Syracuse Tyler Ennis

Conference Catchups: The ACC’s power lies in … Upstate New York?

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College basketball is now almost two months old. League play will be kicking off in the next week. Let’s get you caught up on all you need to know with some of the country’s best conferences. 

To read through the rest of our Conference Catchups, click here.

Midseason Player of the Year: Jabari Parker, Duke

At this point in the year, Parker is our National Player of the Year. So it only makes sense to name him the ACC Player of the Year, right? Parker is averaging impressive numbers — 22.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg — and doing so for a top ten team, but he also is simply the best, most versatile player in the country. Right now, that goes a long way.

All-ACC First Team:

  • Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina
  • Rodney Hood, Duke
  • Jabari Parker, Duke
  • T.J. Warren, N.C. State

Midseason Coach of the Year: Roy Williams, North Carolina

I don’t care who they’ve lost to, so you can take that argument and head right out the door with it. North Carolina, and Williams in particular, has been through one of the most tumultuous periods of time for a program, and a coach, in recent memory. Read through this story by Jason King and tell me it doesn’t sound like the stress that’s been weighing on Williams has knocked five years off of his life. P.J. Hairston’s career at UNC is over, but Williams has somehow managed to guide this group — who, on paper, look like an NIT team — to wins over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky.

Favorite: Syracuse Orange

source: Getty ImagesIf it wasn’t for Jabari Parker’s sensational season, I think that Tyler Ennis would be the ACC Player of the Year through the season’s first two months. He’s just such a perfect fit at the point for what Syracuse needs. He controls the game, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he can score when he needs to but he’s content to just set the table for his teammates. Those teammates — C.J. Fair, Trevor Cooney, Jerami Grant — happen to be pretty good.

And three more contenders:

  • Duke is a national title contender if these defensive improvements of the last month hold through league play.
  • I don’t get it, and I’m not sure that I can tell you exactly why, but North Carolina can win this conference. They also could probably finish in eighth. I don’t think I’d bat an eye either way, which kind of makes them more fun to follow.
  • I know Pitt lost to Cincinnati. I know that might be the best team that they’ve played this season. I don’t care. The Panthers are good.

Most Surprising Team: Florida State Seminoles

Leonard Hamilton’s club has put together a pretty impressive non-conference resume, knocking off Atlantic 10 powers VCU and UMass without suffering a resume-killing loss. I don’t know how many people had Florida State being a potential tournament team back in October, but that’s precisely what they are.

Most Disappointing Team: Boston College Eagles

I’m going with B.C. over Maryland because at least with the Terps, I can tell myself that they’ll get better when Seth Allen gets back. Steve Donahue has himself one of the best 1-2 punches in the country with Olivier Hanlon and Ryan Anderson, but a lack of toughness and an inability to play any kind of defense has put B.C. in a position where making the NIT this year will end up being an accomplishment.

Most Important Player (in league play): Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke

The Blue Devils don’t need Sulaimon in order to be a good basketball team. The trio of Andre Dawkins, Matt Jones and Tyler Thornton can do some things. But Sulaimon is the most talented off-guard on their roster, a guy that can hit threes, drive through a defense and defend on the perimeter. Duke is a national title contender if Sulaimon works his way all the way out of the doghouse.

Who will slide?: N.C. State Wolfpack

I love what T.J. Warren is doing this season, and believe me, seeing the Wolfpack head into the holiday break with a 9-2 record is not something I’m taking lightly. Tennessee isn’t all that good this season, but going into Knoxville and pounding them is not an easy thing to do. But I’m still not convinced that this group is going to be able to make this last all season. They get Missouri at home on Saturday. Beat the Tigers and we’ll talk.

Who is the sleeper?: Virginia Cavaliers

They were a top 25 preseason team that a lot of people have forgotten about thanks to losses against Wisconsin, VCU and at Green Bay. But there’s a reason this group was a preseason top 25 team. They defend, they can control tempo and they have quite a bit of talent on their roster. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are too good not to be able to figure out their issues.

New Power Rankings:

1. Syracuse
2. Duke
3. North Carolina
4. Pitt
5. Florida State
6. Virginia
7. N.C. State
8. Notre Dame
9. Maryland
10. Georgia Tech
11. Clemson
12. Wake Forest
13. Miami
14. Boston College
15. Virginia Tech

Before he won an Academy Award, Mahershala Ali played at Saint Mary’s

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Actor Mahershala Ali accepts Best Supporting Actor for 'Moonlight' onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Mahershala Ali won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film ‘Moonlight’ on Sunday night.

How does that tie into college basketball?

It’s simple: Ali played college basketball for four years at Saint Mary’s, from 1992-1996.

Now, this was before Saint Mary’s turned into the Saint Mary’s that Randy Bennett has built. At the time, Ernie Kent was the program’s head coach, and the teams that Ali — whose used his given last name of Gilmore at the time, although he was already using the shortened version of his first name, Mahershalalhashbaz — played on weren’t really all that good. They finished under .500 in the WCC three of the four season, finding a way to finish in a tie for second place in his junior year.

As a senior, Ali averaged 7.0 points for the Gaels.

This would probably make Ali the most famous player that Kent has ever coached. He’s more famous than Aaron Brooks, who had about two good NBA seasons, and he’s definitely more famous than Luke Ridnour, who is best known either for getting traded four times in a week or being name-dropped in a song by the rapper Wale, who bragged about being able to turn ‘Ducks into Bucks [like] Luke Ridnour.’

