Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:55 pm

Fab Melo looks to keep focus on basketball

By Jeff Borzello

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – By all accounts, Fab Melo was one of the most disappointing freshmen in the country last season.

However, when one considers the limited basketball experience of the 7-foot Brazilian native, it’s tough to justify the original hype placed on the Syracuse center.

“People had expectations for last year,” Melo said. “But I had only played basketball for four years.”

Melo played fewer than 10 minutes per game, averaging 2.4 points and 1.9 rebounds for the Orange. He showed flashes of his potential down the stretch, though, going for 10 points and six rebounds against DePaul, and then getting 12 points and four rebounds in the next game against St. John’s.

In shootarounds and scrimmages, Melo looked a lot more mobile and agile than last season. He was running the floor effectively, blocking shots and making plays around the rim.

With double-double machine Rick Jackson no longer around, Melo knows it is his time to step up in the paint.

“I don’t know if I’m ready [to replace Jackson],” he said. “But I’m definitely ready to bounce back.”

His basketball ability is not the only question surrounding Melo. He was suspended for two games in February last season, and was also arrested on a domestic violence charge. The court hearing for the charge has been delayed five times and is now scheduled for November 30.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Melo would not miss any games due to the case, but his concentration could be a factor.

“When he’s on the court, he doesn’t worry about anything else,” guard Mike Carter-Williams said. “The problems are in the past. Even now, he’s just trying to move on.”

“He got his head back into it,” forward C.J. Fair added. “He has the skills. He just needs the right mindset.”

If Melo can stay focused and motivated on the court, he could be the key for Syracuse’s season – again.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 17, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Waiters hungry for redemption this season

By Jeff Borzello

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Dion Waiters entered his freshman season at Syracuse with plenty of hype, ranked as a top-25 recruit by many outlets.

However, much of the news surrounding him during the season was negative. There were reports of him being dismissed from the team in January and rampant rumors regarding him potentially transferring after the season.

Going into his sophomore campaign, though, Waiters is still in an Orange uniform and could be one of the keys to the season for a top-five Syracuse team.

“Dion has his head right,” senior guard Scoop Jardine said.

Although Waiters denied most of the rumors during the offseason, he admitted to CBSSports.com last week that the idea of leaving Syracuse did cross his mind.

“I was thinking about it,” he said. “I’m a competitor and I wanted to start. That’s what it was.”

Last season, the 6-foot-4 guard from Philadelphia averaged 6.3 points in 16.3 minutes off the bench. He did not start a single game, and was held out of a late-January loss to Marquette.

With Jardine and Brandon Triche both returning as starters in the backcourt, is Waiters ready to take a back seat to the two veterans again?

“It’s not about me this year,” he said. “Last year, I put myself before the team. I was selfish.”

Waiters said he spent off the season working on his fitness and athleticism; his explosive scoring ability is still there too. Coming out of high school, Waiters was one of the best scoring guards in the country – he has a chance to provide a consistent spark off the Syracuse bench this year.

“I think he can play a bigger role,” freshman guard Mike Carter-Williams said. “He’s a great player.”

Humbled by the events of last spring, Waiters is hungry to help the Orange get to the Final Four.

“I feel like a freshman again,” he said. “Watch out.”

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:52 pm

C.J. Fair ready for breakout season

By Jeff Borzello

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – C.J. Fair was the least heralded of the Syracuse signees in the class of 2010. However, he played the most minutes of any of the newcomers last season and showed flashes of his potential.

This season, his teammates and coaches peg Fair as the one player who could be primed for a breakout season.

“The guy who got better is C.J. Fair,” guard Brandon Triche said earlier in the week. “He’s a guy who was more of a mid-range guy around the basket. Now, he’s knocking the three down consistently, off the dribble, off the catch. I see a lot of different things from him.”

Fair, a 6-foot-8 Baltimore native, averaged 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds last season, coming off the bench and providing a boost in the frontcourt. He didn’t start any games, but did play more than 30 minutes on four occasions. In those four contests, he averaged 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.

With a starting spot available in the frontcourt, one can expect numbers close to that from Fair during the upcoming campaign.

“I have a year under my belt,” Fair said on Friday. “This is the year for me to have a big breakout year.”

He said he spent the summer working on improving his outside range and expanding his game. If Fair is able to knock down 3-pointers with consistency, he could pose a major matchup problem for most opponents. He already has a deadly mid-range game, and the lefty forward is athletic and long around the basket.

Fair might be an undersized four-man in terms of strength, but his versatility makes up for it.

“He added something new to his game,” senior forward Kris Joseph said. “He put a lot of work into his game this summer. He can make that jump.”

Fair didn't enter Syracuse with much hype, but his impressive play has bestowed higher expecations on him this time around. 

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 12:15 pm

There's no 'Melo, but Orange pack plenty of punch

By Jeff Borzello 

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – There’s no question who the center of attention was at Syracuse’s Midnight Madness.

