Syracuse vs Indiana: Orange Become an Instant Title Favorite with Heavyweight KO

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange talks with Michael Carter-Williams #1 in the first half against the Louisville Cardinals during the final of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 16, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Syracuse has scrapped and struggled all season.

They overcame a mid-year slump and pulled it together after falling apart in the Big East tournament championship game.

After punching No. 1 seed Indiana in the mouth, the Orange find themselves as one of the March Madness title favorites as top-tier teams are falling by the wayside.

No. 1 seeds Louisville and  Kansas are still in. Ohio State has already advanced to the Elite Eight and Duke is still lurking out there.

But if you are an Orange fan, you have to like how things are progressing. Jim Boeheim’s bunch might very well be peaking at just the right time.

The biggest reason Syracuse has to be considered a serious title contender is their tormenting 2-3 zone.

The New York Times’ Scott Cacciola says that it is “one of college basketball’s great riddles.”

As soon as one of Syracuse’s opponents feels like they have figured it out, Boeheim tweaks things in order to keep everyone off balance.

This year’s unit may be one of the best in recent years. During the 2012-13 season, the Orange were:

  • No. 3 Field-Goal Percentage Defense (37.3 percent)
  • No. 5 Blocked Shots (6.1 BPG)
  • No. 6 Three-point Percentage Defense (28.9 percent)
  • No. 13 Steals (9 SPG)
  • No. 30 Scoring Defense (59.4 PPG)

Because of their length and athleticism, the Orange force their opponents to look for gaps and cracks to exploit. Easier said than done.

Just ask Indiana, one of the better offensive teams in the nation. In their Sweet 16 contest with Syracuse, they were unable to break the zone down. Consequently, the Hoosiers shot 33 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc.

But the Orange are not all D and no O.

Syracuse may be only somewhat of an average shooting team from a percentage standpoint, but Boeheim’s bunch collects the most offensive rebounds in the country (538 total; 14.2 per game).

Being that strong on the offensive glass helps to score via put-backs or by ultimately going to the line.

This Syracuse team is experienced and knows what it takes to win games and advance in March Madness.

With how this season has gone and this tournament is going, the Orange are right in the mix of those teams that have the best shot at cutting down the nets in Atlanta.