Syracuse is different. Way different. In the best way possible, and that’s why this team is perfectly suited for a deep run through March. Down 20-7 midway through the first half last night against USF, previous Orange teams would have shut it down and played for the next game. Instead, this SU edition simply flexed into overdrive, pushed the tempo offensively, and surged to a lead by halftime.
- Order your Fizz “My 5 Orange” shirt: Fab & Dion & Scoop…
It was an amazing display of dominance, a good Bulls team being throttled by a better Orange team in the blink of an eye. Like the Millenium Falcon, Syracuse pressed the hyperspeed button and took control with a 26-0 run. Let that sink in. USF missed 13 straight shots (some of them contested, some simply poor shots), and the Orange scored the final 17 of the first half, and the first nine of the second.
It wasn’t all good news. SU nearly blew a 14-point lead down the stretch. The shot selection early in the game was atrocious. While trying to pad the lead in the second half, Syracuse blew a few easy transition baskets. The lackadaisical attempts at getting back on defense, and allowing USF the easy homerun pass downcourt were infuriating. But once again (in unison), the Orange found a way to win.
And for all those negatives, Syracuse is one step closer to securing a 1-seed. There’s just no way the previous incarnations of this program could’ve pulled that off last night. USF is a very good team in a very good conference. It was looking for a true signature win. The Bulls had an effective gameplan, and jumped out to an early double-digit lead. They are a team looking for respect, and finally getting it nationally. SU was holding Nike’s new spring line fashion show, and couldn’t help but be salivating over a trip to UConn this weekend for Gameday. This one felt scary from the tip.
(Uniform tangent: The jerseys themselves were not as apocalyptic as many had feared. The gray didn’t quite compliment the florescent-hued orange, which didn’t quite match the orange on the floor. The names below the number was a misguided throwback to the ’70s which seemed out of place. The “2003 National Champions” stitched on the back of the warmups seemed forced. Will we see “1959” printed on the football hoodies? But overall, the look itself didn’t bother me. It was Nike’s heavy-handed product placement foisted upon its corporate partners which feels awfully icky.)
But pack it in is not what this SU team does. There is a focus, resiliency, chemistry and determination that has been lacking from previous teams. Talent doesn’t hurt either. Scoop made great decisions, Fab was a presence, Dion exploded, K-Jo finished. Boom, roasted.
Unless the Orange loses its next three games, it’s going to get a #1 (likely in the Boston region). Karmically, the stars are aligning. SU could finish off a perfect Carrier Dome record next week against Louisville. The only other time that happened? 2003. This SU team is different in the best way possible.