During the season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: Syracuse is on a two-game losing streak, and is in danger of losing its coveted trip through Philadelphia and Washington DC in the NCAA tournament. What is the cause of SU’s recent struggles?
The Orange has hit a rough patch, going 4-5 in its last nine games. They’ve lost their last two games against Georgetown and Marquette, and have all but been eliminated from contention for the Big East regular season title.
Why has Syracuse struggled recently? The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng weighed in.
SEN: Grant and Triche need to step up
Will the real Jerami Grant please stand up? When James Southerland was declared ineligible, Syracuse fans began to prepare for the worst. But then came a savior by the name of Jerami Grant. In the 6 games that Southerland missed, Jerami averaged almost 10 points and 5.5 rebounds. Not only that, he looked aggressive, polished, and a sure fire NBA draft pick in a couple of years.
But once Southerland’s returned, Jerami disappeared. He has only been able to muster up 2.4 points and 3.4 rebounds since Southerland has been back, despite holding on to his starting position. And it is not just the minutes. Any Syracuse fan will tell you, Jerami has seemed to have lost his confidence. We need the old Jerami back and we need him back now.
Syracuse also needs more from their senior leader, Brandon Triche. If you want to point your finger at one thing that has resulted in a W or L in the month of February, look no further than senior leader Brandon Triche.
In the 4 wins, Brandon has shot 46% from the field and 33% from three. The 4 losses? He has shot 28% and 4%. That’s right, 4%. Triche has made just one 3 pointer in all of the four losses. It could not be a more clear indication that as Brandon goes, so does this team.
CHENG: Struggles can be attributed to a tough schedule
The reality is that Syracuse doesn’t have the same talent separating them from the rest of the competition compared to the past few years. There is more parity in the Big East, especially at the top of it, this season.
Only three games separate the top seven teams in the league, and Syracuse just got through playing the top two teams. Georgetown has a shot at a No. 1 seed while Marquette has now own 24 straight games at home, which is the nation’s second longest winning streak. The Orange couldn’t shoot the ball from downtown in either of those games, yet still had a shot at winning both.
In other words, any team can beat another team on any given night. There are ebbs and flows to college basketball, and Syracuse is playing one of the hardest parts of its schedule.
The reason why SU remains a dangerous tournament team is that their zone is still solid. Syracuse remains one of the top defensive teams in the Big East against teams that routinely see the 2-3 zone. Come tournament time, SU is a tough draw against non-conference opponents for that reason.
There’s no need to panic—yet.