My 2019 SU Basketball Preview - the Conference Schedule |

My 2019 SU Basketball Preview - the Conference Schedule


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
The Conference Schedule
(What channel is Syracuse basketball on? How to watch on TV, live stream games )

Saturday, January 5 at Noon at NOTRE DAME TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

We’ve had a lot of sorry afternoons at the Joyce Athletic Center over the years. Somebody always seems to go off against us from way out. And Mike Brey has made Notre Dame one of the most consistently successful programs in the conference in recent years. Last year their season was destroyed by injuries to Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell and DJ Harvey. The finished 21-15 and 8-10 in the conference. Colson and Farrell, the team’s leading scorers have graduated. Brey: “I’m trying to figure out our identity. I think we can get back to how we’ve moved offensively for most of the past 18 years.” That means they are going to shoot the ball rather than pound it inside to Colson.

He does have some big guys: 6-9 248 John Mooney, 6-9 237 Elijah Burns, 6-11 223 Connecticut transfer Juwan Durham and 6-10 200 “sharpshooting freshman Nate Laszewski. “How will we score on that front line?” asks Brey. Mooney averaged 5.6p/3.9r and Burns 2.3p/2.3r. Durham had averaged 1.6p/.15r for UCONN. Mooney did hit 42% of this three pointers (31/74), although there’s little point in being 6-9 248 if you’re going to hang out at the three point line.

TJ Gibbs will be their star. The 6-3 guard averaged 15.3p/3.0a. 6-6 Rex Pflueger is their best defender. Harvey, a 6 -6 swingman, may be red-shirt as he’s recovering from knee surgery. Brey recruited two other top shooters in Dane Goodwin (6-6) and Prentice Hubb (6-3). Another top 100 freshman, Robby Carmody, “is more of a sneaky shooter but he can slash and finish around the basket.”

“During a recent team meeting he (Brey), put up on the board a list of teams during his tenure in South Bend that were picked near the bottom of the league and then told players each exceeded expectations and reached the NCAA tournament.”

Wednesday, January 9 at 8pm in the Dome vs. CLEMSON TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

The Tigers broke through last year, going 25-10 and 11-7 in the conference and making it, as we did to the Sweet 16. They will have one of the ACC’s most experienced backcourts 6-3 fifth year seniors Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed. Mitchell averaged 12.p/3.6a, Reed 15.8p/4.7r. 6-5 freshman John Newman III should “immediately contribute. (Coach Brad Brownell likes the newcomer’s competitiveness and ability to defend and rebound well.”

6-9 237 Elijah Thomas averaged 10.7p/8.1r and 2.3 blocks. “While taking a major step forward on the defensive end.” 6-7 237 Amir Simms, (the other teams always seem to be more muscular than we are), “should provide a lift in the interior”. Grad transfer Javan White (6-10 230), averaged 10.2p/9.0r at Oral Roberts.

Coach Bead Brownell:” I just hope the positive experience that our guys gained from winning close games, winning big games, and winning important games carries over in terms of building confidence in players…..Hopefully we’ll all continue to pull in the right direction.”

Saturday, January 12 at 6pm in the Dome vs. GEORGIA TECH TV: ESPN or ESPN2

The Jackets were a disappointing 13-19 (6-12 in the conference) last year, in part due to some injuries. Now Big Ben Lammers and guard Tadric Jackson have graduated and Josh Okogie decided to jump to the NBA after his sophomore year. It’s going to be hard for them to top last year’ win total.

The key player will be point guard Jose Alvarado, (6-0 174, 12.1p/3.7r/3.1a). He “plays with the swagger you’d expect from an undersized point guard our of Brooklyn….proved to be indispensable as a freshman before suffering a season-ending elbow injury.” 6-3 Tennessee Shembari Phillips was a part-time starter there, (6.2p/3.1r). 6-5 Curtis Haywood has almost a 7 foot wingspan and a “smooth stroke”. Four star recruit Michael Devoe (6-5) “can play on or off the ball” but will “make the biggest impact as an outside shooter and playmaker. Senior Brandon Alston, (6-5 200, 5.4p/1.6a), is “a reliable passer and can make the three pointer”. Tech was #325 in three point percentage last eyar, (.318) and expect to improve on that.

