Syracuse has won two games in a row. Whoop-dee-do! After wins over Boston College and Louisville, likely the two worst teams in the ACC, SU is showing that it can barely beat the bad teams, which is not a sustainable way of winning. Good teams blow out bad teams. Syracuse does not do that. This team is not good, and there does not seem to be any hope it can finish in the top half of the ACC.
Looking at the current standings, the Orange are 3-1 and in solo fourth place ahead of teams like number 16 Duke, number 11 Virginia, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina. But look at the wins. A gift at Notre Dame where the Fighting Irish missed every shot in the second half, and then BC and Louisville, two of the worst teams in the league.
Now, Syracuse’s schedule gets really tough, and there does not seem to be much hope that the Orange can beat a good team after barely taking down 2-13 Louisville by one point. January is a gauntlet, with two games against UVA and VT, a road game at league-leader and 12th-ranked Miami, and hosting UNC. Woof.
Last night’s box score tells the story of the season for Syracuse, and why its inconsistencies from night to night will doom it moving forward. Joe Girard III had 28 points on 18 shots and shot 11 free throws. It’s likely that’s the most efficient game he’ll play all season, and he shot under 40% from the field.
Judah Mintz had 16 points and four assists, which is great, but he and Girard combined four nine turnovers. The two of them are the only consistent sources of offense right now for SU, and that’s as long as the Orange are not facing a team that face guards Girard. Jesse Edwards has cooled down on offense, having not scored more than 12 points since the Georgetown game on Dec. 10. But, his defense is still superb, and he’s averaging almost 11 rebounds and over three blocks per game.
Then there’s the forward problem. Last night it was Chris Bell who contributed eight points. Against BC it was Benny Williams with 16 points in a double-double. But, those things don’t happen night to night. That’s just offense. It’s in the top 80 on kenpom right now but went down significantly after last night’s 15-turnover performance against 271st-ranked Louisville.
The defense is even worse. Allowing 69 points to kenpom’s 314th-ranked offense out of 363 teams is an abomination and embarrassing. The zone is worse than maybe it’s ever been, despite having a center who can block shots (Edwards), and a guard at the top of the zone who gets steals and dunks it on the other end (Mintz).
It doesn’t get any easier from here, starting with a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. The Orange, despite their wins, seems to be going in the wrong direction, and the fans’ faith in this program is at potentially an all-time low. The present and future of this program is in flux, and it remains to be seen what happens moving forward. The next few weeks will be very interesting on and off the court.