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King of the Court: Triche grows up

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Freshman Brandon Triche has started solidly for Syracuse.
(Kevin Rivoli/AP Photo)

His goal is to rack up assists, but long before Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche became a member of the Orange, he was known for leading teams in a different statistical category.

Technical fouls.

Triche was whistled for plenty of them as a youngster competing in rec leagues and AAU ball in his native Jamesville, N.Y. Eventually his father, Melvin sat him down for a talk.

"When I was little I used to go crazy in games," Triche said. "I'd get mad whenever the ref would call a foul – and sometimes he wouldn't call a foul. Finally my dad got on me and made me realize that I can't be like that on the court.

"I've got to be mature."

Now more than ever, Triche is following that advice.

An 18-year-old freshman, Triche will be the starting point guard for Syracuse when it takes the court against Cal on Thursday in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The 6-foot-4 Triche is averaging 10 points and five assists for the Orange (2-0).

"Coach [Jim] Boeheim told me there was going to be a big opportunity right off the bat," Triche said. "It was my job to go in there and grab it."

When he signed with Syracuse last fall, Triche figured he'd spend his first season backing up standout point guard Jonny Flynn. But when Flynn finished the 2008-09 season on a high note and bolted for the NBA, Triche suddenly found himself in a position to make a bigger contribution than originally planned.

"I was actually disappointed that Jonny left," Triche said. "I wanted him to stay, because I would've learned a lot by going against him every day. I just would've gotten better and better."

Instead Syracuse was left with just two true point guards: Triche and sophomore Scoop Jardine, who missed last season with a knee injury. Rather than have Triche and Jardine battle for the position, Boeheim named Triche the starter over the summer, before he ever stepped on the practice court.

Boeheim made his decision because he was so impressed during the recruiting process with Triche's levelheadedness and poise – the things that, ironically, plagued him during his youth.

That Triche is in this position is even more impressive when you consider the lack of buzz he received coming out of high school.

The nephew of former Syracuse standout Howard Triche, Brandon was ranked as the 142nd-best prospect in the Class of 2009 by Rivals.com. While guards such as John Wall, Michael Snaer, Avery Bradley and Kenny Boynton dominated the offseason headlines, Triche was content to stay in the background, knowing he'd soon get his turn to prove his worth.

It's only been two games, but Triche hardly appears overwhelmed by the chore at hand. Along with his father, Triche credits his older brothers Michael (25) and Melvin (22) for preparing him for this moment. Michael played one season at Division III Morrisville State College while Melvin competed at Division II Barry University in Miami.

"Every time they went to the park, my dad made them take me," Triche said. "So I got used to playing against older players, better players. They never took it easy on me."

Now Triche finds himself in a similar position at Syracuse. Even though he's usually the youngest guy on the court, he said he couldn't be fitting in any better with veterans such as Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Wesley Johnson.

The chemistry has shown on the court in Syracuse's victories over Albany (75-43) and Robert Morris (100-60). Still, Triche knows that people continue to poke fun at the Orange for losing to Division II LeMoyne in an exhibition game on Nov. 3.

"It opened our eyes," Triche said. "It was played up so big on ESPN … it was almost like we lost a championship game. We kept telling ourselves it didn't count but, in the back of our minds, it sure felt like it did.

"We knew we just had to pick up our intensity in practice. We know we can't have a showing like that against any Division I team or we're going to lose."

Especially against a quality team such as No. 12 Cal, which features one of the best backcourts in the country in Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson. It'll be the first real test of Triche's career. But certainly not the last.

"I may have been overlooked in high school, but now things are different," Triche said. "All of our games are on TV. Everyone is going to see you. We're playing a tough schedule against teams with all these good guards.

"It's a great chance to make a name for myself."

In some ways, Triche already has.


IN A ZONE

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Evan Turner could elevate the Buckeyes in the Big Ten.
(Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)

Ohio State – It's still early, but the Buckeyes appear to be one of the nation's most underrated teams and more than capable of challenging Purdue and Michigan State for the Big Ten title. Versatile guard Evan Turner will contend for first-team All-American honors.

Dexter Pittman – He's not an All-American candidate or a projected first-round NBA draft pick – yet. But seriously, is there a more physically-imposing force in college basketball than Texas' 290-pound center?

Denzel Washington – College basketball has a new celebrity fan, as Denzel's son, Malcolm, is a freshman walk-on at the University of Pennsylvania.

2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer ClassicNorth Carolina vs. Ohio State and Cal vs. Syracuse on Thursday at Madison Square Garden is a great way to rev up the 2009-10 season.

