Syracuse Orange

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Three Things to Know: Syracuse scores 34; Buckeyes top Bearcats; Arizona gets promising freshman performance

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The glow of the Champion’s Classic has come and gone, but college hoops still had some entertainment in store for its follow-up act on the season’s second night.

Here’s what you need to know from Wednesday:

Virginia remains Virginia; Syracuse matches Cole Anthony’s scoring output

De’Andre Hunter is gone. Ty Jerome, too. Same with Kyle Guy.

Those are some serious departures, although the national championship trophy that now lives in Charlottesville seems like a fair trade. Still, given those losses, you wouldn’t fault Virginia if it took awhile for the Cavaliers to find themselves early this season.

Not surprisingly, the Cavs aren’t going to need a lot of self-discovery.

Tony Bennett’s team did what Tony Bennett’s program does, absolutely stifling Syracuse in a 48-34 victory.

Yes, Syracuse scored 34 points. In a regulation 40-minute game. Of basketball. In the ACC.

Which isn’t ideal.

Given that it was Virginia playing defense and slowing the pace, though, it’s at least understandable. Even if it’s unconscionable, ya know?

The Orange shot 13 of 55 from the field and 5 of 29 from 3. That’s 23.6 and 17.2 percent, respectively. They scored as many points as Cole Anthony in the freshman’s North Carolina debut. Usually, you want to outscore a freshman guard as a team. So Syracuse has some things to work on.

As for Virginia, its offense wasn’t exactly picture of efficiency. The Cavs shot 40 percent from the floor and a nasty 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) from 3. Given the new faces in new roles, it might take awhile before they get squared away on that end of the floor.

But defensively, Bennett has proven time and again that whoever is on the roster, his teams will defend. Not only defend, but defend as well as anyone in the country. This year doesn’t look any different. And just like years past, that makes Virginia a contender. Last season’s departures and tonight’s offensive ugliness notwithstanding.

Buckeyes outlast Cincy

It’s not Cincinnati-Xavier, but Cincy-Ohio State provides a nice little intrastate matchup to begin a season for the second-consecutive year. And for the second-straight season, the Buckeyes prevailed.

Ohio State outscored Cincinnati by 15 in the second half to claim a 64-56 victory over the Bearcats in Columbus.

It’s a nice win for the Buckeyes against Cincinnati, which will be competing for an AAC title this winter, with what is likely going to be a nice resume-booster come March.

Kyle Young was 6 of 7 from the floor for a team-best 14 points while adding 13 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who also got eight points and 11 rebounds from Kaleb Wesson.

Jarron Cumberland and Keith Williams both had 13 points for John Brannen in his debut on the sideline for the Bearcats.

Zeke Nnaji goes for 20 in Arizona debut

Nico Mannion, a top-10 recruit, was the prize of Sean Miller’s 2019 recruiting class, but it was another freshman who starred for the Wildcats in their 91-52 thrashing of Northern Arizona.

Zeke Nnaji, a 6-foot-10 four-star prospect from Minnesota, was 9 of 12 from the floor for 20 points in his Tucson debut.

Mannion, meanwhile, went 2 of 6 from the floor to finish with nine points along with four assists. Josh Green, another top-50 freshman in the class, joined Mannion and Nnaji in the starting lineup and finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and two assists.

Miller might not have the best freshmen core in the country, but it looks like there’s a nice foundation of talent there.

Syracuse forward Oshae Brissett staying in 2019 NBA Draft

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Syracuse sophomore forward Oshae Brissett is keeping his name in the 2019 NBA Draft, he announced on Tuesday.

Following a promising freshman season with the Orange, Brissett’s numbers dipped slightly in his second season as he put up 12.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest. After shooting 33 percent from three-point range as a freshman, Brissett saw that number dip to 27 percent as a sophomore — although he did raise his overall field-goal percentage from 35 percent to 39 percent from season-to-season.

If Brissett can figure out the perimeter jumper then he has a lot of enticing things to bring to the pro game, including multi-positional versatility and good bounciness around the basket. Brissett’s stock will be fascinating to follow up to draft time as tries to work his way into draft-pick status. At the very least, Brissett is an enticing two-way option who could develop over time.

