HOW GOOD CAN THESE SYRACUSE ORANGE BE?
After Saturday’s impressive 90-61 romp over Georgia Tech before 30,000-plus happy fans at the Carrier Dome, head coach Jim Boeheim said, “When we shoot like that, we can beat anybody.”
Point guard John Gillon recently said. “Our starting five can be as good as any team (in college basketball).”
An impressive 29-point revenge win over Georgia Tech. Nice. A 10-8 final record in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference. Impressive. But let’s not get too carried away.
SU is unlikely to shoot .537 (29-of-54 vs. Georgia Tech) from the field and .625 (15-for-24) from three-point range in any post-season games this season.
And while SU’s starting five -- when they’re all playing well -- is capable of giving the very best teams in the nation all they could handle in a given game, the bench is very weak compared to most teams with hopes of reaching the NCAA Final Four.
Tyler Roberson and Frank Howard are SU’s bench. Neither is an offensive dynamo. When the starters get in foul trouble, the Orange are hurting for firepower and pretty much doomed.
Did the romp over Georgia Tech clinch SU a spot in the 68–team NCAA Tournament field? Some national bracketologists say yes. Others say not quite yet.
A victory Wednesday over Miami at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in the ACC tournament probably would be the clincher. It won’t be easy. SU beat Miami 70-55 at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 4 (the Hurricanes were 10-3 entering the game and SU was struggling). SU has been terrific at home all season (16-3 record) but has underperformed on the road (2-10, including a 64-50 loss to South Carolina at Barclays Center).
SHOOTOUT WOES CONTINUE FOR THE SABRES
If the Buffalo Sabres miss the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs for a sixth straight season, the team’s shootout ineptitude will be a huge reason why.
Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Tampa Bay was Buffalo’s seventh shootout of the season: 1 win…6 losses…Buffalo shooters are 3-for-17 (17.8 percent…opposing shooters are 12-for-16 (.750).
Buffalo is 6-6 in overtime periods.
Odd stat: The NHL’s best shootout team has been Detroit. The disappointing Red Wings have played in seven shootouts this season and are 7-0 (Detroit shooters are 13-for-28; opponents are 6-for-23).
I AGREE WITH MARK CUBAN: WESTBROOK IS NOT IN THER NBA MVP DISCUSSION
I find myself disagreeing with outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban more often than not, but I’m buying his opinion on the NBA Most Valuable Player race 100 percent.
Before Sunday night’s Oklahoma at Dallas game, Cuban was asked about the MVP race. He risked pumping up Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook by saying the league’s leading scorer and triple-double machine is not in contention for the award.
Cuban said MVP is a “toss-up” between James Harden (Houston Rockets) and LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), with Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs) deserving of mention.
My MVP ballot at the moment would be is 1-Harden, 2-James, 3-Leonard, 4-Westbrook, 5-Isaiah Thomas.
For the record, the Rockets have lost three straight games and Westbrook is 34-of-90 in field-goal tries (including 11-of-38 from three-point range). He also is 43-of-46 from the foul line, with 31 rebounds and 9 turnovers.
The fourth World Baseball Classic begins Monday with two games in Pool A. I love baseball but I don’t think the WBC ever will catch on – at least not until all of the best players choose to compete with enthusiasm. It probably is much more appreciated in countries like Japan, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic than in the United States, particularly during the NCAA basketball tournament and the regular-season stretch runs of the NBA and NHL. Many people everywhere are more interested in the start of soccer season.
The 2017 Major League Soccer season started last Friday night. Didn’t the 2016 MLS season just end?...Atlanta is the latest city to reach MLS after many years of competing against Rochester in minor-league soccer. Atlanta United FC made its MLS debut Sunday with a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls before 55,297 fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Atlanta sold a MLS expansion-record 30,000 season tickets.
Remember the bad old days for Syracuse U. basketball, when some otherwise terrific teams couldn’t hit from the foul line? John Gillon, Andrew White III and Tyler Lydon are a combined 271-of-323 (.839) this season.
Rochester Rhinos coach Bob Lilley and head man Pat Ercoli figure to find a dangerous scorer or two to replace Steevan dos Santos (signed with the Ottawa Fury) and Christian Volesky (signed by the MLS Sporting KC; recently cut but remains KC property), who combined for 39 goals For Rochester in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…
Monday, March 6 – Marcus Smart (23)…Leonys Martin (29)…Jake Arrietta (31)…Francisco Cervelli (31)…Anthony Johnson (33)…Tim Howard (38)…Erik Bedard (38)…Michael Finley (44)…Shaquille O’Neal (45)…Chris Taylor (45)…Jamal Anderson (45)…Anthony Telford (51)…Sleepy Floyd (57).
Tuesday, March 7 – Ian Clark (26)…Sam Gash (48)…Jeff Kent (49)…Ricky Proehl (49)…Steve Beuerlein (52)…Sean McKenna (55)…Joe Carter (57)…Ivan Lendl (57)…Tommy Kramer (62)…Lynn Swann (65)…Jeff Burroughs (66)…Franco Harris (67)…Janet Gurthrie (79) Wanda Sykes (53) can tell jokes at the birthday party.