Is it time to hit the panic button for Syracuse?

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Syracuse lost its second consecutive ACC game on Tuesday night as the Orange fell at home to Georgia Tech, 67-62, in a shocking home loss on Senior Night.

The Orange have now lost four of their last five games. The last two losses in particular, Syracuse was clearly outplayed by Virginia and Georgia Tech and the main problem lies with Syracuse’s lack of depth and lack of scoring balance.

Since the Orange lost DaJuan Coleman for the season, and with Jerami Grant battling a back injury, Syracuse is only playing seven players on a consistent basis and the drop-off between Grant and Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson — Grant’s backups — is significant on both ends of the floor.

Without Grant’s length, athleticism and ability to make plays above the rim, Syracuse is struggling on both ends of the floor. Gbinije isn’t nearly as active — or long and athletic — in the 2-3 zone and he isn’t nearly as good of an offensive player as Grant.

Georgia Tech was able to work the ball inside on numerous occasions against the Syracuse 2-3 zone and the Yellow Jackets used a high-low passing game that wouldn’t be nearly as easy with Grant’s length in the lineup.

Gbinije is shooting a woeful 36 percent from the field on the season and he doesn’t provide energy around the rim like Grant does. Roberson is a true freshman that has only appeared in 18 games this season and is shooting 30 percent from the field. If Syracuse opts to go bigger and put Baye-Moussa Keita in along with Rakeem Christmas, their offense still struggles because Keita isn’t much of a threat besides bunnies at the rim and putbacks.

This puts an enormous amount of pressure on Syracuse’s main three shooting options: C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney.

If just one of those guys has an off-night then Syracuse usually struggles to crack 60 points. Fair and Ennis have delivered on the offensive end fairly consistently this season, but Cooney has been all over the map in ACC play.

Cooney has the ability to stretch the floor and carry Syracuse to victory like the 9-for-12 performance from the three-point line he had against Notre Dame, but he’s also susceptible to 2-for-12 games like he’s had against Miami and North Carolina.

Over the last five games, Cooney is 7-for-37 from the three-point line as he’s logged 35.6 minutes per game.

It could just be that all three of Syracuse’s primary options are wearing down by playing so many minutes. Fair averages 37.7 minutes a game, Ennis 35.1 and Cooney 32.4.

Syracuse just doesn’t have the same pep in its step as it did to start the season and they aren’t as crisp on rotations or movements away from the ball these last few games. The Orange look tired and the scoring burden placed on Fair, Ennis and Cooney without Grant in the lineup seems to be taking a toll on them.

If Syracuse is to contend for a title, they need Grant to get healthy or they need a fourth scorer to step up and take the pressure off of Fair, Ennis and Cooney. Since back injuries can be a fickle thing to deal with, the Orange had better hope that a fourth player steps up quickly or the Orange could be in serious trouble.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.