We know what you’re thinking. How can there possibly be one that trumps the rest? Syracuse is flawed on both the offensive and defensive ends, and Virginia exposed that on Saturday. But if one particular problem is solved, it would go a long way towards resolving the issues on both sides of the ball. So, cue the drum roll… Syracuse’s biggest problem is stumbling out of the gate.
This has been a problem in virtually every game this season. Yes, even in early season blowouts against Lehigh and Northeastern among others. Too many times this season, the Orange have let teams that have no business being remotely competitive with them hang around or even take a decent-sized lead.
But in the stretch where Syracuse won 7 of 8, it hadn’t been a massive issue because the teams they played were not world-beaters. None of the seven teams the Orange beat in that stretch are currently in KenPom’s top 100. But the one team that beat SU, Pittsburgh, is currently #68. The Panthers held an 11-point lead over Syracuse less than 10 minutes through the game, and that proved to be big down the stretch.
Now it’s a big issue. UVA, AKA the best team Syracuse has faced so far, had SU on the ropes early. The teams the Orange are about to face are much similar to the Cavaliers as opposed to a Monmouth or a Cornell. Virginia Tech and Miami, two of SU’s next three opponents, are both in the top 45 of KenPom. And then down the stretch, UNC, UVA again, Duke, Pittsburgh again, and Clemson on the road are all on the docket. If Syracuse starts slow against any of those opponents, you might as well mark them down as Ls right here and now.
Solving this issue will go a long way toward solving the countless other issues this team has. Simply put, this team needs to stop lulling us to sleep over the first few minutes of every game.