Syracuse Basketball: The Sky Is Not Falling; the Orange Are Fine

Gene SiudutContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23:  James Southerland #43 of the Syracuse Orange attempts to rebound the ball against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Undefeated Syracuse fell to unranked Notre Dame Saturday, 67-58. Earlier in the week, the top-ranked Orange learned they would be without their center, Fab Melo, who is experiencing an academic hardship, but will most likely be back for next Saturday’s game against West Virginia.

Up until Saturday’s loss, the word on the street was the key to beating Syracuse—if there was one—would be forcing the Orange into a half-court game. Of course, this is easier said than done being that Syracuse leads the nation in steals and runs its offense out of transition.

Just a week ago, I speculated that one of the ways that Syracuse could lose would be to have an off shooting night, but it would be unlikely to have nine players have an off-night.

Well, that goes to show what I know.

Syracuse (20-1, 7-1 Big East) shot just 35 percent, its worst performance since a 14-point loss to UConn almost two years ago. To its credit, Notre Dame (12-8, 4-3) shot at a 50 percent clip and managed a few three-point bricks that found their way into the basket.

Syracuse couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean from the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.

Monday night, the Orange travel to Cincinnati, which has won 10 of its last 12 games, for a game that is sure to be a dog fight.

Cincinnati (15-5, 5-2) is built in a similar fashion to Syracuse in that it has four players averaging double-digits in scoring, can rebound and passes the ball effectively.

All Cincinnati needs to do is duplicate the effort Notre Dame put forth.

Come again?

There’s nothing more annoying to me than when someone I know has a team he or she roots for lose and that person claims the team wasn’t beat; it beat itself.

I won’t go that far. Notre Dame played tough and made its shots. Syracuse just had a bad night. The Orange had plenty of open looks, created turnovers and put themselves in position to make a comeback many times throughout the second half. They just couldn’t make a shot. It happens, and it happened to Syracuse.

Hoping for another off-night is not a recipe for success for Cincinnati; it’s a prayer.

The Orange should come out hungry against the Bearcats. With the monkey of being undefeated and holding the No. 1 ranking off their backs, they should be humbled and inspired. That combination does not bode well for Cincinnati, which has lost three straight to Syracuse and is only 2-6 in the all-time series.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have Syracuse as a 4.5-point favorite on the road.

Even without Fab Melo, I suspect the margin will be a little greater than that.