Observations: Syracuse’s freshman duo integral to Final Four run

It was 13 years ago when Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to its only national title under Jim Boeheim and while guys like Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson aren’t quite on Anthony’s level, they’re still pretty darn good for first-year players.

The 6-foot-9 Lydon has a maturity that extends beyond his years and continues to blossom on both ends of the floor. Lydon has scored in double-figures in three of Syracuse’s four NCAA Tournament games to go with a combined 18 blocked shots during that span.

Richardson meanwhile, is a 6-6 wing who has a feast or famine type feel from long distance.

The New Jersey native is 9-of-25 from 3-point range since the first round and is averaging 14.5 points in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

The Orange have several proud veterans, but there’s absolutely no way that this team would be playing in the Final Four without their two prized freshmen.

Seniors leaders are set to headline the Final Four

That is not a misprint.

In the day and age where one-and-done players often dominate the talk of the sport, veteran players are set to take center stage later this week in Houston.

Villanova has a pair of seniors in Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu while Oklahoma boasts Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, and Ryan Spangler.

North Carolina is anchored by Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels’ ACC counterpart — Syracuse — has a starting back court of two fifth-year seniors: Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney.

The 2016 Final Four is a throwback to the way college basketball used to be where players who withstood the test of time were rewarded with a chance to play on the sport’s grandest stage.

Sit back and enjoy it because you never know when something like this is going to happen again.

Depth perception could play a huge role in the Final Four

Dome settings are always an adjustment for jump shooters and that could be a major factor later this week in Houston.

Both games in this year’s Final Four have different teams that rely heavily on the jump shot and another — North Carolina — will be forced to be make more outside shots because of the opponent it will face.

The Tar Heels haven’t been an elite outside shooting team all season and their match up against Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone will undoubtedly once again test their shot making ability in a dome setting.

Oklahoma meanwhile, is exclusively a jump shooting team and the Sooners will have to hope that the surroundings in Houston don’t affect guys like Hield and Jordan Woodard against Villanova.

It will be interesting to see how certain teams shoot the ball on Saturday night.

It’s been some 12 months for Chris Beard

A little over a year ago at this time, Beard was wrapping up a season at Division II Angelo State and then he was named the head coach at Arkansas-Little Rock.

Beard then led the Trojans to 30 wins and a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in his first year calling the shots at the Division I level.

Now he’s the new head coach at UNLV.

The 43-year old Beard didn’t come to Las Vegas with the glitz or cache that many would expect to be associated with the Runnin Rebels’ program, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to come to Sin City ready to do a good job.

Beard was an assistant under Bob Knight at Texas Tech and has paid his dues.

It may take some time to adjust to all of the ancillary parts that come along with being the head coach of UNLV, but expect the Runnin Rebels to be disciplined, take good shots, and be sound fundamentally under Beard’s watch.

Transfer season has officially arrived

April and May have now become the months on the calendar that are associated with free agency in college basketball and this year is no different.

News flooded the social media world on Monday with different players leaving their current schools in an effort to find new ones and that will no doubt continue over the next few months.

Recruiting and identifying transfers has become a way of life for certain programs in college basketball and that’s a lock to continue as long as kids can play immediately without sitting out a year.

Transfer season is officially here folks.

This freshman duo is a major reason the Orange are in the Final Four. (USATSI)
This freshman duo is a major reason the Orange are in the Final Four. (USATSI)


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