Syracuse’s Frank Howard suspended indefinitely

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Syracuse will have to play the 2019 NCAA tournament without senior guard Frank Howard as the school announced that he’s been suspended indefinitely.

“Syracuse University men’s basketball student-athlete Frank Howard will not play in the NCAA Tournament for an indefinite period of time due to a violation of athletic department policy,” the release said.

The 6-foot-5 Howard has been a key piece for the Orange the past few seasons as he’s putting up 8.9 points, 2.9 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game this season. Howard’s size also makes him effective in the Orange’s trademark 2-3 zone.

No. 8 seed Syracuse opens the NCAA tournament with a matchup against No. 9 seed Baylor on Thursday night as they play in Salt Lake City in a game that will tip at 9:57 p.m. EST.

NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region

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The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.

The No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.

It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.

The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

A dangerous No. 4 seed could be Florida State as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.

After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.

Texas Tech earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense. Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.

Following a disappointing regular season, Nevada is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.

Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.

Williamson has 29 points in return, No. 5 Duke rolls in ACCs

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Zion Williamson made all 13 of his shots, five on high-flying dunks, and scored 29 points in his return to lead No. 5 Duke to an 84-72 victory over Syracuse on Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.

RJ Barrett added 23 points and six rebounds to help Duke (27-5) set up a semifinal showdown with No. 3 North Carolina. The Tar Heels swept both games from the Blue Devils in the regular season, with Williamson injured in the first minute of the first meeting.

Williamson got off to a rousing start two minutes into the game when he stole a pass and drove the length of the floor before cocking his right hand back and throwing down a highlight-reel dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. He added three more soaring dunks in the first half — including one off an alley-oop pass from Barrett — and finished the first half with 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds as Duke built a 34-28 lead.

It was Williamson’s first game since his left Nike Paul George shoe broke during a Feb. 20 game against the Tar Heels, causing him to miss nearly six full games with a sprained right knee. Williamson wore modified Nike Kyrie 4’s this time specifically designed to lend extra support to his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame.

He showed no signs of any lingering knee issue and cracked a smile several times throughout the game.

Frank Howard scored 28 points, and Buddy Boeheim had 15 for Syracuse (20-13).

Despite Williamson’s highlight-reel display, the Orange battled until the end without leading scorer Tyus Battle, who missed his second straight game with a back injury.

Syracuse tied it with 13 minutes remaining on back-to-back 3-pointers from Boeheim.

But Duke wore down Syracuse down the stretch between the inside game of Williamson and the shooting of Barrett, who punctuated the win with a windmill dunk with 1:14 remaining.

Tre Jones added 15 points and eight assists for Duke.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: Despite the emotional return of Williamson, Syracuse stayed close with one of the nation’s best teams despite playing without their leading scorer which is good news for Jim Boeheim’s club heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Duke: The Blue Devils are in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Williamson’s return looks likely to help by making the Blue Devils look more like the team that spent a national-best seven weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: Will await word on an NCAA Tournament berth.

Duke: Will face No. 3 North Carolina for a third time in the semifinals. The Tar Heels won the previous two games — 88-72 on the road and 79-70 at home.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle will reportedly miss time in ACC tournament with injury

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Syracuse star Tyus Battle will miss the Orange’s ACC tournament opener against Pitt on Wednesday, according to a report from Mike Waters of Syracuse.com.

Battle suffered a bruised hip during Syracuse’s game at Clemson over the weekend, and according to Waters, an MRI revealed no structural damage. But the junior guard was seen walking gingerly with ice packs on him after the game.

Waters also reports that if Syracuse advances past the Panthers on Wednesday that Battle would be doubtful to play against Duke in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday.

Putting up a team-leading 17.2 points per game to go along with 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, the Orange’s offense could struggle without their best shot creator. While the Panthers are an ACC afterthought and Syracuse took both games from them during the season series, it’ll be interesting to see how the Orange play without their best player.