C.J. Fair


ACC Tournament: No. 11 Syracuse’s shooting a concern entering NCAA tournament

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A familiar refrain from Syracuse fans as much of the nation expressed concern about their offense in ACC play was that the 11th-ranked Orange were still an efficient group, ranking 28th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. But there’s no denying the fact that Syracuse was having issues making shots, and that was once again the case as they lost 66-63 to N.C. State in an ACC tournament quarterfinal.

Syracuse made just 32.7% of its shots from the field, with leading scorer C.J. Fair scoring nine points on 3-for-16 shooting. Tyler Ennis scored 21 points but did so on 6-for-18 shooting, with N.C. State’s Anthony Barber being assigned that defensive responsibility for a decent portion of the night, and Trevor Cooney (he sprained his ankle in the first half) made just one of his six shot attempts. The only starter to score in an efficient manner was Jerami Grant, who scored 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

Unfortunately for Syracuse, the shooting percentages show that this can’t be passed off as the Orange simply having a bad night from the field. In their last eight games Syracuse has shot 40% or better from the field just twice, in wins over Maryland (40%) and Florida State (48.5%). Their defense will keep games close, and that was once again the case Friday night, but the question of whether or not Syracuse can consistently knock down shots is a big concern heading into the NCAA tournament.

With that being an issue Syracuse has been able to take advantage of the offensive glass, rebounding 37.2% of their misses against ACC opponents entering Friday, and they corralled 15 of their misses against N.C. State (five came in that wild sequence in the game’s final seconds). Removing that last sequence the Orange scored just 11 second-chance points on those ten offensive rebounds, and N.C. State was just a minus-4 (seven second-chance points) in that statistical category.

Ennis, Fair and Grant are still to be respected, as all are gifted enough to make opponents pay when they’re on. But the percentages can’t be ignored when discussing Syracuse’s chances of getting to the Final Four. Regardless of where they’re seeded, Syracuse needs to regain its offensive “mojo” and quickly.

Lifelong Syracuse fan receives special gift days before her 100th birthday

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Birthdays are special events, with people having the opportunity to celebrate their life to that point in time. Just as important as the day itself are the moments, whether it’s a message from a friend or family member or a present that is worth much more than its monetary value.

Longtime Syracuse fan Henrietta Auer received a birthday present she’ll always cherish just days before her 100th birthday, as she visited with her favorite basketball team on Thursday according to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard. Among the things Auer got to do during her time with the Orange was chat with head coach Jim Boeheim and receive birthday wishes from some of the players as well.

As Auer sat courtside, C.J. Fair came over to wish her a happy birthday. So did Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis.

“She just kept saying ‘Wow! Wow!” Jan Lozito, Auer’s daughter, said. When Auer got to meet Boeheim, however, she could barely talk. “She was speechless.”

Auer will turn 100 next Friday and we wish her a Happy Birthday, and by the looks of things it’s off to a great start a week prior to the actual event.

No. 4 Syracuse holds off Maryland

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Syracuse doesn’t necessarily have the offensive game to blow out unranked opponents, but the No. 4 Orange are used to winning tight games. Jim Boeheim’s ballclub bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Duke to knock off Maryland 57-55 on Monday for an ACC road win.

The Orange gave up a late run to Maryland and allowed the Terrapins a final shot down two with 3.5 seconds left, but Seth Allen’s three-point attempt was off as the buzzer sounded.

While the win wasn’t pretty for Syracuse, they once again showed a penchant for winning close games. Although the Orange lost two straight to Boston College and Duke, they’ve won close games against Miami (twice), Pitt, NC State and Notre Dame this season and usually have someone step up to win them the game when its on the line.

On Monday, Syracuse got big shots from multiple players. C.J. Fair (17 points) rattled home a three-pointer from the corner with 3:06 left to put the Orange up by six and on the next Syracuse possession, Trevor Cooney’s (nine points) spinning drive and free-throw line jumper gave the Orange their final necessary field goal to close out the game. From there, Tyler Ennis (team-high 20 points) made a free throw to put the pressure on and the Orange escaped again.

But Syracuse has to be concerned in these games in which only two players contribute most of their points. It’s not that Syracuse can’t win games in the 50s like they did on Monday — because they’re more than comfortable with that — but in the case of Maryland, because Seth Allen got hot from the perimeter, just one player was almost able to knock off a top-5 team.

The Orange are really good, really balanced and the 2-3 zone causes issues, but there are going to be nights they need to make sure one guy doesn’t get hot enough to beat them if their offense isn’t clicking.

This was a tough road win for Syracuse following Saturday’s loss and the Orange have to be happy about getting out of Maryland with a ‘W’.

