Preview: Syracuse vs. Connecticut

No. 14 Syracuse and Connecticut renew acquaintances when they face off on Thursday in the opening round of the 2K Empire Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The former Big East rivals met in New York last season as well with the Orange posting a 72-63 victory.

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First-year UConn coach Dan Hurley is concerned about the patented Syracuse zone used by coach Jim Boeheim. “We’ve got to try to weaken their zone by getting into their legs in the offensive end with our pressure,” Hurley told reporters. “That’s a big, big part of the game. Playing against their zone is probably 30 to 35 percent of what the game is.” The teams have played in each of the past four seasons but nothing is scheduled in the future and Boeheim allowed it will be tough to regularly play the Huskies with the ACC going to a 20-game conference slate next season. “We play the Big Ten game, and we play in a tournament,” Boeheim told reporters of the nonconference portion. “So it’s making it harder and harder to play teams that you used to play. You can only play so many of those kind of games.”

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ABOUT SYRACUSE (2-0): Sophomore forward Oshae Brissett is off to a strong start by averaging 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds and junior guard Tyus Battle (15.5) and junior forward Elijah Hughes (14 per game) are also clicking. Boeheim said that center Paschal Chukwu is showing improvement and the 7-2 senior is averaging 10 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots. “He didn’t play his first year. He sat out a year, he got hurt,” Boeheim told reporters. “Last year was his first year playing and this is his second, to me. He’s doing some things better. He’s closing on the ball better. He’s getting in better position rebound-wise. He’s getting better.”

ABOUT CONNECTICUT (2-0): The senior backcourt of Jalen Adams (18 points per game) and Tarin Smith (17.5) is mixing well and the latter is a transfer from Duquesne who played high school basketball for Hurley’s Hall of Fame father, Bob. “He’s so versatile, he can shoot the 3, he can get to the rim, he’s so athletic, and he’s unselfish,” Adams told reporters of Smith. “He plays similar to me I think, he’s crafty in the ball screens. If his jumper isn’t falling, he can get to the paint. If his scoring is not working, he can drive and kick it out.” Sophomore guard Alterique Gilbert (13.5) and sophomore power forward Josh Carlton (13 per game) also average in double digits.


1. Syracuse holds a 56-38 edge in the series.

2. UConn sophomore F Isaiah Whaley (ankle) is expected to play after a one-game absence.

3. Orange senior PG Frank Howard (ankle) recently returned to practice but isn’t expected to be available on Thursday.

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NCAA Fantasy Football Preview

The American Athletic Conference

The time has come for college football. With a little less than two month before kickoff in Sidney, FanPicks previews the NCAA 2016 campaign. First off is the American Athletic Conference holding twelve programs on their list. The Houston Cougars came out on top, winning fourteen out of their fifteen 2015 games including the Peach bowl. They’ve stunned Florida State, who came in as the heavy favorite, to win by a score of 38-24 and take home silver football.

The American Athletic Conference last claimed the national championship in 1982, when the SMU Mustangs won it for two consecutive years. The Cincinnati Bearcats barely missed a participation to the BCS championship after recording a 12-0 season in 2009. The American Athletic Conference may not be has strong of a conference as the Big 12 or SEC, but has what it takes to make some noise as one of the five power conferences in the BCS.

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Cincinnati Bearcats Cincinnati logo

One team that may be pretty surprising going into the 2016 season is the Cincinnati Bearcats as they could make some noise in the AAC. They have a good problem right now as any one of their three quarterbacks (Hayden Moore, Ross Trail and Gunner Kiel) could win the starting job.

Connecticut Huskies Connecticut logo

Running back Arkeel Newsome led the AAC with 1,686 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, including two 100-yard rushing performances in the Huskies’ final five games.

East Carolina Pirates East Carolina logo

One of the top returning receivers in the nation, Isaiah Jones hauled in 98 passes for 1,099 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Houston Cougars Houston logo

The Cougars are coming off a breakthrough 13-1 season and Peach Bowl upset of Florida State. Dynamic dual-threat QB Greg Ward Jr. (2,828 yards and 17 TDs) should continue to develop under guru Tom Herman. He’ll have help from RB Duke Catalon and WRs Chance Allen and Isaiah Johnson.

Memphis Tigers Memphis logo

Doroland Dorceus was Memphis’ top all-around back last season, rushing for 661 yards and eight TDs while adding 217 receiving yards and three TD catches.

Navy MidshipmenNavy logo

The Navy Midshipmen had one of their best seasons in program history last year, going 11-2 and winning the Military Bowl. It was a relief for Navy’s fan to see coach Ken Niumatalolo decide to stay rather then take the offer to coach BYU this winter. Senior QB Tago Smith will have to follow in the footsteps of four-year starter Keenan Reynolds.

SMU Mustangs SMU logo

The 6-foot-4 sophomore, Courtland Sutton, is ranked fifth nationally among freshmen receivers with 862 yards and tied for the conference lead with nine TD receptions.

South Florida Bulls South Florida logo

Tailback Marlon Mack ran for a school-record 1,381 yards last year and led the conference in rushing, averaging 6.6 yards a carry with 13 runs of more than 20 yards.

Temple Owls Temple logo

QB P.J. Walker, a senior with 33 starts, holds school records for TD passes (52) and total offense (8,237 yards), and with 7,374 passing yards, he’s 121 short of the school record.

Tulane Green Wave Tulane

Former Tulane starting QB Tanner Lee has transfered to Nebraska. This means, Sherman Badie and Dontrell Hilliard, whom have both rushed for more than 600 yards in a season, should see more carries in an offense designed to run the football with multiple backs.

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Tulsa logo

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior, Dane Evans threw 25 TDs and completed 63 percent of his passes with just eight picks. He threw for 427 yards and four TDs with no interceptions at Oklahoma.

UCF Knights UCF logo

New University of Central Florida head coach Scott Frost introduced new uniform for the team, in hopes that they can shine from the few bright spots that they’ve offered last year. Wide receiver Tre’quan Smith led the Knights in receptions (52), receiving yards (724) and receiving TDs (four) and was one of the team’s few bright spots.

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