As you know by now, the Syracuse Orange captured the Battle 4 Atlantis title last week by topping Charlotte, Connecticut and Texas A&M in consecutive days. That came as a surprise to many, so let's get to discussing the Orange, who are now 6-0 and welcome Wisconsin to the Carrier Dome on Wednesday.
In your view, did Syracuse overachieve en route to winning the Battle 4 Atlantis? Or is this a team that can consistently compete with/beat some of the country's best teams?
Sean Keeley: If they did overachieve that's probably only because of the expectations we put on them. This is who they always were and the fact is they're a better team than people thought they'd be. Now, if you re-play the UConn game and the TAMU game again, I can't say SU wins all the time, but the fact that they were in the position they were in and that they did pull out both in the end says a lot. Still a long way to go but I think we can officially up the expectations for this squad (and Tyler Lydon specifically).
Michael Burke: I don't think Syracuse necessarily overachieved. Of course, like Sean hinted at, that doesn't mean the Orange were definitively the best team in the field. But it's clear that they weren't overmatched against Connecticut and Texas A&M, as I expected they might be. SU will almost certainly be ranked when the next polls are released, and deservedly so.
Kevin Wall: I'm going to call it a pleasant surprise. It didn't surprise me that Syracuse was competitive, but it did surprise me that this team held off two talented teams that were playing very well before facing the Orange. It was also a bit surprising to see a Syracuse team which struggled rebounding against Lehigh, handle business inside against bigger opponents.
John Cassillo: Overachieved, only in the sense that they weren't expected to win it. The luck of the draw stopped them from facing Gonzaga, the best team in the field, so it's tough to say they "overachieved" against a comparable Texas A&M squad in the title game. I'd like to say we can compete with the country's best, but let's see how this coming week plays out. If we're 8-0, the sky's the limit. But we're still a very good squad that can test a lot of opponents right now.
Dan Lyons: Heading in, I didn't think that SU was quite at the level of Gonzaga or UConn, so in a sense, yes. Of course, now I think this team is a bit better than what we probably thought. SU definitely looked every bit as good as any other team on Paradise Island, and if we continue to shoot 41-percent from three all year, we're going to beat a lot of teams.
Andy Pregler: I don't think they overachieved, we just saw what can happen when this team is capable of making their shots. The team can spread the floor and either get a pretty good look or toss it inside for an easier shop that helps out Roberson or Lydon. When that is clicking with the zone's usual effect, Syracuse can hang with anyone.
Did yesterday's win against a big Texas A&M team prove that Syracuse's thin frontcourt won't be as much of a liability as most thought? Or will that weakness catch up to SU down the road?
SK: I never try to draw any conclusions about things like that until conference play. Let's see what the frontcourt looks like with two months of gametime behind and the grind of ACC opponents every night. I'll officially trust DaJuan Coleman's knees by March if they're still intact, but until then there will always be a lingering concern. In the meantime however, I don't think you can say enough about how the younger players are filling in the gaps in our frontcourt depth.
MB: I don't know that it necessarily proved that, but it's evidence that while big teams will have an advantage against the Orange in the low post, Syracuse's perimeter-oriented offense will be just as difficult for those same teams to defend. And if the Orange hit shots, they'll be in every game.
KW: Too early to tell. It's going to be tough against bigger front-courts like UNC, but the Syracuse team as a whole did a much better job of getting on the boards. There will be games where the Orange's 3-point shooting won't be able to cover for interior play.
JC: That weakness could catch up, but if Syracuse is going to continue to hit shots at the rate they are (especially in the second half), most weaknesses can be either negated or minimized. This team's young, so they'll only get better. I'm willing to say that weakness is at least a little less of a liability now than we'd previously thought.
DL: I'm still worried about depth all over the court. Texas A&M had a lot of success going inside against our thin front line, and if we don't get anything from Chino Obokoh, it will be tough. I love Tyler Lydon, but we'd be better off if he could spend more time at the four and less at the five.
AP: I'm 99% sure that against tougher ACC opponents, we're going to see this exploited. Roberson and Lydon is definitely the combo that will win the team the most games, but a very good to elite big man on the opposition will probably show everyone a recipe for beating Cuse via the post.
Through six games, Syracuse's second best player after Michael Gbinije (assuming we agree he's been the best) has been ________.
SK: Tyler Lydon. It's actually a tough question because of how things have changed game-to-game. Malachi Richardson has really shown what he's capable of. Trevor Cooney has had a lot of good moments and perhaps the fact that he hasn't been horrifyingly-inconsistent is enough cause for celebration. But I have to go Lydon for the way he's stepping up on all ends of the court. He's providing some much-needed scoring off the bench, dominating the glass and even making his presence known in the middle of defense as well. Like Boeheim said during the week, Lydon is a freshman who sees things some seniors don't.
MB: Tyler Lydon. Trevor Cooney has played very well on the defensive end, and Malachi Richardson's ability to make things happen offensively is nothing to sneeze at. But Lydon has without question been the second most important player to Syracuse's success. He's held his own on the defensive end against opposing bigs, and his ability to stretch the floor on offense from the power forward or center spot continues to do wonders for Syracuse's offense.
KW: This is where we say Tyler Lydon, and honestly I think his all-around game gives him a slight edge over Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson. Lydon's ability to play the middle of the zone has allowed Syracuse to get a better offensive line-up on the floor when Coleman is out, and that has made a big difference. I know this wasn't the question, but I've been more pleasantly surprised by Malachi than Tyler. Malachi has shown a more versatile offensive game than I thought, and he seemed to make better decisions as the tournament continued.
JC: It's probably Tyler Lydon, just because of what he brings to the table (everything). The fact that he's a big who can both operate on the perimeter and crash the glass make it tough to purely play him man to man, and causes defenses to hit the panic button whenever he's got the ball in his hand. Defensively, he's also active and a big differencemaker in terms of shots in the middle of the zone. You have to love what we saw from him in the Bahamas.
DL: This is extremely tough. Trevor Cooney had a fantastic tournament, and is just doing the little things very well (and his shot's been falling, which helps.) I probably give a nod to Lydon because of his versatility and importance to the team, but the nice thing about this team is we've had games where both of those guys, Malachi Richardson and Tyler Roberson fill in as the second banana to Gbinije. This team should be less prone to full-on ice cold outings because of it
AP: Tyler Lydon. We all knew he could be special, this tournament showed it. He can play a 4/5 defensively and then run down the floor to make a three. That takes the Syracuse attack to another level as defenses can't leave four of the five guys much space.