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Coaches vs Cancer SBNation Roundtable

We take a quick break from our Furd hatred (although there's plenty of places to discuss it!) to get ourselves focused on the tipoff of a big big weekend in Cal hoops. Coaches v. Cancer and the big women's hoops showdown vs Baylor! All this plus the Big Game! What more could you ask for this pre-Thanksgiving weekend?

To kick off this great weekend, we all decided to take CGB into new territory and try and figure out all our potential opponents for this tournament at once. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician (Syracuse), Carolina March (North Carolina), and We Will Always Have Tempe (Ohio State) have all set down for an unprecedented four way hoops roundtable!

What we did was take two questions to each group and answered two from each, ending up with four six question interviews that give you a little taste of each team. So if you want to find out more about each team, plus see our answers to everyone else's questions, you'll have to check out each site.

You can view our interviews with all three: Click here for Nunes Magician, here for Carolina March, here for WWAHT! We start off with the team we face today, the Orangemen.

Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magican

1) How has Syracuse handled the loss of superstar player Jonny Flynn to the NBA?

By replacing him as best we can. It's clear that freshman Brandon Triche is no Jonny Flynn, at least not yet. But he does ensure that the drop-off won't be as severe as it could have been. Coupled with junior Scoop Jardine, the duo will take turns running the SU offense. If Jonny Flynn was Peyton Manning, Triche/Jardine are going to be our Trent Dilfer in 2001. We're not going to ask them to win the game for us, we just want them not to lose it.

2) Briefly describe your 2-3 zone defense. How good is it this year? How effective can it be against a team like Cal, who has a number of excellent perimeter shooters?

Well first here's why the 2-3 zone is so important for us. The loss to LeMoyne? We played man-to-man the entire time, thanks to Boeheim feeling the need to drill it into the heads of the players how lacking their defensive skills were. Since then the Orange have proven themselves pretty adept on zone defense against lesser opponents, causing 60 turnovers in two games so far. Boeheim himself went on record after the most recent win to say this is now the best he's seen the SU defense in a long time.

Of course, if there's any death-knell for the 2-3 zone, it's a hot hand from three-point range. If someone's shooting lights-out, that almost always spells doom for the Orange (and most opponents). If that's the case against Cal, the Orange are going to have to try and maintain control of the game tempo, which has been fast. Unlike recent teams this SU squad likes to run on offense and with athletes like Wes Johnson and Kris Joseph, they'll want turn it into a track meet if they can. Not to mention a certain bigtime shooter of their own, Andy Rautins.

We'll learn a lot about the Orange against Cal. Probably 100 times more than we did in the LeMoyne game or the two previous games.

We Will Always Have Tempe (Ohio State)

Tell us about your point guard situation. Is the offense running smoothly? One of the best ways to slow Cal's offense is to disrupt PG Randle at the point of attack, but it requires an extremely quick defender to stay in front of him; you guys got anyone like that?

Thad Matta has finally decided that the only way Ohio State will be a consistent offensive basketball team is to put the ball in the hands of its best player as often as possible. Thus, Evan Turner is getting a lot of looks at the one, with PJ Hill and Jeremie Simmons supplementing his efforts. The offense has looked good in the early going, and surprisingly so behind the arc. But this is against James Madison and Alcorn State, so it's tough to make an informed assessment just yet. Right now, Turner is very good at improvising, driving the lane, and rebounding, but his sharing skills still seem to need work.

I imagine Ohio State will try to keep a man on Randle at all times, but Thad Matta can be awfully fond of the zone against good perimeter teams. I'm not all that familiar with Cal's offense, but if Matta elects to go man-to-man, I think Ohio State will alternate between putting David Lighty - our best defensive player - and Turner - by far our most athletic - on Randle. Should be a fun match-up to watch either way.

