Jim Boeheim

Syracuse has little use for all ten practices ahead of Canada trip

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College basketball programs making a summer trip out of the country are afforded the opportunity to hold ten practices before leaving campus. With three key contributors, including their starting backcourt, gone from last year’s Final Four team one would assume that Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim would want to use all ten practices.

That assumption would be incorrect however, as Boeheim elected to hold six practices before his team leaves for Canada on Monday.

Boeheim, though, has good reason to put more value on the Orange’s exhibition games than the practices. Syracuse is coming off a Final Four run, but the Orange has to replace its starting backcourt of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. Boeheim wants to see his young and inexperienced guards, namely freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and sophomore shooting guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, get some game action.

“I think these games are more important than practice,” Boeheim said. “We’re going to have a lot of practices once we get started (in the fall). I think the games are a good indication for us, especially since we’re playing good teams. If we played all bad teams, it wouldn’t help. With playing good teams, they’ll be able to learn more from the games.”

Boeheim makes a good point about the quality of competition Syracuse will face in Montreal and Ottawa, and that’s an aspect of offseason trips that tend to get overlooked. If a program excels against weak competition, while that may boost optimism within the fan base how much does that truly benefit the team in its preparations for the upcoming season?

It’s better to take on quality competition in these games, even if the end result is a record that doesn’t look as impressive as fans would hope to see. August isn’t the “endgame” but rather the beginning, with the purpose of these exhibitions being to properly prepare a team to have a successful regular season.

Had the Orange scheduled games against weak competition, it’s likely that they would have felt the need to use all ten practices. But as Mike Waters of the Post-Standard alluded to in the story linked above, ultimately we’re talking about practice.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: