After a roller coaster season of highs and lows, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team finds itself on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament with a No. 4 seed.
Syracuse (26-9, 11-7 Big East) could have been seeded as high as No. 2 had it pulled off a win against Louisville in the final of the Big East Tournament, but the No. 19 Orange could not put together two solid halves of basketball and let a 16-point lead slip away, falling 78-61.
The win granted No. 4 Louisville (29-5, 14-4) the honor of its third Big East Tournament title in five years and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
For Syracuse, the loss illustrated everything good and bad about the Orange this season.
Early on, Michael Carter-Williams was crisp with his passing and was not turning the ball over. Baye Keita continued his impressive bench play and the offense ran like a finely-tuned machine.
James Southerland continued his over-the-top three-point performance with three more, breaking Gerry McNamara’s record of 16 three-pointers made in the Big East Tournament with 19, but he only scored nine points and his fourth foul, with Syracuse up 16, put him on the bench while Louisville mounted its comeback.
Without the threat of Southerland, who got his fourth foul with 15:34 left in the second half, the Syracuse offense went cold, as in absolute zero.
The Orange would only convert two baskets from the field for the rest of the game, both from C.J. Fair on a tip and a three-pointer.
If ever there were a tale of two halves, this was it.
So now Syracuse sits in the East Region as a No. 4 seed and gets to face the No. 13 seed Montana Grizzlies.
The last time Syracuse was a No. 4 seed was in 2005, when Syracuse was shocked by the three-point-crazy Vermont Catamounts, 60-57.
Montana presents a similar problem for the Orange, as it relies heavily on the three.
Other teams, such as No. 1 seed Indiana, could give the Orange trouble with inside-out play and two other teams, No. 3 seed Marquette and No. 9 seed Temple, have already beaten Syracuse this season.
The East Region is tough, but winnable, for a handful of teams, including the Jekyll-and-Hyde Orange.
Here’s a rundown of the five teams that potentially give Syracuse its biggest problems.