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Sully's Court: Syracuse showed some true grit

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff  January 21, 2013 10:41 AM

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The Monday morning report while still tingling over Saturday’s great games, especially Gonzaga-Butler. What a Puppy Dog Classic, right Charlie Pierce?

Five rising:

Akron: The Zips have won nine in a row and are 13-4 after a big win at Kent State Saturday. They appear to be on a collision course with Ohio. The teams don’t meet until next month. As I always remind you, Akron coach Keith Dombrot coached LeBron James in high school. The Zips also have a legit center in 7-0 Zeke Marshall.

Kansas State: Bruce Weber, who was unfairly fired at Illinois, has done a tremendous job. The Purple Popguns are 15-2 and 9-0 at home. Guess who’s coming to visit Tuesday? Kansas, that’s who, in what should be a huge game in the Little Apple. Over the years, Kansas has dominated this series in Manhattan.

Oregon: What a weekend in LA for the Ducks! They swept Southern Cal and UCLA and are now 5-0 in the Pac 12 for the first time in 39 years. Coach Dana Altman, who came from Creighton, has it going in his third season.

Syracuse: The Orange stole a great victory at Louisville Saturday, showing intensity and grit when it looked like the Cardinals were taking control at the Pitino Palace. They fought back to win the game. As Pitino said to reporters after the game: "That was a great college basketball game and they made some really terrific defensive plays down the stretch. They made the plays, they made the shots when it counted and we didn't.’’ Here’s a thought from the great Ed Ryan, the Globe gambling writer: He thinks Jim Boeheim could retire rather than go coach in the ACC. Interesting thought, right?

Towson: The Tigers were arguably the worst team in the nation last season when they finished 1-31. Second-year coach Pat Skerry has improved things immediately. The Tigers are just 10-9, but it’s the first time since 1999-2000 that the school has had a winning record this deep in the season. Plus they’re 5-1 in the CAA (the only loss was to Northeastern).

Five falling:

Missouri: The Tigers have found the road really rocky in the SEC, where they have failed to be even competitive in losses at Mississippi and Florida.

Old Dominion: A solid program and perennial NCAA tournament contender has fallen on some serious hard times. The Monarchs lost at home to Georgia State Saturday and are now 2-16 overall and 0-6 in the CAA.

Penn State: The Nits look like a disaster in the making. They couldn’t succeed in a winnable home game, falling to Nebraska 68-64, and are now 0-6 in the Big 10.

Saint Louis: The Billikens were overrated when the season started, but then ran off a nine-game winning streak. Things evened out this week as they lost to Temple on the road (no disgrace), but then tumbled in overtime at home against Rhode Island (that can’t be happening).

SMU: The Larry Brown experience has taken a turn for the worse as the Mustangs have lost five of their six and will not be a contender in Conference USA. Brown, of course, returned to coaching at age 72 this season.

This week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks may have high school JV uniforms, but they are a formidable unit that plays tremendous defense. They’re 16-1, the only loss at Texas A&M, and they beat Oklahoma in Norman. They lead the nation in scoring defense at 49.4, are 10th in margin of victory and 15th in field goal percentage defense. I still have a soft spot for the Murray State Racers, but they’re not playing up to their potential.

This week’s Final Four: Indiana, Michigan, Duke, Creighton. I’m not going to hold a tough, close, road loss to Wichita State against Creighton.

This week’s national champion: Indiana. The Hoosiers lost at home to Wisconsin, but I still think they’re the best team.

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