The Syracuse Orange are on a three-game losing streak now, after falling to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Before that, SU had won five straight and roared back into NCAA Tournament contention.
They’re still very much within shouting distance of the postseason, but the road’s been made a bit tougher. Not just by Syracuse’s losses. But by previous opponents’ own struggles, too.
When SU beat the Virginia Cavaliers on February 4, UVA was a top-10 team and beating them (even at home) was a pelt few other bubble candidates could claim. Since then? The Hoos are 1-3, including three straight losses now, as the defense comes undone in the wake of some poor shooting on the offensive end.
Virginia’s still a tournament team by a wide margin, but at 18-8 overall now, that win may not mean nearly as much. The saving grace? KenPom still believes in UVA (they’re eighth). That has far more impact this year than previous seasons.
To a lesser extent, the same has gone for Florida State, which also fell to SU on the Carrier Dome floor. Since that game, the Seminoles are 3-2, dropping their last two on the road to Notre Dame and Pitt, respectively. FSU’s 21-6 (still strong) and 19th in KenPom. Again, it’s a good thing that metric will factor in a bit more this year. It’s still not as high as this team once was.
There’s also Syracuse’s own problems, which have been well documented.
The Orange have flown too close to the sun in recent weeks, and this is the course-correction. It doesn’t mean they’re losing the remaining games because they won a few nail-biters in a row. But you’re starting to see how taxing this brand of basketball is on a night-to-night basis.
Each of the last three losses (Georgia Tech, Louisville, Pitt) looked a whole lot like the three wins before them (Clemson, Virginia, NC State), but with slightly different results. The Orange have now dealt with a double-digit deficit in six consecutive contests, and come back in each and every one of them. In four, they tied or took the lead.
Whether you’re playing five or six players (hi, SU) or 10, there’s little sustainable about that. The press, clutch threes, timely steals, late free throws. On top of the physical demands of each of these feats, there’s the emotional toll it takes on any team at any level.
For a team like SU, which features a lineup of guys who’ve played minimally before this year, it’s a miracle it’s been performed to any sort of success at all.
Despite the recent struggles, that same group has a chance to solidify their NCAA Tournament spots before we even get to the ACC Tournament, though. Syracuse hosts Duke, goes on the road at Louisville and then ends the year with Georgia Tech visiting the Dome.
Would you be surprised to see them win or lose all three?
If we’ve learned anything from this whirlwind run over the last few weeks, it’s that this team is capable of anything. They haven’t relied on one player or one aspect of their game to win or lose these contests. From Tyler Lydon and Andrew White, to John Gillon and Tyus Battle, every player’s seemingly taken their turn as hero and goat. No matter who gets the post-game headlines, though, there isn’t a team in the country they can’t compete with.
Now they’ll put that to the test. Wins against one of the two top-10-caliber teams left would go a long way toward continuing this wild ride into March Madness. Beating fellow bubble squad Georgia Tech would also be a huge help.
Between SU’s last few games and our tenuous resume of quality wins, it’s going to be a very tight run through the end of this regular season.