Heading into the ACC Tournament it’s very clear bad games from the starters will sink the Orange.
Syracuse finished off its regular season with a much-needed 74-58 victory over Florida State. After losing four of its last five, Jim Boeheim’s team finally won a game by a comfortable margin in Tallahassee. C.J. Fair took over in the second half to guarantee his team entered the post season on a high note. Sitting at 27-4, the Orange has grinded out a solid resume this season. All five starters have had off games at some point this year and the Orange usually still managed to win. In March these swoons cannot happen. Finishing the season at 2-4 shows that Syracuse is definitely beatable. Every starter (and a bench player or two) must be playing at a high level for the Orange to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
It starts with Fair. He is clearly the leader on this team and must set the bar high for his teammates. Against Florida State Fair did just that. He was an efficient 9-for-13 shooting and was the reason Syracuse pulled away. When Fair struggles, the Orange do as well. In SU’s 75-56 loss to Virginia, Fair scored just 13 points and failed to hit a three-pointer. At times he looked lost in Charlottesville and that seemed to rub off on the rest of his teammates. Fair needs to use his experience in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments to set the tone this post-season. The stage and the media spotlight will continue to get bigger for the Orange. Fair’s composed play must set the example for his teammates.
Trevor Cooney has shot the ball inconsistently recently, and earlier this season his teammates bailed him out. When Cooney is on, SU wins. His best game came against Notre Dame in SU’s 61-55 victory when he hit nine threes and scored 33 points. He carried his team on that occasion but usually the opposite occurs. Against UNC, Cooney went just 2-12 from three point range and the Orange won comfortably 57-45. When N.C. State came to town Cooney shot only 3-10 from the field and SU was able to win again 56-55. But down the stretch (without Jermai Grant) his poor play hurt the Orange in losses. He must be the three-point threat that Orange fans love entering the NCAA tournament. SU cannot win it all without Cooney performing to his full ability.
Against Duke at the Carrier Dome the Orange’s full arsenal was on display. That was the team’s best performance of the year. Fair, Cooney and the rest of the Syracuse squad must elevate its play in the post-seaon and return to that level if the Orange has any chance at getting back to the Final Four.
Posted: Connor Morrissette