Thursday, March 17, 2011

Will Scoop (Jardine) deliver? That's the big question facing SU in NCAAs

Two scoops might be desirable at your favorite ice cream stand, but two Scoops haven’t always set well in the stomachs of Syracuse basketball fans.

We’re talking, of course, about Orange point guard Scoop Jardine, a polarizing player who has been both good and bad this basketball season.

He has made clutch shots with games on the line and he has made bonehead decisions with games on the line. Continuing with the ice cream metaphor, his play been both palatable and ajada-inducing, often within the span of mere seconds.

Consistency has not been a hallmark of the fourth-year junior’s play, and that’s why I can’t agree with Jay Bilas’ assessment that the ‘Cuse will be headed to Houston and the Final Four. I just think that at some point Scoop is going to serve up one of those head-scratching turnovers or low-percentage shots that turns victory into defeat.

I do believe, though, that SU will make a run. On my bracket sheet I have them reaching the Elite Eight before getting bounced by Kentucky, who I have upsetting the East’s top seed, Ohio State. My other Final Four picks: Pitt, Kansas and Duke, with the Jayhawks winning it all.

I also believe there will be several early round upsets. I like 13th seed Belmont knocking off No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 12 Clemson beating No. 5 West Virginia and No. 11 Gonzaga over No. 6 St. John’s.

Interestingly, Bilas, a Dukie whom I think is the best college basketball analyst on television, has three Big East teams reaching the Final Four – SU, UConn & Pitt, with Kansas winning it all.

For Syracuse to go that far, they will need consistency and judicious decision-making by the aforementioned Jardine, take-charge play by Kris Joseph, hot-shooting by Brandon Triche and some contributions from freshmen bigs Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita.

Can’t wait to see what unfolds. Let the madness begin.
If they had a tournament for the all-name team, I believe SU would win hands down. Besides Scoop, Baye Moussa and Fab, you have Mookie Jones. Tough name line-up to beat.

Of course, the best of the interesting names in college basketball belongs to Jimmer Fredette of BYU. Other ‘name-players’ I would include from this year’s NCAAs: Shabazz Napier (Connecticut); Hippolyte Tsafarack (Memphis); Vander Blue (Marquette) and Dash Harris (Texas A&M).
COMING ATTRACTIONS: I’ll be on Bob Matthews’ radio talk show on WHAM 1180-AM tonight from 7-8, so give us a call to talk about the NCAAs and sports of all sorts at (585) 222-1180.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will it be Miller Time for Bills on draft day?

Von Miller (not to be confused with all-time “Voice of the Bills” Van Miller) is the latest player projected to be chosen by Buffalo.

A 6-foot-3, 246-pound linebacker from Texas A&M, Miller led the nation in sacks (17) as a junior and managed 10 ½ last fall, despite being hobbled by a recurring sprained ankle. He was a champion hurdler in high school and wowed everyone at last week’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with his speed, quickness, agility and strength.

Given Buffalo’s need for a pass-rushing, play-making defender, it appears that Miller might fit the Bills. (In other words, unlike first-round flop Aaron Maybin, he’s supposed to be the real deal.)

While Miller’s stock was ascending in Indy, quarterback Cam Newton’s was declining a tad. Not only was the Heisman Trophy-winning QB from Auburn off target on many of his throws, but his football knowledge was called into question during several of his individual meetings with NFL GMs and scouts.
I’m still having difficulty understanding a possible work stoppage by a $9 billion industry that’s never been more prosperous. Pretty tough to swallow at a time when so many Americans are losing their jobs and their homes.
What a delight it has been to listen to Terry Pegula’s fan-like enthusiasm for the Buffalo Sabres. The thing that strikes me is how sincere he sounds. Long-suffering Buffalo sports fans have been waiting for an owner like this for a long, long time.
You probably heard that Brigham Young basketball star Brandon Davies has been kicked off the team for having premarital sex with his girlfriend, which is a violation of the Mormon school’s honor code. BYU students also are forbidden to drink alcohol, coffee and tea; smoke or chew tobacco and spew profanity. In addition, they must attend church daily and adhere to dress and grooming codes.

Personally, I never would have lasted there. (I couldn't have done without my daily cup of tea ;-). That said, I respect the school for sticking to its principles, even though the decision may cost the Cougars a shot at the Final Four. Most institutions would have looked the other way, sacrificing values and standards for the truckloads of money a trip deep into the NCAAs would have produced.

I do feel badly for Davies, and his teammates, who include college player-of-the-year Jimmer Fredette. But Davies knew what the rules were before he arrived on campus.
While we’re on the subject of BYU’s honor code: How in the world did party animal/quarterback Jim McMahon not get suspended during his years at the Provo, Utah school?

UConn’s Kemba Walker and Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough appear to be the leading candidates for the Big East Conference Player-of-the-Year Award, which will be announced next week. But I think you can make a strong case that Rick Jackson is every bit as deserving. The senior Syracuse forward/center leads the league in rebounding, blocked shots, field goal percentage and double-doubles for a team that’s ranked 12th in the nation. Not too shabby. (You can read more about ‘Cuse basketball in my weekly Orange hoops column at