Syracuse v Louisville

Michael Carter-Williams giveth and taketh away

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Plenty of praise will be heaped on Syracuse’s non-traditional point guard Michael Carter-Williams after the way he played down the stretch against Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

In just his fourth true road game as a collegian (we’ll go ahead and discount his freshman season that consisted of garbage time), the 6-foot-6 MCW scored 11 of the last 13 points for the Orange in their 70-68 win over No. 1 Louisville at the Yum! Center. The only bucket he didn’t score came off of a dazzling assist from MCW to Jerami Grant. In the final minute, he had two steals, one of which led to the game-winning dunk at the other end of the floor and the other clinched the win for the Orange.

All in all, it was an incredible way to close out the game.

But it also ignores a bigger point: MCW played a major role in the fact that Syracuse had to dig themselves out of a hole.

In the first half, MCW had six turnovers, which doesn’t include the shot clock violation that came when he didn’t realize how much time was left on the clock. By the time that Gorgui Dieng tipped in a missed Russ Smith jumper with 16:25 left in the game, Louisville was up 48-40 despite Brandon Triche playing like a lottery pick. MCW was 1-5 from the floor with five points and seven turnovers. Even while he was in the midst of winning the game down the stretch for the Orange, MCW still managed to find a way to go 1-2 from the free throw line twice in the last minute.

The thing that is concerning about MCW is that this was not an atypical performance from him. Blessed with the kind of length and athleticism that makes NBA scouts drool and the passing ability to justify comparisons to Jason Kidd, MCW is on the radar of every team drafting in the lottery. But he still shoots far too often for a players that, frankly, cannot shoot, he has a tendency to dominate possession of the ball in the half court, and there are times where he seems more concerned with making the sensational happen instead of simply making the right play.

It reminds this scribe of Russ Smith from last season. You could see the ability, if not the decision-making, was there last season, and once Smith became slightly less “Russdiculous”, he morphed into a first-team all-american this season.

Despite displaying every single concerning aspect how his game on Saturday in Louisville, MCW still managed to put the team on his back down the stretch and, quite literally, steal a victory from the Cardinals.

It begs the question: how good can MCW be if he can follow the same path as Smith and eliminate those negative parts of his game?

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.