Tag Archives: jim boeheim

Orange Crushed

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On Tuesday afternoon, March 13th, 2012, 2:47 pm I ripped up my NCAA tournament bracket.

That is the earliest in the history of the NCAA tournament that anyones bracket was considered useless.

In big bold red print on ESPN my favorite team and my favorite to win the national championship was done. The print read “Syracuse Orange Center Fab Melo ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament.”

I walked into the kitchen at my job, pulled my work shirt over my head and put my head in my hands.

Call it howarding.

The loss of Melo completely changes the dynamic of this tournament. Syracuse was considered at minimum a favorite to make the Final Four and by others including yours truly to win the national title.

After going 31-2 and winning the Big East regular season crown it would’ve been hard to bet against them. Syracuse had its best all around team since their title run in 2003.

It was Jim Boeheim’s deepest team with four guards capable of running the point guard position, six players who can light up the scoreboard, and a defensive intimidator in Melo who was almost equal to freshman phenom Anthony Davis in terms of shot blocking.

Melo was Syracuse’s only interior presence an with the kind of production he received from Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph and others that was all Syracuse needed.

Now without him Syracuse is screwed.

Without Melo the Orange go from a title contender to a team that would be lucky to make the Sweet 16.

After UNC-Asheville the Orange have to get through either Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Ohio State in some combination and all of those teams have some fore of interior presence whether it be Yancey Gates, Jared Sullinger or Kevin Jones.

Unless Rakeem Christmas or Baye Moussa Keita can put together some sort of inside production then the Syracuse Orange will be the first number one seed eliminated in the tournament.

Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange have overcome two scandals and constant scrutiny to stay at the top of the rankings this season and prime themselves for a run at the national title.

However, the loss of Fab Melo will be the straw the breaks the backs of the Syracuse Orange.

A dream season has now become a nightmare.

Now excuse me while I try to piece this bracket back together.


The Betrayal Of The Orange

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No one's happy about the move to the ACC in Syracuse.

When I was a kid I remember watching Syracuse-Georgetown on CBS and going insane with every piece of action.

There was one game in particular, I can’t remember the date but it involved John Thompson getting ejected, Syracuse shooting six straight free throws and the Carrier Dome going insane. I had my eyes glued to the television not knowing what to think.

After that game I was a Big East fanatic. It wasn’t just about Syracuse-Georgetown, it was big Monday, Villanova-Georgetown at the Spectrum or Wachovia Center, The Big East tournament at the Garden, The Backyard Brawl twice a year, Gerry McNamera and Kemba Walker’s magic at the Garden, Ray Allen going bonkers in the Big East Tournament… As you can tell I love the Big East.

It’s been the best basketball conference since I was a kid, the only conference to have 11 teams in the tournament, 3 Final Four teams and it’s the conference that my favorite basketball team plays in, The Syracuse Orange.

Since Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens an Derrick Coleman to John Wallace to Anthony and the current group of Orangemen I’ve been a borderline nutcase. Even as an Ohio State alum Syracuse is still the basketball team I die with. I love them more than any NBA team that’s how deep it is.

As much as I love Syracuse football, the school is synonymous with basketball and the Big East.

When February rolls around there is nothing greater than looking at the Syracuse schedule and seeing a gauntlet of opponents that gives me ulcers but creates some of the best basketball around. 10 games against Louisville, Pitt, UCONN, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame who are all ranked in the top 15 at some point and then St. John’s, Providence and Marquette thrown in for good measure. Hostile environments, tough opponents who bruise you in every way and just awesome basketball.

It makes winter just as much fun to be a sports fan as any other time of the year… and it’s now over.

When Syracuse announced that it was joining the ACC I almost cried (no seriously, I was at a bar after the Mayweather fight and saw the announcement on ESPN… I left immediately after in a rage… I’m a little overboard with this stuff sometimes I think). The tradition that it had built up for years, the rivalries with Georgetown and UCONN that had been so prevalent and the mystique of the Garden were pushed aside for a TV deal, money and a chance to showcase the ACC in New York as AD Daryl Gross put it… They have a showcase, it’s called the Greensboro Coliseum, let em have it.

I’m a traditionalist, I like rivalries, I like mystique, that’s what makes sports great especially college. Rivalries are what fuels games and competition. When the Cuse played UCONN it was about supremacy for the conference year in an out with the same area and the games were so physically and passionate it drove you nuts. Are we really going to get the same feel when the Cuse plays Maryland?

This is agonizing, the games will never be the same nor will they have the same intensity. I go from a gauntlet to watching the Cuse play Virginia, N.C. State and Wake Forest (ooooooohhhhh….). The age of the superconference has begun and it is killing the fabric that college sports was built on.

First we get Nebraska-Oklahoma taken away from us, then Texas A&M-Texas, now this… What’s next?

What is the reason for any of this? Jim Boeheim may have the answer himself.

“Football and money,” he said while on ESPN yesterday. That’s all it really is. Schools with football programs want TV money and their own network. The only reason Syracuse and Pitt for that matter are on the move is because of this one reason…

And it makes no sense.

One, if you want more money and a chance to showcase yourself wouldn’t you join a better conference. The ACC has been the most mediocre of the other 5 big BCS conferences (yep more than than the so-called woeful Big East. In BCS bowls the ACC is 1-9, the Big East has 5 wins including a National championship when Miami still called the Big East home) when it comes to football. They’ve become a punching bag for mediocrity and no one outside of their conference takes them too seriously.

Also in terms of basketball is anyone outside of Duke or UNC any good?

You kiss moments like this goodbye Syracuse.

