Syracuse Basketball: Why No Lead Is Safe Against the Orange in 2013-14

Justin NeumanContributor IIDecember 30, 2013

SYRACUSE, NY - DECEMBER 20:  C.J. Fair #5 of the Syracuse Orange dunks the ball between John Brown #0 and Cliff Cornish #4 of the High Point Panthers during the second half at the Carrier Dome on December 20, 2013 in Syracuse, New York.  Syracuse defeated High Point 75-54.  (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

After falling behind 25-7 to Villanova midway through the first half, the Syracuse basketball team came roaring back to beat the Wildcats 78-62 Saturday afternoon. For those scoring at home, that's a 71-37 finish after the early 18-point deficit.

The Orange used a 20-0 run to take a 27-25 lead, and they never looked back. As Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller pointed out, that was not the first time the Orange have used a huge run to break the back of the opposition.

Against Indiana, Syracuse used a 23-3 scoring spree to crush any dreams of a Hoosier upset. In the matchup with Binghamton just days later, the stretch was 28-4. And when High Point came to town, the Orange blew the game open in the second half with a 28-3 spurt.

The moral of the story is this: No matter how large the deficit, Syracuse has the tools to get back in the game in a hurry.

Naysayers will point out that each of those scoring outbursts happened on Syracuse's home floor. And while that is indeed the case, the blueprint for the scoring run is one that would translate to a road environment as well.


He's Only a Freshman on Paper

To start with, Syracuse's point guard is pretty darn good. What some thought would be the weak link in Syracuse's armor is turning out to be one of the biggest advantages the Orange have.

With his play on national TV against Villanova, Tyler Ennis put the country on notice
With his play on national TV against Villanova, Tyler Ennis put the country on noticeRich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We've said this time and time again, but Tyler Ennis just does not play like a true freshman. Ennis played all but three minutes of the game against Villanova, and in those 37 minutes he did not commit a single turnover. He also notched 20 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Even when the Orange went down 18 in what seemed like a heartbeat, Ennis didn't blink.

A standard freshman point guard would likely try to force the action to get his team back in the game as quickly as possible. But Ennis continued to just go about his business, using crossover and change-of-pace moves to continually get into the lane and make plays for himself or his teammates. He abused his defenders in every way possible short of stealing their lunch money.

If it weren't already taken, the perfect nickname for Ennis would be Tyler the Creator.

Michael Gbinije, Ennis' backup and do-it-all glue guy for the Orange, spoke with Donna Ditota of about Ennis' brilliance.

It's just his change of speed: He'll use the hesitation move very often, very effectively. Sometimes he's looking away from where he's actually going to go. He has all the fundamentals down. Left hand. Right hand. Pass it. Shoot it. That's what makes him so tough to guard.


Forcing Bad Shots

Another facet of Syracuse's game that will never make a contest out of reach is, you guessed it, that 2-3 zone. Villanova did make its first four three-pointers of the game, but that may well have been the worst thing for the Wildcats.

After starting 4-of-4, Villanova ended the game shooting 10-of-31 from deep, and a lot of that had to do with Syracuse's defense. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant have the ability to cover from the baseline to the three-point arc. This allows them to challenge shooters and still drop back to help inside.

As the game wore on, Villanova took more and more threes early in the shot clock that seemed open. But by the time the shooter was ready to hoist, there was a hand in his face that made it as if he were shooting over a broom.

A missed three early in the shot clock when the rest of the offense is moving toward the basket is as good as a turnover for Syracuse. When an Orange defender grabs the rebound, he can quickly outlet it to Ennis who will get his squad out in transition. And when the Orange can run, that creates opportunities for the third (and most dangerous) reason no lead is safe against Syracuse...


Trevor Cooney: Certified Sniper

What a difference a year and an increase in confidence can make. Trevor Cooney knows he will stay in the game if he misses a shot or two, and that helps him make teams pay if they give him even a sliver of daylight on the perimeter.

Seriously, if you leave Cooney open, he is going to torch you.

Opposing coaches will soon be seeing Cooney threes in their nightmares
Opposing coaches will soon be seeing Cooney threes in their nightmaresRich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Cooney netted 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown against Villanova, marking the seventh time this season he has hit at least five threes in a game. For the year, he's shooting a cool 50.6 percent on three-pointers. The guy has been just unconscious.

As we all know, three points are more than two, and the three-point shot can help erase any deficit in a hurry. When Cooney gets going, there is almost no stopping him.

It gets his teammates involved, too. Not only does it excite them, but defenses will start keying on Cooney and trying to run him off the line. That opens up the paint for Fair, Grant and Ennis to work inside without having to worry about a help defender coming from the wing. No help D means easier looks which means better scoring opportunities.

No team wants to be down big in a game. That's obvious. But when a game starts slipping away from most teams, there is usually no coming back. But Syracuse has shown it has an ability to go on extended scoring runs. It can either make a big deficit go up in smoke or help the Orange step on the proverbial throat of the opposition.

This, among other things, is what makes Syracuse one of the most dangerous teams in the land. Perhaps even the best.


*Justin Neuman is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JustinNeuman10