Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'It was a defining moment': Former players reflect on 2010 Pinstripe Bowl victory

Bend, but don't break.

It was a simple message – one the Syracuse coaching staff had preached the entire 2010 season, and one instilled into cornerback Da’Mon Merkerson’s mind. A motto that became more pertinent than ever in the Pinstripe Bowl as Kansas State lined up for a potentially game-tying two-point conversion with 1:13 remaining.

Syracuse’s defense had certainly bent – it surrendered 34 points and let the Wildcats hang around. But it never broke. The Orange stopped KSU when it mattered most, preserving a 36-34 win.

“We gave them a touchdown, but we’re not gonna give up the game,” Merkerson said. “It was a defining moment. We may bend, but we’re not gonna break.”

After winning just 14 games combined throughout the previous five seasons, a win in the Pinstripe Bowl capped a full-fledged turnaround for Syracuse. That win helped paved the way for the current team and changed the culture of SU football. The 2012 Orange qualified for the Pinstripe Bowl yet again after a 7-5 regular season, and will face West Virginia on Saturday at 3:15 p.m.

Syracuse’s defense bent three times on three touchdown runs by Daniel Thomas. It bent yet again when quarterback Carson Coffman delivered a 30-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Hilburn to cut the deficit to two.

“We all came up together and said, ‘We worked too hard for this, man,’” linebacker Derrell Smith said. “One more play and we got the win.”

As Merkerson saw the ball coming toward him, he knew he had to make a play.

And he did. Merkerson didn’t let his man, Aubrey Quarles, catch the ball, as SU held on for the win.

“Everybody did what they were supposed to do,” Smith said. “Everybody stayed in their lane and did their responsibility and we came out with the win. It was a great experience for me. It was a crazy feeling.”

Earlier, with less than six minutes remaining in the game and Kansas State down five with the ball at Syracuse’s 11-yard-line, Wildcat head coach Bill Snyder made a gutsy call – a call he admitted was the wrong one after the game.

He decided to go for it on fourth down, instead of kicking a field goal and cutting the deficit to two, hoping to catch the Syracuse defense off guard.

But SU’s defense, led by the now-junior linebacker Marquis Spruill, swarmed around Ryan Doerr and sent him to the ground. Syracuse took over on downs with a chance to control its own destiny.

That’s when Orange running back Delone Carter went into beast mode. Carter had already racked up two touchdowns and more than 100 yards, but his most electrifying run came on the very next play after Syracuse regained possession.

Carter burst through a hole in the KSU defense and jetted down the near side of the field, picking up 60 yards before being tackled.

“The highlight of the game was Delone when he broke out for that run. He needs some extra speed because he got caught,” Merkerson said with a chuckle. “But that run, it was like, at that moment, we’re gonna win.”

Ross Krautman nailed a 39-yard field goal, extending Syracuse’s lead to 36-28 with just 3:08 remaining. But that was all the time Coffman and the Wildcats needed.

The quarterback sparked a drive downfield and gave Kansas State a chance. After Hilburn’s 30-yard touchdown reception, the wide receiver capped off the play with what seemed like a harmless celebratory gesture at the time.

He saluted the orange-clad crowd with a simple wave of the hand, a wave that may have cost KSU a win. The refs slapped him with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushing the Wildcats’ two-point conversion attempt back to the 17-yard line.

After a questionable call that went in their favor, the Orange defenders didn’t loosen up or breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, they bore down for one final play and made the stop, refusing to break.
Smith, who will be on the sidelines as a motivator for the Orange on Saturday, said the win helped turn the program around and made people respect Syracuse football.

“We had come so far those past few years from being down and being the laughing stock of college football,” Smith said. “For us to reach a bowl game and to win it in that manner – and to show that we had resiliency and we can persevere through tough times – it was something special for us.”

But for Merkerson, who grew up in nearby Passaic, N.J., the game wasn’t the only exhilarating aspect of the trip.

He recalls being overwhelmed inside Yankee Stadium, marveling at the spectacle around him. He had never played football on a baseball field and had never been inside the historic ballpark.

It was all a new experience for Merkerson. Even the jumbo-sized videoboard in Yankee Stadium was something new for the cornerback.

“That screen was so clear,” Merkerson said. “I was on the field looking at the screen thinking, ‘Damn, I wish I had that in my house.' It was overwhelming.”

Defensive end Mikhail Marinovich remembers walking into the Yankees’ locker room and then stepping onto the field, trying to take in the significance of the situation.

“It was a privilege to be there,” Marinovich said. “I’m a fan of baseball to begin with, so it was a little something special on top of just making it to a bowl game.”

Now, two years after the 2010 team set the foundation and paved the way for this year’s team to shine, the Orange looks for yet another win in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. SU will try to leave the Big East with a bang and earn its second bowl game victory in the last three years.

Merkerson, Smith and Marinovich will be watching, as players who shined at Yankee Stadium in 2010, such as wide receiver Marcus Sales and quarterback Ryan Nassib, look to add to their legacy with yet another momentous win.

