After losing to Boston College, Syracuse’s season was on life alert. But the Orange’s recent wins have given a sense of life for SU’s conference schedule.
Jim Boeheim shortened his rotation and it has worked wonders. Frank Howard and Dajuan Coleman both received DNP coach’s decisions against Pitt. Their substitutes? John Gillon and Tyler Roberson. Over the past two games, Gillon is averaging 14 points per game and 11 assists. Roberson has also excelled in the last two contests with 6.5 points and 8 rebounds.
This is the Orange team that people expected. SU could not come into form at a more perfect time. While the losses to St. John’s, Georgetown and Connecticut are inexcusable, Pitt and Miami are quality teams that are steps in the right direction. But like Coach Boeheim said, there is still a lot of work for Syracuse to do.
It all starts against Virginia Tech, where the Orange can accomplish something it has yet to do this season: win away from the Carrier Dome. SU is 0-4 on the road or at neutral sites. Now comes a Hokies team that is ranked 21st for now, but that is likely to change by the time these two square off on Tuesday. Tech shocked the conference in its ACC opener with a win against then 5th ranked Duke, but has lost each of its games since. Whether the Hokies are ranked or receiving votes, this is another opportunity for the Orange to pick up a win against a solid opponent. The Hokies are a high scoring team (30th in the nation), but Syracuse is allowing just 60 points over the last two games. Virginia Tech has been lethal from deep (nearly 40 percent), and SU needs to contain that.
Looking even further ahead, the Orange is going to need to slay some giants. A stretch of those powerhouses is coming up with No. 14 North Carolina, No. 23 Notre Dame and No. 12 Florida State featured as three of Syracuse’s next six opponents. For SU to have a realistic shot at the tournament, it will need to win at least two of those games.
The ACC is good, and no one can benefit from that more than Syracuse. The Orange currently sits near the top of those ranks based on conference record. SU will need to keep it that way if it wants to play into late March.