In their first year as members of one of the most historically competitive conferences in the NCAA, head coach Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse Orange knew that getting through the ACC‘s regular season virtually unscathed would be an achievement worthy of the record books.
With a pair of outings each year against perennial powerhouses such as the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels now a certainty, ”The ‘Cuse” would have to consistently play their best basketball in order to earn a place among the conference’s best.
And for the first 25 games of the season, that’s exactly what the Orange did.
But after three weeks as the country’s undisputed No. 1, an unexpected overtime loss on Feb. 19 to the dismal Eagles of Boston College at the Carrier Dome sent Syracuse’s unlikely shot at perfection into the gutter.
In their very next game, which unfortunately was at Duke, another loss confirmed the worst for Syracuse fans. Heading into their final contest of the regular season on Sunday against the Florida State Seminoles, the Orange have now dropped four of their past five.
Most recently, Tuesday night’s 67-62 loss to the visiting Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets was Syracuse’s second straight to an opponent with a losing record on their home floor, marking the first time that the Orange had found themselves in that particular situation since 1968.
Before the loudest student section in all of upstate New York begins to make NIT-related plans, however, let us not forget that Syracuse was in a similar circumstance only a year ago. And after dropping four of their final five regular season contests, the Orange took Madison Square Garden by storm on their way to winning three straight in the Big East Conference tourney.
But even though they managed to make it all the way to the Final Four in 2013, does this current team of mostly underclassmen have what it will take to recapture some of last year’s magic in time to avoid an early exit from the post season?
Led by freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who has averaged a healthy 12.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, and 3.4 RPG as a starter, Syracuse’s recent slide has landed them in the seventh spot of both national polls, which is exactly where they were placed prior to the start of the current campaign.
Without the likes of last season’s leaders such as Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, however, it’s easy to think that the Orange are doomed. But that simply isn’t the case. Besides Fair, who leads the team with 16.7 PPG, the Orangemen also have a pair of sophomores in Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney who both average over ten points a game and have valuable experience gained during last year’s run.
Coupled with Boeheim’s 38 years of coaching experience and one of the best freshman in the game, regardless of their recent struggles, nobody should be looking forward to a postseason encounter with the Orange.