Saturday, July 12, 2014
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Unbeaten Syracuse putting record on the line

Syracuse´s Tyler Ennis (11) celebrates with C.J. Fair (5) after hitting a 3-point shot with less than a second remaining in an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Syracuse won 58-56. (Keith Srakocic/AP)
Syracuse's Tyler Ennis (11) celebrates with C.J. Fair (5) after hitting a 3-point shot with less than a second remaining in an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Syracuse won 58-56. (Keith Srakocic/AP)
For almost an hour, it appeared as if Wichita State would be the last unbeaten Division I team, or at least until Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis drained a magical 35-foot shot at the buzzer Wednesday night at Pittsburgh to keep the Orange's record spotless. However, when you consider schedules, the Shockers appear more likely to finish with an undefeated regular season record than Syracuse. All but one of Wichita State's final five opponents sport losing records, while the Orange must play two ranked teams (Duke, Virginia) on the road, where those foes sport a combined home record of 25-2.

Perfect finishes

Ennis' buzzer-beater enabled Syracuse to improve to 5-0 in games decided by five points or less, and 11-0 when the margin is 10 or less. Certainly, it helps to have a cool customer such as Ennis running the show in the stressful final moments, but Orange coach Jim Boeheim gives credit to the entire team for its execution. "Probably the way we've played for the first 36-37 minutes of most games, we probably should be about 20-4 or 19-5," Boeheim said. "But the last three or four minutes, we've been just about perfect in all those situations. We've been able to finish games."

Seniors rule

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  • One key note about the midseason Top 30 list for the Naismith Award is that it includes six freshmen. But it also lists 18 seniors, and if you look at the guys from the new and old Big East, you'd take that team on the court any time. There are current conference players Doug McDermott of Creighton, Bryce Cotton of Providence, and James Bell of Villanova; along with former Big East stars C.J. Fair of Syracuse, Shabazz Napier of Connecticut, Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati, and Russ Smith of Louisville. "There's no doubt that seniors provide the stability and the leadership that's a vital part of having success at the highest levels of college basketball," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said.

    Lesson learned?

    So Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart receives a three-game suspension for pushing a fan at Texas Tech and later apologizes, and the fan says "sorry" and promises to stay away from games for the rest of the season. So what? That just means fans elsewhere will insult, berate, and curse an opposing player. Yes, Smart got the punishment he deserved, but what's to stop fans from repeated bad behavior? "All fans should look in the mirror and say, 'Would you want your son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter to act like that in any setting?' Why we accept it at sporting events blows my mind," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said.

    Talking seed lines

    One of the main topics at this week's conference call with Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman, Division I men's basketball championship committee chair, was that teams no longer will be moved down or up one seed line in a region to satisfy the old principles of bracketing. New rules cover how early teams from the same conference can meet in the NCAA tournament. If they play each other once during the regular season, they can compete in the third round. If they meet twice during the season, then they'd be able to clash in a Sweet 16 game. But if they play three times, including a matchup in the conference tournament, they'd have to wait until the Elite Eight to compete.

    Haves and have-nots

    Thanks to Gary Parrish of for pointing this out: The top five teams in the American Athletic Conference hold a 31-2 record against the AAC's bottom five going into Friday night's rescheduled games. The top five, all of which were ranked in this week's AP Top 25, range in RPI from Cincinnati at No. 14 to SMU at No. 39. But the RPI gap between the Mustangs and South Florida, which is next at 150, is an astonishing 111 spots. Central Florida is the lowest-ranked RPI team at No. 213. Temple is 177.

    Watch your mouth!

    From Memphis comes word that Tigers coach Josh Pastner has indefinitely suspended reserve center Dominic Woodson for using inappropriate language on the bench during Wednesday night's win over Central Florida. "I did not like some of the language he used," Pastner said in his postgame interview about banishing Woodson to the locker room in the second half. "So I said, 'See ya.' " Woodson had been ejected in Memphis' previous game against Gonzaga after committing a Flagrant 2 foul. According to all reports, Pastner does not curse.

    Expatriate of the week

    Aaric Murray, the former Glen Mills School star, continues to score prolifically for Texas Southern, averaging 23.8 points, fourth-best among Division I teams. Murray, who also played at La Salle and West Virginia, also averages 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 9.5 free-throw attempts while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 72.9 percent from the line. He has posted four games of 30 points or more, including a career-high 48 points in December against Temple.

    Games of the Week

    Top Choice

    Florida at Kentucky, Saturday at 9 p.m., ESPN: The only two nationally ranked teams in the SEC meet for the first time this season, giving the Gators a chance to show why they – not Syracuse, Arizona or Wichita State – are the best team in the land.

    Starting Five

    Memphis at Connecticut, Saturday at noon, ESPN: The Huskies, whose last three victories have come by an average of 33.3 points, look for the season sweep of the Tigers.

    Virginia Commonwealth at St. Louis, Saturday at 2 p.m., ESPN2: A showdown of the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference, with the Billikens seeking their 17th consecutive victory.

    Wisconsin at Michigan, Sunday at 1 p.m., CBS3: The Wolverines picked up a victory a little more than four weeks ago in Madison; the Badgers would like to return the favor in Ann Arbor.

    Texas at Iowa State, Tuesday at 7 p.m., ESPN2: The Longhorns have won eight of their last nine games entering this weekend and are making a run at Kansas for first place in the Big 12.

    Duke at North Carolina, Thursday (time TBA), ESPN: The rescheduled game that was postponed on Wednesday night may find the Blue Devils looking ahead to their rematch against Syracuse in two days.

    -Joe Juliano


    Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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