Despite losing four of its last six games, Syracuse finds itself as one of the favorites to win the ACC Tournament.
For two of those games, Syracuse struggled to play healthy games. Baye Keita came back for Syracuse’s first loss of the season against BC, but obviously wasn’t his normal self for the remainder of the season.
Jerami Grant combined for just 26 minutes in the games against Maryland and Virginia. Against the Terrapins, he scored only four points. He was scoreless against the Cavaliers. Grant’s absence brings the Orange down on defense and his aggressive moves in the paint offensively. In the surprise loss against Georgia Tech, Grant didn’t play. Had he suited up, perhaps the game would have had a different outcome.
All of Orange Nation knows about the game against Duke at Cameron Indoor. On the schedule, Syracuse lost. Perhaps other people believe it was neither a loss nor a win. After reviewing three of those losses, we look at why Syracuse can still be, and is a favorite to win, the ACC Tournament.
Syracuse is healthy. The Orange had such success this season even without big man DaJuan Coleman. Sure, he hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he can eat up minutes and allow Grant to come off the bench and have more energy to play. Heading into the game against NC State, Syracuse will have had four days off and those four days can do a lot when you have a team that is a little bit banged up and tired.
Neutral sites for big games. Cameron isn’t friendly to the opponents and the Virginia game was away. These were two losses for the Orange. Should Syracuse beat NC State and then play Duke—if Duke were to beat Clemson—the game will be on a neutral site, which will help significantly.
Learning from mistakes. Orange fans may recall a frustrating end to last year’s season as well. Syracuse came right back in the Big East tournament and was about 10 minutes from a conference title, but couldn’t lock away the red birds of Louisville. Last year’s Big East tournament was very similar for Syracuse. Louisville, Georgetown and Pitt were three teams really in the way. Now in a different conference, it’s UNC, Virginia and Duke. Jim Boeheim led a crew that lost two regular-season games to the Hoyas to beat Georgetown in the Big East tournament. These kids learn from their mistakes, and expect the same thing to happen in the ACC tournament.
Skilled players. A few losses doesn’t mean these players lost talent. Tyler Ennis has been one of the top, if not the best, point guards in the nation all season. He was placed on the 2nd team All-ACC team. CJ Fair made the 1st team All-ACC team. Syracuse also started the season 25-0, which was the best start in school history. Players go through droughts, and that’s what happened at the end of the season.
Winnable conference. There’s no team in the league Syracuse can’t beat or hasn’t already. First it’ll get NC State, a team the Orange has already knocked off. UNC or Duke? Have won games versus those foes earlier in the season. Virginia? Yeah, Syracuse fell in Charlottesville in the only game it played against the Cavs, but the game was tied with 11:00 to play, and Jerami Grant couldn’t play down the stretch because of spams. Syracuse will have a shot against any opponent it plays.
Syracuse had on a lot of pressure from the nation because it was undefeated and the top team in the nation at one time. This is like the start of a brand new season.