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Inside the College Game

Fri, 12/19/2008 - 2:28am

By Brian Cerone


Long Shot Ignites a Program


 
 


Cleveland State Shocker
 

Syracuse tied the game at 69-69 with only 2.2 seconds left in regulation and Cleveland State coach Gary Waters figured it was time to prepare for overtime. Cedric Jackson had other ideas.

Jackson launched a 60-footer as time expired at the Carrier Dome and the ball banked off the board and went through the net to beat the 11th ranked Orangemen. Coach Waters never saw the final play, probably the biggest shot in the program’s history, and he could not care less.

The win was enormous for the Vikings. 3rd Year coach Waters took over a program that had not been to the post-season since the days of Ken "Mouse" McFadden: 1988. Last year, the program had its best season in a long time, going 21-13 with a NIT appearance. After this win on Monday night, the program will now have even higher expectations.

The seniors on Cleveland State, including Jackson and leading scorer J’Nathan Bullock (13.9ppg), have experienced over 55 losses in their careers. “They didn’t know how to win” said Coach Waters trying to explain how far his program has come. The Vikings are now 7-4 after a tough preseason schedule that included Washington, Kansas State, West Virginia, and now Syracuse. Cleveland State was picked by many experts to win the Horizon League. Now, after the win vs. Syracuse we understand why.

Despite the poor history of the Cleveland State program, the Vikings are no strangers to success at the Carrier dome. In 1986, the only NCAA tournament appearance in school history, the 14th seed Vikings knocked off Bobby Knight’s 3rd seed Hoosiers in the first round and Saint Joseph’s in the second round.

Even if the Vikings fail to get to the postseason this year, the win vs. Syracuse could translate into more highly coveted recruits than the program has been used to. Jackson’s shot has given the program exposure that it has never received before.

5 biggest disappointments

The season is still early but, let us take a look at the 5 biggest disappointments at this point in the season:

Texas's Connor Atchley: His numbers are down across the board so far in his senior season (Points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage). He emerged toward the end of last season and put himself on the NBA scout's radar because he established himself as a big man (6'10) who can shoot (41.3% from deep last year). The NBA covets big men who can stretch the defense, so he will probably get drafted even if his struggles continue. But if he does not return to last year's form he might be hearing his name in the 2nd round rather than the 1st. Meanwhile, teammates AJ Abrams and Damion James have let it be known that they are the clear cut leaders of the team.

The Florida Gators: Everyone gave Florida a pass last year when they did not make the NCAA tournament because they lost all five starters and their sixth man from the 2-time National Championship team. I’m not so sure they will get the same treatment this year if they fail to get back to the tourney. The squad last year was talented but young and inexperienced. This year they are not allowed to say the same, and they have already dropped out of the top 25: not a good sign. After a padded schedule the Gators are 7-2, with both losses coming to the only tough teams they have faced (Syracuse and Florida State). Their wins have not been so impressive however, coming from the likes of Toledo, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Southern Utah, and Florida Gulf Coast.

USC’s Demar Derozan: Maybe we are spoiled because of some of the freshman that we have seen in the past few years. But is Derozan going to give us more than what we have seen so far? I certainly hope so. Multiple experts had Derozan as a preseason 1st team All Pac-10 performer and as high as a 2nd team All American. Right now, he is averaging 9.8 points (4th on team) in 28.2 minutes and has missed all 10 shots from 3-point land.

The Memphis Tigers: John Calipari’s Tigers always seem to have the same problem. They can’t shoot the ball! But, he always seemed to get away with it because the team was incredibly athletic and played some of the best defense in the country. Is this the year the shooting woes are too much to overcome? The team’s percentages are dreadful (42.9% from the field, 65.0% from the line, and 29.1% from deep). They have lost to the only high-quality teams that they have played (Xavier and Georgetown). We are going to find out a lot about this team when 11th ranked Syracuse visits on Saturday.

The Mid-American Conference: Remember when Wally Szczerbiak was carrying Miami, Ohio to the sweet 16? Remember when Bonzi Wells was leading the nation in steals for Ball State? How about when current NFL superstar Antonio Gates willed Kent State to the Elite 8? Well you might as well forget about it because those days are over for the MAC. The current teams in the MAC have only 3 of 12 teams above the .500 mark and the conference is a combined 0-11 vs. the top 25.

Game notes:

Clemson cracked the top 25 this week but I'm not so sure how deserving they are. The Tigers are 11-0, but have softened up their schedule with the likes of Wofford, Savannah State, Presbyterian, South Carolina State, and North Florida. Not exactly the competition that will get you prepared for the ACC regular season… He still is the front-runner for National Player of the Year, but Blake Griffin is shooting a measly 61.5% from the line, which is considerably lower than his shooting percentage from the field (67.5%). For someone who plays as physical as Griffin does, this could be a concern for coach Jeff Capel because of how many times Griffin gets to the stripe. In seven of ten games this year Griffin has been to the line at least twelve times… Notre Dame needed a 10-1 run at the end of the game on Saturday to beat American East foe Boston University. The 13th ranked Fighting Irish were trailing for the virtually the whole game until last year’s Big East player of the year, Luke Harangody, went to work. The junior finished the game 23 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks… USC Upstate (0-7), a division II opponent only two years ago, held last year’s All ACC 1st team performer Tyrese Rice scoreless for only the 2nd time in his career. The Boston College senior missed all 4 shot attempts and turned the ball over 6 times, as the Eagles avoided embarrassment, winning 67-55 at home…Two undefeateds squared off on Saturday as the Butler Bulldogs visited Ohio State. As predicted, the game was tight, but the Buckeyes remain unblemished as they pulled out a 54-51 victory. A last second 3-pointer by Gordon Hayward could not send the game into overtime. Evan Turner led Ohio State with 14 points… UMass snapped Kansas’s 30 game win streak at home with a 61-60 win Saturday. Coach Derek Kellogg, an assistant for Memphis last year, was all too familiar with Kansas and their tactics at the end of a tight game. Last year, Mario Chalmers took a handoff and hit a three pointer that sent the National Championship game into overtime, a game that Kansas eventually won. On Saturday, Kellogg sniffed out the last second play and disrupted it enough to hold on for the upset. UMass’s Tony Gaffney had 13 rebounds and six blocks…This week is full of big time match-ups. #2 UConn squares off with #8 Gonzaga. Also, #6 Duke takes on #7 Xavier. Check in next week for results and breakdowns.

japirish15
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North Carolina will go all the way

Lawson, Ellington, and Hansbrough made the right decisions staying for another year at UNC. No team can compete with the Tar Heels when they are playing the way they have lately. They are hungry after the loss last year in the Final Four, and Lawson has been running the offense with extreme efficiency (4.9 A/T ratio) and Ellington, Thompson, and Hansbrough have shown why they all deserve to be first round draft picks. The bench is deep and gives the team plenty of firepower and talent off the bench. No team in the nation can match up with them talent-wise, and Roy Williams will make sure they go all the way.

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