College Basketball Nation: DaShonte Riley

Final: Syracuse 87, Gonzaga 65

March, 21, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Some quick observations from a second-round game that looked a heckuva lot more like a 1-16 first-round game (somewhere Vermont is smiling for giving Syracuse a tougher game than the Zags).
  • Kentucky's dismantling of Wake Forest was impressive, but in my book, this was even more impressive. Playing with essentially five guys and a little bit of DaShonte Riley, Syracuse completely humiliated Gonzaga. Smoked 'em offensively, schooled 'em defensively. If anyone thought the injury to Arinze Onuaku took the Cuse out of the national championship derby, I'm guessing they're rethinking that now.
  • The fact that Wes Johnson is back to his old self is far more significant than the status of Onuaku's leg. Not to discredit the importance of Onuaku, but Johnson at his best means a lot more in the grand scheme of things for the Orange. And the way he played today -- 31 points on 11 of 16 shooting, 4 of 6 from the arc and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes -- should send out a flare to everyone else left in the bracket.
  • The Orange only go six deep without Onuaku but five of those six can dominate the game at any time. They practically took turns against Gonzaga -- Johnson to start, Brandon Triche midway through the first half, Andy Rautins to begin the second. Sprinkle in a little Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson and you realize just why this team is so hard to beat.
  • I'll be curious to see if Onuaku can play in Salt Lake City. That regional begins on Thursday and Onuaku hasn't practiced since injuring his leg against Georgetown more than a week ago. Do the Orange absolutely need him? Apparently not. Would it be good to have him when you push into the second weekend? Absolutely.
  • As for Gonzaga? Well the band was fun. Seriously, this is a team that can be fun to watch offensively but also is a team that was absolutely run out of the gym by Duke. Shouldn't be terribly surprising this happened. The Zags don't play enough defense which means when they can't shoot -- and they couldn't have scored with a ladder to the hoop against Syracuse -- they can't win.

Halftime: Syracuse 47, Gonzaga 32

March, 21, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A few halftime observations from an entertaining and fast-paced early game here at the HSBC Arena.

  • Mark Few ought to forbid his guards from shooting. Flat-out say no. They are 2 of 9 from the arc and absolutely failing miserably at penetrating the Syracuse zone. After working patiently to get the ball inside to Robert Sacre and Elias Harris to start the game, the Zags are launching jumpers to the sheer joy of the Orange. All this while Rick Jackson sits on the bench with foul trouble.
  • The Zags have 20 points to Syracuse's 16 in the paint. It's a clear advantage that worked well early and is the only way Gonzaga will get back in this game. The Bulldogs need to try and force Jackson into his fourth foul.
  • Credit DaShonte Riley. He's not exactly art in motion but the little-used freshman stemmed the tide ably while Jackson hit the seats. He has an assist and a steal, and yes, a few mistakes, but the Orange aren't any worse for it.
  • Wes Johnson looks like the guy who made jaws drop in November/December. The electrifying soon-to-be draft pick has 15 points, shooting with the kind of confidence he showed before a hand injury made everything so difficult. The Zags don't have anybody who can guard him but have done a poor job of even trying, leaving him wide open for three 3-pointers.
  • A little defense wouldn't be a bad thing for the Bulldogs, either. Syracuse is torching the Zags with 60 percent shooting from the floor and 50 percent from the arc. No way no how Cuse loses when it shoots like that.

Final: Syracuse 79, Vermont 56

March, 19, 2010
BUFFALO -- Some quick thoughts from the end of a long day, especially if you're a Vermont fan.

  • Not sure what Syracuse can glean from this game. Certainly for a team whose vulnerabilities were exposed with back-to-back losses and a critical injury, the thumping of Vermont is a nice salve but in terms of preparation for the next game? This isn't getting it done. Vermont doesn't exactly play at Gonzaga's speed.
  • I'm sure Jim Boeheim will hone in on the momentary lapses of focus his Orange displayed. Syracuse was never going to lose or really even be challenged but they did ease off the pedal every now and again and it's a habit the Orange can't afford to get in as the competition ratchets up considerably here in two days.
  • Judging by this game, I'm going to guess that Boeheim is going to run with a six-man lineup as long as he can while Arinze Onuaku rehabs his quad injury. DaShonte Riley only played a handful of minutes in a game that was never in trouble. Unless Rick Jackson or someone else gets in serious foul trouble, I expect Boeheim to stick with his five starters plus Scoop Jardine off the bench. The question is: Will it work against a Gonzaga team that likes to get up and down the floor? We'll see.

Halftime: Syracuse 37, Vermont 25

March, 19, 2010
BUFFALO -- Some quick reactions from halftime:

  • Jim Boeheim looks like he ate a bucket of lemons and for good reason. Syracuse will likely win this game going away, but the Orange certainly got a little full of their wonder late in the second half, letting Vermont turn a 25-point hole with 6:39 left into a respectable 12-point deficit by the break.
  • Boeheim looked especially thrilled when the ridiculously athletic Marqus Blakely threw down not one, not two but three monster dunks -- including two alley oops. Blakley has nine points early.
  • Think it would behoove Boeheim to get DaShonte Riley some minutes in the second half. The Orange don't need him here, but they might against Gonzaga, and it would serve the freshman well to play more than mop-up minutes. He was in for three minutes in the first half. He needs work with the starters if Arinze Onuaku is going to be out long term.
  • In the true spirit of a Philly guard, Scoop Jardine is like a firecracker. He ignites Syracuse from the bench, plays with a speed that leaves people flat-footed (literally in this game) and is fearless and brash. One of the most fun guys to watch in college basketball right now if you enjoy players who play with passion and energy from the opening tip.