Syracuse had to deal with two scares this past week: on the road against Pittsburgh and at home against NC State. Two tight ballgames, two finishes that had many across the nation wondering if the Orange were simply lucky. Even still, SU is still the number one team in the country. But there is another team creeping up behind Syracuse, gunning for the title of “best team in the country.”
A 25-0 record seems enough to vault Syracuse as the unanimous no. 1 in the nation. But not recently.
Orange Nation has its eyes on SU’s game against no. 5 Duke this weekend, a rematch of the high-scoring overtime thriller from three weeks ago. But in a hypothetical world, Syracuse and Florida would be the best matchup in college basketball right now. Yes, it’s easy to dub that game the best. No. 1 vs. No. 2. But who is the better team? What would happen if those two powerhouses met tomorrow?
The Gators are gaining more attention with each SEC win. In fact, Florida is just like Syracuse: undefeated in its conference, 12-0. With a 23-2 record, they’ve won 16 straight games. Yes, the SEC is weaker than the ACC—but not by much. Florida just handled no. 14 Kentucky on the road pretty easily to jump to that no. 2 ranking.
And that had many college basketball analysts thinking if they deserved to be no. 1, considering it took a half-court heave for the Orange to win against a ranked team.
Florida’s two losses came on the road in the non-conference match ups against ranked Wisconsin and UConn. UF’s early struggles were mainly due to the absence of two key players, point guard Scottie Wilbekin and reserve power forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Both players were suspended to begin the year, but since they’ve returned, Florida has been on a tear. The Gators are beating SEC teams by an average margin of about 14 points per game. Syracuse on the other hand is taking downs ACC teams by only about eight points.
The difference: Florida has only played one ranked team over the last two months, while Syracuse has played four.
If these two teams played tomorrow, it would be a thriller. Offensively, they play similarly. Both Syracuse and Florida like to slow down the offense pace. Neither team averages more than 65 possessions per game. That’s in the bottom 10 percent in the country. The reason why they are both successful is because they’re incredibly efficient.
Both teams have very reliable big men. Patrick Young for Florida and Rakeem Christmas for Syracuse have similar size, and judging by the way Christmas has played lately, that would be one heck of a matchup. PG’s Tyler Ennis and Scottie Wilbekin are also the two most electrifying guards in their respective conferences.
If no. 1 and no. 2 faced off, it would be an instant classic. There’s still great basketball left on the schedule for Syracuse, but here’s hoping that the Gators and the Orange somehow meet in the NCAA Tournament.
Posted by: Kevin Fitzgerald