You better believe it, baby: Come April 5 in Indianapolis, Jim Boeheim, and Co. will be cutting down the nets.
Just last April, I must admit that I doubted whether Syracuse would crack the Top 25, let alone even be a force in the Big East.
With the departure of leading scorer Jonny Flynn, along with two key role players, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris, things looked bleak for the Orange.
However, Jim Boeheim knew something that we did not. He had a future star in Iowa State transfer Wes Johnson.
Although Johnson performed well at Iowa State, earning all Big 12 rookie honors and honorable mention freshman All-America honors in his first year, Johnson has developed into into a superstar at Syracuse.
Johnson is dominant on defense and the Player of the Year candidate is averaging 16.7 points and nine boards a game.
Add point guard Brandon Triche's nine points a game and Syracuse has major contributions from two newcomers. Although Syracuse misses the scoring abilities of Jonny Flynn, Flynn was nowhere near the defender that the 6'4" Triche is.
Syracuse has a well-rounded club, with one of the best big man combination in the country with Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku. Both average more than 10 a game and have flourished in Jim Boeheim's system.
Unlike Syracuse’s’ 2009 campaign, in which Boeheim used a six- or seven-man rotation, the Orange have a deep squad.
Big man Kris Joseph has developed into a double-digit scorer, and guard Scoop Jardine has played a key role as the backup point guard.
If the old adage is true that defense wins championships, the Orange could be poised for a magical March run.
This year's Orange has perfected Jim Boeheim's zone defense. Syracuse is one of the best rebounding teams in the country and the length and size of Syracuse has created havoc for opposing offenses.
This is shown by the fact that Syracuse has let up more than 80 points only once this season.
Syracuse's ability to rebound the basketball and create turnovers has led to the Orange being considered the best transition team in all college basketball.
When Syracuse is on, no one runs the floor better than Boeheim's squad. Their transition game leads to easy buckets and open looks for one of the best three-point shooters in the country, Andy Rautins.
Although there is no clear favorite in this year’s tournament, Syracuse has the most balance out of any of the top teams. Kentucky is extremely talented, but they are young and inexperienced, and experience is key in March.
Bill Self and the Jayhawks have both talent and depth but it remains to be seen if Sherron Collins can stay healthy. Kansas’ hopes rest on his health come tournament time.
This team is nothing flashy but they have it all; they run the floor, play team defense and have an All-American in Wes Johnson. Not to mention, they have some experience at the head coaching position.
Now that's a winning formula.
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