Tech runs a Princeton style offense and the passing and shooting of Lammers on the offensive end, plus his shot-blocking and rebounding on the defensive end will be hard to replace. Forward Abdoulaye Gueye (6-9 214, 5.9p 4.4) will try to move over into that role. If he fails, Evan Cole (6-9 211, 3.2p/2.6r), and Moses Wright (6-9 210, 3.6p/3.4r) will come off the bench, to give it a try. Freshman, Khalid Moore (6-7 197) “has the potential to be a productive two way player thanks to his athletic ability and tough D but he must improve his shot.” Kristian Sjolund, (6-8 190) can shot the ball from Norway. That is, he’s from Norway and can shoot the ball.

Coach Josh Pastner: “We’re really young, so for us to have any success we’re going to have to be so good team-wise, so good at taking care of the ball. We’ll also have to be unconventional….Our margin for error is zero.”

Monday, January 14 at 7pm at DUKE TV: ESPN or ESPNU

And now our margin for error will be zero. Duke’s recruiting class may be the highest ranked ever:
RJ Barrett is ranked #1 by Athlon, both as the top recruit and the top player. Lindy’s has him the #1 recruit and #4 player. He might be the #1 pick in the next NBA draft. “He understands the game and uses his 6-7 208 frame to get to the bucket or find space to show his mid-range game. One wild card will be a built jumper, meant to smooth out a streaky stroke from three point range.” He has “dominated in international play over the last couple of summers”. He scored 38 points for Canada on the UDSA team in the Under 19 World Championships, leading his team to victory in the tournament.

Cameron Reddish, (6-7 203), is ranked the #4 recruit and #12 player by Athlon. Lindy’s has him as the #8 recruit and #69 player. “A supremely talented forward who has no discernable weaknesses on the court…Reddish has similar versatility on the perimeter, (to Barrett), with a more consistent stroke 3 point range and the potential to be Duke’s best perimeter defender. (THIS NEXT SENTENCE MAY BE UPSETTING TO SENISITVE SU FANS) His style and scoring ability resemble that of a young Carmelo Anthony.“ He can “do anything- shoot, pass, put the ball on the floor and defend. Perhaps more than anything, he typifies the versatility Duke wanted to build around this season.” Cam has a 7-1 wingspan. “He can shoot from 3, attack off the dribble, pass at a high level and defend when engaged. But ‘engaged’ is a key word Reddish has developed a reputation for coasting and he needs to prove he can live up to his potential.”

Tre Jones (6-1 175), is the younger brother of Tyus Jones, who led Duke to the 2015 national championship as a freshman. He’s Althon’s #6 recruit but #49 player. Lindy’s has him as the #19 recruit and #55 player. Coach K: “Tre is a little bit more athletic. They both pass ahead really well and Tre is little bit more of a penetrator.” Athlon: “Jones will be the maestro getting all of Duke’s immensely talented freshmen on the same page….he plays with great pace, possesses elite basketball IQ and has a flair for the moment.” Lindys: “Great intangibles and a high basketball IQ. He puts his teammates in great position to succeed, has great instincts and a natural pre-disposition to set up others. His shot isn’t the best but Jones is the quintessential point guard.” S&S: “He’s consumed with making the players around him better….He’s a guy who sees things, to or three steps ahead of when they’re happening.”

Zion Williamson is “a 6-6 272, (also listed as 6-7 282), physical anomaly whose game is built on power and features a dizzying array of highlight-reel dunks.” He was ranked the #9 recruit and #21 player by Athlon. Lindy’s has him as the #2 recruit and #7 player. “He can handle in space, knock down shots from within 15 feet and attack the rim with authority.” Lindy’s: “The closest thing to Charles Barkley since…Charles Barkley.”

Joey Baker (6-7 195) “is a small forward who can add perimeter shooting- if he cracks the rotation”. He was described as “a top 35 recruit” by Athlon but didn’t make their lists. Lindy’s has him as the #58 recruit.

Coach K: (With) their talents, they’re more like positionless players. Even Tre is not just a point guard: the ball doesn’t stick in his hands much. He doesn’t pound the ball, so that gives an opportunity for RJ, Zion, Cameron – they can play all over the court. They can complement”.

One thing the new recruits don’t have is a lot of size. That will be provided by 6-11 246 Marcus Bolden (3.9p/3.6r), an injury plagued blue chipper from 2014. And Javin DeLaurier (6-10 231), who had “the best offensive rebounding rate on the team last season”.

