Coming off its bye, Syracuse could easily have found itself 5-1. But as easy as it is to rue letting the Rutgers game literally slip through its fingers, Syracuse could also count itself lucky that it isn’t 0-5. As it turns out, after a first half of the season that saw three overtime games and two other close calls, the Orange is 4-2, two wins shy of a bowl berth. Syracuse will attempt to get one win closer on Friday night against its highest ranked opponent of the season, West Virginia (#11/14).
Melo did slightly better than average, but he didn’t do that much worse than Syracuse’s best freshman center in 15 years. Was it disappointing that he didn’t live up to the hype? Yes. But is it surprising? Looking at the production of other freshman centers, I don’t think so. More importantly, is it Melo’s fault that he was given unrealistic expectations by the media? Absolutely not.
Coming off a tough loss to Connecticut in the semifinals of the Big East tournament, Syracuse landed a No. 3 seed in the East Region of the NCAA tournament. Sound familiar? The year was 2003, and three weeks after receiving this draw the Orangemen hoisted their first national championship trophy. To see whether the 2011 Orange can repeat the feat, let’s keep in mind what it takes to beat them. The conventional wisdom says the biggest key to beating Syracuse is sinking 3s. In Syracuse’s five regular-season losses this year, their opponents shot 47 percent from beyond the arc. This compares with the 31 three-point percent that Syracuse held its opponents to overall, good for 25th best in the country.
In Syracuse’s romp over Morgan State on Monday night, the story of the game was James Southerland’s shot. “He’s back,” The Post-Standard declared. But while the sophomore’s sweet stroke and 18 points deserved the limelight on that night, his rebounding and defense will keep him on the floor when Big East play begins next week.