On Saturday, the Syracuse Orange lost for the third time in four games and for the fourth time this season. Here are five takeaways from the defeat:
1. Syracuse CAN play with the nation's top teams.
More so than any of the other three losses this season, this one stung, because the Orange had it. Up five with 11 seconds left, they really did, which is why this one was especially hard to swallow. I'm still bummed out, but the optimist in me looks at it this way: Syracuse went on the road and, if it weren't for some shoddy officiating (more on that later), probably would have won. And even with that shoddy officiating, Villanova still needed overtime to win. All things considered, that was probably the best game the Orange have played this season. If it's any indication of what's to come, perhaps this team will be better than we thought.
2. Trevor Cooney might be finding his shot.
Six days after he hit four of eight three-point attempts against Louisiana Tech, Trevor Cooney went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc yesterday and finished with 17 points. Of course, chances are that Cooney will have peaks and valleys throughout the season -- after all, it's his consistency that has been consistent during his career in orange. But he does seem far more comfortable now than he did all through November, so hopefully we've already seen the worst of 2014-15 Trevor Cooney.
3. Is Kaleb improving? Maybe.
Kaleb Joseph's struggles have been well documented this season, and he suffered the lowest of his lows on Sunday, when he turned the ball over eight times. He did have four more turnovers yesterday, but he also had a season-best 10 assists and, for the most part, wasn't making the same unforced mistakes that he's been making. Many have been preaching that Joseph, a freshman, will get better with more time and more reps. Here's to hoping that Saturday's performance is a sign he's starting to get it.
4. Turnovers are a real issue.
Turnovers were once again Syracuse's kryptonite on Saturday. The Orange committed 20 turnovers, marking the third time in four games that they've had at least 17. It certainly wasn't the only reason Syracuse fell short, but it's awfully difficult to beat teams as good as Villanova with so many mistakes. If they want to turn this season around, the Orange must start taking better care of the basketball.
5. Hopefully we'll never see officiating that bad again this season.
I said it in my recap yesterday, and I'll say it once more: the Orange were robbed by the men in stripes. Simple as that. Calls and no-calls went in favor of the Wildcats all day long, to the point that, if you were a Syracuse fan watching, you almost just had to laugh. It was that bad. I'll never understand how a foul wasn't called when Cooney was shoved to the ground as Michael Gbinije looked to inbound the ball at the end of regulation, just as I'll never understand how Chris McCullough was called for a foul after HE was undercut by a 'Nova player while going for a rebound. I could go on, but you get the idea. If not for such horrid officiating, the Orange would be 7-3 right now. And that sucks.