What an awful finish to an amazing start of the college basketball season it was for the Syracuse Orange.
Sure, 28-6 overall and 14-4 in the ACC look impressive to just about anyone, even most Syracuse fans — if you told them before the season that’s what the record was going to be and didn’t tell them how Syracuse got there. But that’s the issue for the Orange, who were the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country for several weeks, hit 25-0 and appeared headed for a Final Four.
Then came an unfathomable home loss to Boston College, starting a 3-6 spell that saw the Orange missing out on the ACC regular season title, losing to NC State in its first-ever ACC tournament game, then falling to Dayton 55-53 in the Round of 32 of the NCAA tournament.
While the Orange needed some last-minute miracles to capture some of its wins in the 25-game winning streak, it was hard to foresee such a stumble for Syracuse late in the year, and it definitely affects how you can objectively view the Orange’s season. Here’s an evaluation of Syracuse offensively and defensively, as well as overall.
Offense: Syracuse was talented offensively, but they weren’t deep, and eventually this is one of the things that really hampered the Orange. C.J. Fair (16.7 PPG) could play with anyone on any night, and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis (12.7 PPG, 5.6 APG) hit some big game-winning shots and nicely ran the Orange offense most nights.
But when they were off and/or when Jerami Grant was injured, scoring points became a challenge for Syracuse in stretches. Syracuse averaged just 58.6 PPG in its six losses, two of which were at home to Boston College and Georgia Tech (10-26 combined in the ACC).
Given how long teams need to find shots against Syracuse’s defense, the Orange are never going to average a lot of points. But they were 206th in field-goal percentage (43.7 percent) and a pedestrian 33 percent from 3-point range.
Defense: The 2-3 zone has been Syracuse’s trademark for years and that was no different this season. The Orange were eighth in the nation in scoring defense at 58.2 PPG, and combined for 12.9 blocks and steals per game, finishing in the top 50 in each category as well. Syracuse held 21 opponents to 60 points or less, including one run of eight straight games where no opponent managed more than 59 points vs. the Orange.
Even at the bitter end, it wasn’t necessarily defense that did in the Orange, as Syracuse gave up just 55 in the season-ending loss to Dayton. But as the offense broke down, the defense needed to do more and that wasn’t beneficial.
Overall: This was a season of what might have been for the Orange. The true Syracuse identity was somewhere between 25-0 and 3-6, but the combination of the two left the Orange well short of all of their goals in 2013-14.
Twitter-style, the 2013-14 Orange in 140 characters (or less): “You have to be really good to fall so far, so fast. #25AndDone”