Larry Drew – He's no Ty Lawson, but Drew's play at point guard in North Carolina's first three games (he's averaging 8.3 points and six assists) has actually been pretty solid, considering the low expectations that were placed on him by fans during the offseason. Drew is good enough to "manage" the Tar Heels to the ACC title.

Lil Wayne – Seriously, is there a college basketball player who doesn't like him? Ask 15 players who they listen to the most on their IPOD during road trips, and I'll guarantee you that 14 of them say Lil Wayne.


IN A FUNK

Isiah Thomas – With the NBA legend stalking the sideline, Florida International lost its first three games by an average of 25.6 points. Nice debut, coach. It will be interesting to see how long Thomas sticks this out. I'll be shocked if he's still at FIU in two years. He has, however, landed some nice recruits. And Thomas picked up his first victory Tuesday night, downing Florida Memorial 88-82.

Devin EbanksWest Virginia's star forward missed Sunday's game against Loyola for what coach Bob Huggins termed "personal issues." Huggins said he didn't know when Ebanks would return to the team. Uh-oh.

Maui Invitational – Normally one of the nation's premier tournaments, this year's Maui field doesn't do much for the excite-o-meter. Wisconsin-Arizona and Cincinnati-Vanderbilt should provide mildly-entertaining first-round games. The other four teams: Maryland, Gonzaga, Colorado and Chaminade.

Pac-10 – Tough to remember a time when one of the Big Six conferences was as down as the Pac-10. Other than Washington and Cal – which has frontcourt issues – who will be worth watching? Did you catch UCLA's overtime dive to Cal State Fullerton?

Royce White – The touted Minnesota freshman is being investigated in the theft of a laptop computer from a campus dormitory. The crime occurred less than a month after he was charged with shoplifting and shoving a security guard at a Minneapolis mall. Tubby Smith needs to take the Lane Kiffin approach and boot this guy off the team.

Bottled soft drinks at games – Never have been a fan of the plastic bottles. I'm a DCOD (Diet Coke on Draft) with ice kinda guy.

Abdul Gaddy – If Washington has hopes of staying in the top 15 and making some noise in the tournament this year, Gaddy needs to be a factor. But through three games the freshman guard is averaging just 7.6 points while shooting 36 percent.


QUESTIONING THE REF

Q: John Wall, Avery Bradley, Derrick Favors and Xavier Henry have received plenty of hype. But who are a few freshmen who are flying under the radar?

A: There are plenty, but among those off to solid starts are wing Jordan Hamilton at Texas and guard Michael Snaer at Florida State. Hamilton, who at times has seemed like an afterthought amid the buzz surrounding Bradley, had 12 points in a season-opening win against UC-Irvine on Sunday. Snaer netted 14 points in his college debut on Monday. Hamilton and Snaer were No. 6 and No. 7 on the Rivals.com Top 150 list for the Class of 2008.

Q: What teams have been affected the most by early injuries?

A: Northwestern was set to make a run at its first NCAA tournament appearance in history before it lost Kevin Coble to a season-ending ankle injury. Now the Wildcats have no chance. Notre Dame took a huge hit when 3-point ace and Purdue transfer Scott Martin tore his ACL last month. Nebraska will struggle to stay out of the Big 12 cellar without center Christopher Niemann (knee). Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson is out indefinitely after surgery on his foot.

Q: What team has suffered the worst loss thus far?

A: Iowa's 62-50 home loss to Texas-San Antonio was brutal – especially since it didn't even feel like an upset. Four players – including starters Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson – transferred from the Hawkeyes program after last season. Other attention-grabbers: Cornell over Alabama, Missouri State over Auburn, Cal State Fullerton over UCLA, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi over Oregon State and Rider over Mississippi State (although I'm not going to read too much into that one, considering the Bulldogs played without Renardo Sidney and John Riek).