Despite not doing much of anything for the two hours of festivities, the presence of Carmelo Anthony lifted the energy in the building to a level most onlookers had not seen in awhile.

Heading into the season, there’s obviously no Carmelo Anthony on this year’s Orange team. There’s not a Donte Greene or a Jonny Flynn. Simply put, there’s no definitive go-to-guy that will have the ball in his hands down the stretch of games.

Season tips Nov. 7

And head coach Jim Boeheim’s just fine with that.

“I think if you only have one guy, that’s a weakness,” Boeheim said at Syracuse’s Media Day.

“Even when Carmelo was here, Gerry [McNamara] made as many big plays as he did. Hakim Warrick made some plays, Josh Pace made big plays. The important thing is to have balance.”

A season ago, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche all took their fair share of shots at the end of the shot clock or game clock. Fab Melo made clutch baskets against St. John’s. With C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters ready to take on bigger roles, there are countless options for Boeheim late in games.

“I haven’t seen that since my freshman year, with Jonny Flynn,” Joseph said of having one consistent go-to-guy. “Last year, the ball was pretty well-spread, points per game were really even. It’s going to be the same, with so many guys that can score. I can do it, Scoop can do it, Brandon can do it.”

By the time March rolls around, if the biggest problem Syracuse faces is having too many offensive options, I’m betting they will be in pretty good shape.

It's a problem most teams would love to have. 

Posted on: October 14, 2011 9:11 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 2:59 pm

It's Madness Day and we are everywhere

By Gary Parrish

LEXINGTON, Ky -- It's Big Blue Madness Day in Kentucky, and folks really do like blue around here. They wear blue shirts and blue hats; I've even seen some blue shoes. And I'm not talking about students, exclusively. Old people wear lots of blue, too. It's a little crazy, but I'd expect nothing less from the nation's most passionate fan base as their national-championship-caliber team prepares to open practice tonight at Rupp Arena.

I will be there.

Then I'll spend Saturday with Louisville.

And Sunday with Vanderbilt.

Season tips Nov. 7
And Monday with Memphis.

Meaning my next four days will be spent with the coaches who have the teams ranked No. 2 (Kentucky), No. 7 (Vanderbilt), No. 8 (Louisville) and No. 9 (Memphis) in our preseason Top 25 (and one). Meantime, my colleague Jeff Goodman is spending the next two days with No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke, then he'll be with No. 5 Ohio State on Monday. My colleague Matt Norlander is with No. 3 Connecticut. My colleague Jeff Borzello is with No. 4 Syracuse.

What does that mean?

It means CBSSports.com staff writers will spend the next four days with the teams ranked first to ninth in the preseason Top 25 (and one), and I'm not sure any website or newspaper in America (or any other country in the world, for that matter) can match how we're attacking this college basketball season. So you're in the right place. We've already had Jerry Palm project the Field of 68, and Goodman and I have filled out his bracket. We've got conference previews running daily, and columns on North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut and Syracuse up now.

Check them out.

Check everything out.

Then bookmark this blog and keep coming back.

Because we aren't planning to slow down until at least mid-April.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:05 pm

Syracuse's Midnight Madness will have Carmelo

By Matt Norlander

From laughingstock to legitimacy. Syracuse's initial Midnight Madness event included someone from the Jersey Shore I've never heard of and Tone Loc, last seen as relevant around 1993. But the university responded to the underwhelming response from fans by ditching on both of those "entertainment" acts and has instead opted to do the best thing possible.

Seriously -- the best thing possible. Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Wesley Johnson, Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman and a slew of other former Orange and Orangemen will play in an alumni game Friday night at the Carrier Dome. This kind of opportunity is practically once-in-a-lifetime, considering most of these guys are still in or near their physical primes and unable to be with their NBA teams during the ongoing lockout.

Borzello's heading up to central New York Thursday, and I'm telling you he doesn't deserve this kind of treatment.

But the SU fans do. It's going to be great. Whan an upgrade. The Dome -- which is definitely one of the best places in college hoops to catch a game -- will be electric.

The Post-Standard reports:

Ed Levine, CEO of Galaxy Communications, confirmed plans for the game on Tuesday.

"It's going to be spectacular,'' Levine said. "It's the greatest collection of Syracuse stars ever. And the fact that Midnight Madness is part of ESPNU's national broadcast is going to put Syracuse basketball in the national spotlight.''

Levine said several of the former Syracuse players would take part in autograph and photo sessions from 7 to 8 p.m. The legends will be divided into teams and will participate in a 10-minute scrimmage.

Members of the current coaching staff, including Gerry McNamara, Lazarus Sims, Mike Hopkins and Adrian Autry, might also take part in the legendary scrimmage.

You've gotta get McNamara out there; he's definitely got some long bombs left in him.