“Sophomore Jordan Goldwire, (6-2 1.op/0.5r), is a fine distributor who will help out at the point, while classmate Alex O’Connell, (6-6 3.3p/1.4r), proved last year, he could hit the long ball from the wing.” He hit an amazing 48.9% of his treys last eyar.

Coach K: “Not coaching (USA Basketball) and being healthy, that combination has produced enormous energy for me. It’s kind of nuts how good I feel and how excited I am about doing all this.” Jim Boeheim knows exactly how he feels.

Saturday, January 19 at 2pm in the Dome vs. PITTSBURGH TV: YES Network

What hard times our old nemesis have come upon! Last year the suddenly toothless Panthers were 8-24 and a ‘perfect’ 0-18 in the ACC, which can be a very cruel conference for a bad team. The solution? “Put up your Dukes!” No, not the Duquesne Dukes of the same city, but the real thing: Athletic Director first went after Danny Hurley, who somehow preferred the mess at UCONN to the mess at Pitt. Then Locke locked up Jeff Capel, thought to be Mike Krzyewski’s eventual replacement back in Durham, Capel has had previous head coaching stints at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma, (the Blake Griffin years). he was fired there after a recruiting scandal and a couple losing seasons. This is a big second chance for him.

Capel was able to secure a Top 40 recruiting class, giving Pitt fans hope they can get off the canvas and begin competing in the ACC again. But the veteran players will have to contribute, too.

Jared Wilson-Frame has quite a frame, (6-5 220) and is the only returning double-figure scorer (13.0p/3.6r). He hit 74 three pointers, (but at only 32%). “Frame has the toughness to defend on the interior and the skills to play on the perimeter. Shamiel Stevenson, (6-5 230) is their leading returning rebounder (8.5p/4.4r). Center Kene Chukwuka (6-9 215, 2.5p/2.7r) “remains a work in progress”. “Intriguing 6-10 (240) sophomore showed flashes of potential with a combined 33 points in back-to-back games versus North Carolina and Clemson”.

“Capel enticed four star recruits Trey McGowens, (6-3 175), and Au’Diese Toney, (6-6 190), to reclassify and join the Panthers this season. He also landed combo guard Xavier Johnson, (6-3 170), who decommitted from Nebraska. Add in St. John’s transfer Malik Ellison, (6-6 215 7.4p/3.3r),and grad transfer Sidy N’Dir, (6-3 185 7.8p/3.0r) ,formerly of New Mexico State and the backcourt is a strength.” Ellison knows how to beat Syracuse- he was on those St. John’s teams that embarrassed us two years in a row. Pitt thinks so much of him they named him captain. N’Dir is coming off a 28-6 season at NMS.

Nine players asked for their releases after Capel was hired. He said “I think they were looking for something new, which is fine. I respect it. It’s their prerogative”. Of the reamianign players: I don’t want to talk about last year. I didn’t experience it, so I don’t know what it’s like to go 0-18. But I do know these guys have bene beaten up. They didn’t want to go 0-18. They wanted to win. They tried. We have to rebuild their confidence.”

Thursday, January 24 at 8pm in the Dome vs. U of MIAMI TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW- 14)

The Hurricanes have become a very respectable program under Coach Jim Larranaga. They’ve won 95 games in four years, including 22-10 and 11-7 last year. But they lost a pair of NBA draft picks in guards Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker. Larranaga: “we have five or six guys who have a lot of experience and they do complement each other. But we are clearly lacking a lot of experience in the backcourt.”

It turns out to be fortunate that Brown missed 12 games to an injury last year because he was replaced by “jet-quick guard Chris Lykes” who averaged 12.8p in his absence. Lykes is “a 5-7, (161), dynamo”. DJ Vasiljevic (6-3 203, 9.0p) hit 67 three pointers. Zach Johnson, (6-2), transferred in from Florida Gulf Coast, where he averaged 16.1p last year. Miles Wilson, (6-5), transferred from Mount St. Mary’s where he was the a star for an NCAA tournament team two years ago, (11.8p/3.9r). Anthony Mack, (6-6 218), transferred after redshirting at Wyoming and is appealing to the NCAA to become eligible as a freshman at Miami, which should be an interesting case to follow.