The Big East basketball conference is hands the best in the nation. At least 10 of it’s 16 teams have been in the top 10 in the last few seasons, the ACC has only had 3 Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest who is as bipolar as they come.

So in reality Syracuse downgraded itself in it’s number one sport of basketball and plays lesser competition on a smaller stage while the ACC gains a decent football program that is still trying to find it’s winning ways.

And as fans this is supposed to make us happy? Now instead of the magic of Madison Square Garden in March fans of the Orange and the Panthers get the Georgia Dome or Greensboro Coliseum? It’s like having your Benz repo’d and having to drive a Hyundai Elantra.

But this is what it’s coming to. Tradition is out the window an the AD’s and chancellors of your alma mater’s and favorite schools are putting money first. It’s not fun but change is always eminent even if it’s not for the best such as with this case.

I’m still an Orange fan no matter what though. It’s gonna hurt two years from now when there’s no more Big Monday showcase games, no brawls with St. John’s, no more payback games with Villanova and no gauntlets to run through where every game is a must see.

Syracuse had a great thing going in the Big East and they ruined it over money. Now everyone involved from the players, fans and The Big East conference has to suffer for it.


The Birthday Confessions Of A Sports Writer

Nothing will ever beat this game.

So I turned —- today (you’ll never get my age ever in life), and I’m currently nursing a hangover thanks to the normal heavy dosage of liquor consumption made possible by my friends (raspberry rum and soda and raspberry vodka and soda are two totally different entities, ugh).

This is hardly the condition I should be in to write a blog especially when there isn’t much to discuss right now.

However, in this silly mind of mine I decided to give you some of my sports confessions.

We as sports writers get our favoritism, views and beliefs in sports at a young age and two things happen; either you stick to your guns or you switch up sides.

I’m the latter of this. Truth is my New York sports bias is a recent thing. I used to…

Wait, let’s do this in a proper numerical style. I mean why give you a drawn out explanation then get into the confessions? I think we’ll do 24 facts, not my age but the number I wanted to wear if I ever got to play with Michael Jordan as a kid because 23 was sort of taken.

1. I hated New York sports teams growing up

Giants, hated them. Yankees, they sucked. Mets, them too. Knicks, yuck. Rangers… That’ll be number two.

My mom forged my sports life as a kid. I loved who she loved because she was a sports nut. She loved Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, and the Mets. All I knew was the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls, baseball cards and that NY sucked.

I actually cried when the 49ers lost to the Giants in 1991 when they were trying to three-peat. That seems so weird now especially now that I scream at Eli Manning every two seconds and own 8 giants jerseys.

This is how I got into hockey.

(my favorite sports moment is still Super Bowl 23. Me and my mom watched that game on the couch together with me curled up underneath her. As Montana led the 49ers up the field on that last late fourth quarter drive my mom and I slowly pulled away from each other and moved closer to the TV until Montana hit John Taylor for the winning score. You should’ve seen us scream and parade around our house like we had won the Super Bowl. That will never be beat.)

2. I used to hate hockey.

I mean I’m black and from the projects in Brooklyn, NY. My mom hated hockey and so did I. She always thought it was a dumb sport and there were no black players so there was no point for it. Since I followed her lead with everything (except the mets, I wasn’t that dumb) I followed that philosophy.

Then the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup and I watched it all. That hooked me.

I was in Washington D.C. when it happened but I felt the energy of New York. I learned about the 54 year curse, how much of a hockey city New York actually is and how truly bad ass Mark Messier truly was.

After that run you couldn’t pull me away from a hockey game. Even when the New Jersey Devils killed hockey in the late 90’s I was still into it heavy.

(I guess you could say the Rangers made me a New York fan. After that run in 94 I felt that I had to like all New York teams because how could I like teams from other cities when I was a true New Yorker?)

3. I was a Michigan fan growing up. (Florida State too.)

In New York there was no college team team in the area that drew attention. Every Saturday the TV selections were Notre Dame, Florida State on ESPN and the Big Ten on ABC with Michigan on every single week.

Truth is I always wanted to go to Michigan. I loved the colors, the fight song, Brian Griese, Elvis Grbac, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson… And the fab five… And Glen Rice’s performance against Seton Hall in 1989….

I still have more great Michigan memories than Ohio State memories… AND I WENT TO OHIO STATE!!!

I could point out moments in great games like the Rose Bowl in 1997 versus Washington State, I cried when Kordell Stewart’s hail Mary beat Michigan in the Big House, I was so happy when we got revenge in Boulder some years later…

I should probably stop there before all of my Ohio State buddies kill me.

4. I never truly liked Tiger Woods

HELLLLOOOO HEISMAN!

There was always something off about him to me. He was too pristine, too clean. Me being from the projects I felt as though with black men there had to be some nasty streak in you somewhere. Jordan had one, Michael Irvin too, Jerry Rice was a prick at times but Tiger was too perfect.

I didn’t like how he always won and how everyone jumped on his bandwagon. I didn’t like how black people crowned him as our king of the moment when he didn’t seem interested in being black (whatever that means) I just never liked him.

When this scandal tore him down I laughed at him, but it didn’t bother me too much. It was just another athlete taking a nose dive. I don’t feel bad for him, I don’t care that he’s not playing well and honestly I dont care if he ever does again.

5. Maryland made me love Duke

I used to be the biggest Duke hater alive… They beat UNLV when I loved Larry Johnson, they prevented the Fab Five from winning a title, The Laettner shot that beat Kentucky made me want to stab myself… and I couldn’t believe that this many white guys were good at basketball and that they kept beating brothers.

