Rece Davis is a man of many talents. Aside from hosting College Gameday and College Football live, the University of Alabama alum is a member of the Advisory Board of the Capital One Cup. With the collegiate sports season winding down, he swung by TNIAAM to chat about basketball and the Cup.
Let's start off with Syracuse. They're a three seed in the South bracket and have struggled down the stretch. The feeling of a lot of fans is that this is a year where the Orange get bounced in the first round by a Vermont or it's going to be like last year where after losing by 30 at Georgetown, the team had a great tournament run. Which one do you think Syracuse is more apt to do this year?
Rece Davis: When you say more apt, I would say they're more apt to make a run then to get bounced in the first round. I mean no disrespect to Western Michigan, I know they're a capable offensive team but it's a little bit different but, here we go, it didn't take long to mention the zone, but it's a different tournament to have to deal with the size and length of Syracuse's zone. They're a little bit healthier with Jerami Grant and I hope that the time off has helped Cooney as he was hobbling a little bit. So I think they're more apt to make a run. That said, I do think their round of 32 game will be challenging. Whether it's Dayton or Ohio State, both of them are capable of beating Syracuse but I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight playing for an opportunity to go to the Final Four. I think this has been a really good basketball team, I mean Jim [Boeheim] said leading up to this that he never thought they were a 25-0 basketball team and I agree with mostly because I acquiesce to his expertise on his own team but I think they're a really really good team capable of winning games in the tournament. So if I was picking right now, I'd go deep run.
What do you think the key is for Syracuse to make that kind of run? Is it as easy as just hitting their shots?
Rece Davis: They have to make the perimeter shot. They're much better, much more versatile and much more dangerous as an offensive team when Cooney is making his shots. He's a terrific shooter but I think he's been a little bit banged up and that changes the type of team that they are. So having him healthy, a little bit more confidence and getting rested after the ouster in the ACC Tournament, I really think Syracuse has the keys. They have the personnel to make a run in the tournament. They have a veteran tough guy in C.J. Fair, they've got a freshman point guard who is unflappable in Tyler Ennis, they've got all all the ingredients to be successful in the tournament. I don't know that I'd necessarily have them, I know I don't have them, going to the Final Four or anything like that but when you have Jim Boeheim as your coach, the tradition that Syracuse has and the talent they put on the floor, I think the success Syracuse has is never a surprise to me.
Staying in Syracuse's area of the bracket, they've got the number one seed Florida to contend with, they've got Ohio State who's always a tough tournament team, you've got Kansas thrown in there, so what team that's not Syracuse, Kansas or Florida could you see making some noise in that part of the bracket?
Rece Davis: I say this with a great deal of hesitancy given the woful tournament history of the conference... but I think New Mexico. New Mexico has two giants inside with Alex Kirk and Cameron Barstow, they have a guy on the wing named Kendall Williams who is capable of putting up huge scoring numbers, they seem to be playing with a great deal of confidence, they played good competition not only in league but out. I think that while Kansas will be a tall order for them with or without Joel Embiid but probably without Embiid and he had a really good game against the Lobos earlier in the season. I think it's New Mexico of teams off the grid there to make some pretty significant noise. I also think UCLA because earlier we talked about Syracuse being a feast or famine bust a run type of team? I see UCLA as that team in the top half of the bracket. They have a great scorer in Jordan Adams and they've got perhaps the most versatile player in the game in Kyle Anderson, the 6'8" guy who does a little of everything. UCLA and New Mexico are the teams outside of the ones you mentioned that I could see to perhaps shake up that bracket a little bit.
Everyone is talking Louisville and Michigan State who are peaking at the right time and that bottom half of the bracket features a lot of really good teams that are all going to end up playing each other. Out of all of those teams in the East and Midwest, which two do you like going to the Final Four?
Rece Davis: I'm like everyone else in terms of believing in Michigan State... when healthy. That's perhaps the most overused phrase in all college basketball this year is "when healthy Michigan State," but it's appropriate because they've had an inordinate amount of injuries. They're a terrific team, I think they're the best team in their half of the bracket, the upper half of the East and that they're the best team in the East. That's no disrespect to Virginia who I think is really really good also, but I think Michigan State is a little bit better than they are. I still believe in Duke. Duke has two lottery picks and outside of Kansas who else can say for certain that they have two lottery picks or two high picks in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. So I think that on that other side in the bottom part in the midwest that Duke is the team that is most likely to come out of there. Certainly Louisville could. Montrezl Harrell played the last part of the season like an All-American, Russ Smith has been an All-American all season and they are peaking at the right time. You throw the nation's only undefeated team in there and that's a pretty good Midwest Region as well. I think all of those teams are capable of going to the Final Four and that all of them are capable of winning the National Championship. If this were all my bracket picks, first time through it I try not to change it because you might as well go with your first instinct over anything else, I had Duke coming out of the Midwest going to the Final Four.
Well since you brought up Duke, Syracuse had two great games with Duke, you had the privilege of covering one of those and being able to go to both UNC-Duke games. Obviously Duke-Carolina is THE rivalry in this sport but what's your feeling about Duke-Syracuse and where it's at in comparison now that this is going to be a regular ACC thing?
Rece Davis: It was awesome. I was there in the Carrier Dome, watched it very closely and I think having a fresh rivalry is good for the sport, not just for the ACC but College Basketball. You have two coaching legends, two Hall of Famers, and their personal relationship enhances the story betwen Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski. But Duke-Carolina is always going to be College Basketball's biggest rivalry in my judgement. It doesn't mean that other ones can't be terrific as well. And when you have two programs in Duke and Syracuse that have accomplished as much as those two have, it was really great to see them go out and really play the game as if it were a long standing rivalry. For as much as Coach K and Coach Boeheim like each other and as much respect as they have for each other, I think it was pretty evident that they desperately wanted to beat each other and their teams sensed that. And that's what it should be! I think it was really good for the sport and it's good for the new ACC. It's something that we're going to enjoy for years to come because what those first two games did as ACC opponents is it now for the foreseeable future made Duke and Syracuse appointment viewing. In the old days you didn't want to miss Syracuse-Georgetown. Now you do not want to miss Syracuse-Duke. It's hard in college basketball with as many games as there are and the way the tournament swallows up everything in terms of how it's reported, it's hard to have individual games over the course of the season be something that you do not want to miss and I think those two games established Duke and Syracuse.
One last question to get you out on, looking at the Capital One Cup, Syracuse Athletics under Dr. Daryl Gross has really used the Capital One Cup as a way of showing the overall strength of the athletic department. We've seen Syracuse Athletics really grow especially with women's sports and the Capital One Cup numbers reflect that. What does that mean to you to see something that shows the success of an athletic department as a whole and not just focussing on the big two revenue sports of football and basketball?
Rece Davis: I think it's the ultimate goal of every athletic director is to be able to have a overall program that competes and achieves in all sports. It's one of the reasons that I am so honored and grateful to be part of the Capital One Cup because the one thing we say all of the time about sports in addition to the love of the competition is that sports provides opportunities for young people. And Capital One is really putting it's money where it's mouth is in that regard. They write $400,000 in scholarship money for men and women and their schools in the Capital One Cup. For the fans, there's also the competition and bragging rights of saying my school has the best overall program is a cool thing! And it's a good thing for them to have fun and keep up with it with social media. They can follow it on CapitalOneCup.com and on Facebook/CaptialOneCup or on Twitter @CapitalOneCup. We've got Doug Flutie, Barry Larkin and Clark Kellogg, we all stay involved as members of the advisory board and be available to answer questions from fans time to time in a variety of ways and just share a little bit of that school spirit.