“They’re like my little brothers,” Merkerson said. “I feel like a foundation was laid down, and now those guys will continue to teach the guys underneath them what needs to be done to continue to succeed.

“Winning isn’t easy. It’s a great feeling to see people excelling.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Not Top 10: Most un-bowl-ievably bad bowl names

By Trevor Hass - Syracuse University '15

The Advocare 100 Independence Bowl. Really?

Bowl season is now in full swing. Arizona squeaked out a 49-48 win in a shootout against Nevada, while Utah State romped Toledo 41-15, thanks to a dominant 3-touchdown performance by RB Kerwynn Williams.

The action is great, sure, but it’s not even close to as great as the incredible (and by incredible I mean atrocious) bowl names that accompany the games.

Remember when it was just called the Rose Bowl? The Rose Bowl was the purest thing in college football. Now it’s the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Vizio. Not so pure.

Here’s a Not Top 10 list of the worst bowl names in 2012, full of names that are almost as “un-bowl-ievably” bad as the incorporation of “un-bowl-ievably.” And that’s saying something.

10) Outback Bowl (Michigan vs. South Carolina, 1 p.m. on Jan. 1)

This one seems normal on the surface, but if you really think about it, it’s far from normal. Outback is a steakhouse. What does steak have to do with a bowl game? You’d think they’d cook up something a little more well done considering the high, um, stakes. Maybe they’re trying to give off the vibe of toughness (rawness) – that football players are so “meaty” and tough that they take people “Out-back” and teach them a thing or two. Doubtful. Not sure the Outback Bowl is the most scrumptious name out there.

9) Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Oregon vs. Kansas St., 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 3)

My only gripe with this one is that Tostitos is trying just a tad too hard. They’re basically implying that someone who likes football and their chips would naturally combine those two things into a fiesta. I’d be fine with Tostitos Bowl. Companies need to sponsor games. I get that. The “Fiesta” just puts it over the top. What if I want to just eat Tostitos while watching the Tostitos Bowl? Maybe I don’t want a fiesta. If I do, I’ll have my own fiesta and call it the Trevor Fiesta. Nope, that sounds preposterous. So does Tostitos Fiesta. Now you see where I’m coming from. The one thing I do like, though, is that Chip Kelly is coaching in a bowl game based predominantly around chips. That’s kind of cool.

8) Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (NC St. vs. Vanderbilt, noon on Dec. 31)

Wow. This one really speaks for itself, but I’ll throw in as many bad puns and semi-humorous one-liners just to keep you slightly entertained. I’m just picturing this 50-something with a monocle and a pinstripe suit from a mortgage company standing at midfield. “Hello everyone, and welcome to the Franklin Mortgage Music City Bowl. Whooph, saying that entire name was exhausting. I’m winded. Give me a second…….Who thought of this name anyway? It’s just awful.” Nothing says bowl season like the FAMMCB. The Fammcb. The Famsib. Oh you famsib, huh? I personally don’t famsib (fancy) it. Then again, maybe I do if I’ve had this much fun making fun of it. Maybe it’s all a master ploy to get people to talk about Franklin American Mortgage! Brilliant! Or maybe it’s just bad. It’s a toss-up, frankly.

7) Gator Bowl (Miss. St. vs. Northwestern, noon on Jan. 1)

Really? I’m picturing a massive gator lurking in the water ready to snatch and eventually pulverize its prey. But here’s the twist. The gator casually stands up, revealing a pair of fully functioning gator legs. He walks over to a nearby post, picks up a laptop and starts doing taxes.
“Honey, I’m slaying these taxes!”
“That’s great to hear, honey. I’m going to food shopping.”
“Later, gator.”
Is that what they’re going for? Again, doubtful. Possible, though.

6) Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Fresno St. vs. SMU, 8 p.m. on Dec. 24)

All I can picture is a massive hotel/football field combo in a bowl-shape. That would be sweet. If they actually had that, I would book a flight right away and switch to Sheraton for life. I may actually be onto something there. Anything involving Hawaii is awesome, so I won’t make fun of this one too much. The only thing I’ll say is that I would reconsider pairing a hotel with an island. Those two don’t really go together. Just kidding. Crap. I guess this name’s not that bad. I’m keeping it in the Not Top 10 though. You’ll just have to accept it. On second thought, here’s a flaw. I think Sheraloha Bowl has a nice ring to it. I’ll run it by Sheraton and let you know what they say. Hopefully, it’s a go.

5) Little Caesars Bowl (W. Kentucky vs. C. Michigan, 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 26)

Ready for another ridiculous scenario? Of course you are! If you weren’t, you would have stopped reading awhile ago. Picture lots of Little Julius Caesars running around with swords and robes (that’s what they wore, right?) It’s 4th and 1. Central Michigan has the ball at Western Kentucky’s 2-yard line with four seconds to go, down six points.  Hilltopper defensive back Jonathan Dowling turns to his Little Caesar friend and says: “Time to Caese the moment, comrade!” Then Dowling attacks Chippewa QB Ryan Radcliff. But then, in a shocking twist, CMU offensive lineman Eric Fisher turns around and tackles Radcliff in the ultimate form of betrayal. “Et tu, Brute?” Radcliff says, following the “Brute” tackle, and lies on the ground, defeated, with the game over and the season a disappointment. Fin.

4) Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (TCU vs. Mich St., 10:15 p.m. on Dec. 29)

You’re with a couple of buddies at Buffalo Wild Wings watching the game. Hey, I ate Tostitos and had a fiesta while watching the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl … why not watch the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Buffalo Wild Wings? Mich St. has the ball in a tie game with seven seconds to go at TCU’s 43-yard line, just out of field goal range. It’s Le’Veon Bell time. Mich St. head coach Mark Dantonio plays it safe and hands the ball to his star running back. It looks like he’s about to get tackled and the game will head into overtime. But then he breaks free! Un-Bell-ievable! Then, in a shocking turn of events, a rock emerges on the field out of nowhere and Bell trips and flies forward – just a few yards short of the endzone – as time expires. Similar situations unfold over and over again, and eventually the game heads into quintuple overtime. That’s okay! More wings and beer! If you don’t get the reference, watch this:
You probably get it, though, considering you likely care about and watch sports.

3) San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (BYU vs. SDSU, 8 p.m. on Dec. 20)

I just don’t quite see the connection between an unexciting company, a flower and a football game. Isn’t that what the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio is for? The SDCCUPB doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The credit union deserves no credit here. Credit is exciting! The bowl name should get people excited! I mean, I guess San Diego’s exciting. Poinsettias are moderately exciting. Football’s all right, too! But county credit union … doesn’t get much dryer and less exciting than that.

2) R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (E. Carolina vs. La. Lafayette, noon on Dec. 22)

R+L’s Carrier’s slogan is “We ship anything, anywhere, anytime.” All right, then. How about shipping in some new marketing specialists? This name is a “shipwreck.” First of all (maybe it’s just me), but I didn’t know what R+L Carriers was. Secondly, now that I do, there’s no pizzazz to the name. It doesn’t make me want to ship my products with them. Come on, R+L; I expect better of you. Finally, I’m just envisioning a truck driver “carrying” the football and getting absolutely obliterated, like Caesar. This name just isn’t good. It’s not as laughable as some of the others, but it’s just as bad – if not worse.

1) Advocare V100 Independence Bowl (Ohio vs. UL Monroe, 2 p.m. on Dec. 28)

This one takes the cake. The worst of the worst. The most un-bowl-ievably bad. “I have enough independence to use Advocare V100 on my own now! I’m independent! You can gain that independence too by switching to Advocare!” Frankly, I don’t (Advo)care. This is not a good name for a bowl game.

There you have it: The 10 most un-bowl-ievably bad bowl names.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Published December 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Brittney Sykes was energized from the get-go.

Less than a minute into the game, she stole the ball and raced downcourt. She swiveled her body and found a wide-open Cornelia Fondren in the right corner.

Fondren drained the 3-pointer and got Syracuse on the board.

“My personal style is that I like to gamble and go for steals – easy buckets,” Sykes said. “Usually after a steal the energy picks up.”

It certainly did.

Syracuse burst out to a 10-point lead in the first nine minutes, as Sykes sparked the Orange right away.

The freshman’s afternoon was just getting started, though, as she played her most complete game this season and bullied Loyola early and often. Sykes filled up the stat sheet Saturday in Syracuse’s (9-1) 83-48 victory over Loyola (Md.) (4-6) in the Carrier Dome in front of 417 fans. She finished with 15 points, five steals, five rebounds and three assists, igniting SU to the blowout victory.

“As long as she’s aggressive and she can get some things in transition going to the rim I think everything else opens up,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said.

And it did.

Syracuse was in a slump midway through the first half. After building an early lead, the Orange let Loyola claw back into the game. Consecutive 3s by Nicole Krusen and Alyssa Sutherland cut Syracuse’s lead to 16-14 with 7:38 remaining in the half.

Less than two minutes later, Sykes stole an errant pass from Sutherland and raced down to the other end. She bulldozed her way to the basket and laid the ball up and in, drawing a foul in the process.

She swished the free throw, pushing SU up five.

Then Sykes got a hand in the passing lane yet again. She came away with the ball and flew downcourt, as Loyola defenders frantically tried to stop her. She missed the layup, but Kayla Alexander cleaned up what Sykes had started.

After a jumper by Loyola’s Diana Logan, Sykes spotted up in the corner, waiting patiently for a pass. She stood in the same spot where Fondren drained a 3 to start the game.

This time, Sykes took Fondren’s pass. She squared her body toward the basket and connected from deep, putting Syracuse up 24-16 with 4:38 to go in the first half.

“She’s a very athletic player that can really slash to the basket,” Hillsman said. “Her shooting keeps people honest. That’s one thing that we talked about.”

In the second half, Sykes didn’t skip a beat. She forced another steal and converted on a putback off a missed hook by Alexander, as the Orange’s lead started to balloon with the score 36-20.

