No.2 AP & ESPN/USA Today Syracuse (30-1 ~ 17-1 in the BE) closed out the season with a huge 58-49 win over No. 18 ESPN/USA Today & No. 19 AP Louisville (22-9 ~ 10-8 in the BE) yesterday afternoon, giving its Seniors and the huge crowd a great send off from the regular season. And while I am sure that this team is not going to sit on their laurels of this accomplishment, it is still nice to see Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph go out with a nice parting gift such as the Big East regular season crown. With recruiting wars becoming more and more heated this is also a nice calling card for anyone thinking about coming to the Salt City. But now, for this team that has been in the Top 5 all year round, the true work begins, and as of the players said after the game…
“It’s pretty impressive when you look at it five years from now.” Brandon Triche said. “But if we don’t go far in the (NCAA) Tournament, thirty wins doesn’t mean nothing.”
…and that is the reality that is called March Madness with its “one and done” system that makes it the best three weeks in sports, both for the thrills of victory and the agony of defeat. As far as Syracuse is concerned what does all of this truly mean? A clean slate going forward, knowing that one of the four number one seeds will be theirs, with Kentucky holding claim to another and about four or five teams fighting for the remaining pair. But it also means that one bad game and their run can be over, and this squad, while being one of the best in the country does has a few flaws.
Without a doubt SU has the shooters to hit the clutch shots, the legs to break out into the open court for easy buckets, the skills to play well in the half court game and find a good shot and a relentless defense to keep pressure on any opponent they face. What it does lack in is rebounding skills, where it seems that they always end up on the wrong side of the box score in that category and depth in the middle, with Fab Melo being their own true option as a center in their patented 2-3 zone. In the “one and done” tournaments if you find yourself playing against an athletic team and with Melo on the bench with foul trouble this team could be in jeopardy of losing and ending a great season early.
Now, I doubt this will happen during the first couple of games in the Big East tournament in New York City, or in the first weekend of March Madness for that matter. But as the teams dwindle and the road gets harder you have to wonder how susceptible the Orange could be against a squad that can run with them, shoot fairly well from the outside and has a man that can pound the ball down low. As the old saying goes “only time will tell” and right now the time is for the college, the team and the fan base to celebrate a 30 win season and a Big East regular season championship, where no one in the conference was close to challenging them. Then, starting later this week, they will begin to focus on the post season tournament in Madison Square Garden, Selection Sunday and finally March Madness.
And as usual, here is my question: Is there a team that SU should fear more than anyone else when they play in the NCAA Tournamet? I would have two, but since one is the team I follow I won’t talk about it, and will say that Ohio State could give Syracuse some problems as they do have the shooters and the man inside in Jared Sullinger. Why didn’t I talk about Kentucky? Because in this field, where there is very little margin between the top 2-3 teams and the next 5-7 experience counts, which is something that with the coach Calipari’s teams you do not get.