The No. 9 Orange (19-3, 7-2 Big East) extended their winning streak at home to 36 games, the longest such streak in Division I. The Orange ended their two-game losing streak after going almost two years without losing consecutive games.
Syracuse has nine games remaining before the Big East tournament, with five being at home. Of Syracuse’s final five games, four come against ranked schools. Syracuse has fared well against ranked opponents, winning all four contests, but future success could be elusive.
The Orange are still without senior forward James Southerland, who is on academic suspension pending a hearing this week. Freshman DaJuan Coleman had surgery on his left knee and will be out for at least a month. Holes in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone were exposed against Pittsburgh.
Even scoring is down with Syracuse not topping 70 points since a 72-61 win against Villanova on January 12.
But all is not doom and gloom.
In Southerland’s absence, coach Jim Boeheim has been forced to play freshman Jerami Grant more with delightful results. In the first 16 games of the season, with Southerland in the lineup, Grant averaged 11 minutes per game. In the six games since Southerland’s suspension, Grant’s minutes have tripled to 33 per game, including 40-minute efforts in the last two contests.
Against Notre Dame, Grant scored a career high of 14 points and has been a godsend for Boeheim, who has been limited with a seven-man lineup the last two games.
In addition to Grant’s ascension, sophomore Rakeem Christmas has shown signs of life with his 12-point effort against Notre Dame. Christmas was aggressive around the rim, grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots. He gave the Orange the baseline presence they had been missing, as in the loss to Pittsburgh when Christmas did not attempt a shot the entire game.
There are several other factors that will either contribute to Syracuse’s success or be blamed for its demise. Let’s take a look at these factors and see what kind of grades Syracuse has earned thus far.