Sykes was the sparkplug for Syracuse, as the Orange took it to Loyola in the second half and ended up shooting almost 56 percent in the half and dropping 51 points.

Hillsman said it was Sykes’ best game so far this season. She struggled over the past three games, scoring only nine total points on 3-of-14 shooting.

Saturday that all changed in a hurry. Sykes sped Loyola up and flustered the slower Greyhounds.
She forced five steals and ignited multiple fast breaks.

Sykes said it was tough not to get down on herself during the inconsistent stretch coming into the game, but she said her teammates were supportive and told her to keep her head up.

“My confidence level is so high right now all thanks to my teammates, honestly,” Sykes said. “I’ve been down on myself from scoring and how to score, but they’ve been keeping me positive.”

Hillsman said Sykes was efficient in all aspects of the game Saturday. Despite her recent struggles, Hillsman knows he can expect many dominant games from Sykes down the road.

“It’s tough having such a dominant player because you want the finished product now, but the finished product might not be in two or three years,” Hillsman said. “She had a very, very good game tonight.”

Carmen Tyson-Thomas said Sykes is stepping into her role as a scorer and defender for Syracuse. She cheered from the bench and alongside Sykes on the court as the freshman forced turnovers, snatched rebounds and drilled 3-pointers.

“I’m proud of her,” Tyson-Thomas said. “I was in the same position as a freshman to come in and have to score. It’s a big role to take on, and I’m glad she’s stepping into it.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jordan Vale and Syracuse enjoyed the best season in program history in 2012. The Orange finished the year with a loss to Georgetown in the Sweet 16 on Sunday.
Ziniu Chen | Staff Photographer
Jordan Vale and Syracuse enjoyed the best season in program history in 2012. The Orange finished the year with a loss to Georgetown in the Sweet 16 on Sunday.

McIntyre, Syracuse players reflect on best season in program history

Published November 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm
Jordan Vale unleashed a shot from well outside the box early in the second half against Colgate back in early September.
Syracuse had already scored four goals in the game, including three in the previous five minutes and one less than 45 seconds before.
Vale watched as the ball swooped into the top right corner of the net. Syracuse went on to punish Colgate 6-0, the first of many statement wins for the Orange on the season.
That was when senior Mark Brode knew this team had something special. He knew this year would be a considerable improvement from his previous three seasons at Syracuse.
Little did Brode know, though, that the Orange would go on to finish second in the Red division, host the first postseason game in school history and win two NCAA tournament games. Syracuse shattered preseason expectations and ended up constructing the most accomplished season in school history.
“The past couple years, it goes unsaid that we didn’t do too well,” Brode said. “I think basically that would have been the normal thing — for us to finish in last place again — but we just wanted to prove something this year.”
That was exactly what they did.
“Ultimately we had a desire to be better than last year,” SU defender Chris Makowski said. “None of us liked that feeling. We wanted to prove people wrong.”
As the mindset of the team evolved, nightmarishly brutal losses never manifested like they did last year. Instead, painful defeats transformed into exhilarating wins, and the fan base continued to grow as the team piled on win after win.
“We realized we had a close-knit, hard-working group that brought everything they had day in, day out,” McIntyre said. “When that came together it translated to results on the pitch.”
After a close loss to NCAA tournament-bound Niagara, Syracuse outscored its opponents 15-0 over the next three games, including the lopsided win over Colgate.
Shifting into Big East mode with a mission to flip the script entirely, the Orange finished the year 5-3 in conference.
In Brode’s three-year stint prior to the 2012 campaign, the team won three total Big East games. Chemistry rose to an all-time high, as Vale emerged to become a prolific goal-scorer and became opponents’ worst nightmare.
Ted Cribley, Tony Asante and freshman goalie Alex Bono continued to shine, as the Orange continued to win.
After monumental wins over South Florida and Villanova, Syracuse earned a spot in the Big East tournament for the first time since 2005.
SU lost 4-2 to eventual No. 1-seed Notre Dame and anxiously awaited its fate as the selection show continued to get closer.
Syracuse players sat inside the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center on Nov. 12 — their destiny moments away from being revealed.
They made it. Just barely.
“I think we deserved to be in the tournament, but we kind of squeaked in,” Brode said. “I heard we were one of the bubble teams. We were kind of nervous. We thought it was 50-50 — pretty much a flip of a coin.”
Once the Orange qualified for the tournament, the players knew they didn’t want the journey to stop abruptly. They wanted to embark on a run they’d never forget.
“Coming into the tournament we were all really excited,” Makowski said. “Even though we were underdogs and no one expected anything from us, we went out and proved we deserved to be there.”
The Orange knocked off favored Cornell 1-0, winning the first NCAA tournament game in school history. Then, just three days later, Syracuse came back from a 2-0 hole against No. 14-seed Virginia Commonwealth, capped by a dagger by Louis Clark in the 108th minute.
“Louis’ goal was great,” Brode said. “I think that was one of my favorite moments here at Syracuse. When he scored we all just sprinted on the field.”
Syracuse’s incredible run came to an end with a gut-wrenching loss to Georgetown in penalty kicks, but McIntyre said his players shouldn’t dwell on the loss.
He knows his players are devastated at the moment, but he said when they look back down the road and reflect, they’ll realize this season was truly one for the ages.
“It was just continuing to push forward, and for that I’m extremely proud of this group,” McIntyre said. “When they finally take a big breath, I think the guys will take a lot of pride in what they’ve accomplished this year.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kevin Ollie is preparing for his first season as Connecticut's head coach, replacing legendary coach Jim Calhoun. Ollie played under Calhoun from 1991-95 before enjoying a 13-year NBA career.
Courtesy of Connecticut Athletic Communications
Kevin Ollie is preparing for his first season as Connecticut's head coach, replacing legendary coach Jim Calhoun. Ollie played under Calhoun from 1991-95 before enjoying a 13-year NBA career.