Anthony Lawrence (6-7 210, 8.8p, 6.5r), shared the team lead in blocks with 31. He “will be a valuable piece capable of playing both the ‘3’ and ‘4’ positons. Dewan Huell (6-11 236, 11.4p/6.7r) was the other guy with 31 blocks. He has “plenty of leaping ability” (and is already 6-11). He needs to “avoid another late-season fade”. He missed Brown getting him the ball. Ebuka Izundu (6-10 235) was the center and shot 69% from the field, (5.0p/3.8r). Sam Waardenburg, (6-10 217) is a “stretch 4” and 6-10 195 Deng Gak has “intriguing length. 7-0 255 Rodney Miller “hasn’t been in good enough shape to play significant minutes”.

About losing players to the NBA, Larranaga says: “One of the things that help you in recruiting is to be able to explain to your recruits that we’ve had professional basketball players. So if your goal is to play at the next level, you know that if you come to the University of Miami, we’ve already produced NBA players.” Of course, if other schools can say that too…

Saturday, January 26 at 8pm at VIRGINIA TECH TV: ESPN2

Buzz Williams has turned this program around. You can now expect to see the Hokies be as combative as their feisty coach, (a Curley Howard look-alike), but you can also expect them to be talented as well. They are going for their third consecutive NCAA invite, (which we can’t claim) after nine seasons without one. They return five of their top six scorers and their top five rebounders, so expectations are high. They were the only ACC team to beat Virginia last year.

They have some great names on this team, (including Buzz Williams). Forwards Kerry Blackshear and Chris Clarke were both healthy at the same time for the first time last year. Blackshear (6-10 252) was second on the balanced team with 12.5p and averaged 5.9r while shooting 56% from a season. Clarke (6-6 220) scored 8.2p and was the leading rebounder with 6.3. Ty Outlaw (6-6 218) red-shirted last year after averaging 6.3p/2.8r the previous year. Khadim Sy (6-10 250 4.0p/2.7r), did the same thing. “Heralded recruit” Landers Nolley (6-7 195) “possesses the versatility and athleticism to contribute right away”, although “he needs to improve his play off the dribble”. Reserves RJ Hornes (6-5 215, 4.6p/2.4r), Nick Fullard (6-10 250, who just played 14 minutes) “could have expanded roles”. What needs to be expanded is their rebounding percentage, which was last in the conference and their field goal percentage defense which was 10th.

But they did lead the ACC in field goal percentage (49.9) and total three pointers (289). Justin Robinson, 96-1 190), led the team in scoring with 14.0p and assists with 5.6a. he shot 40% from three in league play. Ahmed Hill, (6-5 210), hit 64 treys and 10.6p. He’s a “fine long-range shooter”. Nickiel Alexander-Walker (6-5, 210) had 10.7p/3.8r and “showed he could score all over the floor” but “he’ll be asked to rebound a little more and cut down on the turnovers”. That’s four returning double-figure scorers. “Freshman point guard Jonathan Kabongo, (6-3 190) has the shills to make an impact.” (A kaboom from Kabongo?...Bingo Bango Kabongo?). Then there’s Wabissa Bede (6-1 195 2.5p) coming off the bench….

Coach Williams: “The trajectory obviously has been very steep. But then, obviously, the higher you get, the maneuverability becomes more difficult. And that is the next step that we have to take.” Street and Smith’s: “If Virginia Tech is going to graduate from a solid middle-of-the-pack ACC team to something far more memorable, this would seem to be the year for it to happen.”

Wednesday, January 30 at 8pm at BOSTON COLLEGE TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

The Eagles ended a six year streak of losing seasons, (they had been winless in the ACC in 2016), last year and went to the NIT Then Jerome Robinson opted for the NBA with a year of eligibility left, depriving them of a first team All-ACC player.

“The dynamic Ky Bowman, (6-1 188), will be asked to take on an even greater load after Robinson’s departure. He was the only player in the country to average at least 17.6p/6.8rr/4.7a. The only other freshman or sophomore since 1993 to do so was LSU’s Ben Simmons.” “if he was a first-round pick, I’d have helped him pack’, said Coach Jim Christian, but the feedback was that he wasn’t a first round pick at this time. He’s gonna be. He’s not right now.” Lindy’s: “Bowman is a fine distributor and good outside shooter. He plays sticky defense and converts at the line and converts at the line. if he sharpens his shooting eye a bit and cuts back on turnovers, he’ll average 20+ a game.” Jordan Chatman, (6-5 200, 12.9p, 2.9r), “established himself as more than a complimentary outside shooter”. Freshman guard Winston Tabbs, (6-2 193), is “likely to provide toughness in his first season”. Chris Herren Jr. “has a slick game”. His dad sure did- on the court.

