Upsets have become common in college basketball’s early-season tournaments, but that was not the case in perhaps the most competitive tournament: the Maui Invitational, as the favorite Syracuse Orange took care of business and came away with the tournament championship. The Orange knocked off the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Cal Golden Bears and Baylor Bears, all potential NCAA Tournament teams, doing so in impressive fashion and proving themselves worthy of being a top 10 team at this point in the season.
The Orange looked sluggish in their first four games of the season against inferior opponents, but they stepped their game up against tougher competition and played consistently well for three games in as many days. C.J. Fair was named tournament MVP, and Jerami Grant was named to the all-tournament team, but an argument could have been made for four Syracuse players to be named to the all-tournament team.
Fair played almost every minute of the tournament, and came up big in the finals against Baylor, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot every time the Bears threatened the Syracuse lead.
Grant played as well as he ever has, showing the confidence to shoot jump shots while also looking unstoppable on drives to the basket. He scored 50 points over the tournament’s three games and began to showcase his incredible upside and potential.
Trevor Cooney helped to carry the Orange for large chunks of the tournament with his three-point shooting, making 10 of his 19 perimeter shots over the first two games. Through seven games, Cooney is the team’s second leading scorer with 14 points per game, which has helped take pressure and attention of of Fair, which helped free him up to make clutch shots.
The most important performer for the Orange may have been freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who shook off a poor shooting performance in the tournament opener to score 39 points and dish out 13 assists in the final two games, all while turning the ball over just twice the entire tournament.
Syracuse played at a high level throughout the tournament and had convincing wins over three quality opponents. They showcased a multitude of capable offensive threats while showing flashes of being a good defensive team in their patented 2-3 zone. After winning the Maui championship, there should be no doubt that the Orange are a top 10 team and will be contenders in the ACC and nationally this season.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.