Big East Tournament 2012: Why Syracuse is No Lock for Tourney Crown

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterMarch 5, 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - FEBRUARY 19:  Kris Joseph #32 of the Syracuse Orange stretches against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Louis Brown Athletic Center on February 19, 2012 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

As great a college basketball team as Syracuse is and has proven to be this season, Jim Boeheim's bunch is hardly guaranteed to translate the success from its one-loss campaign into a run to victory at the 2012 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Orange's sterling 17-1 record in conference play belies just how precarious their spot atop the nation's most competitive conference truly was. Despite their stockpile of top-tier talent—a collection far deeper and more impressive than any other in the league—the Orange still played in 11 Big East games decided by 10 points or fewer, including each of their last five.

On the one hand, those numbers would indicate that Syracuse is a team well-equipped to handle the physical and mental rigors of playing in and winning close games. On the other hand, they point to the fact that even a team loaded with All-American talent like Kris Joseph, Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, Brandon Triche, CJ Fair and Scoop Jardine can't seem to put away opponents with any sort of regularity.

That's all well and good for plodding your way through a regular season riddled with inferior competition, but in the Big East Tournament, wherein Cinderella runs are an almost comically common occurrence (see: Connecticut 2011), unpredictability of that caliber doesn't exactly bode well for a team's chances at a real, meaningful championship.

Of course, the same could be said for Syracuse's stock in the NCAA tournament, and it has and likely will over the next few weeks. Sure, a No. 1 seed will ensure that the Orange face "weaker" teams at the outset, but even mid-major and low-major champions are still, well, champions, teams with talent and experience that know how to hang around and win big ball games.

You know, like Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown, UConn and West Virginia, all of whom the 'Cuse could conceivably face in the Big Apple this week.

That doesn't mean Syracuse shouldn't be the favorite to earn the conference's automatic berth into the Big Dance, as if Boeheim's boys need it.

Rather, if you're filling out a bracket for the Big East tourney, don't use anything more permanent than pencil to write in the Orange as the champ.