Conference crowns are up in air

first_imgThis college basketball season, the nation has already seena number of upsets. With conference play already underway, however, moresurprises are yet to come. Some teams are expected to win, many are expected tolose, and as crazy as this past year?s college football season was, perhaps thebasketball season will mirror those same results.So far, six top 10 teams have lost at least one game ? twoof those to unranked opponents ? but the true powerhouses will rebound from thelosses and show the college basketball world why they deserve the top seeds inthe NCAA Tournament this March. Here are Hoops America?s conference breakdownsand predictions:SEC West Champion: MississippiSEC East Champion: VanderbiltOverall Champion: VanderbiltThough a weak conference in comparison to the ACC, Pac 10and Big 12, the SEC displays some talented rosters that could make some noisein the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee?s core of Chris Lofton and Tyler Smith willlead this team to at least a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Shan Fosterand Vanderbilt have an explosive offense that can break through Tennessee.Mississippi will show some strength throughout the season, and even with atough loss to Tennessee Jan. 9, it proved that it could compete with some ofthe better teams in the nation.Player to watch: Vanderbilt?s Shan Foster. He averages over20 points a game and so far has kept Vanderbilt undefeated and in line for aconference championship.ACC Champion: North CarolinaThe ACC features some of the most talented teams in thecountry, and it should come down to the wire with both Duke and North Carolinaboasting spectacular rosters. North Carolina should come out on top, but Dukewill prove to be a formidable opponent. If either team can win the road gameagainst each other, it should make out an interesting finish for the end of theseason and the rankings. The loser of the season series may be forced to play atalented Clemson roster that just recently lost by a close margin in overtimeto North Carolina. Regardless, both Duke and UNC could receive No. 1 seeds inthe tournament, so the battle between the two teams is merely for braggingrights.Player to watch: North Carolina?s Tyler Hansbrough. Heproved his athleticism after dunking over 7-foot-7 UNC-Asheville center KennyGeorge. Hansbrough is on his way to the NBA.Big Ten Champion: IndianaEven with Michigan State currently holding a higher nationalranking, Indiana, with the help of freshman star Eric Gordon, will win the BigTen. However, expect all top teams to lose their fair share of games thisseason. Wisconsin could be the sleeper, but without any true go-to guy on theroster, it faces a tough road in the Big Ten, especially against Indiana.Gordon and the Hoosiers will have the extra push down the stretch to come outon top in a tough conference. Wisconsin?s win over Texas did put some life intothe Badgers, but Michigan State?s Drew Neitzel and Indiana?s Gordon will proveto be too much for the other Big Ten teams to handle.Player to watch: Indiana?s Eric Gordon. He is possibly themost talented player in the country and can light up any floor. Expect Gordonto lead Indiana to a top 10 national ranking and a Big Ten crown.Pac 10 Champion: UCLAThe Pac 10 is possibly the best conference from top tobottom in the nation. Like the ACC, the Pac 10 will be a toss-up between twoteams, Washington State and UCLA. With teams like USC, Stanford, Arizona andCal all very talented and with rowdy home crowds, chances are that bothWashington State and UCLA will lose some road games. Nevertheless, DarrenCollison and new freshman Kevin Love will lead a hungry UCLA team that is inperfect position to take the national championship. It will be interesting tosee how the rest of the conference fares in the postseason, but it would berather optimistic to expect any other team besides UCLA or Washington State tomake any noise in the NCAA Tournament.Player to watch: UCLA?s Kevin Love. As a freshman, he?salready averaging 16.1 points and 10 rebounds per game and is exhibiting aphenomenal all-around game.Big 12 Champion: KansasThe Big 12, like the Pac 10, features talented rosters fromtop to bottom. Unlike some other highly ranked teams, however, Kansas is stillundefeated, and all of its starters score in double figures. Even with thetough conference, Kansas should dominate most of the Big 12 competition butwill be challenged by both Texas and Texas A&M. The Aggies have proved tobe the surprise team in the conference, featuring three starters averaging indouble digits. D.J. Augustin and Texas could make a run and possibly challengeKansas down the stretch, but after losing to Wisconsin and Michigan State, itdoesn?t look to be a major opposition to some bigger powerhouses in the longrun.Player to watch: D.J. Augustin. He averages 20.5 points and6.1 assists per game and is taking over after the detrimental loss of KevinDurant. Augustin must play this well the entire season to maintain Texas? hotplay.Big East Champion: GeorgetownGoing into the season, Pittsburgh looked like the team tobeat in a tough conference, but after losing to unranked Dayton and Villanova,Pitt hasn?t shown it can compete away from home. That being said, Georgetown,with Roy Hibbert leading the way, can make a serious run at the nationalchampionship and should win the Big East. However, both Marquette andVillanova, with Dominic James and Scottie Reynolds, respectively, will make somenoise in the conference and cause many problems for Georgetown. Two ofPittsburgh?s best players ? Levance Fields and Mike Cook ? are out withinjuries, so any chance of it competing in the conference could be gone,especially with Georgetown and Marquette playing as strongly as they have beenrecently.Player to watch: Syracuse?s Donte Green. Averaging almost 20points per game, Green is quietly showing America that he is one of the bestcollege players out there. Look for him to cause problems for all of the BigEast for the rest of the season.Beyond all of these predictions, one team cannot gounmentioned. Memphis, playing in Conference USA, may go undefeated this season.After showing the country its explosive offense and athletic ability in adifficult nonconference schedule, Memphis will no doubt be a No. 1 seed in theNCAA Tournament and very well could be this year?s national champion.last_img read more

Syracuse ice hockey offensive improvement fuels late season push

first_img Published on January 23, 2017 at 10:59 pm Contact Jake: Facebook Twitter Google+ Junior forward Stephanie Grossi said it was only a matter of time before the results would come. By crashing the net and focusing on rebounds, Syracuse has won four straight to put itself two points away from first place in the conference.“If you’re getting shots on net, you’re doing something right,” Grossi said. “The goals should be coming with the shots. … It’s one of the most frustrating things ever (not scoring on chances) and I think that happens to us a lot. … The little details are going to make a difference in finishing those plays.”Since a 7-2 loss to Cornell on Jan. 10, Syracuse (9-10-5, 8-2-2 College Hockey America) has outscored opponents 15-2. Save the occasional penalty, SU has dominated possession for most of the games and found scoring from a more balanced attack. In the last four games, SU has outshot opponents 142-59, peppering goalies from the blue line in.After scoring only 41 goals in the 20 games before the streak, SU is executing and putting shots on net. It’s now capitalizing on chances that were once missed. The team now sits at 2.3 goals and 27.3 shots per game.Better body positioning has helped. Anticipation on picking shot location rather than just shooting blindly and taking accurate shots has helped Syracuse’s scoring opportunities, too. With a power play that has scored only 13 times in 109 tries, a 11.9 percent clip, SU is sharper on the ice.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“If you actually look and pick corners and shoot to score, … it can make a big difference,” Laurence Porlier said. “It means we were all over them during the whole game.“You can outshoot a team and still lose.”Future opponent and conference leader Robert Morris (16-2-6, 9-1-2 CHA) visits this weekend. The Colonials give up only 2.2 goals and 27.3 shots per game, so Syracuse will have to keep up its current pace to have a shot at claiming first place in the conference.“It’s psychological, and we’ve really been working on it,” head coach Paul Flanagan said of the team’s goal to stay consistent. “We might have a good first period, a bad second period, good third period … you got to put 120 minutes together (on back-to-backs). It might be 180 to win a championship.” Commentslast_img read more