Ohio State has had a lot of transition over the past few years, watching player after player after player go to the NBA. While they did make the NCAA Finals the other year, they also were a NIT team recently and were knocked out by Sienna last year. Do you believe that it might be more prudent to recruit slightly worse players that would stay for more than 1 year than the truly elite players that have been coming through?

This is something I'm quite torn over. I like seeing Matta recruit the dickens out of the Midwest, but I don't like seeing Ohio State becoming a Big Men factory. Our last two biggest recruits - Kosta Koufos, then BJ Mullens - were massive, massive disappointments at Ohio State, and have made it that much harder to understand Matta's recruiting strategy. Still, when those recruits come in and actually do perform, they have achieved some pretty ridiculous highs; Ohio State was just a few bad breaks away from ruining Florida's second championship run, and if they had managed to beat the Gators, few would be questioning Matta's recruiting strategy. But, of course, those are all ifs, and people care more about what actually happened than what came close to happening. Personally, I like what Matta's doing, but if he doesn't start producing some better tournament teams, a shift in the dynamics of his recruiting strategy may be necessary.

Carolina March (North Carolina)

1) The Tar Heels lost a lot of talent off a national championship squad. What's left? Even with the incoming freshmen, is there enough to justify a Top 5 preseason ranking?

What's left? More than you think. None of the freshmen have yet to crack the starting lineup, and there's a reason for that. Marcus Ginyard was the defensive heart of the team through the Hansbrough years, only still around because due to an injury last season. Ed Davis and Deon Thompson were formidable post presences in their own right on last year's team, and Davis especially should be phenomenal this year. Larry Drew's getting a lot a grief for not being Ty Lawson, but even Lawson wasn't Lawson at the start of his sophomore season; he'll improve and impress. And then there's Tyler Zeller and five freshmen; UNC won't hurt for wins this season.

That being said, none of this justifies a preseason Top 5. The Heels are at present overrated, but they're not alone in that regard. Everyone remembers the two or three true freshmen who have truly elevated their teams over the last few years, and have generalized that to all highly-rated freshman. Duke and Kentucky, to name two teams that quickly come to mind, are equally overrated. The team with the experience of years playing together have an advantage that shouldn't be taken lightly.

2) There've been a lot of hated Dukies you've had to deal with over the years. Who's the one you want to punch in the face the most?

Ah, the endless debate, always being hashed out in coffee shops and bars in Chapel Hill. There's no real wrong answer here, but you have to first recognize that J. J. Redick took being punchable to new heights at Duke. First, by parlaying two skills (excellent free throw shooting and a quick-release three-pointer that worked well with Duke's perimeter screens) into enough glowing media profiles you'd think he was Jesus in hightops. Then he'd compound it by being an ass on the court, only to garner more glowing profiles for how brave he was to suffer the cruel insults of opposing fans. Heavens forfend a basketball fan outside of Durham should deign to say something mean about our poor little tortured poet.

That being said, his would not be the face I'd punch. (And only because I wouldn't want to read the articles on how heroic he was to suffer such a blow) No, I'd have to go with with the ur-annoying Duke guard [1], Steve Wojcjechowski. What he lacked in skill, he made up for with extreme annoyance, constantly slapping the court [2], and otherwise being the apple of Vitale's eye. But his biggest sin is post-graduation, when he moved up the bench to be an assistant coach. There is an unspoken compact between Duke players and Carolina fans - after four or five years, they go away. Because I still have to suffer Wojcjechowski on my TV is grounds for face-punching.

[1] It can be argued that Bobby Hurley was the ur-annoying Duke guard, but Wojcjechowski has one attribute Hurley lacks, mainly a thorough failure on the national stage during his time in Durham.
[2] One of the great moments in the UNC-Duke rivalry that never makes the highlight clips was when UNC point guard Ed Cota brought the ball up the court against Wojcjechowski. The defender leaned down and slapped the floor, only to have pick that moment to drive past him like he was, well, bending over a slapping the floor in the middle of a basketball game. Who does that?