Monday, January 21, 2013

Man Down...Carter-Williams Steps Up

It's only mid-January, but the action this weekend in college basketball had a March feel to it. With Lance, Manti, Lennay, NFL Conference Championship dominating headlines the last few days, college basketball nudged its way into the fold with a couple of impressive performances.

While we'll focus on two come-from-behind wins for Syracuse, we can't talk about the weekend of college hoops without giving some love to Butler, Roosevelt Jones, Brad Stevens, Jimmy Chitwood and the Hinkle Magic. If this video doesn't give you some sort of chills, there is something wrong with you.

Butler pulled off the win over Gonzaga, an instant classic between two "mid-majors" that both have a chance to make a run to the Final 4 this year. Even more impressive, the Dawgs (Butler not Gonzaga) got the win without their leading scorer, Rotnei Clark, who missed the last two games with a neck injury. Clark has produced some of his own magic for Butler this season.

Earlier in the day, Syracuse traveled to the Yum! to take on top ranked Louisville. It would be the Orange's second game without super 6th man James Southerland, who is out indefinitely due to some academic issues (Southerland being ineligible a year after Fab Melo had issues is a whole other story that we could explore at length...what's the issue guys? Go to class and do you work. It's not THAT difficult).

Sure Southerland comes off the bench, but in Jim Boeheim's world, that doesn't really matter (see: Waiters, Dion). Southerland's impact can be seen in the box score despite not starting. The senior is 2nd in scoring, 4th in minutes, 3rd in rebounding and is the teams best 3-point shooter as what people are now calling a stretch-4 (a forward who can shoot it from deep got it, stretch the floor).

In Southerland's first game out, Syracuse overcame an ugly first half to eventually pull away from a pesky Villanova team at the Dome. This weekend's match up with Louisville, arguably the best team in the Big East, if not the country (Boeheim believes this), would prove what Syracuse would be able to do with Southerland who may not return this season.

A classic Big East battle between two top 6 teams that will be playing in the ACC next year ensued on Saturday afternoon. Tied at the half, Louisville held a slim lead the majority of the 2nd half. SU finally regained the lead with 5:30 to play thanks to five straight points from Michael Carter-Williams. MCW, who struggled the majority of the game put the team on his shoulders down the stretch. He did it on both ends of the court, including a steal, dunk and faceful of hardwood to give the Cuse the lead for good....see for yourself.

MCW then made 1 of 2 free throws to put SU up 2 with 13 seconds left. On Louisville's final possession, it was Carter-Williams who came away with a steal to seal the deal.

Let's take a step back and recap the last 6 minutes of the game:

MCW scored 10 of the last 12 points for Syracuse. The other basket, a layup by Jerami Grant (a Daily Onions favorite) was assisted by Carter-Williams. On Louisville's final three possessions...MCW had a steal, had a rebound (off of a Grant block) and added another steal on the final play of the game.

The kid gets it. Sure, he has some growing up to do and he has a tendency to start slow in games, but he has the ability to take over a game on both ends of the floor. It's the reason NBA scouts have him as a top 10 pick next year.

Great. He has a good game on a big stage. How does he follow up that up less than 48 hours later? Well for one thing, he gets Bill Raftery a little excited....

With 3 minutes left, Syracuse found itself trailing Cincinnati by four points. Enter MCW. Five straight points by the sophomore tied the game at 55. A CJ Fair tip-in following a Jerami Grant drive with 22 seconds left would give the Orange the 57-55 win.

Carter-Williams would finish with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 steal. Oh by the way, he only turned it over 3 times.

I'm not ready to retire his number or name a practice facility after him, but its been a pretty impressive 48 hours for Michael Carter-Williams. A McDonald's All-American two years ago, who almost transferred last year because he had to sit behind Triche, Waiters and Scoop, its safe to say its been worth the wait for Orange nation. With or without Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams has shown he can step up when his team needs it the most.

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