What a 180 for SU athletics. These Midnight Madness things can be overblown and not really mean all that much for fans, but when a school has heritage and a breed of pros like SU, capitalizing on this opportunity is optimal for all involved.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 12:05 pm

The Big East is standing still, getting killed

By Gary Parrish

The next move in the ongoing game of conference realignment has been made.

And the Big 12 made it.

Which is why the Big 12 seems poised to survive in this eat-or-be-eaten world of college athletics while the Big East continues to get picked apart by anybody and everybody. Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced last month that they're leaving for the ACC; that took the Big East down to seven football-playing schools. Now TCU, according to my colleague Brett McMurphy, is headed to the Big 12 and leaving the Big East with just six football-playing schools ... at least one of which (Connecticut) has made it clear it would like to find a new home, too. Meantime, the Big East has done nothing of note. The league is just sitting there taking punches to the face, one after another, and, consequently, sooner or later, it'll be down for the count and in no position to adequately recover.

The possible additions of Army and Navy won't fix the Big East's problems.

At this point, I can't imagine anything really will.

What the Big East should've done is tried to take advantage of the Big 12's turmoil last month and offered invitations to any Midwest school willing to leave the Texas-Oklahoma fight behind. It might not have worked, obviously. But if we've learned anything over the past few years it's that one way to strengthen yourself is to damage the competition, and that's something the ACC highlighted when it targeted Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The Big 12, under new leadership, also understands this approach. But the Big East never has and apparently never will. So it can add Army and Navy if it wants, and perhaps East Carolina, Temple, UCF and SMU, too. But the decision to be reactive rather than proactive has put the Big East in a nearly impossible situation, and, truth be told, the storied league has only itself to blame.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 10:31 am

NYC likely to see even more Syracuse games

By Matt Norlander

When the Orange leave the Big East, they won't be leaving the region. Syracuse's chancellor, Nancy Cantor, said the school very much plans on utilizing New York City as a second home, perhaps even more prominently than the men's basketball team does currently. That facet of Syracuse's conference hop to the ACC was a critical part of the discussions with ACC commissioner John Swofford, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

The newspaper talked to Cantor and got her on record for the first time since her school was accepted into the ACC. She also offered up some information about the deal that contrasts with what we've heard previously: that Syracuse was working on this for a good, long while. Turns out, not really, at least it didn't get serious until 72 hours before news of the move leaked out.
In her first interview since the move, Cantor laid out the fast-paced chronology that led to the announcement Sept. 18 that Syracuse was leaving the athletic conference it helped found in 1979. The action started Tuesday, Sept. 13, when ACC officials voted to accept new members. The conference had planned to stay at 12 teams, but that week decided to expand because other conferences were moving in that direction, Swofford has told reporters. The next day, the ACC called Cantor to see if SU was interested in applying. She called Swofford back the next morning, Thursday, and had a lengthy conversation that included the New York City dimension that SU could offer, she said.
Syracuse's proximity to New York and the opportunity to play three or four games there -- outside of any possibility of the ACC tournament, should it even flirt with getting Madison Square Garden down the road -- was really what got this deal done. If Syracuse is located in Buffalo, meaning New York City trips are a little more logistically shaky and a little less attractive overall, then the Orange probably don't leave the Big East.

Cantor and Swofford had their conversation on the 13th, and less than 24 hours later, Syracuse's board of trustees had approved a move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. You can see why there's been plenty of hand-wringing over this swift decision. That's a really fast marriage to decide on. As for the Garden, yeah, it definitely makes sense to get Syracuse in there as frequently as possible; I don't think there's a diminished-returns factor. Orange hoops fans are extremely passionate and devoted to seeing the team as often as possible.

And if the Garden is impossible to book for a few games, remember, the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn (opening next year) will also have plenty of opportunities. And it'll be a new venue, a new building for Syracuse to make its affiliation with.

Cantor said the other factor in leaving was the TV money. The Big East doesn't have a deal that extends beyond 2013. The ACC is set for more than a decade with its $1.86 contract with ESPN.
“Certainly, we had hoped it (the TV deal) would go through,” she said. “Obviously, when you think about the stability of what was offered with the ACC, that was attractive to us.” SU must pay a $5 million exit fee to leave the Big East. That penalty will be made up by the increased revenues in the ACC “in not too long a time,” Cantor said. SU hasn’t calculated how long, she said.
For nearly a decade Syracuse has somewhat foolishly and hopelessly marketed itself as "New York's College Team," a moniker that few in the fan base ever went out of their way to boast. Seven years ago or so, the Carrier Dome actually had a banner with this logo that ran alongside the Statue of Liberty. But there's no denying New York City -- and the cities and towns around it -- does house thousands of SU alums. The initiative to get more games in that area makes sense, and if the ACC is led into NYC much more frequently because of Syracuse's influence, this move will be as shrewd as anything the progressive Pac-12 has done.

Because, generally speaking, nothing in sports is more valuable than all New York City has to offer.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
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