breaks, dunks and easy baskets on offense. Plus, the opposite power forward has little chance of containing Johnson, a future “3” in the NBA.

5 - The center of everyone’s attention in college basketball should be Mississippi State center Jarvis Varnado, who posted a triple-double (17 points, 12 rebounds, 10 blocks) in the Bulldogs’ 82-80 win over Arkansas last night. Varnado now has 484 career blocks, surpassing Tim Duncan of Wake Forest for third all-time in NCAA history. He is now 52 rejections shy of the record (535 held by former Louisiana-Monroe player Wojciech Mydra). Read the story Andy Katz from did on Varnado staying for his senior year.

Big East weekend predictions:

Orange: West Virginia 81, Syracuse 71 – Any team that shoots the three-pointer from all five positions is going to give the Orange trouble. The Mountaineers sputtered in two road games in Indiana (77-62 loss at Purdue, 70-68 defeat at Notre Dame), but will enjoy the yellow sea of fans in Morgantown. The Orange will post a 2-1 record on three-game road trip by out-scoring Notre Dame on Monday (88-81), despite the shooting performance by Luke Harangody.

Other Big East games:

Louisville 71, Pitt 69
Cincinnati 77, Notre Dame 74
USF 73, Rutgers 65
Villanova 74, Georgetown 69 (courtside seats at the Wachovia Center are going for $450, face-value)
St. John’s 72, DePaul 59
Marquette 75, Providence 68

National scene: North Carolina 85, Georgia Tech 81 – A battle of who’s taller in the ACC. Carolina needs a win after getting waxed by 19 points at Clemson on Wednesday.

Record last week: 0-0
Cumulative record: 0-0

Stat Nerd

Take a look at the line Jarvis Varnado posted against Arkansas on Jan. 14: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 10 blocks and 1 foul. Arkansas did all it could to get Varnado in foul trouble, continually driving at the Mississippi State center. A little Bill Russell, but more like Alonzo Mourning, we say.

They Said It:

“Both teams can open a bakery, with all these turnovers.” Steve Lavin, ESPN commentator and former UCLA coach at the Indiana/Michigan game Thursday night.

Move over Vitale

Your basketball prowess is impressive, Mr. Leach. You know your teams, stats and history. I really liked this little tidbit, "Did you ever notice how Reynolds balances on his tiptoes like a ballet dancer?"
Keep up the great work.

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