Syracuse capped of its dream season today with a gritty 58-49 victory over the Louisville Cardinals. The Orange rallied behind an 18-point effort from junior Brandon Triche and senior Kris Joseph also put forth a good effort with 11.
The Orange struggled early on, but after gaining a 10-point lead midway through the first half powered by spread around scoring and timely threes from Triche and James Southerland, Syracuse never really looked back.
The win capped off a Big East regular-season championship and perhaps the best regular season in the history of Syracuse basketball.
For perspective, no Big East team had ever won 17 regular-season games before this team. Jim Boeheim completed his 5th 30 win season, and his first home undefeated season since 2003. However, even though the record books have been rewritten, Boeheim would be the first to say that this is the part of the season that really matters.
Going into the Big East tournament, the Orange are clearly the favorites to win the championship. They have the deepest team, the most consistent team, and all other potential favorites have also fallen to the Orange.
While many will cite the "Kemba Walker" effect as a reason for Syracuse to worry, the Orange should still be able to win the championship. No team has a Walker-type player this season unless you count Dion Waiters—of Syracuse.
So the real question is the NCAA tournament. It has been, and will only continue to be, well-documented that Boeheim teams that are favored usually fare poorly come March Madness. However, no team has been like this Orange team.
Will Syracuse win out?
For a quick summary of what you will hear for at least the next two weeks, the Orange are deep. They can legitimately plug 10 guys into their system and see very little difference in production. Furthermore, this keeps the Syracuse players fresh in the tournament.
Secondly, the Orange have Fab Melo. One of the biggest big men in the country, Fab's ability to channel his former soccer roots and draw charges make him a rock in the middle of the zone that few teams want to attack. With his foul troubles dwindling, he is a huge reason for Syracuse's defense success.
Speaking of the zone, zone teams often do well in the tournament for the sole reason that teams are not used to playing against. Syracuse is especially challenging due to the length and high IQ of all the Orange players.
Finally, the Orange have veteran leaders who can guide this team through March. Seniors Joseph and Scoop Jardine are both experienced and knowledgeable about March—and have been knocked out early enough to know that every team is a threat. Furthermore, sophomores Waiters and Melo have matured greatly this past year, especially important considering their roles on the team.
And the Orange have a head coach in Jim Boeheim who only trails Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski in career victories, just in case anyone forgot.
It's hard to believe this is the same team that was shaken by a sex scandal at the beginning of the season. The Orange truly have separated the scandal from this team and moved forward with the drive to win the championship.
This team is special. Could the Orange lose at some point? Yes. The tournament is a rigorous road that leads to many upsets. Can they win out? Of course. Syracuse and the Kentucky Wildcats have the best chance to do so.