Orange guard Carter-Williams soars through the lane as he shoots during action in their NCAA men's college basketball game against Pittsburgh Panthers in New York

Syracuse appears to have cured their offensive woes

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And we all thought that Syracuse was done.


For the second straight day, the Orange got into a rhythm offensively, opening up a 40-27 lead at the half and hanging on down the stretch to win, 62-59, as Pitt made their run. It sets up a dream-come-true semifinal, where the Orange will be taking on Georgetown in the final Big East tournament for the right play for the title.

It’s almost too perfect, but that’s another post for another day.

What’s more important, for now, is that Syracuse finally looks like the team that climbed their way into the top five earlier this season. The team that went into Louisville and knocked off the Cardinals back in January. The team that, before the meltdown over the last month and a half, were thought to be a real national title contender.

Whether or not that last statement is actually true remains to be seen, but what we’ve seen over the last two days is that Syracuse has managed to fight their way through their recent offensive struggles. James Southerland has now scored 20 points in each of the first two games, hitting 66.7% from the floor and an incredible 80% (12-15) from three. The Orange committed just 17 turnovers through 80 minutes and, as a team, Syracuse is shooting 61.8% (21-34) from three through the two games.

Their problems aren’t completely solved, however.

Michael Carter-Williams still committed six turnovers against Pitt. The Orange still managed just 22 points in the second half and nearly blew their big lead on Thursday night. Seton Hall jumped out to a 28-19 lead on Wednesday night before Syracuse finally figured things out.

But those things happen when teams are playing with their season on the line. That’s basketball in March. And while the Orange were, at one point, thought to be one of the best teams in the country, they were never once considered unbeatable. No one is, especially this season.

The important takeaway is that Syracuse made enough plays to win. That hasn’t been the case in a long time.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

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Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

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A Wichita State spokesman told that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.