(side note 2: for Grant Hill and coach K to criticize Jalen Rose for saying that Hill was an Uncle Tom because he played at Duke was silly. Everyone in the projects felt like that. We liked Kenny Anderson, baggy shorts and baldies. Hill and any other Dukie was a sellout to us. How could they play with all of these white boys and not there own people? Do I think like that now? Of course not. I understand what coaching can do and that you can ball no matter the color. But still you can’t criticize a guy for saying something that the majority of people like him felt was true.)

Then I moved to Maryland where they hate anything New York; Yankees, Jets, Metrostars it didn’t matter. I didn’t understand the hatred because one, New York wasn’t their rival in anything and two, because it didn’t make sense. It got to the point where I kept hearing Yankees this, Giants that, blah blah blah that I got angry and said that I would hate the Terrapins just out if spite.

And who do Terps fans hate more than anything?… Duke.

So there I was cheering for Duke, the team I always hated but because I wanted to piss Marylanders off I was forcing myself to like.

That’s when I fell in love with Jay Williams, Shane Battier and Carlos Boozer and they had me hooked.

It was Williams especially because he was a Jersey kid and I always liked guys from my neck of the woods. I loved his game, fearlessness and how he ate the Terps for lunch. His ten points in 58 seconds still makes me laugh.

Watching Maryland fans whine and cry more than made up for the Yankees not winning a World Series for ten years.

6. I didn’t care that Brett Hull’s skate was in the crease.

The skate had nothing to do with the goal. Get over it Buffalo.

Dumbest… Rule… Ever!!! So many goals were disallowed because of that dumb rule that never should have been made because half of the time the skates never interfered with the goalie.

Did Hull affect Hasek’s angle? No. Did Hull interfere with Hasek? No. Did he skate in late and come up on the side if Hasek an nothing to do with the goal? Yes.

Ok then. Sorry Buffalo deal with it.

7. My least favorite sports moment as a kid was watching my Oakland A’s get swept by the Cincinnati Reds.

How did Eck, Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson and my favorite player Mark McGwire not only lose but look awful against the Reds? Was Jose Rijo that good? How about Chris Sabo and Eric Davis? That was the first time in my life where I went to school the next day after a game and couldn’t stop thinking how in the hell that just happened.

The A’s were so much better, they had the pitching, the hitting and the power and they lost to The Nasty Boys?

I need a juice box.

8. Syracuse-Georgetown is the best basketball rivalry in college basketball

John Thompson, Jim Boeheim, Billy Owens, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Sherman Douglas, technical fouls, physical basketball, a loud Carrier Dome and an even louder Capital Center… God I love the Big East.

9. I will always hate Texas A&M football

Why? Because they screwed Michael Bishop out of everything.

A title, a Heisman, and a pro career.

I only watched Kansas State because of Bishop and his speed, arm and instinct. I couldn’t name another Wildcat from that team but I just loved Bishop.

I didn’t care that he was six feet tall or needed some fine tuning. I just knew that once K-State got to the National Championship all the world would see his skill…

And Sirr Parker killed that.

I’m glad the SEC said no to you.

10. I really don’t care who did steroids in baseball

It was legal and it brought the game back.

Where would baseball be if Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa didn’t have their home run chase?

Steroids or not that was a magical summer where everyone sat in front if the television and their lives hinged on every at bat. It was awesome; McGwire found the fountain of youth, Sosa emerged as a superstar and the game was popular again.

As much as everyone hides it we love baseball. We all played it, watched it live and have fun at the yard whenever go. The game was suffering well after the strike of 1994 it needed a boost and this was it.

Yeah he did steroids... he also saved baseball.

Did the use get out of control? Yes, but to me it was worth it and I’ll always remember the summer of 1998 as the summer that baseball truly came back.

11. Steffi Graf is my least favorite athlete ever.

She beat Monica Seles who was my favorite women’s player at the time, she beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, she won seemingly every tournament she played and won with ease.

She wasn’t snooty, had no mean strike, no off the court issues… nothing.

She was just a machine, a well-oiled wrecking ball that made Saturday’s at Roland Garros and Wimbledon no fun to watch because you knew she was going to win.

She was the Bulls before the Jordan, golf before Tiger and Yankees before their rise…

And she was a total class act. That’s why I hated her I guess.

12. The only reason why I hate The Pittsburgh Steelers is Super Bowl 40

The Seahawks played against 17 men at a time, the Steelers and the refs. Quite honestly the worst called game ever and the Steelers acted like nothing happened. I still want Mike Holmgren to body slam Bill Cowher.

13. If Ohio State plays Syracuse in anything… I’m cheering for Syracuse

Buckeye Nation is really going to kill me.

Now I was a Michigan fan and I loved the Seminoles but I always wanted to be an Orangeman (and I would’ve if tuition wasn’t $42,000 a year).

Of course in basketball I loved the Orange and always will, however I like Syracuse football as much as I love OSU football.

Those were the Donovan McNabb days when he was slinging it to Marvin Harrison. I had a man crush on McNabb because he was just a beast. He could run it, throw it and make a three pointer every once in awhile. He was the first in the era of the scrambling QB and he made it work.

Harrison I thought was going to be the next Jerry Rice, and he almost was. He made everything look easy and could catch any ball thrown at him. With those two guys I thought it was the beginning if a dynasty at The Cuse on the field…

But we know how that went.

Fast forward to this year and The Cuse is on its way back. Coming off of an 8-5 year Syracuse has an outside shot at the Big East and could win 9 games. I’m honestly more excited for Orange football than Buckeye football.