First impression: Ollie looks to make his own mark on the Connecticut program built by Calhoun

Published November 8, 2012 at 2:01 am

Kevin Ollie was sitting in his office early in September when a serene Jim Calhoun walked through the door ready to deliver bittersweet news.
Known for his intense coaching style and tempered disposition, Calhoun’s message was more serious than the typical tactical adjustment or word of advice.
“That was the first time in a long time I had seen him at real, real peace,” Ollie said. “The only time I really see that in him is when he’s around his grandchildren.”
Calhoun dropped the inevitable news just a few moments later. After a Hall of Fame 40-year career that yielded 873 total wins and three national championships at Connecticut, the legendary coach knew it was time to step down.
At the age of 70, Calhoun was battling hip problems and said he was ready to move onto the next stage of his life. He knew the best possible replacement was Ollie, who played four years under Calhoun from 1991-95.
Ollie took his scrappy, in-your-face style of play to the NBA, where he played for 11 teams in a 13-year career, including time playing for Larry Brown and Chuck Daly. After spending the last two years as an assistant coach at UConn, Ollie was tabbed to take over the program when Calhoun announced his retirement in September.
“I’m an empty cup and I want everybody to fill me up with positive things and things I need to do,” Ollie said. “Then I take those things and make sure they fit in with my philosophy, and I try to go out there and do it.”
Ollie was given a one-year, $625,000 contract that runs through April 4, 2013, two days before the Final Four. He’ll face a difficult challenge in his first year, as the Huskies received a one-year postseason ban due to low Academic Progress Rate scores.
Despite the ban and the coaching change, UConn forward Tyler Olander said his team is even more focused than in past years.
Olander said having someone as upbeat and personable as Ollie is exactly what the team needs. Compared to Calhoun’s frequently fiery temper, Olander said Ollie is more positive and easy to approach.
“Everything is moving forward,” Olander said. “He doesn’t really yell or be negative. I think that helps the chemistry of the team.”
Connecticut Deputy Director of Athletics Paul McCarthy said Ollie makes an incredibly strong first impression and has a talent for connecting with people.
“He’s one of those people that looks you in the eye and you know you’re dealing with a caring, genuine person,” McCarthy said. “He has a talent for connecting with people. He’s smart, engaging and immediately likable.”
UConn guard Shabazz Napier said Ollie has served as a father figure, helping him deal with the rehabilitation process after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot.
After practice, Ollie often talks with Napier, advising him to keep his head up and stay optimistic during the slow recovery process. A guard himself, Ollie also gives him tactical advice as he works to mold Napier into a complete player.

“Me getting over my foot injury and having to sit out, he’s been talking to me and telling me to be patient,” Napier said. “He’s been pushing me to be 100 percent and making me work hard. Those are things you really can’t put a measure to.”
While many people on the outside consider this a year of transition swirling with off-court issues for UConn, Ollie doesn’t see the situation the same way.
“I don’t know about the instability,” Ollie said. “Me and you can look at the same wall and I can see something totally different. I see stability. I see our guys coming in with one heartbeat. It’s not me; it’s we.”
UConn’s core group of players is dramatically different than it was last year, with Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond leaving for the NBA and Alex Oriakhi transferring to Missouri. Changes in personnel will force Ollie to adjust quickly.
“I have to put my imprint on this team,” Ollie said. “I have to go out there and show them what I expect them to do. They know that and I understand that’s the standard of UConn basketball. I put the jersey on. I graduated from the university.”
Ollie feels prepared for the task after playing for Calhoun and working under him for two seasons. His work over the years made him the right man for the job in Calhoun’s eyes.
Ollie said he feels honored and blessed to be at the helm of such a prestigious program. He plans to use the lessons Calhoun has given him over the years to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Ollie said. “For 22 years, this has been a brotherhood. This is all I know: UConn basketball. It’s a special place and it’s an awesome feeling for me to come back and coach.”
Immediately immersed in his new role, Ollie has more responsibility and has taken the reins from Calhoun, yet the former coach hasn’t stepped away from UConn basketball entirely.
The Hall of Fame coach is now Special Assistant to the Director of Athletics, and serves as an aid to Ollie and the rest of the coaching staff and team.
Olander said Calhoun is still very much involved in UConn basketball and has attended multiple practices a week.
“He’s critiquing the team and giving individuals advice,” Olander said. “After every practice, he takes me aside and tells me what I’m doing well and what I should work on.”
Though Calhoun will be around, the job is Ollie’s now. With the future uncertain and the postseason unreachable, all the new coach can do is focus on the regular season.
But when he has a question, needs advice or has a moment of uncertainty, Calhoun is always present and available, watching from afar and making observations.
“He’s like a second father to me,” Ollie said. “Someone that I can really rely on when I need any questions answered. Sometimes he knows what I’m going to ask him before I even open my mouth.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 NBA Predictions

