1. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim learned quite a bit about his team's character on the four-game tour to Canada last week. The Orange trailed Carleton by 15 points with 15 to play and came back and won by four in overtime. The Orange went on a 14-0 run during the second half and had to do it without a fully healthy C.J. Fair, who sat out the previous game. "We made a pretty good comeback for a bunch of untested guys,'' said Boehiem. "Everybody contributed and did something good.'' Freshman guard Tyler Ennis, who will lead the team at a critical position for the Orange after losing Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, scored 15 points and was 7-of-7 from the line in that game. "It was a good trip, a quick trip, but a good trip,'' said Boeheim. The bigs were solid and have been throughout the summer. That means there doesn't appear to be much concern for Fair, Dajuan Coleman, Baye Moussa Keita and Rakeem Christmas. Jerami Grant was the most consistent player and will be a reliable and productive player this season. Duke transfer Michael Gbinijie also had his moments. "We learned a lot about our team,'' said Boeheim. "We scheduled well early. We want to be ready for the ACC.'' The Orange should challenge Duke. Trevor Cooney will have to make shots. But if Ennis is a stable presence then the perimeter will be just fine. The Orange are in the Maui Invitational where they could meet up with Gonzaga. The Orange host Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, go to St. John's and host Villanova in headline nonconference games. Boeheim agreed with my stance that the ACC needs to have more than just Duke-North Carolina for premier games in the final weekend. Syracuse ends at Florida State. I suggested the ACC put rivalry games in the last weekend like Syracuse-Louisville when the Cardinals join the league in 2014-15. "Exactly, there should be better games at the end of the year, no question,'' said Boeheim. "There are too many potential good games. Obviously there should be Duke-North Carolina. But there are a lot of good teams. This certainly has the potential to be better than any league.''
2. The ageless Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who turned 65 earlier this month and has looked the same for the past 20 years, got exactly what he wanted in the trip to Greece. He scheduled practices and games against the Greek national team. He didn't want any soft competition. He wanted his players to experience professionals at the highest level overseas. "It was more like midseason practices,'' said Hamilton. "It was very good for our guys. We played at a high level and had to be focused offensively and defensively to compete.'' Hamilton said he never thought his team was in sync last season after finishing 18-16 overall and 9-9 in the ACC, a year after winning the conference tournament title for the first time. "We had seven first-year players and five freshmen and JC kids and international players,'' said Hamilton. "I thought we were always thinking and responding and reacting last season. But I saw a better grasp of execution [on this trip]. We showed signs we can get back to what we did during our four-year run of going to the NCAA tournament and winning the ACC title.'' Hamilton said different players were productive on the trip but the two leaders were as expected Ian Miller and Kiel Turpin. "They played very well together and as a team,'' said Hamilton. "We actually practiced zone defensive possessions. We had game-like practices. We didn't keep score in those or keep track but we had a lot of game-like scrimmages where we were rotating guys in and out. It was really, really good for us to correct our mistakes.'' Hamilton said this was also a positive trip for Michael Ojo, Boris Bojanovsky and Robert Gilchrist, the bigs who will be behind Turpin or at times next to him. Hamilton said he absolutely loves what he's doing, "loves the young people, traveling with them, being with them every day. Each year I have more energy. I'm excited about the new ACC. It gives you another shot of adrenaline. I'm excited to be a part of it and it does motivate you.''
3. Few teams needed something positive more than Auburn basketball on a foreign trip. Auburn coach Tony Barbee was buzzing about the excursion to the Bahamas. "I learned two things: we can really shoot the ball as a group,'' said Barbee. "We made 13 3s in a game from international distance. And juco transfer Chris Griffin made six. We should be able to score the ball better. We could have four or five double-figure scorers. A year ago, we only had one.'' K.T. Harrell will be a reliable scorer but if there are multiple scorers then the Tigers will at least have a chance to move up in a muddled SEC. The Tigers enter the season with six freshmen on the roster.