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The opening two rounds for the Syracuse Orange read like a two-act play in which the hero makes a tragic error, only to redeem himself triumphantly in the end.
The tournament started with the news that Fab Melo had once again been suspended due to academic issues. The Orange played without Melo in January and found themselves leaving South Bend with their first and only loss of the regular season. Syracuse recovered to win out the season but never regained the form it created in its run to open 20-0.
Syracuse opened the NCAA tournament by playing lethargic and uninspired basketball against UNC-Asheville and barely escaped becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16-seed in tournament history.
In the next round, the Orange players broke out of their funk and handled Kansas State 75-59.
This was a refreshing return to form for the Orange, who had struggled to reach the 70-point mark in the past month after averaging over 75 points per game this season.
Which team is the real Syracuse?
In my opinion, both.
Syracuse is built to have players stay fresh and wear opponents down. In theory, they should be able to inject a hot hand when needed, but sometimes a cold hand makes its way through the team first and they struggle to score baskets.
Luckily for the Orange, they play superior defense and can withstand a bad offensive night. A possible matchup with Ohio State will create problems if they go cold. They will have their hands full trying to keep Jared Sullinger off the boards and can ill afford to have any other deficiencies.