NBA predictions:


1) Heat 67-15
2) Pacers 59-23
3) Celtics 57-25
4) 76ers 49-33
5) Knicks 46-36
6) Nets 43-39
7) Hawks 41-41
8) Bulls 39-43
9) Bucks 37-45
10 Cavaliers 36-46
11) Pistons 34-48
12) Wizards 32-50
13) Raptors 28-54
14) Magic 27-55
15) Bobcats 23-59


1) Lakers 65-17
2) Thunder 63-19
3) Clippers 56-26
4) Grizzlies 53-29
5) Nuggets 50-32
6) Spurs 50-32
7) Mavericks 46-36
8) Warriors 44-38
9) Jazz 43-39
10) Timberwolves 42-40
11) Blazers 40-42
12) Rockets 39-43
13) Hornets 35-47
14) Suns 32-50
15) Kings 31-51


1) Kevin Durant 31.4
2) LeBron James 28.3
3) Kevin Love 25.5
4) Carmelo Anthony 25.2
5) Russell Westbrook 24.8
6) Blake Griffin 22.9
7) LaMarcus Aldridge 22.4
8) James Harden 21.7
9) Kobe Bryant 20.9
10) Andrea Bargnani 20.4


1) Rajon Rondo 10.7
2) Ty Lawson 9.4
3) Chris Paul 9.2
4) Tony Parker 8.6
5) Steve Nash 8.3
6) Kyle Lowry 7.9
7) Deron Williams 7.5
8) LeBron James 7.2
9) Goran Dragic 7.0
10) Jeremy Lin 6.8


1) Kevin Love 13.2
2) DeMarcus Cousins 11.6
3) Dwight Howard 11.4
4) Andrew Bynum 10.6
5) Marcin Gortat 10.3
6) Blake Griffin 10.1
7) Tyson Chandler 9.8
8) Josh Smith 9.6
9) Greg Monroe 9.3
10) Al Jefferson 9.3

MVP: LeBron James 28.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.6 apg.

Rookie of the Year: Anthony Davis 18.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg

6th Man of the Year: Manu Ginobili 16.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg

Most Improved Player: Jeff Teague 14.3 ppg, 7.3 apg, 3.2 rpg


(1) Heat over (8) Bulls in 5
(2) Pacers over (7) Hawks in 6
(3) Celtics over (6) Nets in 6
(5) Knicks over (4) 76ers in 7

(1) Lakers over (8) Warriors in 5
(2) Thunder over (7) Mavericks in 5
(3) Clippers over (6) Spurs in 7
(4) Grizzlies over (5) Nuggets in 6

(1) Heat over (5) Knicks in 4
(3) Celtics over (2) Pacers in 6

(1) Lakers over (4) Grizzlies in 5
(2) Thunder over (3) Clippers in 6

(1) Heat over (3) Celtics in 6

(1) Lakers over (2) Thunder in 7

(1) Heat over (1) Lakers in 6

NBA Finals MVP: LeBron James 28.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 6.8 apg

10 Obscure predictions:

1) Marcin Gortat will deserve to be an All-Star but won't make the All-Star team.

2) Ty Lawson will emerge as a borderline Top 5 point guard.

3) Antawn Jamison will average more points per game than Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace.

4) Nick Young will pass the ball a total of 59 times on the season.

5) Al Jefferson will shoot lower than 43 percent from the floor.

6) Kevin Love will finish third in the MVP voting behind James and Durant.

7) Kobe Bryant will complain at some point during the year about not getting enough touches even though having Nash and Howard is the best thing that could possibly happen to him at this point in his career.

8) DeMarcus Cousins will lead the league with 16 technicals.

9) Speaking of technicals, Rasheed Wallace will score fewer than 150 points on the season.