Maybe it was the scandal, the tats, the selling of rings but I’m over it. I want to cheer for something I can believe in and right now my childhood favorites are trending up. I’m not totally abandoning Ohio State, but if they square off against the Orange I might be in a Syracuse Marathon Men shirt.

I’m looking so bad to the alumni right now.

My man Donovan.

14. I laughed at The Knicks when Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 17 seconds

I mean it was funny.

15. I still think the Ravens fixed Super Bowl 34

THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT BALTIMORE CAN SCORE 34 POINTS!!!! ESPECIALLY AGAINST A TOP FIVE DEFENSE!!! AND I’M STICKING WITH THAT!!!!

16. My first pair of basketball kicks weren’t Jordan’s… They were Ewing’s

That orange and blue with the basketball hanging off the side… C’mon son! They were way fresher than the Jordans.

17. As much as I loved Mark Messier my favorite Ranger is Adam Graves

You ever date a girl who isn’t prettier than other girls that you’ve dated, doesn’t have big boobs, doesn’t have a great body, but makes you happy and does all the little things? That’s Adam Graves. He wasn’t as well known as Messier or Brian Leetch, he wasn’t as rough as Jeff Beukeboom and he wasn’t Mike Gartner fast.

But he always scored goals when you needed them, always killed penalties well and always laid it out in the ice. I was more upset when we traded him to San Jose than when Wayne Gretzky retired… true story.

18. The first game that made me throw a violent tantrum and had me cursing up a storm was the Mariners-Yankees ALDS game 5 in 1995.

Literally cursed so loud that my mom barged into my room and caught me about to tear into my book bag.

I hate that the M’s got into the playlets in the first place with that late season run (I was cheering for then to make it at first because I loved Ken Griffey Jr… Learned that lesson) I hate that Randy Johnson was so unhittable and I hate Jack McDowell because he had no business being out there amongst other reasons for hating him.

When we fired Buck Showalter at the end of the year I was part pissed and part happy. I was happy he was gone but mad that he cost us so many games including that one.

19. Pete Sampras- Andre Agassi is still my favorite sports rivalry.

This was the first sports thing that me and my mom went at each others throats about. She loved Agassi, the image, the hair, the return game and that he seemed like a down to earth guy. I liked Sampras’s nerve, his serve, the way that he played the game. He was the first cerebral athlete that I admired because he always seemed in control.

She called Sampras snooty, I called Agassi a punk, yeah a tennis rivalry broke up our house, weird I know.

It was the tennis that was so great. They were constantly gunning for each other and only measured themselves against each other. Jim Courier, Boris Becker. Stefan Edberg, none of them mattered. Sure they were good competition but Sampras only cared about Agassi and vice versa

You know these Roger Federer- Rafael Nadal matches? Those were three to four times a year for Sampras and Agassi or so it seemed. They were epic and just had you sitting on your hands past the third set.

Man did they hate each other.

They wanted to kill each other I thought. It was the perfect match if wits; Sampras and his finesse versus Agassi and his power. The series never tilted too far in one way. Sampras won his titles as did Agassi but Each has their own bragging point; Sampras won 7 Wimbledon crowns the most ever while Agassi has the career slam.

(side note 3: you know how I know this rivalry was really nasty? Last year in a charity match Sampras teamed with Federer to take on Agassi and Nadal. Agassi and Sampras traded barbs that were more than just smack talk. The crowd and Federer and Nadal just stood there with the crackers looks on there faces. I guess time doesn’t heal all wounds.)

20. The biggest choke job I ever saw was at the 1994 World Cup when Roberto Baggio missed a wide open net in penalty kicks costing Italy a chance at beating Brazil

I didn’t understand soccer at the time and didn’t like it… But even I was saying to myself “how did he miss that?”

21. As much as I hate the SEC, Nebraska is still my least favorite college team

They are still the most overrated program ever. They never threw the ball and no one could stop them. I remember watching the 1996 National Title game against Florida (who I also hated thanks to my allegiance to Florida State) and watch them beat down a team that beat down everyone and I couldnt understand it.

That Tommie Frazier run was the perfect example. You know option right was their bread and butter, they were in position had him stopped, yet 65 yards later the Huskers were up 62-24.

I can’t believe in 1994 that Nebraska and Penn State both finished undefeated but Nebraska won the outright title. PENN STATE WOULD HAVE KILLED THEM!!! Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter and Kyle Brady along with that defense would’ve stopped that option I guarantee it.

Same with the split tile in 1997 with Michigan. Michigan was definitely the better team and had a better defense. However, everyone loved Nebraska, the loved Tom Osbourne a his gimmick offense. It ticks me off and I hope Ohio State beats them by 80 this year.

(by the way, you know what could’ve solved the issues of 1994 and 1997? A playoff… Just saying)

22. I still get nervous when I see a Florida state kicker kick

Wide right… Wide right 2… Wide left… That’ll do it to you.

Ugh!

23. I used to love Cal Ripken Jr an thought he was the greatest shortstop ever…

Then I moved to Maryland and heard about Cal so much that I wanted to puke… oh and Derek Jeter happened.

Cal made me want to be a shortstop. He hit for power, drove in runs and was great defensively. He had the iron man streak and everything pulled me in.

I had a serious collection of Cal Ripken cards that I wouldn’t sell for anything…

Then I got older and studied the game more and realized that he was alright.

One, that streak is the most overrated streak ever in sports. Of those 2600+ games only 200 of them were meaningful. He trotted out for so many bad teams and bad years that really the streak took on it’s own life because that’s all there was in Baltimore.

