It seems like every game there’s about a 5-8 minute stretch where Syracuse separates itself from its opponent. These teams hang around for a while but all of a sudden you look up and the Orange are up by 20. It happened against last night against Villanova. The game was tied at 14 and then 7 minutes later it was 34-16. Syracuse has a serious case of the runs.
Here’s a look at the Orange’s runs in each of the last 6 games:
All but the Providence run occurred in the first half. So what’s behind the surges? Well, to start, Syracuse has been the superior team and they are bound to create separation at some point. But to sum up the reasons in a more palatable way it comes down to the 3 Ds: Defense, Depth and Dion. Okay, so they aren’t mutually exclusive since Dion Waiters is a big part of the defense and depth but he’s special enough to warrant singling him out.
The defense has been the strength of this team all season and its ability to create easy baskets off of turnovers. Syracuse leads the nation in steals per game and is fourth in blocked shots. These types of plays are momentum changers and they come in waves. Defense tends to be contagious and when a team starts to get down there is a tendency to make even more mistakes and the snowballing continues.
The word most associated with the Orange this season is depth. You might be sick of hearing about it but there is a reason so many are talking about it. Other teams have to either rely on their starters to log heavy minutes or put in the less talented bench players. If a team leaves their starters in too long they are bound to get fatigued and make mistakes and if they put in the bench players the Orange’s 2nd team will dominate them. Syracuse doesn’t have any liabilities on either end of the court and are ready to pounce when they find the liabilities of their opponents.
Then there is the leading candidate for the sixth man of the year. Dion Waiters is averaging 13 points and over 2 steals per game. He just might be the most talented player Syracuse has and he’s coming off the bench ready to pounce. Most of those steals are coming at the top of the key and usually lead to layups or his patented powerful slam. He is instant offense and can score in bunches. Last night against Villanova he had 3 steals 14 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting.
So why do these runs come to an end? Clearly the Orange aren’t going to continue on such a torrid pace but if you take out these runs, in some of the games they are playing close to even and in others they are being outscored. The most logical explanation is simply complacency. How else can you explain some of the precipitous drop-offs the Orange have had in the 2nd half of games? Is it coaching adjustments? If so, why can’t Syracuse re-adjust?
The worry is that one of these days a team will turn the momentum and Syracuse won’t be able to punch back. Right now teams like Villanova and Pitt wish they had that type of problem to worry about.Robbie Gillies