10) Ryan Anderson will lead the NBA in three point field goals with 172.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


After run to Final Four, talented Louisville team tabbed as Big East favorite

Published October 18, 2012 at 1:19 am
NEW YORK – Decked in a sleek black suit with a piece of paper in hand, Louisville guard Peyton Siva walked up to the podium on the ninth floor of the New York Athletic Club.
Siva unfolded the piece of paper, looked up at the audience and grinned.
“I wrote a very long speech today, as you can see,” Siva said, revealing a completely blank piece of paper and drawing a laugh from those in attendance.
Siva, the Big East preseason Player of the Year, thanked the coaches for the recognition, but didn’t want to take all the credit.
“I’m very humbled by this award,” Siva said. “But I know that there are three other players on my team who could easily be standing in my spot right now.”
The Cardinals are ranked first in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll. After catching fire in March last season en route to a conference championship and a trip to the Final Four, expectations are high for U of L.
That top ranking is an honor for Siva, but he said his team will have to work hard to match those expectations and build off last year’s run.
“It’s a blessing and a curse for us,” Siva said. “You have that bull’s-eye on your back. We’re just going to have to keep that work ethic we had toward the end of last year.”
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said Siva has improved considerably from his junior to senior year and is a top-five point guard in the nation. He expects Siva to lead the team and be the go-to guy for the Cardinals.
“He’s improved more from his junior to senior year than any other time in his career,” Pitino said. “Usually you see the biggest improvement from freshman to sophomore year.”
Siva can’t do it alone, though, and he’ll look to center Gorgui Dieng to be dominant for the Cardinals.
Dieng was named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team after averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds for the Cardinals last season.
Siva said Dieng has bulked up during the offseason and is stronger than he was last year.
Reaching to his left and squeezing Dieng’s muscles, Siva jokingly said the Senegal native is “kind of skinny still,” yet he believes Dieng’s length and strength will be key for Louisville this season. After totaling 128 blocks a season ago, Siva believes Dieng has a chance to lead the country in blocks this season.
While many other Big East coaches voted for Siva as Preseason Player of the Year, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin had a different player in mind.
“You have two guys who received votes for player of the year,” Cronin said. “I voted for Gorgui Dieng. That tells you how good those guys are.”
Siva remembers last season when the Cardinals lost four out of six games. Everything unraveled for a few weeks and the players were down. Then, Louisville embarked on an eight-game winning streak, including a 50-44 Big East championship win over Cincinnati.
That run helped propel the Cardinals to the No. 2 ranking this year, but Dieng isn’t focused on that ranking.
“Rankings don’t mean anything to me,” Dieng said. “Rankings are for the fans. We want to win every game. This year we want to win it all.”
Head coach Rick Pitino said Louisville’s schedule is much more difficult than it was last year. He said his team will be tested to maintain that lofty ranking as one of the country’s elite teams.
Northern Iowa and Stanford or Missouri will present early challenges in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Pitino’s squad then travels on the road to College of Charleston and Memphis before facing off against Kentucky Dec. 29.
That’s all before entering Big East play.
If Louisville is able to make a run deep in March, one reason will be the depth of this year’s team. Pitino called this year’s team the deepest and most athletic team he’s ever had at U of L and said a variety of players can step up in crunch time.
“If they stay humble they’re going to have a great season,” Pitino said. “If they believe what they read, they’re going to fall into the trap. I know these two guys will stay humble. If we can get every single guy on this team to stay humble, we’re going to have a heck of a year.”


Hillsman allows Coffey to make mistakes, continue to grow to become consistent scorer for Syracuse

Published October 17, 2012 at 12:15 am
Head coach Quentin Hillsman sensed frustration mounting in point guard Rachel Coffey midway through last season.
Bombarded with constant instructions from the coaching staff, Coffey veered away from playing her game and looked lost on the court. Turnovers and missed shots piled up as Coffey was out of her element.
Then Hillsman had an idea.
He decided to completely back off Coffey and let her play her game.
The fix worked to perfection, as the point guard emerged as Syracuse’s star player over the final five games and carried the Orange to a berth in the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“He used to take me out every time I made a mistake,” Coffey said. “Then he just let me play. I looked at it as this was my chance to play so I need to take advantage of it.”
That’s exactly what she did. In the WNIT quarterfinal against Toledo, Coffey exploded for 23 points, including six three pointers, and six assists.
Down by three with less than 10 seconds to go, Coffey knew she had to make a play. She burst left, crossed over to her right hand and pulled up for a fadeaway 30-footer.
The year before, Coffey attempted a remarkably similar shot. Down by three against the same team in the same round of the WNIT, she unleashed a three in the waning seconds. That time, the shot clanked off the rim, as the Orange came up just short.
When given a second chance, though, with redemption on her mind, Coffey drained the three-pointer, tying the game at 64. The Orange went on to win in thrilling fashion, 74-73, before falling to James Madison in the semifinals.
The opportunity to play her game without constantly worrying about making a mistake paved the way for a dominant WNIT performance for Coffey, who averaged 11.8 points per game in SU’s WNIT run compared to 4.7 during the regular season.
“Once I let her play her game and backed off so much instruction, she started playing better,” Hillsman said. “That was an easy fix. Step off, let her play and leave her alone.”
After only scoring in double digits once through mid-January, Coffey finished in double figures seven times down the stretch and became Syracuse’s most reliable scoring option.
“It was really humbling to know that I’m finally doing something here and contributing,” Coffey said. “It just really felt good that I was able to make that shot after what happened last season.”
After her breakout performance late last season, Coffey has now solidified her spot as SU’s starting point guard going into her junior year. Hillsman said it is Coffey’s job unless someone takes it from her.
Senior guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas said Coffey stepped into a leadership role during the WNIT last season and carried Syracuse toward the end of the season.
“We had to find leadership from somewhere and you can’t just get it through your seniors,” Tyson-Thomas said. “You have to have a floor general. Seeing her come into that role has been amazing. It’s something that happened right before all of our eyes, and she stepped up and she’s been big for us.”
On a roster full of seniors, Tyson-Thomas said Coffey is now the unquestioned leader on the court. Tyson-Thomas said the fact that Hillsman was a point guard himself makes Coffey’s job especially demanding because he expects a lot out of his star point guard.
Despite these high expectations, Hillsman plans to continue to use a hands-off approach when coaching Coffey. Her instant offense and command of the floor were present in stretches last season, but this year Hillsman hopes to see that productivity every game from his starting point guard.
“She really has matured into that role,” Hillsman said. “I think that as we’re going forward, her maturity and role are going to be the difference in a few games.
“I’m just really happy that she got going at the end of the year, and hopefully that helps her confidence going into this season.”