When you look at Brett Favre’s streak in the NFL it is way more impressive because Favre played in title games, won 3 MVP’s, went to the playoff in all but 3 or 4 years and carried his team to victory. Ripken wasn’t even close.

Then there was the fact that he wasn’t a great hitter. He always hovered around .275 and once his power went so did he.

Then there’s this fact… for all of the mess about Derek Jeter’s defense did you know that Ripken has more career errors, more 20+ error seasons and a lower fielding percentage than Jeter.

Maybe we should steer some of this overrated talk in Cal’s direction.

Ripken was good but he isn’t Jeter. Jeter has played in way more important games, come through in the clutch too many times and has made more ridiculous plays than Ripken ever did.

It’s not even close as to who’s better. Jeter is hitting almost .300 and playing decent defense at shortstop at age 37, Ripken was already tanking.

I’m sorry Maryland and baseball critics, Ripken was highly overrated. It just took me a few years to figure it out.

24. My middle school teacher Ms Rodriguez first put it in my head that I should be a sports writer.

We had a project where we had to write something and put it into summary form for class. I used the NHL all-star game for my project. I watched the entire thing took notes, wrote a three page report and talked about in threw minutes or less highlighting Owen Nolan’s hat trick (I still don’t know how he didn’t win MVP that year, the game was in San Jose… He was a Shark… silly voters),

Needless to say I got an A and she, as well as my classmates were really impressed. She told me to stick with it and that I would be a really good writer one day.

Overrated.

I hope she’s right. Writing a blog hungover while spilling your sports guts isn’t fun. However it may be worth it in the end and I might have many more happy birthdays in my future.

Thanks for reading and supporting the blog so far and letting me spew my ridiculousness for all the world to see. Now if you’ll excuse me my hangover is gone and I’m going to try to get a new one.

I might need a few drinks once I hear it from Buckeye fans about what I said.

Sometimes confessions should stay secret.


Gerry McNamera’s Four Day Magic At The Garden

Five years later Gerry McNamara's legendary run still lingers in the brains of those that watched.

Here’s a YouTube video for the ages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn3kPBww2w0

 

Jim Boeheim was unloading on to the media about the importance of Gerry McNamara to his Syracuse Orange team after McNamara led the ‘Cuse to a win over Cincinnati in the Big East Tournament. He laid into assistant coaches, other head coaches, players and even Syracuse students who had the nerve to say that G-money was overrated.

 

It had been written in Sports Illustrated, in a local campus newspapre and talked about by Big East players that McNamara wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. He was a preseason player of the year candidate and the last member of the 2003 national championship team left.

 

His importance over his career was highly understated up until his senior year. He was arguably Syracuse’s most important player in each of his first three seasons.

 

In the national championship game versus Kansas his threes put the Jayhawks in an early hole that they never could get out of. He had out of this world range. As soon as he stepped across half-court he was in range. He dropped 43 in a first round slugfest in 2004 versus BYU that would’ve made Jimmer Fredette blush. We called him G-money for a reason; as soon as he let it fly it was going in.

 

There was never a moment when I lost faith in his shot. Even when he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn against Vermont in 2005 I knew the ‘Cuse were in good hands going into the 05-06 year.

 

He was supposed to be the backbone of a team that was on arguably the best run of any of Jim Boeheim’s teams in his 30 seasons at Syracuse. It looked like things were status quo as the team started off 15-2 though they had no real impressive victories at all during the early stretch of the season.

 

But then everything fell apart once they got into conference play. Every single deficiency was exposed as they lost 4 straight games to the upper echelon of the monster that is the Big East (and Seton Hall) and 9 of their last 13 games.

 

The games were nightmares. UCONN destroyed Syracuse in both games that they played, so did Villanova, Pittsburgh outmuscled them, Cincinnati guard Devan Downey beat up G-money, DePaul… DEPAUL MURDERED SYRACUSE 108-69!! THEY WERE 12-13!!!

McNamara's senior year didn't go as planned but Coach Jim Boeheim always had his back.

Syracuse couldn’t shoot consistently; rebound consistently, couldn’t get the 2-3 zone to work, and had no real second scorer.

 

Not that the number one option was working that well.

 

As much as I loved McNamara he was getting killed. There was too much put on him, he had too many responsibilities. Lead the team in scoring, distribute the ball to players that weren’t as good as he was. He had to get his and make sure that everyone got their game going.

 

His stats were horrendous. He shot 35% from the field for the season and 33% from 3, which were career lows. He was drained and you could tell. What started off as a promising year and a great end to an era had turned into a nightmare.

 

The ‘Cuse finished 19-11 and 7-9 in the conference. As the conference tournament approached it became clear that unless Syracuse made a serious run then G-money would end his great career in the NIT.

 

The reality was that it was impossible. Their first round match was against Cincinnati who was fighting for their tourney lives themselves and had beaten the Orange by 17 one-month prior. The winner of that game got the pleasure of facing national title favorite UCONN who had a gang of NBA talent in Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams and Josh Boone. Then maybe Georgetown with Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert or Marquette and their sick 4 guard set, and finally Villanova and their own sharpshooting guards Allan Ray, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry or Pittsburgh their beasts of forwards Sam Young and Aaron Gray.

 

They had to win at least two of those games to even get a sniff of the tournament. But after the way that they had played I thought that there was no way it was going to happen.

 

Especially with how G-money was shooting, sure he found a rhythm on senior day versus Villanova but how would he perform when we needed him most? Add to that the fact that he was playing on an injured leg, which would hinder his shooting and ball handling and I wanted to shank myself with a spork.

 

Even though I loved Eric Devendorf  he was way too young to carry the load, same for Terrance Roberts and Daryl Watkins who were great around the rim but couldn’t go for self to save their life.

