Backcourts key in Syracuse-San Diego State matchup on CSN

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Backcourts key in Syracuse-San Diego State matchup on CSN

It will take a few extra days to complete, but Sunday afternoon a pair of heavyweight head coaches will square off at No. 9 Syracuse and No. 20 San Diego State meet on the flight deck of the USS Midway. The game will air on Comcast SportsNet at 3 p.m., followed by postgame coverage at 5:30.

The teams hope to avoid the fates that befell other ranked teams on aircraft carriers Friday night. The game between No. 10 Florida and Georgetown aboard the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Fla., was stopped at halftime with the Gators leading, 27-23, because of condensation on the court. Meanwhile in Mount Pleasant, S.C., No. 4-ranked Ohio State and Marquette never tipped off after condensation on one end of the court persisted even after a near 30-minute delay in hopes of the situation improving.

Sundays Syracuse-San Diego State game was originally scheduled for Friday, but concerns about the weather (a 75 percent chance of rain and 16 mph winds) prompted officials to move the game. Sundays forecast calls for temperatures in the high 60s without rain.

When they do tip off, it will be the first matchup of the college basketball season that features two teams ranked in the preseason polls.

The Orange lost four of their six leading scorers from a year ago, including seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine, standout sophomore Dion Waiters and 7-footer Fab Melo. But like any Boeheim-coached team, the Orange have spoils of depth on their roster and a handful of new faces will keep Syracuse in the national championship hunt for another year.

Steve Fisher's Aztec group was supposed to be rebuilding last season after, like Syracuse, losing four starters (Waiters was the sixth man but played starters' minutes). Instead, San Diego State won 26 games and made its third straight NCAA Tournament.

Now with four of five starters back and three Division I transfers gaining eligibility this November, the Aztecs won't be doing any rebuilding and they won't be sneaking up on any teams either.

Along with two Hall of Fame coaches battling one another, Sunday will also feature a matchup of two of the top shooting guards in the country.

San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin burst onto the scene his sophomore year, increasing his freshman averages of 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game to 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in more than 30 minutes per game in Year 2.

An honorable mention All-American last year, Franklin will be targeted by defenses every night. He has good size at 6-foot-5, and may have to use that solid 3-point shooting against a Syracuse defense that won't play anything but a 2-3 zone.

Senior guard Chase Tapley and junior point guard Xavier Thomas both return as starters, and give the Aztecs one of the better backcourts in the country.

The Orange have always been a "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" offense, but senior Brandon Triche finally has the spotlight to himself in the back court and he should be in line for a stellar final season.

The combo guard had 23 points and seven assists in a tune-up exhibition over Bloomsburg College on Sunday. The Orange won handily, 103-60.

Triche can score in a variety of ways and has good bulk at 6-foot-4. He and Franklin should make for a fun back-and-forth matchup, with big stakes on the line between two ranked teams.

And a prime example of Boheim's ability to bold his raw talent into more experienced contributors will be Michael Carter-Williams. A top-30 national prospect out of high school in Rhode Island, Carter-Williams averaged just 10.3 minutes per game and scored in double figures just once. But the 6-foot-6 guard is expected to be a major contributor this year and he'll get his first test against the experienced Aztec backcourt.

Both teams have talented front courts as well, but Sunday's matchup -- despite being played outdoors -- will be won by either backcourt. Franklin is likely the best player on the court, but Syracuse's tough 2-3 zone won't make life easy on the junior standout.

Saturday on CSN: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs face Reds

Saturday on CSN: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs face Reds

The Cubs face off against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, and you can catch all the cation on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks vs. Robert Stephenson

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Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes

World Series thank-yous follow Kris Bryant to Las Vegas

World Series thank-yous follow Kris Bryant to Las Vegas

MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant didn’t need to pose for a Crate & Barrel billboard in Wrigleyville or walk a goat around a Bed Bath & Beyond commercial shoot. Cub fans just kept sending him free stuff.

The wedding gifts actually shipped to his parents’ house in Las Vegas, where he honed the swing that landed him on a new Sports Illustrated cover that asked: “How Perfect is Kris Bryant?”   

This happens when you mention your registries on a late-night show with another Vegas guy (Jimmy Kimmel) after leading an iconic franchise to its first World Series title in 108 years.        

So Bryant will be the center of attention in Sin City this weekend when the Cubs play two split-squad games against the Cincinnati Reds. But that spotlight will pretty much follow the National League’s reigning MVP wherever he goes. 

At least this gives Bryant a chance to chill at the pool and organize the house he moved into in January. 

“My mom just kept throwing stuff in my car: ‘Here, take it!’” Bryant said. “Opening all those boxes, I can’t believe how many presents we got from fans. It was unbelievable. Jess is going to have to write all the thank-you notes. I’m just signing my name on them. You have literally like 700 thank-you notes to write.

“I said: ‘You need to just go get the generic thank-you.’ She’s like: ‘No, they took the time out of their day to buy us a present.’ This is going to take her the whole year. So if there’s anybody out there that’s waiting for one…”    

The wait is finally over for generations of Cub fans. Spring training will always have a “Groundhog Day” element to it. But this camp – with no major injuries so far or real roster intrigue or truly wacky stunts – has felt different. As the players get ready for a new season – one without 1908 looming over everything – they can’t escape what they did. 

“Every day something reminds me of it,” said Kyle Hendricks, who will start Saturday in Las Vegas. “Even going to throw in these spring games, when they announce your name and the whole crowd erupts because of the World Series. That wasn’t happening last year. 

“Little things like that make me notice. Something every day is brought to my attention, so it’s still getting used to that part.”  

The Cubs insist there won’t be a hangover effect in 2017, believing that this young group is too talented and too focused to get derailed by distractions and overconfidence. But the Cubs could go 0-162 this season and Bryant would still probably be breaking down boxes for recycling.   

“It’s funny,” Bryant said. “We just put cameras on my house for security and I’ll just look at it sometimes. I’ll randomly see my mom just unloading boxes. I’m like: ‘Mom, what’s going on? Are we getting more stuff?’ She’s like: ‘Yeah, we keep getting more boxes.’”