With Syracuse beginning ACC play tonight at Pittsburgh, we at TNIAAM thought this was a good time to hand out our midseason superlatives for the Orange, who at 10-3 are about where most expected them to be at this point. Read on for our thoughts on the best moment, biggest surprise and more from the first half of the season.
Michael Burke: Syracuse winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. That's not something many saw coming, but the Orange pulled it off, thanks largely to them shooting lights out. Unfortunately for Syracuse, it could turn out to be the best moment of the season.
John Cassillo: Defeating UConn, because Huskies losses are fun, but they're even more so at the hands of the Orange on a large stage.
Kevin Wall: Beating UConn in the Atlantis semifinal game because beating UConn is always a good thing, but beating them as the underdog is so much sweeter.
MB: Personally, I didn't expect Tyler Lydon to be immediately ready to play as much as he has. And I certainly didn't expect him to be so valuable on both ends. He's arguably the key to SU's offensive success and he's done well enough in the middle of the zone to allow the Orange to keep its best offensive lineup on the court.
JC: In a bad way? How we are 100-percent reliant on the three-ball and there's really no way to score by any other means. That's the biggest surprise to me.
KW: The way Gbinije has elevated his game so far this season. We knew he'd be the leader of the team, but he's putting himself into the conversation for ACC POY and All-American honors.
MB: That loss to St. John's was really, really bad. The Wisconsin loss wasn't much better, but that game seemed tailor-made for a Syracuse letdown. Not to get hot take-y, but against the Red Storm, there was no excuse not to show up.
JC: Getting lapped by a bad St. John's team in a game that will have more implications (bad ones) down the road, sadly.
KW: The St. John's loss without question. Losing a game is one thing, but being dominated by a team who has been blown out by Incarnate Word is another entirely different thing.
MB: Michael Gbinije. I don't actually need to explain my reasoning, do I?
JC: Michael Gbinije is the only player you can count on night-in and night-out. Without him, this team would be toast.
KW: Mike Gbinije by far. He's been better than anyone thought he'd be, and he does so much for the Orange.
MB: Tyler Lydon. As noted above, he's just so, so valuable and he's played exceptionally well on both ends. Of course, he should be even more valuable; or, in other words, the Orange should be utilizing him more on the offensive end.
JC: Tyler Lydon because while he hasn't been perfect, he's had more quality games than poor ones and his skill set still alters opposing teams' gameplans quite a bit.
KW: Tyler Lydon for his ability to be more than just a shooter this year. The fact that he has been able to handle minutes at the 5 has been a huge bonus for this team.
Not a superlative, but has your season record prediction changed?
MB: *Checks preseason prediction.* I won't change much. I had Syracuse going 21-10 overall with a 10-8 conference record, so I'll stick to my guns with the 10-8 prediction and say the Orange finish the regular season at 20-11.
JC: Maybe downgraded a little bit. I'd said 22 wins total, and based on the team's inabilities in the paint, that might have to go down to 20. Unfortunately, a 20-win Syracuse team with no marquee ACC wins is not making the NCAAs. They have some work to do...
KW: I thought Syracuse would drop three non-conference games (not exactly the three they lost though), so they are where I though they would be heading into the ACC. However, I would probably change my ACC prediction to a record of 10-8. I think that will be enough to get the Orange easily into the NCAA field.