The Syracuse Orange started the 2012-13 season 10-0 and were considered to be one of the top teams in the nation, reaching as high as No. 3 in the poll. However, after losing three of the last five games, including two in a row, it's easy to doubt that the Orange will make it to the Final Four.
'Cuse was hitting on all cylinders and riding high in January after back-to-back victories over ranked opponents. The Orange defeated then No. 1 Louisville on January 19th, and followed that up with a victory on January 21st over No. 21 Cincinnati.
The third-ranked Orange were then upset at Villanova in a game that started a downward spiral of bad luck and poor play. Syracuse entered the matchup against the Wildcats without the services of senior forward James Southerland, who was suspended due to an academic issue.
To make matters worse, starting forward DaJuan Coleman injured his knee against the Wildcats and has yet to return to action.
Though Southerland has since been reinstated, the Orange continue to struggle and now find themselves with a record of 22-6 (10-5) and tied for fourth place in the conference.
In spite of the recent poor play, barring a colossal meltdown, Syracuse is going to be in the NCAA tournament and will present a touch matchup for several teams.
That being said, any championship aspirations that this team had a month ago have since taken a hit.
Here are five reasons why fans shouldn't bet on the Orange making it to the Final Four.
Poor shooting seemed to be a problem all season, both from the floor and the free-throw line. Currently, Syracuse ranks 98th in field goal percentage, shooting 44.7 percent. Things are even worse when talking about foul shooting. The Orange rank 206th in free throw percentage at 68.3 percent.
The concept is pretty simple, make shots and you will tend to come out victorious.
Syracuse has had several games in which they shot under 40 percent from the floor. The Georgetown game saw the Orange make just 17 of 50 total shots. The January 26th loss at Villanova was the worst shooting performance of the year.
In that game, Syracuse shot 33.3 percent from the floor, well below its already low season average.
Foul shooting has been an ongoing issue for much of the season. It first came to the forefront in 'Cuse's first loss of the year, an 83-79 upset loss to Temple. Against the Owls, the Orange finished 19-34 from the line and were unable to convert late in the game.
Nothing can hamper a team's success like poor shooting. Unfortunately for Syracuse, that's been a problem all year that will make it tough to advance to the Final Four.
The Orange have not shot the ball well from beyond the three-point line this season. In fact, they have been downright terrible in that department.
Syracuse Currently ranks 247th in the nation, shooting just 32 percent from long range.
In losses to UConn and Georgetown, 'Cuse shot a total of 43 three-pointers and made just eight. Reserve forward James Southerland made seven of the eight, hitting four against the Huskies and three against the Hoyas.
In the most recent loss at Marquette, Syracuse once again fired up a large number of threes, going 8-24 from behind the arc.
The sudden infatuation with the three ball does not make much sense. The Orange have not shot the ball well all year from the outside. Taking advantage of size inside is what led to success for Syracuse this season.
Syracuse boasts great size down low and should be able to score points in the paint against just about anybody. Unfortuanlty, it has been settling for three-pointers, both contested and uncontested, instead of kicking it inside for a high percentage shot.
Unless the Orange quickly fall out of love with the deep ball, look for them to make an exit before the semifinals.
This team has shown inconsistency all season. Whether it be beating No. 20 San Diego State by 13 in the season opener, or losing to a Villanova team that was just 4-3 in the conference, the Orange have had an up-and-down year.
Syracuse was ranked as high as No. 3 this season. However, they have struggled recently and have fallen out of the top 10. The Orange have lost five of their last 12 games and now find themselves tied for fourth place in the Big East.
Currently, the Orange are on a two-game losing streak.
Star point guard Michael Carter-Williams has added to the inconsistency at Syracuse in recent weeks. Some games he looks ready to be an NBA lottery pick, and other games he looks lost on the court.
The Orange need to break out of the funk they're in if there is any hope of a Final Four run.
Senior point guard Brandon Triche leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game and is having the best season of his career. However, his play as of late has not been very good.
Over the last five games, with the exception of a 29-point game against Seton Hall, he has scored below his season average and hasn't shot above 45 percent from the floor.
Aside from the poor shooting percentage, the problem is that Triche has been shooting entirely too much. In the last 10 games, he hasn't attempted fewer than nine shots in a game. Many of those shots have been from beyond the arc.
That's not the blueprint of success for this current Syracuse team.
His poorest performance of the year came in the 66-58 loss at UConn on February 13th. In that game, Triche attempted15 shots, converting on just three of them. That lead to a pitiful field-goal percentage of 20 percent.
There's no doubt that Triche has been a huge part of the success that Syracuse has had this year. However, his recent struggles and number of shot attempts will hold the Orange back in the NCAA tournament if changes are not made.
Too often this season, even in victories, Syracuse has come out flat and lacking energy. Guys seem to sometimes walk to where they need to be and at times seem uninterested and unable to match the energy level of the opponent.
The Orange will likely be favored in their first two games of the tournament. That could mean trouble for this team. Schools that are not given much of a chance in March often come out with a "nothing to lose" attitude when playing against a top-seeded team.
A January 26th loss at Villanova also highlights this point. The third-ranked Orange came out cold and quickly went down 10-0 to the Wildcats.
In all six of its losses during the regular season, Syracuse was the higher-ranked team.
'Cuse's lack of energy this year, especially to start games, will be a major concern in the postseason. Unless Boeheim finds a way to change this, it's hard to think the Orange will be playing in the late rounds of the NCAA tournament.