After losing its first four games of ACC play, Syracuse’s season seemed pretty decided upon. The team wasn’t rebounding well, it wasn’t shooting well, and it couldn’t convert down the stretch of close games. Well, in steps Jim Boeheim back from suspension and everything changes.
Boeheim and the Orange are being aided by an incredibly wacky season of college basketball in which no team can seemingly hold on to a top spot and there is widespread parity across all power conferences. Need an example? Take a look at Clemson, which Orange fans assumed was a horrible home loss. Yet in just two weeks, the Tigers may have turned into ACC favorites after rattling off three straight wins against ranked teams this week (Lousiville, Duke, Miami).
Syracuse’s four conference losses look a lot better now than they ever have. SU dropped games to Pittsburgh, who currently sits at 20, Miami and Duke who are top ten teams, and Clemson who figures to rocket up the polls once the new version is released. If the beginning of this season has been any indication, the surprising upsets are far from over.
Remember the days of Syracuse’s historic 25-0 start? Roughly 15-18 games into the season, there is only one undefeated team in the country left, SMU. Behemoth Kentucky has already dropped four games this year, while even Duke has lost four games, including its last two. In last week’s AP Poll, ten teams are ranked that weren’t ranked to start the year. Virginia, who came in at #13 in the most recent poll, was ranked as high as six and as low as 23, proving how hard it is to rank teams this year. Despite all this shuffling, the ACC continues to dominate the poll, though.
This week, Syracuse has a chance to take matters into its own hands. With the ACC being well-represented, the Orange could make a run at any time in a year where number of losses should not play as big an importance as win/loss quality. The Orange travels to Duke on Monday night and Virginia the following weekend, and winning one of these two games could give new life to the season. It won’t be easy, as Duke is coming off of back-to-back losses and Virginia plays SU very well, but escaping this road trip winning two out of three games would be huge.
Luckily, Syracuse may be hitting its stride at the right time, as the games get more important. After all, in college basketball, it’s about what happens at the end of the season that determines tournament and polling fate, so the early losses do not look nearly as bad.