 

So as that Wednesday lunchtime tip-off rolled around I came to the realization that the magic was gone. The ‘Cuse was done and McNamara wouldn’t get the proper send off that I though he deserved.

 

The Cinci game was brutal. James White destroyed Demetris Nichols all game long. White was the kind of guy that you knew couldn’t have an NBA career because he was way too raw. He could jump through the roof of a gym but loved his outside shot too much. If he ever settled into a game he could’ve been a first-round draft pick.

The shot that started the magic.

McNamara had another one of those games that had plagued his entire season, he couldn’t hit a two to save his life. He missed layups, and mid-range jumpers all day, but he was getting everyone involved. Devendorf, Watkins, Nichols and Roberts all had double figures and were feeding off of McNamara’s playmaking. At one point the ‘Cuse had a 14 point lead and seemed comfortably in the lead until they forgot how to rebound and Cincinnati ruled the offensive glass and climbed back into the game. Once James White hit a two to put the Bearcats up by one I figured it was over. Devendorf fouled Downey who hit one of two at the line. Roberts grabbed the rebound and immediately gave it up to McNamara who got fouled with about six seconds left. Cinci had one to give and came close to an intentional foul that had Boeheim livid.

 

The inbound went to McNamara who fought through what seemed like a sea of Bearcats going behind the back, ducking under a high defender, and dodging everything in his way. He took two steps guarding the ball from swiping hands and leapt from just behind the free throw line and launched a floater that dropped in for a 74-73 lead.

 

I was at work when this happened, when I screamed my guests thought I was insane.

 

G-money’s prayer erased a 1-8 second half and a lost 14 point lead to save the day as Jihad Muhammed’s prayer fell about two inches short from giving me a heart attack.

 

I was breathless. I couldn’t believe McNamara had fought through a bad half and all of those defenders to lead the Orange to victory and possibly the NCAA tournament. Yeah I was a little delusional, I mean sure we got to 20 wins but we needed a lot more than just a last second win over a mediocre Cincinnati team to make the tournament. UCONN was up next and that game was our season I thought. If we beat the consensus number one in the country then we were in. But if we had a redo of those prior two games… done.

 

I watched the UCONN games, yeah we lost the first one by 8 but we were down by 30 at one point. I remember Marcus Williams darting into the lane for a layup stopping after it dropped and watching him wink into the camera. As overly confident as they were they had reason to be. They went nine deep and had talent seeping from its pores.

 

The problem with them was that they were so confidant that Jim Calhoun couldn’t control their cockiness. You could tell all year he had a problem getting his team to work hard instead of living off of their talent and it showed.

 

(funny thing is that they should’ve won the tournament that year and by a landslide. No one was as deep and talented at multiple positions like they were. That was Jim Calhoun’s best team and he’s won two national titles. Even funnier is that hen they lost to George Mason I didn’t blink. That was typical of their year, play down to competition, pull out games you should’ve won by 30 and lose to teams you had no business losing to. They were one of the most bizarre teams in NCAA tournament history.)

 

did I see Syracuse winning this game? No way especially after the first two but after Wednesday I figured why not?

 

McNamara’s shot was failing him from the get go, he didn’t make a basket until the 16:46 mark of the second half where he buried a three ball to put the ‘Cuse up by 14, again. UCONN was being UCONN. They were underachieving against a less talented team and the 2-3 zone that Syracuse is known for was doing a number on them and they couldn’t get one clean shot off at all.

G-money's magic continued versus UCONN.

Marcus Williams played his worst game all season shooting wise even though he handed out 11 dimes. McNamara, though he couldn’t hit a shot, was setting up all of his guys again. Nichols was able to get easy buckets and Terrance Roberts was a monster on the inside. Problem was Roberts was in foul trouble all half because even though UCONN couldn’t hit a shot they controlled the offensive glass.

 

The combination of Hilton Armstrong and Boone killed Roberts and Watkins all afternoon and just like against Cinci, the lead evaporated. When Roberts fouled out with 3:17 remaining Boeheim decided to go small instead of relying on Arinze Onuaku in his early stages of development.  Luckily it worked out because UCONN all but abandoned the inside game relying on jump sots instead.

 

Rashard Anderson hit a three to put UCONN up by one. After Josh Wright missed a gimme, Denham Brown grabbed a rebound and I thought that was it. Brown wasn’t missing any of those two free throws and I wondered if there was anything left. That’s when the what if’s run through your head. What if G-money knocked down a jumper? What if Roberts had stayed out of foul trouble? What if we didn’t lose four straight and didn’t look so bad all year.

 

It was over. As Brown sunk that last freebie McNamara took the inbound at 11 seconds from the defensive end. He wasn’t contested as Calhoun told his troops to play off and not foul. As he brought the ball across half court only Rashard Anderson was even remotely close to him. McNamara pulled up about 30 feet from the basket and three feet in front Anderson who put up a lazy arm to contest McNamara’s heave… AND HE DRAINED IT!!! 30 FEET OUT!!!

 

The Garden is going nuts. Roberts is holding his head Travis Hill style after Christian Laettner’s jumper against Kentucky. G-money did it again. I was crumpled over behind the bar in shock. How in the hell did this happen again I wondered? The guy just suffered through another bad shooting night and somehow got up the stones to hoist a prayer that drops in like it was nothing.

 

That’s why they say the best shooters keep shooting. No matter how bad you night is going your confidence can’t be shaken. For all that G-money had been through that year from the overrated talk, to his poor shooting percentage, he remained confident. That’s why I always loved him. You could never tell things were bothering him, he just went out and did his thing.

