Well, if you flashback to what happened in the Bahamas last year, the bar has to be pretty low, right? Syracuse entered the Battle for Atlantis without the athleticism required to compete against good teams, and that was on full display when a mediocre VCU team beat the Orange in a relatively lopsided victory. This year’s SU team (though it is still finding a defensive identity) does not need to fully rely on three-point shooting to succeed like last year’s team did. With that, it reshapes our train of thought entering Syracuse’s Feast Week tournament this year.
First things first, let’s talk about the opponent tonight. Richmond, like VCU, is an Atlantic 10 school. While that conference certainly does not have the prestige of a Big Ten or an SEC, it is still one of if not the best mid-major conferences in the country. But the Spiders have lost two straight. On paper, Syracuse should beat this team. Then again, it probably should have beaten VCU last year.
Plus, Saturday night’s win over Northeastern saw a lot of encouraging developments. Sure, it was against the 264th-best team in the country (at the time of writing) per KenPom, but the eye test trumps that. The Orange’s defensive closeouts were so much faster. Joe Girard’s shot selection was quite good. Judah Mintz’s athleticism is on another level (the Johnny Flynn comparisons may have been accurate). When Jesse Edwards is playing to his potential, he is a game-changer.
Putting that aside, this team’s success may be dependent on how the supporting cast performs. Will Chris Bell wake up? Which version of Benny Williams will we see? Can Maliq Brown continue his encouraging play from Saturday? What will the likes of Justin Taylor, Quadir Copeland, Symir Torrence, and Mounir Hima provide?
Let’s wrap this up by answering that pressing question. Success is, at the bare minimum, one win. That win looks a heck of a lot better if it comes against Richmond as opposed to the loser of St. John’s-Temple though. But how good would it look if Jim Boeheim’s bunch won the whole thing? We touched on it during our postgame Twitter Space the other night. It as good as nullifies the Colgate loss. If the Orange win one game we’re all content, two we’re ecstatic.