The Syracuse Orange edged the Virginia Tech Hokies 68-66 in their ACC opener on Saturday in Blacksburg, proving that while they might have the potential to be a really good team in 2015, they aren't there quite yet.
After playing one of its best halves of the season, Syracuse jumped out to a commanding 42-23 halftime lead and looked every bit like a team capable of making a deep NCAA Tournament run. But in the second half the Orange looked more like a team that would be lucky just to make the NIT, as they watched their lead dwindle and dwindle -- all the way down to just two with six minutes left -- before pulling away and then nearly suffering a Villanova-esque collapse in the final minutes (thanks to WAY too many missed free throws). A missed three at the final buzzer by Tech's Malik Muller was all that separated Syracuse from a devastating loss.
And though it's discouraging that the Orange played as poorly as they did for most of the second half, it's nice to see that (a) they're capable of playing as well as they did in the first half and (b) they can win a close game on the road.
Tyler Roberson recorded his third double-double of the season, scoring 11 points and pulling down 17 rebounds, tying a career-high. Rakeem Christmas had 17 points and nine rebounds, while Justin Bibbs scored a game-high 22 points for Virginia Tech.
If you're looking for the keys to Syracuse's victory, it's worth noting that Jim Boeheim's team outrebounded the Hokies 41-34 and took good care of the basketball, committing only eight turnovers.
Take a deep breath, everyone. A win's a win, even if it almost feels like a loss. Stay tuned for more recapping later today and into tomorrow, but leave your early postgame thoughts here.