Jordan Murrell has been a key component of a Syracuse defense that has allowed just nine goals this season. The sophomore defender has also contributed on the offensive end with two goals and five assists, three of which have come to corner kicks.
Sam Maller | Asst. Photo Editor
Jordan Murrell has been a key component of a Syracuse defense that has allowed just nine goals this season. The sophomore defender has also contributed on the offensive end with two goals and five assists, three of which have come to corner kicks.

Murrell continues journey to become strong defender for SU

Published October 17, 2012 at 2:54 am
A few hours before every home game, Jordan Murrell zones everything else out and focuses on a different kind of game before he steps onto the soccer field.
After a 10-minute run and dribbling warm up, Murrell sits in his apartment and zeroes in on the TV screen. Eyes locked in, fingers in place, he goes to work as music by Trey Songz, Usher or Chris Brown plays in the background.
It’s Call of Duty time.
“People ask me why I do that,” Murrell said. “It just calms me mentally. I’m not too bad. I try to keep up with the rest of the world that plays all the time.”
So far this season that pregame preparation has worked for the sophomore Murrell, who has excelled as a defender for Syracuse. Murrell has anchored an Orange defense that has held opponents to nine goals on the season. He has also chipped in with some timely offense, contributing two goals and five assists.
Shining on a soccer field is nothing new for Murrell, who was born and raised in England. Judith Murrell, Jordan’s mother, said her son was wearing shin pads at 18 months old and became infatuated with the game when he watched his older brother, Joel, play.
One day, Joel was taking a team photograph and Jordan got a little jealous. He saw an opening and quickly darted into the picture, going as fast as his 18-month legs would motor.
“We knew then that he was focused and driven about playing soccer,” Judith Murrell said.
Murrell continued to hone his game on the streets of England. He said players ranged from 3 to 25 years old, so he got accustomed to playing against stronger, faster opponents at a young age.
He used to come home from school, grab his soccer ball and head out to the streets for hours.
“When I could walk I got a ball put in my feet,” Murrell said. “I used to play outside in front of my house from when I got home from school until the lights went off and I had to go inside.”
At the age of 12, Murrell left his life in England to move to Ontario, Canada. His stepfather, who was originally from Canada, decided the move would be the best way for Murrell and his two younger sisters to get a superior education.
When he arrived in Canada, Murrell continued to improve on the field and elevated his game to the next level. He joined the Unionville Milliken Soccer Club, where he played under Filipe Bento.
Bento recalls one game where he drew up a play in a frenzy to try to tie the score in the waning minutes. He called Murrell over and gave him quick, last-second instructions on how to take the free kick.
Worried that he didn’t provide Murrell with enough details, Bento was blown away when he executed the kick to perfection. Murrell sent a perfectly placed pass toward the goal and a teammate found the back of the net for the decisive goal.
“He was always very intelligent,” Bento said. “We could see that he had promise and a future in soccer. He had something different that the other kids didn’t have.”
That intelligence and talent has translated to two successful seasons at Syracuse, and he has his eyes on a Big East championship and an NCAA tournament berth this year.
Against formidable conference foes Rutgers and Louisville, Murrell ignited the Orange with three assists — all of them coming off corner kicks.
Against Rutgers, Murrell lined up for a corner two minutes into overtime. He zeroed in on teammate Lars Muller and lofted the ball toward the goal.
Murrell hit Muller in stride and the forward’s header beat the keeper, giving Syracuse a win in its first overtime game of the season. Earlier in the game, Murrell set up Jordan Vale beautifully on a corner and Vale timed it perfectly for a score.
Head coach Ian McIntyre moved Murrell to left back because of his on-ball defense and ability to move forward and attack after making a stop. That strategy has worked flawlessly as Murrell has stopped defenders with poise and confidence.
Though Murrell played well for Syracuse last season, McIntyre has seen considerable improvement from the sophomore, who has grown into a vocal leader on a team that has done a 180.
“I think he’s more consistent and mentally tougher,” McIntyre said. “He has more resilience to his game. We’ve moved him to left back because of his quality on the ball. As he showed the other night, he’s got a very sweet left foot.”