Per m Christian, “Jairus Hamilton, (6-8 234), is probably as talented a guy who’s come through the doors here. He can do a lot of different things. He can play inside and outside and he’s a very confident ball handler. He’s going to play a pivotal role.” Jarius’ older brother, Jared (6-3 203, 6.5p 2.5r), transferred in from Georgia Southern and is now eligible. Nik Popovic, (6-11 253), established himself as a capable ACC big man, averaging 9.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. He is “a strong inside finisher who can rebound and protect the rim”. Steffon Mitchell, (6-8 220, 6.4p/8.3r/2.1a), “was as rugged as Christian promised, collecting 8.3 rebounds per game as a freshman.” He “passes rebounds and defends. If he can shoot better, he’ll be a standout.” Frontcourt reserves Vin Baker Jr., (6-7 184, 1.9p/0.9r), Johncarlos Reyes, (6-10 214, 2.8p/2.3r), and Luka Krajevic, (6-10 228), are back. (They must lead the country in having the namesake sons of famous players.) Kraljevic “has some skill but must cut down on turnovers and fouls while shooting more accurately.” Christian: “We may not be old in years but the guys in our rotation have played a ton of minutes.”

Coach Jim Christian on losing Robinson: “There’s nobody you’re going to sign that can replace him. It’s got to be done by committee. But the thing a lot of people forget is the other guys develop…There’s going to develop to help lessen that burden…. It’s what these kids all want. You want these guys to chase their dream. He gives us a fantastic story about the loyalty he showed to our program and Boston College. At the same time, if you work diligently you will develop enough to be noticed.” That’s what Boston College is trying to do.

Saturday, February 2 at 6pm at PITTSBURGH TV: ESPN2 or ESPNU
Rematch: See January 19.

Tuesday, February 5 at 8pm in the Dome vs. FLORIDA STATE TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

Like U of Miami, Florida State is a football power who has developed into a more than respectable basketball program. Last year they were 23-12, (9-9 in conference) and did us one better: they went to the Elite 8, losing to Michigan 54-58. “Making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament won’t be a surprise for Florida State this time around. With seven players who played significant minutes…the Seminoles are loaded with experience and depth. Now comes the challenge of learning how to win when you are expected to.”

This was another very balanced team and leading scorer Paul Cofer, (6-8 230, 12.8p/5.1r), is back. “A stretch-4 with good shooting range, Cofer transformed from a role player into the team’s leading scorer last season…Hamilton often likes to play him with four guards.” Hamilton: Phil has had to overcome a lot of injuries and that has made him mentally strong. Now that he’s injury free, I think you are going to him take another jump in improvement.”

“Hamilton’s biggest wish is to get improvement out of his two returning post players: Christ Koumandje, (7-4 230, 6.5p/4.1r) and Mfiondu Kabengele, (6-10 250, 7.2p/4.6r). Kabengeole, who has good athleticism and a soft shooting touch, looks poised for a break-out year after averaging 7.2 points off the bench. As a freshman. Koumandje isn’t much of a scoring threat but his staggering length has always made him a huge defensive force. Adding much-needed weight should help him contribute more.” I remember watching last year’s road game, in which Koumadje, (we called him Jumanji in the chat room), actually made Paschal Chukwu look small. We’ll get a chance to see the big guy up close in the Dome this year. Red-shirt freshman Raiquan Gray (6-8 260) “will likely earn his way into the rotation and add depth after redshirting last year”.

Terance Mann, (6-7 215, 12.6p/5.4r2.6a), “is not only one of the ACC’s most versatile players but also among its most efficient- the senior is shooting a remarkable 57 percent from the floor for his career.” Trent Forrest (6-4 210, 7.9p/4.9r/3.9a) “should flourish after taking over most of the minutes at point guard and playing well in the NCAA tournament….Forrest excels at attacking the rim and he also provides good pressure defense.” Hamilton: “He’s been like a sponge this offseason. He’s been watching a lot of film. I have a hunch that he’s going to have an outstanding year.” grad transfer David Nichols, (6-0 185, 14.6p/4.3r.3.5a), from Albany is “a point guard who can create his own shot”. M. J. Walker (6-5 213, 7.0p/1.7r), is “possibly the team’s best athlete, capable of giving the Seminoles another double-digit scoring threat.” P. J. Savoy (6-4, 210, 6.7p/1.4r) is “a three-point threat”. Redshirt freshman Anthony Polite (6-6 215), “is a versatile wing who gets to the basket and is a willing defender.” And his manners are impeccable.