College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: What else can be said about McDermott’s season — and his career — at this point? He had 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting in a win at Butler in which he just so happened to hit the game-winning three with 47.8 seconds left. He followed that up by scoring 39 points on 13-for-17 shooting from the floor in another blowout win over No. 6 Villanova. Here’s what Jay Wright had to say about him after the game:

“I think I have a unique perspective in that I was with the USA team last summer when he played with the developmental team against the pros, and he played very well. Sometimes you watch a guy in college and you think about how that’s going to transfer to the NBA. But I saw it, and everything he does here in college he did this summer with those guys. I think he’s as complete a player with size as I’ve ever seen. 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, there’s nothing he can’t do. He can take you off the dribble, he guards, he’s tough as hell, he defends, he rebounds, he moves without the ball, he seals. He’s the best post player that we’ve played against and he’s the best perimeter player, and he may be one of the best passers. And he’s 6-foot-9. He’s as good of a basketball player as I’ve seen.”

McDermott set a Big East record by earning Player of the Week honors for the seventh time this season. According to Rob Anderson, Creighton’s SID, McDermott has now won Player of the Week or Newcomer of the Week in 27 of the 63 weeks he’s played college basketball.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker was making up a bit of ground on McDermott before that 39-point outburst, as the freshman’s slump is nothing but a distant memory. We’ve been over this: when Parker is attacking the basket instead of settling for jumpers, he’s as dangerous as any scorer in the country. During this eight-game resurgence, he’s taken 75 free throws and just 21 three-pointers. In the five games before that, his slump, he took 21 threes and just 14 free throws.

Here’s Exhibit A of what I mean: instead of settling for a jumper, Parker went to the rim and managed to land himself the game-winning dunk against Maryland:

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Ho-hum, just another 34-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance from Napier in an overtime win over Memphis. He’s been so good this season that numbers like that are hardly even surprising anymore.

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Luke Winn came up with the nickname “Ennions” for Ennis, a play on Bill Raftery’s favorite saying. Personally, I like Captain Clutch. Syracuse is still undefeated after a pair of last-second wins, and Ennis had a major hand in both of them. He hit the running 35-footer to give the Orange the win at Pitt on Wednesday and had the game-winning assist to C.J. Fair on Saturday to beat N.C. State.

On the season, in final five minutes and overtime of one-possession games, Ennis is now 8-for-10 from the floor and 14-for-14 from the line with seven assists and just a single turnover.

5. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Kilpatrick played one game last week, scoring 28 points and handing out six assists in a win over Houston. The Bearcats are built entirely around their defense. Kilpatrick is, for the most part, the only guy on the roster that can score. Let’s put it into context: Cincinnati is 108th in the country in offensive efficiency, while Kilpatrick is third in the nation in offensive efficiency for players that use more than 28% of their team’s possessions. In other words, Kilpatrick is putting up McDermott-esque numbers in an offense that’s no where near as good.

6. Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith has been better this season than he was last season. The problem? Louisville only has two notable wins this season: SMU and at UConn. In their last five games, however, the Cards play at Cincinnati, at Memphis, at SMU and at home against UConn. Big performances in those games will get Smith more attention nationally.

7. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson was terrific earlier this season, but with Brandon Ashley, more offensive responsibility has fallen into Johnson’s lap. In the four games since Ashley went out, Johnson is averaging 11.5 points while shooting 25.0% (15-60) from the floor and 1-for-18 from three, or 5.6%. That’s … not good.

8. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames is in the same boat as Kilpatrick, a talented scorer on a team that doesn’t have many of them. In two games last week, Thames was 6-for-26 from the floor and 2-for-13 from three. SDSU lost at Wyoming and struggled against Air Force.

9. Kyle Anderson, UCLA: The Bruins swept Utah and Colorado this week while Slo-Mo averaged 19.0 points, 8.5 assists and 8.0 boards. He’s averaging 15.4 points, 8.7 boards and 6.8 assists on the season.

10. Jabari Brown, Missouri: Brown needs some love. His numbers this season are ridiculous: 20.5 points, 4.6 boards, 45.7% 3PT, 126.4 oRTG. In SEC play, they get even better: 22.8 points and 50.0% 3PT.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Cameron Bairstow, Bryce Cotton, Sam Dekker, Cleanthony Early, Joel Embiid, C.J. Fair, Marcus Foster, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Juwan Staten, Nik Stauskas, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Scottie Wilbekin, Chaz Williams

No. 1 Syracuse escapes again, moving its record to 25-0 (VIDEO)


Another close game for No. 1 Syracuse, and another escape with an unblemished record.

The Orange did it again on Saturday night, with a C.J. Fair layup with 6.7 seconds remaining giving Syracuse a 56-55 win over an N.C. State team that didn’t reach New York until early Saturday due to travel issues. Of Syracuse’s 12 ACC victories six have been by six points or less, and on Saturday night N.C. State went blow for blow with the Orange.