THE CLIPBOARD

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Sherron Collins has slimmed down as a senior at Kansas.
(Orlin Wagner/AP Photo)

After ballooning to nearly 230 pounds by the end of May, Kansas guard Sherron Collins is now in the best playing shape of his career, weighing in just below 200. In other Kansas news, Bill Self has convinced senior and former junior college player of the year Mario Little to redshirt along with sophomore guard Travis Releford … With two more signings of top-50 players (No. 8 Jelan Kendrick and No. 46 Tarik Black) Memphis now has what is considered the top recruiting haul for the Class of 2010. That's quite a feat for first-year coach Josh Pastner, whose seven-man class includes four players (Kendrick, Black, Joe Jackson, and Chris Crawford) from the Memphis Magic AAU team … Syracuse's victory over Albany last week marked the 800th career victory for Jim Boeheim, who is only the eighth coach to accomplish the feat. Two other active coaches have more wins then Boeheim: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (835) and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun (807). West Virginia's Bob Huggins is next on the active coaches win list with 640. … The strange stat line of the week had to be the two-point performance by Seton Hall scoring machine Jeremy Hazell in a victory over St. Peter's. Hazell, who averaged 22.7 points last season, was back to his old self two nights later with a 26-point effort in a win over Monmouth … Word out of Lexington is that Kentucky's top three freshmen … John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe – are inseparable off the court and have started calling themselves "The Three Amigos." … Looking for a small-school player to follow? Try San Francisco senior Dior Lowhorn, who began his career at Texas Tech before transferring after just one season to join his hometown Dons. Lowhorn averaged more than 20 points a game as a sophomore and a junior. He's scored 22 points in each of his first two games this fall … Often chastised last season for not playing hard, South Florida's Augustus Gilchrist averaged 20.5 points in encouraging, season-opening victories against SMU and VirginiaBaylor center Ekpe Udoh – a Michigan transfer who led the Big Ten in blocks two years ago – is off to a great start for the Bears. After three games the 6-foot-10 Udoh – arguably Baylor's best post player since Brian Skinner – is averaging 16.7 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 blocks. His 18-foot jumper at the buzzer catapulted Baylor to a 71-69 victory over Hartford on Sunday … The fall signing period has come and gone, and four of the nation's top-10 recruits – Brandon Knight, Josh Selby, Tobias Harris and Cory Joseph – have yet to choose a school … John Calipari's 850,000 Facebook friends and Twitter followers helped raise $50,000 for the Kentucky Children's Hospital. Throughout the fall, each time someone ordered the Coach Cal 3-Pointer (a large three-topping pizza) using a special code obtained online, Papa John's donated $1 to the hospital. The most amazing thing was that 60 percent of the orders came from fans outside of the Bluegrass State


THE WEEK AHEAD

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Kevin Stallings expects big things at Vanderbilt in 2009-10.
(Phil Sandlin/AP Photo)

A handful of games to watch over the next seven days:

Thursday: North Carolina vs. Ohio State (Coaches vs. Cancer in New York) – A victory by the underrated Buckeyes would be an upset – but not a big one.

Friday: Vanderbilt at St. Mary's – Beating the Gaels – who no longer have star PG Patrick Mills – would be a huge momentum boost for a Vandy team with legitimate NCAA tournament hopes.

Saturday: Oklahoma at VCU – Sooners coach Jeff Capel returns to face the school that gave him his first head coaching job.

Monday: Arizona vs. Wisconsin – Sean Miller's first true test as the Wildcats coach faces a Wisconsin squad that was hit hard by graduation.

Tuesday: Texas vs. Pittsburgh (CBE Invitational in Kansas City) – Things could get ugly for Pittsburgh, which no longer has DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields and Sam Young.


PIT STOPS

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Mmmmm, tacos.
(Larry Crowe/AP Photo)

A few food and restaurant suggestions to anyone planning a college basketball road trip:

Eddie George's Grille 27 (Columbus, Ohio) – Bring your Tums and fish oil and try the deep-fried cheeseburger at this upscale – but affordable – sports bar owned by Ohio State 1995 Heisman winner. From Cajun honey mustard wings to deep-fried bologna, the menu options are incredible.

KFC grilled chicken – Kramer had Kenny Rogers Roasters, and I've got KFC, whose grilled chicken is so good that chains are actually selling out of the delicious bird, which is actually quite healthy. A grilled breast (180 calories), wing (70) and drumstick (70) have less than half the calories of the extra crispy stuff (490, 150 and 150).

Ted's Cafe Escondido (Norman, Okla.) – From the free, all-you-can eat chips, salsa, cheese sauce and tortillas to the flavorful fajita meat, cilantro and diced onions in their self-proclaimed "Best Mexican Tacos," there isn't anything not to like about Ted's, which is always packed for a reason. There's also a location in Oklahoma City.

Angus burgers at McDonald's – I always do my best to avoid Mickey D's. But with no other options around midnight on a desolate Kentucky highway, I tried a "Deluxe Third-Pound Angus Burger." I have to say, folks, not bad. Not bad at all.

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