Mann said “Going to the Elite Eight puts a target on our back. Teams know what we are capable of. But we’ve got a lot of guys who know how to act in big-time situations and have a lot more confidence. I think we’ll be as good as last year and probably better.”

Saturday, February 9 at 2pm in the Dome vs. BOSTON COLLEGE TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)
Rematch- see January 30.

Wednesday, February 13 at 8pm at NORTH CAROLINA STATE TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

Kevin Keatts seems set for a successful run in Raleigh. He has the formerly defensively challenged Wolfpack playing in everybody’s face and pushed them to a 21-12 (11-7) record in his first year. They made the NCAA tournament and should be a regular there as long as he’s there. He’s a Rick Pitino disciple and loves to have his team press and toss up three pointers. He’s brought in 8 transfers to bolster his roster.

6-5 210 Torin Dorn (13.9p/6.3r) “is undersized but athletic enough to defend the 4 and rebound the positon…He will bring a strong game off the dribble but must shoot better from the outside and minimize his turnovers.” Grad transfer Wyatt Walker(6-9 240, 12.9p/9.7r for Samford), is “a proven rebounder and an adept passer. Derek Funderburk, (6-10 210) a former four star recruit for Ohio State, returns from the junior college ranks. He has “a versatile offensive game and a strong desire to hit the boards.” Freshman Manny Bates, (6-11 221), “is a raw offensive player who can protect the rim”. Jericole Hellems (6-7 198) “is a versatile three man”.

Keatts often went with a three guard line-up last year. Braxton Beverly (6-0 180 9.5p/3.9a) and Markell Johnson (8.9p/7.3a) are back. Johnson led the ACC in assists. Beverly” has a sharper shooting eye and the ability to set up teammates while keeping his turnovers low. His challenge is to improve his defense.” Keatts has added C. J. Bryce (6-5 195 17.4p/5.4r/3.0a) from his old coaching stop at UNC Wilmington. He’s also brought in Devon Daniels, (6-5 200 9.9p/4.6r), from Utah. “Both have the kind of size and versatility Keatts wants on the wing.” So does Eric Lockett (6-5 193 14.3p/6.5r) from Florida International. Blake Harris (6-3 180 3.8p/3.1a) is a former four star recruit who transferred after half a season at Missouri. He is “an effective point guard”.

Keatts: “We want to play positon-less basketball and we want to run guys in and out. I like our depth…We have a bunch of guys who have a lot of versatility but have never competed on the same floor and getting them on the same page will be the biggest thing.”

Wednesday, February 20 at 7pm in the Dome vs. LOUISVILLE TV: ESPN

Chris Mack takes over the mess left by Rick Pitino. He’s been the highly successful coach at Xavier and must like a challenge. Louisville lost its top three scorers from a 22-14, 9-9) NIT team and there are no scholarship freshmen coming in. Mack has thus gone the grad transfer route to keep from going under.

Steve Enoch, (no, not eunuch), (6-10 250, 3.4p/2.3r)is not one of them. He’s an under-grad transfer from Connecticut, brought in by Pitino, who declared him the team’s best frontcourt player as he practiced with them during his sit-out year. (What will Syracuse fans think of a guy who’s played for both Connecticut and Louisville- at least he didn’t play for Georgetown!) Mack: “He’s extremely mobile and athletic for such a big guy. He doesn’t need to be relegated to within 5 feet of the basket. He can be intimidating and be a guy who can help us on the glass but is not limited to that.”

Malik Williams is 6-11 215 (3.8p/2.4r) but half his shots were three pointers. Jordan Nwora (6-8 215 5.7p/2.2r) is also mostly a perimeter player. Dwayne Sutton (4.3p/4.0r) is a “determined rebounder but he is only 6-5” (200). Akoy Agau “has the bulk to play inside”, (6-8 235), but “has been dogged by knee issues”. Agau started his career ar Louisville, transferred to Georgetown, then to SMU and back to Louisville. Well, we won’t hold it against him that he played for SMU.

