Be honest with yourself here and answer me: Do you think Syracuse is going to win the national championship?
Not can Syracuse but will Syracuse.
I think, if you're honestly answering, the response is no, right? And there is some basis, some concrete reasoning as to have doubts about the Orange right now. I mean, Syracuse has lost three of its last four games, including a 19 point loss to Virginia, the first time all season where the Orange looked completely outmatched. Three of four, a nineteen point defeat, some ugly numbers.
And if you break them down further, the Syracuse stats are even more troubling.
Sure, Syracuse is rated twenty-fifth in KenPom's adjusted offense, meaning that the Orange actually scores at a good clip when in a halfcourt set. But when factoring in tempo, which Syracuse has ceded all season long to opponents, the Orange ranks 345 out of 351 Division One teams. Yikes. Syracuse has become Princeton sans the backdoor cuts before our very eyes.
Do you realize that it's been over a month since the Orange has put up more than 60 points? A feat that's occurred just six times in Atlantic Coast Conference play! And the amazing thing is - at least for me - while SU is actually very efficient in a slow down, rock fight, C.J. Fair is the only one seemingly comfortable shooting jumpers. The Orange is good with running sets but it seemingly only finishes them off at the rim.
Consider: Fair has made 97 "2-point jumpers." The next closest to Fair in that department? Jerami Grant's 43 2-pointer jumpers! Essentially, it's either Fair off a curl for a jumper or it's at the rim when it comes to scoring for Syracuse. Hell, Trevor Cooney, he of the 206 attempted 3-pointers, has made just 13 jumpers from inside the arc.
Even Tyler Ennis, a likely lottery pick in the NBA draft this June, is making just 34 percent of his 2-point jumpers -- with just 23 made threes on the season. Of course, Ennis is making 50 percent of his shots at the rim, and, as Jameson points out, hitting jumpers isn't an easy thing to do for anyone, especially someone running point. Plus, Ennis is averaging more steals (2) than turnovers (1.7) per game, just amazing and that doesn't even take into account his 5.5 assists per game.
Which is interesting, here we have all this perceived evidence leading you to believe the wheels are off the Syracuse car and that this team probably isn't built for a national championship. But do the last three weeks make a season? Really, if we're talking numbers, why not speak of 26 wins in 29 games? In a season where Syracuse has beaten teams currently ranked No. 4, No 6. and No. 14.
There is no questioning that the Orange is struggling, that the season is at something of a crossroads. But what's not exactly fair is the notation that every team hasn't gone through something similar. Kansas has 7 losses; Duke lost two days before it survived Syracuse; Virginia was left for dead in December after getting pasted by Tennessee...TENNESSEE. Even Arizona, which is probably the best example for Syracuse, hit a stretch where it lost two of four and found out Brandon Ashley was done with injury. Since then, the Cats look like they're in cruise control on the road to a one seed.
I hear you on Wichita State, but, well, that's the anomaly; exception to the rule.
For Syracuse, though, there's time to turn things around, there's time to get Grant healthy -- if that's an actual possibility -- and there's time to make that run everyone expected just a couple of weeks ago.
So, wait, what about the fact that this team can't hit jumpers to save its life? Remember all those numbers you pointed out a littler further up this page?
That's exactly my point.
This team has played the same way basically all year and it somehow found ways to win 26 of 29 games. It typically doesn't blow teams out, it rarely shoots the lights out, but it wins. Did you forget about that St. Francis game? It's tough to explain the unexplained, something Syracuse has become, especially when you don't want to sound preachy. But in all reality, Syracuse exceeded expectations in winning 25 straight, which then raised the bar to a point where everyone was legitimately wondering, or at least talking about, the Orange going undefeated. Undefeated?! In the ACC? In a major conference? C'mon on, man.
I know this is an easy thing to throw out, but just think about it for a second: Syracuse has three losses and it's March.
For all the extreme flaws, for all the too-close-for-comfort games, Syracuse will keep dancing with the girl that brought it -- whether she goes by luck or skill or experience. Which means the Orange should be waltzing in Buffalo and maybe Manhattan, with a very real possibility of a trip to Fort Worth.
Is Syracuse going to advance that far? And more importantly, back to the question that really matters: Is Syracuse going to win the championship? The numbers are fairly ugly, but that answer, the sum of the season, won't be added up for a few more weeks still.