 

VIDEO: Tom Izzo’s touching senior day tribute to Eron Harris

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Eron Harris #14 of the Michigan State Spartans kisses the midcourt logo on senior day during the second half of the college basketball game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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Eron Harris suffered a career-ending knee injury in a game at Purdue earlier this month, meaning that he would not be able to take the floor for his Senior Day.

Tom Izzo made sure to rectify that, as he called a timeout with just 12 seconds left in Michigan State’s win over No. 16 Wisconsin on Sunday, giving Harris a chance to go out to the center of the court, get a standing ovation and give the Spartan logo a smooch.

He was also greeted by the Wisconsin team. All around great moment:

Nick Ward-led Michigan State beats No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Nick Ward had 22 points and nine rebounds, Miles Bridges had 17 points and Matt McQuaid added a season-high 15 to help Michigan State beat No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74 on Sunday.

The Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) have won six of their last eight games, moving them into a third-place tie in the conference and perhaps sealing their spot in a 20th straight NCAA Tournament.

The Badgers (22-7, 11-5) have lost four of five and lost a chance to pull into a first-place tie with No. 14 Purdue.

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored 22 points, Bronson Koenig had 17 and Zak Showalter added 15. Ethan Happ fouled out with eight points, more than six points below his average for the Badgers.

Michigan State went on an 11-1 run midway through the second half, building a 12-point lead that it was able to maintain unlike a big lead in the first half.

In the first half, the Spartans led 36-23 only to allow the Badgers to come back with a 15-4 run to pull within a point at halftime.

Michigan State’s Cassius Winston had 10 points and eight assists and Joshua Langford had nine points.

In the last game of the season at Breslin Center, senior guard Eron Harris checked in late in the game a little more than a week after he had a season-ending knee injury. Harris, with a brace on his right knee, went to center court and kissed the Spartan logo to follow a senior tradition Shawn Respert started in 1995.

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: The Badgers have been shooting poorly and it is catching up with them. They were held to 43.1 percent shooting against Michigan State, a ninth straight game of connecting on 44 percent or fewer of their shots. They made 13 of 25 free throws at Michigan State after shooting 67 and 57 percent from the line the previous two games.

Michigan State: The Spartans are surging at the right time and are gaining confidence perhaps allowing them to position themselves for better seeding at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

POLL IMPLICATONS

With Wisconsin’s losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, the Badgers will likely plummet from No. 16 in The Associated Press poll on Monday.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: The Badgers end the regular season at home, hosting Iowa on Thursday night and Minnesota on Sunday.

Michigan State: The Spartans close on the road, playing Illinois on Wednesday night and No. 24 Maryland on Saturday.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Update: Creighton’s Watson turns himself into police

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Update: Later Sunday, Watson turned himself into the Douglas County Jail, a law enforcement official told the Omaha World-Herald. Watson’s attorney told the paper that Watson was driving back to Omaha from his native Philadelphia and was slowed by the snowstorm that hit parts of the country this week.

Law enforcement has been unable to arrest Creighton guard Maurice Watson since a warrant for his arrest on the charge first-degree sexual assault was issued last week, according to police.

“The U.S. Marshals Service and the Omaha Police Fugitive Unit continue to look for Mr. Watson,” Omaha Police said in a statement Sunday. “At this point in time, Mr. Watson is dodging law enforcement efforts to arrest him.

“Until he is located and arrested by law enforcement, or turns himself in, the entire Douglas County Court system is operating off of Mr. Watson’s time frame.

“Neither OPD nor the Douglas County Attorney’s Office is part of any specific arrangements for Mr. Watson to turn himself in.”

Watson was accused by a 19-year-old acquaintance, who reportedly is also a Creighton student, of sexual assault in the bathroom of an Omaha residence around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4. A report was filed later that day.

The point guard was in the midst of a banner season for the Bluejays before he tore his ACL in January, which ended his collegiate career. Creighton announced on Feb. 13 he was suspended from the team and not allowed to participate in senior night act due to  “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday.

 

Seventh-ranked Louisville dominates Syracuse

Rick Pitino
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The hint arrived early that Louisville might be no kind of matchup for Syracuse when the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. The Orange, though, appeared to steady and seemed intent on delivering an interesting Sunday afternoon and a maybe another resume-changing win after beating Duke earlier in the week as the roared back to take a lead.

Everyone should have taken the early hint.

Louisville used a 21-4 first-half run to gain separation and never looked back as the Cardinals dominated Syracuse, 88-68, on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.

The win was the fourth in five games for Louisville, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor and held the Orange to 35.7 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell was sensational, going for 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. It was his third-straight game with at least 20 points.  He also had an absolutely dynamic one-handed alley-oop late that was just fantastic.

The Cardinals showed no ill effects of a hangover stemming from the loss earlier this week at North Carolina, but instead it was as dominant a performance as they’ve had in weeks.

On the losing side of the ledger are the Orange, who looked to be building some momentum after a three-game losing streak by beating Duke on Wednesday. Then, the Blue Devils went and lost to Miami and Syracuse just got smashed by another ACC contender. That doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

For Syracuse, it looks destined to spend another Selection Sunday sweating, though there’s certainly enough time for it to go either way. The Orange can really only hurt themselves until the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech heading to the Carrier Dome this week. That’s a game Syracuse will need to win, lest they really want the pressure ratcheted up in Brooklyn.

A big part of the issue for Syracuse pinning its hopes on the ACC tournament is its total lack of depth. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White both went at least 40 minutes for the 11- and 10-straight games, respectively. Syracuse played seven and got 28 minutes total from its bench.

With a few days typically between days, that’s pretty sustainable for the regular season, but those minutes are sure to weigh on players going on back-to-back (and maybe longer) days.