Darius Perry (6-2 170 3.9p/1.5a) came to Louisville declaring his intent to become the top defensive guard in the country, which Mack likes because he wants his guard to be in the face of your guards the whole game. But he needs to shoot better than 35%. The last MacDonald’s AA Pitino signed was V. J. King (6-6 190 8.6p/3.3r). He has yet to average double figures, largely due to his shooting (39.8% overall, 32.0% from the arc). The team’s best shooter is Ryan McMahon (6-0 170 6.1p/1.5a), who shot 40.8% from three. “But McMahon struggles on defense and is not a threat off the dribble.” Mack has brought in grad transfers Christen Cunningham (6-2 190 7.7p/4.0a from Samford), Khwan Fore (6-0 175 11.4p/3.2r/2.7a from Richmond) and Matt Hanna (5-9 165 11.0p/3.7r/3.3a from Colby). Colby?!?

Mack: “We have 10 scholarship players and everyone has to be an integral part of this coming year’s team.” On V. J. King: “He’s one of the very few guys that really didn’t go home this summer. V. J. went home for only four or five days. He’s sort of put his money where his mouth is. He’s made a commitment to improving.” Does that mean that the guys who went home did not?

Saturday, February 23 at 6 or 8pm in the Dome vs. DUKE TV: ESPN/ESPN2
Rematch: see January 14th.

Tuesday, February 26 at 7 or 9pm at NORTH CAROLINA TV: ESPN OR Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

Duke gets so much publicity that people forget how good North Carolina can be. They’ve won three national titles since 2005 to Duke’s two. The academic scandal that never was is now in the rear view mirror so the Tar Heels are moving forward. It helps that their players tend to stick around. They were 26-11 (11-7) last year in what was a ‘down’ season for them because they didn’t play for the national championship, as they had the previous two years.

Luke Maye (6-8 240, 16.9p/10.1r) will be their best player and a conference and national player-of-the year candidate. He’s a career 41.7% three point shooter, “a match-up nightmare and strong interior defender”. Sterling Manley (6-11 235, 5.4p/3.6r) “has the size and strength to be a force”. Garrison Brooks (6-9 230 4.5p/3.5r) “is an intelligent player with a knock for being in the right spot”. They are both “solid interior finishers who can rebound well”. Brandon Huffman (6-10 250 1.6p/1.4r), “provides strength but is raw offensively. Rechon Black (6-7 185) is “in the Theo Pinson mold as a playmaking point forward who needs to improve his shooting”. He’s “a slasher with a good mid-range game and a filled toolbox.” Nassir Little (6-6 220) was MVP of the Mickey Dees game. he’s “a huge talent with explosiveness and versatility”. He’s expected to be a one-and-done. Cameron Johnson (6-9 210 12.4p/4.7r) shot 40% from three at Pitt but only 34% at UNC last year.

Seventh (?) Woods (6-2 185, 1.1p/0.7a) is “a supreme athlete” who broke a foot last year and “has yet to fulfill his potential”. Freshman Coby White (6-5 185) “is the leading prep scorer in North Carolina history” who can “fill it up from all over”. Kenny Williams, (6-4 185 11.4p/3.7r/2.4a) shot 40.2% from three point range. He “returns to hit the long ball, distribute it well and play some nasty perimeter defense.” Pacific transfer K. J. Smith (6-2 175, 3.2p/0.8a) is Kenny Smith’s son.

Coach Roy Williams: “We’re losing some tremendously gifted kids who shared the leadership of that team, maybe as well as any team we’ve ever had. And yet we’re bringing in some kids who I think are very gifted, maybe even more gifted than what we’re losing….we’ve got a chance to be really, really good.”

Saturday March 2 at Noon at WAKE FOREST TV: Raycom (WSTM-3 or CW-14)

Danny Manning seems to be spinning his wheels at Wake. Last year the Deacons were 11-20 and 4-14 in this difficult conference. He returns only three scholarship players. Of his top three scorers, one graduated, one transferred and one jumped to the pros. But he’s brought in a five star forward and two grad transfers to try to stay afloat.