 

Needless to say the game went into overtime and the 2-3 zone did UCONN in for good. The Huskies only hit two shots in overtime and McNamara nailed 3 of 4 free throws to give the Orange the lead for good.

 

When Williams’ last two shots fell short it was over. 86-84 Orange. Roberts sprinted off of the bench to grab McNamara and toss him over his shoulder in jubilant fashion. I damn near cried. I knew we were in at that point. We had the signature win needed to make the NCAA’s. who could say that this team wasn’t worthy of a bid after the last two games? Two close victories on a neutral floor in a big-time environment, you’d be nuts to exclude the ‘Cuse from the dance.

 

It was all McNamara though. It’s funny because the way that people made his run seem was that McNamara was going off every night leading Syracuse to victory. The reality was the he was 9-31 in his first two games but dropped 22 dimes and made everyone on the floor better.

Despite his stats McNamara made teammates like Eric Devendorf better.

McNamara hit shots when he needed to and set up Nichols, Roberts and company for success. That’s why he was so important. The shooting was secondary, he gave guys with little experience the confidence to play big in big scenarios.

 

In the first two games of the Big East Tournament each member of the starting five scored in double figures. That kind of well-rounded play was the reason for both wins as much as G-money’s heroics.

 

Even though Syracuse had the win I thought it needed to make the dance I knew they couldn’t have a letdown versus Georgetown on Friday.

 

At this point the media was all over this thing. McNamara was the latest in a long line of players to shine in the Madison Square Garden spotlight. It was his time. The overrated talk was out of the window, people knew what he meant to Syracuse basketball now and if they didn’t then they need their heads examined.

 

The confidence in Syracuse was growing. You could see an extra hop in their step from the jump against Georgetown. Thing is that the Hoyas were way far left from Cinci and UCONN. They were a slow down and grind team that limited their possessions and played wicked defense.

 

The first half set basketball back a few years. There were no baskets in the first 4 minutes and Syracuse couldn’t buy a bucket after that. Syracuse trailed by 15 at the half and were on the verge of getting run out the building. It was the first game of the tournament that McNamara couldn’t get his teammates and needed to bear the offensive load. Once again he stepped up.

 

After taking only two shots in the first half he went 5-8 in the second half, all of which from three land. He hit three in a row in a two minute stretch that cut the Hoya lead from 12 to 4. The 2-3 zone set in and it was Georgetown that couldn’t buy a basket. Once he got going McNamara found Matt Gorman for a game-tying three and Nichols got to the foul line hitting some key free throws.  Georgetown however still clung to their slim lead late into the second half when G-money hit his 5th and final three of the half to cut the lead to one with 48 seconds left. The crowd just like it had done in previous games began chanting his names over and over.

 

On Georgetown’s next possession Ashanti Cook threw a bad pass that landed in Nichols hands. He immediately gave it up to McNamara who led a two-on-one and fed Devendorf for a one point lead with 1.5 seconds left. The man had done it again.

McNamara led a furious second half comback against Georgetown.

58-57. The ‘Cuse was in the Big East title game for the second straight year and in the most silly of fashion. In the last minute of each game G-money was the direct reason as to why Syracuse won each game. I had never seen anything like it.

 

The Big East Tournament had Ray Allen’s runner, Erick Barkley going HAM and countless other memorable figures and moments. But none like what McNamara was doing. There was no explanation as to how a guy with a busted wheel was single handedly leading his team to the top of one of basketball’s best conference.

 

This team couldn’t beat a good team all year and now had done it in three straight days. They had a chance to be the first Big East team to win 4 games in four days to win the tourney.

 

I didn’t care about the NCAA’s. they were the furthest from my mind. I wanted this team to win this tournament and have McNamara shove it in everyone’s face afterwards. For McNamara this was his moment. Melo had his in 03, Warrick had his the year before, but arguably neither was like this.

 

Pittsburgh was last on the list. Unlike their previous opponents Syracuse matched up well with Pitt and played a similar style of basketball. Pitt was a team of a New York transplants as Jamie Dixon loved draining NYC of its talent for his own use. I actually admired Pitt because of this. Guys like Carl Krauser, LeVance Fields and Ronald Ramon were tough point guards who could penetrate or spot up and shoot. They also crumpled early versus that 2-3 zone of coach Boeheim’s.

 

This game was different from the previous three as the ‘Cuse jumped out in front early instead of coming on in the second half. McNamara got it going early with ten first half points and that defense confused Krauser and limited Sam Young’s athletic ability.

McNamara got the 'Cuse going early and put them up late.

Once in control, McNamara spread around the ball in the second half feeding Nichols for a three  as well as finding Watkins for an easy score. But even though this game was different in that Syracuse jumped out early, it was similar in how they blew their lead. After taking a 44-34 lead Pitt went on a 14-3 run taking a 1 point lead with 8:40 left to play. After a timeout McNamara buried a three and Syracuse never trailed again.

 

Syracuse didn’t need McNamara’s late game heroics today instead Josh Wright knocked down 4 free throws late to seal a 65-61 win and give Syracuse their second straight Big East title. They won four games in four days, never done before. They made the NCAA tournament and the underrated Gerry McNamara was named MVP of the tourney. I mean who else could’ve possibly won it?

 

His numbers were average but his heart, and guts, were huge. The Three against Cinci that won it, the three against UCONN that tied it, the three to bring them within one against G’Town and the pass to Devendorf that won it and the three against Pitt that put them up for good.

