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Syracuse Basketball: A Rough February Diminishes National Championship Hopes

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After rolling to a 25-0 start the Orange has faltered, losing three of its last four games. A three-loss team this late in the season is usually very dangerous, but SU has been anything but these last few weeks. After losing two close games to BC and 5th -ranked Duke, the Orange scraped out a win against a mediocre Maryland team before getting walloped in Charlottesville against 12th-ranked Virginia. Every team experiences a tough a stretch throughout the season, but history tells us that Syracuse’s recent skid diminishes its title hopes.

Winning games in March is what really matters in college basketball, but the month of February is also important for cementing a team’s title-run legitimacy. Of the past five NCAA tournament winners, four of the teams either lost just once or went undefeated in February. The exception is Jim Calhoun’s 2011 UConn team that cut down the nets in Houston. They lost four times but possessed a bona fide scorer in Kemba Walker and flew under the radar for most of the season. This Syracuse team does not have that kind of a playmaker and is very much under the media spotlight. February is when teams are supposed to hit their strides and discover their true identities. The opposite occurred for the Orange last month.

Winning a regular-season conference championship has also proved to be a vital credential for NCAA championship teams. Of the last seven NCAA tournament winners, six of the teams won regular-season conference championships. Once again the 2011 UConn team is the exception. To win it all, teams need to be dominant in their own leagues. Syracuse was in prime position to win the ACC just weeks ago, but the three recent losses means they will most likely finish in second place. Obviously winning a regular season championship has no effect on a team’s ability to win the big dance but looking to the past proves it is a tough task.

The most convincing statistic against Syracuse winning a National Title this year is its lack of offensive production. Syracuse currently averages just 68.3 points per game. In the last ten college basketball seasons every National Championship team has averaged at least 72 points per game. The mean average over the last ten seasons for the NCAA tournament winners is 80.2 points per game. Yes, Syracuse defends very well and defense does win championships, but there needs to be more offensive production. Shooting around 40 percent from the field per game is simply not good enough. The first time the Orange played Duke this season on February 1st its offense was on full display scoring 78 points in regulation. Unfortunately, that offensive prowess has disappeared lately, but the potential is still there. A 26-3 team is always a title contender, but right now history is not in SU’s favor.

Posted by: Connor Morrissette

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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