Oliver Sarr (7-0 243, 3.2p/3.0r), “has added more than 30 pounds to his frame” and “could be a break-out candidate”. Ikenna Smart, (6-10 240, 3.6p/3.5r), a grad transfer from Buffalo, will back him up. Sunday Okeke (6-8 240, 0.5p/1.3r), “is a chiseled 240 pounds but his value is limited to screening and defense”. The five-star is Jaylen Hoard (6-8 210) “a modern power forward, boasting excellent athleticism and 3 point range. At only 210 pounds, he’ll have to show he can rebound in the ACC”. (Oshae Brissett is the same size and does pretty well.) Manning: “His size, his skillset and his versatility will give us a chance to use him in a lot of different places on the court.” Isaiah Mucius (6-8 190) is a top 100 recruit who can “swing between multiple positions”.

The only returning regular is guard Brandon Childress (6-0 190 9.1p/3.6a). He “struggled with turnovers and over-dribbling” but shot 38% from the arc and 84% from the line. Manning: “he’s going to be someone who is going to help drive the boat. For us, everybody is a leader. All you have to do is do what you’re supposed to. The hard part is doing that every day, every game, every possession. Brandon is someone we expect to do (that).” Chaundee Brown (6-5 215 7.6p/ 3.0r) was a top 35 recruit last year who “played well in spurts”. Torry Johnson (6-3 170 11.5p/1.6a), is a grad transfer from Northern Arizona. “Neither Brown nor Johnson has been consistent from three point range”. Former NC State commit Jamie Lewis (6-3 190) will be the back-up point guard. He “can get to the rim and has defensive potential. He needs to improve his passing.” Melo Eggleston (6-8 200 1.0p/1.1r) will come off the bench. (Melo Eggleston?)

Athlon: “Manning has recruited an athletic, versatile team built for positionless basketball.” Manning on having five new players in his rotation: That’s just kind of where we’re at, like a lot of other programs, to be honest with you. ..We’re really excited about the class we have coming in. it’s a good foundation as we move forward…We’re making sure we stay connected and we have to make sure we continue to attack things so we’re on the same page. These guys understand that to be successful we have to do it as a collective group.”

Monday, March 4 at 7pm in the Dome vs. VIRGINIA TV: ESPN

We all know what happened to the Cavaliers in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. The only relevance is that they will probably play even harder this year and look past no one. Last year they stormed to a 31-3 (17-1) record. They were ranked #1 and the #1 overall seed in the tournament when the nightmare happened. Tony Bennett’s teams have always been among the best in the coturny at defense. This may be his best offensive team.

De’Andre Hunter, (6-7 222 (9.2p/3.5r) is “the type of one-on-one talent that Virginia has often lacked…a versatile scorer and defender and his absence – he missed the NCAA tournament with a broken wrist- deeply impacted the Cavs in last year’s shocking loss to UMBC.” He “is a very good shooter, strong defender…who should become an extremely dangerous player this year.” Center Jack Salt, (6-10 250 3.4p/4.1r), “can be a force as a rim protector and rebounder”. Mamadi Diakite (6-9 228 5.4p/3.0r) and Jay Huff (7-1 230 3.4p/1.9r) “have a chance to be versatile weapons this year”. Diakite “can finish close to the basket and defend well”. Huff “does much of the same” as Salt.

Kyle Guy (6-2 175 14.1p/2.6r/1.5a) and Ty Jerome (6-5 200 10.6p/3.1t/3.9a) are “long range shooters” who can “draw defenders out on the perimeter to pick them up. That can create room to drive, something that both players did with more success last season. Virginia is a deliberate tam so their scoring totals mean more than the numbers suggest. Jerome also led the team with 55 steals. Marco Anthony (6-4 228 2.0p/1.0r) “ earned valuable experience in some big spots as a freshman” and “incoming players Kody Stattmann, (6-7 178), and Kihei Clark, (5-9 155), were both scorers on the prep level”. Clarke “is a great passer but must gain strength”. He can “cause problems for rivals due to his extreme quickness”. Stattmann “is an outstanding shooter with a great feel for the game, although he doesn’t handle it too well and isn’t and elite athlete”. Francesco Badocchi (6-7 185) is an import from Italy. He can “score, rebound and defend but needs time to develop.”

Bennett on how he’s treating the UMBC loss: “You don’t over-analyze it or think about it non-stop or dwell on it but you don’t just dismiss it. You look at it, how to grow from it and move on. It provides great motivation to improve and be hungry.” Our program wasn’t exactly crushed when we became the first 2 seed to lose to a 15 seed and Virginia’s won’t be crushed either.

Saturday, March 9 at Noon CLEMSON TV: CBS
Rematch: See January 9.

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