Saturday, November 21, 2009

This Syracuse basketball team is going to be something special

How 'bout those Orange men?

And how 'bout that Wesley Johnson?

The last time I saw a Syracuse University basketball team toy with a highly ranked opponent the way they did with fourth-ranked North Carolina last night at Madison Square Garden was during the 'Cuse's national championship run back in '03.

Johnson, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Iowa State, might not be the second coming of Carmelo Anthony, but he has the makings of a future NBA star. He can jump out of a gym and he also has a silky smooth shooting stroke, so he can beat you inside or out. And like 'Melo, he has the ability to take charge of a game, as he proved with that 25-point, 8-rebound effort against the Tar Heels. After witnessing Johnson's Garden Party, SU coach Jim Boeheim said: "He just became a top-five pick (in the 2010 NBA Draft).''

He's definitely going to be a one-and-done player, so enjoy him while you can.

The nice thing about this SU team is that they are deep in talent and size. Like the championship squad these Orange men feature seven starters and some skilled bench players as well, so Boeheim can play guys in droves, and not have to be over-reliant on one player, the way he was with point guard Jonny Flynn the past two seasons.

But, maybe the most impressive thing about the current edition is the way it plays defense. North Carolina coach Roy Williams said SU's 2-3 zone is extremely active and reminded him of the match-up zone Temple used to employ. For the record, the defending national champion Tar Heels shot just 38 percent from the field vs. SU's nasty defense.

I think after the way Syracuse disposed of Carolina and 13th-ranked Cal, we're destined for a fun winter in the Carrier Dome.


Wasn't it nice to finally see some real basketball played at the Garden? Has pro basketball ever been worse in New York. The Knicks are 2-9 and the Nets 0-12. Two-and-21. Pretty pathetic.


Expect new quarterback Brian Brohm to be seeing action for the Bills within a few weeks.


I said Trent Edwards would be in trouble once he lost his guardian angel, Dick Jauron.


Having been a victim of a layoff, I never revel in anyone losing his or her job. But I can't shed too many tears for Jauron. He's going to be making close to $6 million over the next two years. There are millions of displaced workers who wish they had a Fortune 500 executive's golden parachute like that.


I think the Bills will play Jacksonville tough in Perry Fewell's debut tomorrow, but I don't believe the emotion of suiting up for a new head coach will propel them to victory. I just don't like the match-up of the Bills league-worst run defense (now without injured tackle Marcus Stroud) vs. Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the NFL's leading rushers. Call it Jags 23, Bills 16. And check out my post-game column in this cyberspace after the contest tomorrow afternoon.


The Minnesota Vikings will listen long and hard to suitors from Los Angeles about moving to the left coast. The Vikings want a new $900 million stadium built on the site of the Metro Dome, and given the fact the taxpayers just shelled out a king's ransom to build a new baseball park for the Twins, the chances of that happening aren't good.

If the Vikings were to relocate to Tinsel Town, it would mark the second time a Minnesota pro sports franchise made this cross-country trek. The Minneapolis Lakers were an NBA dynasty when they packed the moving vans for the trip to L.A. in the 1950s.


I'm looking forward to tonight's Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame banquet at the Diplomat Party House. Hall of Fame president Tony Liccione does a fabulous job running it and bringing in some of the sport's biggest names. Tony's a guy with a big heart. He's always giving back to the boxing community.

And I'm honored to be receiving the George Beahon Sportswriting Award. George, as many of you know, was a Rochester sports columnist for more than a half-century, and he became a friend and mentor when I came to town in 1985. He was one of the people who set the standard for sports journalism excellence in Rochester and chronicled some of the most memorable events in our city's rich history.

My favorite Beahon story concerns his first assignment with the Democrat and Chronicle back in the 1930s. Babe Ruth was in town for an exhibition game at old Red Wings Stadium, and they sent George over to interview the legendary Yankees slugger. George was just a young whippersnapper at the time and the Babe mistakenly thought he was a gofer, so he handed George a $20-bill and told him to get him two hot dogs and two beers from the concession stand. George happily complied and brought the goods back to the dugout, where the Babe promptly inhaled the food and drinks. He told George to keep the change, then granted the him the first interview of the copy boy's newspaper career.

Imagine that? Your first interview in the business is with the most famous athlete of the 20th century. I joked with George, "Geez, was it all downhill after that?''


I wanted to extend belated congratulations to three friends of mine, who were inducted into the Section V Basketball Hall of Fame last Saturday night - Wendy Bleier, Tom Ward and Ken Henry.


Speaking of basketball teams that might have special seasons, check out the Bonnies. I was stringing for The Associated Press the other night and was thoroughly impressed with St. Bonaventure, especially Andrew Nicholson, the sophomore diamond-in-the-rough forward they recruited out of Canada. He definitely is an NBA prospect and also is a chemistry scholar.


Max said...

The 'Cuse are going to be good....REAL good before tjhis season is over. I can see them going.....ALL.....THE.....WAY!!!!!

Frank Bilovsky said...


Just a question to which I don't have an answer. When is the last time the Syracuse football and basketball teams beat ranked opponents on back-to-back days?