 

I watched him soak it all in and I basked with him. I thought to myself that this team was going to win the national championship. How could it not? We just won 4 in 4 days, 6 in 3 weeks is nothing… unfortunately it was something.

 

In the first round against Texas A&M McNamara and the entire team was gassed, the emotion of the Big East Tourney never carried over and the Aggies broke the Orange spirit 66-58. It was the second straight first round loss in a row for the Orange. It was painful for two reasons; 1. because everyone was so high from the magic at the Garden and 2. because G-money only played 23 minutes as the banged up leg finally got to him.

McNamara was named the Big East Tournament MVP leading Syracuse's improbable run.

He gave too much of himself at the Garden, when he was done so were the Orange. It was part maddening and part sad.

 

No one drafted G-money. He played overseas for a little and then in the D-League before joining Boeheim’s staff two years ago. If they drafted off of pure heart and will McNamara would’ve been a first rounder, instead people like Adam Morrison got a shot.

 

Whatever, I have my lasting image of McNamara. For four days he took the fears of the Syracuse fans and turned them into unrelenting ecstasy. That run will never be duplicated. Guys will score 30 a game for four straight days, guys will make big plays, and someone will be the next one to light up the Garden for his own personal use. But it wont be like what McNamara did. They wont hit those shots, put a team on their back and make history like he did.

 

Gerry McNamara for four days was the best player in the country and let the whole world know. He was the furthest thing from overrated, he was as good as advertised.


Orange Crushed

Things are have been ugly for Syracuse... they could get uglier.

I haven’t gone on a good rant in a little bit, ok a good long while.

 

The last time I was ticked off at one of my favorite teams was two years ago when my Ohio State Buckeyes had a horrendous loss at West Lafayette to Purdue. You know that story; poor offense, poor play by Terrelle Pryor, yeah let’s not revisit that please.

 

Today my venom is being spewed towards the Syracuse Orange. To say I’m ticked off is an understatement… I’m pissed.

 

Two weeks ago the Orange were third-ranked in the country going into the Oakland Zoo to face the Pitt Panthers. Come this Monday they will barely be in the top 20 after suffering their 4th straight loss this time to a scrappy Marquette team in Wisconsin.

 

Except for the Pitt loss (Kris Joseph was injured), every loss has been unacceptable.

 

The Orange has fallen behind big in the early portions of each and has had to climb its way back. They fell behind 19-0 to Pitt, down by 12 to Villanova at the half, by 14 to Seton Hall and by ten today to Marquette.

 

They’ve been awful on the defensive end. Their patented 2-3 zone has been getting eaten alive as their last four opponents have shot over 48% from the field, 40% from three and each opponent has gotten to the foul line more than them and have been making them pay.

 

It’s like watching Lemoyne College instead of Syracuse basketball.

 

Rick Jackson is getting no help from anyone on the inside (Fab Melo has been atrocious in his freshman year) and Scoop Jardine’s shot selection has been terrible as he’s been chucking up ill-advised three’s and had found himself sitting next to coach Boeheim on more than one occasion in the last two weeks.

 

The bench hasn’t been much better either. Dion Waiters’ isn’t helping the team offensively and the same can be said for C.J. Fair. Boeheim has resorted to playing the seldom used Mookie Jones, which hasn’t done much either.

After their fourth straight loss on Saturday, the Orange are left with more questions and fewer answers.

Today I woke up and saw that the Orange were playing and instead of getting ready for the game I sat in my house and followed on line. By halftime I was happy I did. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom destroyed the 2-3 zone by cutting into the lane time and time again and then burned us from the outside. There was no answer for those guys. Even though our shot was falling for the first time during the 4 game drought, the defense just couldn’t get stops.

 

This was against Marquette! This team has killed themselves with their late game meltdowns (ahem, Louisville). They aren’t deep, cant shoot the ball well and are horrible in rebounding. We should’ve taken them to the woodshed especially after the Seton Hall debacle, which most was a horror show in itself.

 

Where’s the pride? Where’s the passion? Where’s the top ten team in the nation that I thought was good enough to win the Big East and get to the Final Four? Scoop, Brandon… anyone wake the hell up! Your season is currently getting flushed down the toilet!

 

I thought that Marquette and Seton Hall were teams that the Orange would beat up and could to them getting back on track (I’m not calling them pushovers but two teams at a combined 20-20 entering the week against the number 10 team in the nation? come on!). Instead of getting their act together The Orange take the losing streak to Storrs and face #5 UCONN, then after South Florida (not a gimme after this stretch) they face Georgetown at home, then Louisville on the road then West Virginia at home. Not to mention two road games against G’Town and Nova after all of that. SHOOT ME, PLEASE!!!

 

This current team can’t survive that stretch. Kemba Walker, Peyton Siva and Malik Wayans can kill that 2-3 with their speed and ball handling and Austin Freeman and Casey Mitchell can shoot them out of it. The Orange aren’t deep enough or skilled enough to handle this stretch. As a result, unless Kris Joseph goes all Carmelo Anthony on the Big East, the Orange are looking at dropping to a 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and becoming second round knockouts. It’s not impossible for the Orange to fix their problems on defense yet I don’t see it happening due to their lack of talent and lack of discipline on the offensive end.

 

Last year’s team could shoot them out of a problem, this year’s cant. Last year Jackson and Arinze Onuaku could beat down an opponent on the inside. This year Jackson is helpless.  Last year the Orange were serious national title contenders, this year I don’t think they could beat Utah State or Maine in a one and done scenario.

 

Right now I don’t plan on watching much more Syracuse basketball. The next month is going to be ugly and rather than view it in horror I’d rather focus on hockey and hope Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams get to campus fast.