Friday Five - Second edition

This is the second edition of “Friday Five,” a weekly column with analysis and insight on the Orange, the Big East and the rest of college basketball.

The local basketball team found stability amongst the instable, the smart kids are winning and Halftime Snack is back with more predictions.

The starting five:

1 -             The Syracuse point guard story wrote its most riveting chapter to date at West Virginia Saturday afternoon. The working title is: Brandon Youth, Selling the Sizzle.  Forceful freshman Brandon Triche scored 11 second-half points as the Orange withstood a 3-point barrage in a 72-71 win over the ninth-ranked Mountaineers. West Virginia stole the momentum at the start of the second half, but Triche stuck his nose in the middle of a 9-0 Orange run with five points. Then with 42 seconds remaining and ‘Cuse up eight points, he confidently sank two free throws with the taunts of West Virginia fans raining down.

2 -            Excitement is brewing around the prestigious Ivy League as two squads, Cornell (15-3) and Harvard (12-3), are off to strong starts after the non-conference slate. The Big Red are a hot Cinderella pick, having won at Alabama, scared Kansas and then beat a Big East team (St. John’s) for the first time in 40 years. Note: The Ivy Leagues has never received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. This could be the year—both teams are ranked in the top-60 of the latest RPI rankings.

3 -            Playing the swing position in the Big East is not just about scoring; you are asked every night to defend someone with just as much talent. Pitt freshman sensation Ashton Gibbs learned the hard way in a 74-66 loss to Georgetown on Wednesday: he was held to just eight points (he was averaging 17.5 entering the night), and got torched on defense by Hoya guard Chris Wright  who tallied a game-high 27 points.

4 -             Let’s just call this the “Wes“ side of town. The star tree in Syracuse’s orange grove, Wes Johnson was attacked on two sides in West Virginia, taking the icy punch of influenza on one side before getting shook down by the physical Mountaineer defenders. Wes fought off both attacks, scoring seven points in the final 1:25, and then two nights later, scored a team-high 22 points in 40 minutes at Notre Dame.  Any more questions about toughness on the Wes Side?

5-             Are there any true centers in the Big East? The answer is yes: G’twon sophomore Greg Monroe may initiate the Hoya offense from the top of the paint, but he does so with the traditional “back-to-the-basket” approach of his fellow Hoya pivots (Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Othella Harrington, Dikembe Mutombo). After bringing the opposing big man out from under the basket, Monroe deftly distributes the ball with hand-offs, backdoor bounce passes, or a crisp chestpass to a shooter on the opposite side.

Big East weekend predictions:

Orange: Syracuse 88, Marquette 73 – A full week off and its student section replenished, the Orange treat the Dome crowd to a dunk exhibition. Syracuse makes its case for a No. 1 ranking by squelching the Georgetown talk on Big Monday, 73-69. Physical play by the Left-Hook Brothers (SU’s Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson) powers Orange to victory.

Other Big East games:

Georgetown 74, Rutgers 59
Notre Dame 84, DePaul 64
Ohio State 75, West Virginia 72
Villanova 79, St. John's 61
UConn 79, Texas 77
Providence 72, USF 58
Louisville 69, Cincinnati 64
Pittsburgh 72, Seton Hall 66

National Scene: Duke 84, Clemson 74. Another ACC game? Yea, yea, we know. And picking the Dukies to win, to boot. Halftime Snack is trying to maintain its promise not to mention certain Newhouse grad students, but why wasn’t Jon Scheyer (18.9 points per game / 6.1 assists per game) the Duke point guard from the jump?  

Record last week: 6-3
Overall: 6-3

Stat Nerd Stat of the Week – The NCAA is in its second year with an extended 3-point line for the men (the arc was moved back a foot to 20’9”), but not much has changed in the Big East. The 16 teams averaged 6.67 made triples per game in 2007-08, and with this season halfway completed, that ratio has changed little (the teams are sinking an average of 6.55 treys).

They Said It: “There is another BOO. Basket Of Opportunity!” ESPN color analyst and Hall of Famer Bob Knight at the Texas/Kansas State game.

 ''We win games with defense, but we lost this game with defense,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon told the Associated Press following Wednesday's loss to Georgetown.

Outstanding coverage Kyle.

Outstanding coverage Kyle. Watching the game on TV was also a delight. Harry

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