T.J. Warren (23 points) and Kyle Washington (14) led the way offensively for much of the night for the Wolfpack, with both taking advantage of the high post and Warren scoring from other areas of the floor as well. But they needed help in the second half, and that came in the form of two Ralston Turner three-pointers within a 90-second stretch to give N.C. State a 50-45 lead with 6:27 remaining.

With Fair, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney all struggling offensively, this had the appearance of a game that N.C. State would win and bolster their NCAA tournament resume in the process. Fortunately for Syracuse Rakeem Christmas and Jerami Grant picked up the slack, with Christmas reaching double figures (14 points) for the first time since January 18. Fair’s basket may have won the game, but without the contributions of Christmas and Grant Syracuse isn’t in position to take advantage of two Wolfpack turnovers in the final 22 seconds.

Of course there was controversy, with some arguing that a foul committed by Trevor Cooney on Warren with 13.7 seconds remaining should have been a shooting foul. Had that been the case Warren would have been at the line with a chance to put N.C. State up four. But with the foul being called on the floor the Wolfpack had to inbound the ball underneath, and the ensuing turnover led to Fair’s game-winner.

The Orange may have escaped but their shooting struggles need to be addressed with the schedule getting even tougher. Syracuse shot just 35.2% from the field and 2-for-12 from three, with their advantages in points from the foul line (16-7) and second-chance points (14-7) helping to make up for the off night from the field. But that isn’t going to be the case every night, and with their (for the time being) six-man rotation Syracuse is operating with a slim margin for error.

The most important aspect is the result, and Syracuse has found ways to win all season long. Will that continue? That remains to be seen, but these nail biters are a dangerous way to live.

Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair once again display late-game poise for No. 1 Syracuse (VIDEO)


In the history of the Petersen Events Center, No. 25 Pittsburgh had never lost a game against a top five opponent. Nine games, nine wins for the Panthers. And on Wednesday night it looked as if Jamie Dixon’s Panthers would make it 10-0, with their mastery of the offensive glass being a big reason why they led No. 1 Syracuse for the majority of the game.

But as they’ve done all season long the top-ranked Orange, specifically senior forward C.J. Fair and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, made the big plays they needed to make in order to win. That tandem combined to score Syracuse’s final 13 points of the game, with Ennis making the biggest play of the season to date. That play: a three-pointer from about 35 feet out to give the Orange the 58-56 win, moving their record to 24-0 overall and 11-0 in the ACC.

(MORE: Is Pitt now a bubble team?)

As noted Syracuse has been down this road on multiple occasions this season and one reason why they continue to win tight games is the presence of Ennis, who is one of the nation’s most important players. Against Pittsburgh Ennis finished with 13 points and five assists, but the amazing stat is what the freshman did for the first time this season.

According to ESPN Stats Info, Ennis’ turnover with 3:14 remaining was the first that he’s committed in the final five minutes of a game this season. While many freshmen tend to experience seasons similar to a ride on a roller coaster, the smooth and seemingly never-rushed Ennis has been a model of consistency for the Orange this season. And given their lack of depth at the position, with Michael Gbinije seeing some spot duty at the position in order to give Ennis a break, Syracuse needed that to be the case.

In fact Ennis has been even better than advertised, and his combination of talent and poise has helped make Syracuse one of the favorites to win the national title.

But even with the last-second heroics, this wasn’t a one-man effort for Syracuse. Fair scored ten of his 14 points in the second half, Trevor Cooney added 11 points and both Gbinije and Rakeem Christmas added seven apiece for a team that played just six players against a deeper Pittsburgh squad. Syracuse scored just 58 points but they averaged 1.07 points per possession on the night, and when judging this team offensively it’s better to look at their efficiency as opposed to simply observing how many points they’ve scored.

Entering Wednesday, Syracuse ranked fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 18th in turnover percentage per kenpom.com. The Orange may not run, but they take full advantage of the possessions they do get. However in the aftermath of Thursday’s win there is an important area the Orange need to address, especially with reserve center Baye Moussa Keita sidelined with a sprained right knee.

That concern: rebounding. Pittsburgh managed to rebound 47.1% of its missed shots, outscoring Syracuse 15-3 in second chance points. Luckily for Syracuse their starting center, Chrismas, was able to stay on the floor after battling foul trouble on Sunday night against Clemson. That meant Syracuse didn’t have to use Jerami Grant in the middle of the 2-3 zone too often, and given the way Talib Zanna (seven offensive rebounds) hurt the Orange on the glass things could have been worse had that been the case.

However even with that concern the Orange found a way to win, with Fair and Ennis once again making the needed plays in crunch time. Some teams simply know how to finish out games, and by now it’s clear that Syracuse fits the bill.