Should Syracuse Hit the Panic Button?

Dylan Snyder

Rarely do you see a team start off as well as the Syracuse University Orange did this season, only to throw it all away when the first roadblock arrives. The Orange cruised to a 25-0 start to the season, but have since dropped four of the last five.

Part of the issue appears to be that teams may have figured out how to beat this year’s version of the iconic 2-3 zone that Syracuse normally runs. Syracuse has struggled to put points on the board this season, ranking 254th in the NCAA’s top division this season, but make up for it with their ninth-ranked defense. The last five games have shown a different story, though, as the Orange have given up more than their season average on defense in all but one of the those games. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that was the only game the Orange have won, beating an unranked Maryland squad.

Two of the losses Syracuse has suffered are pretty excusable. Duke University is a perennial powerhouse in the ACC, and Virginia put on a shooting clinic in their matchup. The other two drops on the schedule are a bit more concerning. Losing to an underachieving Boston College squad had to hurt the psyche of this team, especially at home. After losing in an equally shocking game against Georgia Tech, the wheels appear to be coming off the Syracuse bandwagon.

It would be foolish to write Syracuse off in the national championship just yet though. The great thing about college basketball is that there is always a change to redeem yourself. With conference tournament play approaching, the Orange can quickly get back on track and prove they still deserve a good seed for the national tournament.

Most coaches will say that making the tournament is the first step for any team, and after that, it’s difficult to predict what will happen. Syracuse will clearly make the tournament and could still be a favorite, but an early exit from the ACC tournament could spell doom for the Orange. On a team that has a unique mix of senior leadership (C.J. Fair leads the team in scoring) and also inexperienced talent (Tyler Ennis has dominated at times this season), Syracuse has what it takes to win on paper. Syracuse can beat any team in the country on any given night, but whether or not they still believe that may be key to their potential success.

The mental fortitude that is usually a given at top-level athletics may be lacking on this team. Outsiders clearly have no idea what is actually going on in the locker room, but there has to be sense of urgency to bounce back, and to do so quickly. If mismanaged by Head Coach Jim Boeheim, it could mean the undoing of one of the most talented squads in all of college basketball. Teams have overcome late season stumbles before, and there is no reason to think this team won’t be able to, but they better act quickly, or else a 25-0 start may simply wash away.