The No. 6 Syracuse Orange are coming off a disappointing loss to a reborn Villanova Wildcats team who have been making a habit of taking out top-five teams.
After losing three straight games in Big East play, including an 11-point loss to Syracuse, the Wildcats shocked then-No. 5 Louisville with a 73-64 win last Monday night. The Wildcats then avenged their loss to Syracuse in a 75-71 overtime thriller that saw Villanova make key three pointers while Syracuse, once again, missed key free throws.
Villanova (13-7, 4-3 Big East) has something to build off of for the rest of the season and may play themselves into an NCAA Tournament bid if they continue their current level of play.
Syracuse (18-2, 6-1) has to now look inward and figure out what identity the team will take from here on out. Part of that identity crisis is what to make of sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
Throughout the season, Syracuse has been a Jekyll and Hyde, with poor performances in their first halves and making adjustments in their second halves to come away with 18 wins. This has been fueled by Carter-Williams, who seems to have trouble putting two solid halves together.
Without the presence of James Southerland, who is suspended indefinitely with academic problems, Syracuse has had to force its younger players to step up. Jerami Grant has taken the opportunity and run with it, while Trevor Cooney, who is advertised as a three-point specialist, has been very inconsistent, shooting below 30 percent on the year from beyond the arc.
But sporadic play is what marks this team. Syracuse’s points can come from a variety areas, which makes them tough to defend, but without Southerland, they become a little more predictable. In order to open their offense more, someone has to hit some outside shots to free up the lane.
This has been Brandon Triche for the most part. When Triche’s shots don’t fall, the team has to look elsewhere for guidance.
Inconsistency, meet Michael Carter-Williams.
Carter-Williams, or MCW, has been the engine that has driven Syracuse to their impressive record with his dynamic passing and opportunistic scoring. He’s also been a major reason that Syracuse has struggled with seemingly inferior opponents with poor shot selection and turning the ball over nearly four times per game.
With the amount of time MCW spends with the ball on most offensive possessions, it’s becoming clear that Syracuse will go as far as MCW takes them, or will fall as far as MCW buries them.
Knowing this, let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly of Michael Carter Williams.