Montana v Syracuse

The key to Syracuse’s back court: a consistent jump shooter?

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Syracuse will likely enter the 2013-2014 season somewhere around the top 10 of most preseason polls, which is a fair assessment.

Losing Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland hurts, but there is talent coming back — CJ Fair, the uber-promising Jerami Grant, the reportedly-in-shape DaJuan Coleman — and even more joining the program — Tyler Ennis, BJ Johnson, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson, Michael Gbinje.

Ennis, quite obviously, is the key to the team, as he just so happens to be the only point guard on the roster. Taking over as the sole point guard on a team accustomed to the likes of MCW, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf is not going to be an easy thing to do for a freshman.

One of the things that will make his job easier?

Shooters surrounding him on the perimeter.

One of the things that Ennis does well is penetrate, collapse the defense and find an open man; that’s what he did when I watched him last summer, and that’s essentially what his entire ESPN scouting report says. He also went for 42 points against China in the U-19s, so, you know, he’s pretty good.

We all know that Syracuse has the long and lanky athletes around the basket — I didn’t even mention Rakeem Christmas or Baye Keita earlier, which should give you an idea of the number of front court players Jim Boeheim has at his disposal — but with Southerland gone, there is some question of where the perimeter shooting will come from. Fair shot 46.9% last season, but it was on a limited number of attempts. Grant shot 40%, but only took 15 threes.

Michael Gbinje, the former top 30 recruit and a transfer from Duke, should be able to help out in that area, but the key to this team could end up being Trevor Cooney, who might find himself playing the role that Andy Rautins once played for the Orange. Cooney entered college with the reputation of being a shooter, but struggled with his consistency as a freshman. He’s spent the summer working on that. From Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com:

No longer would the Syracuse University shooting guard busy himself with boosting his upper body. No longer would he worry that he had not accumulated the breadth of bulk necessary to compete at the highest levels of the college game.

Instead, Cooney would concentrate on conditioning his 6-foot-4, 195-pound body to withstand the rigors of tempo that he never fully anticipated. He dedicated the weeks and months after SU’s loss in the national semifinals to his legs.

[…]

All that legwork, Cooney believes, will translate into better shooting performances for his sophomore season.

“Being a good shooter is different for different people,” he said. “Like, I’m a legs guy. I step into my shot, use my legs, explode up. And if you’re going to be a good shooter that way, you have to be in good shape. Your legs have to be strong, you have to be able to run up and down the court. And I didn’t think I did a good enough job of that last year in being in great shape. I thought I did a better job this summer on it. And it’s helped me in these practices this far.”

If Cooney can find a way to be a consistent three-point threat this year, it will help create space for Ennis to penetrate.

That helps takes the pressure off of a freshman that will be starting at the point guard spot from day one.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.