The Syracuse Orange may very well be the best 6-4 team in the nation. High praise, I know. In spite of losses like the one this past weekend, the team does seem to be on the precipice of...something. Tonight's game against the Colgate Raiders is the perfect chance to start putting some of that something into practice.
How will it turn out? Let's ask the TNIAAM staff...
Syracuse 81 - Colgate 49
Lost in the depressing loss to Villanova was probably Syracuse's best performance of the season. Fouls were an issue, as was yet another late-game meltdown, but with a bit more experience and luck, Syracuse could've really run away with that one. Despite a 3-8 record, Colgate has been in almost every game its played, but I expect Syracuse to come out incredibly hungry for an emphatic win, and I think that it will get it. There should not be any "trap game" issues for a team that is 6-4.
Syracuse 75 - Colgate 55
I know there are concerns that tonight could be a 'trap' game, but come on. It's Colgate. I look at it as the opposite, actually. After a handful of high-profile, nationally televised, excruciating defeats, this is a chance for the Orange to relax, cut loose, and really beat the tar out of someone. Get out and run the floor. Push the tempo. Take a few shots you wouldn't normally take. What's the worst that can happen? It's not like they're going to lose... right?
Syracuse 72 - Colgate 61
At this point, Syracuse could come out aggressively on defense and actually make shots on offense and we would have ourselves an ol' fashioned blow out. But, on the other hand, SU could come out flat and Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough could both foul out before the first media timeout. It's a conundrum inside a riddle surrounded by a lot of experienced players. Anyway, though, I think we'll see Syracuse pull away late in the second half, with Trevor Cooney playing mostly point being the difference.
Syracuse 75 - Colgate 52
I think we'll look back on the Villanova game as more of a positive than a negative in time. Feels like the team developed somewhat of an identity offensively, and may be able to turn the corner. Boeheim has figured out how to rotate Gbinije, Roberson and McCullough to maximize their talents. Gbinije isn't afraid to drive the lane, and instead of settling for bad 3's, most of the guys are realizing the free-throw-line jumper can be their friend too. Christmas dominates in this one, and McCullough sees a resurgence against an inferior team. This one's over by halftime.
Syracuse 75 - Colgate 55
Hopefully this one serves as a mini-confidence booster, because that's just what the Orange are in need of right now. I do worry that Syracuse will come out flat and let Colgate hang around longer than it should, but I also expect that these guys are sick of losing and want to make as much of a statement as they can make against a 3-8 team. Thanks in-part to another strong showing from Trevor Cooney, I'll guess the good guys win rather comfortably against the in-state foe.
Syracuse 74, Colgate 51
Even though they couldn't close (or the refs wouldn't let them) against Villanova, Syracuse did show they at least had SOME of the pieces to right the ship on what's been a disappointing season thus far. Against an underwhelming opponent like Colgate, they're able to put it all together for a full 40 minutes, hit shots with at least reasonable frequency, and put those frustrating 'Nova thoughts behind them -- even if just for a night. Chris McCullough is able to recapture his early-season performance, and Trevor Cooney continues his quality shooting. Hopefully this is how the rest of the non-conference slate plays out...
Syracuse 66 Colgate 62
This is your classic pre-break trap game. Despite recent events that should have lit a fire, I worry that Syracuse will come out flat. The players are halfway checked out, ready to head home to see their families, and otherwise "over it" right now. They'll gut out the win, but it won't be pretty.
Syracuse 80, Colgate 61
Despite losing three of their last four, the Orange have been playing a bit better than before. SU was able to complete with a Top-10 team on the road. The difference for this team taking a step forward or not is continuing to improve on offense and limiting turnovers, which has killed them in critical situations. This should be a nice bounce-back victory for the Orange headed into the Christmas break.
Syracuse 70 - Colgate 54
Last year's win over Colgate was the closest game between the two schools in a decade. We won by 19. Yes, we're down this year, but there's a big difference between being down and being bad. We're down, but, we're not bad. The streak stays alive and the Hoodoo dies a little more.
How about you?