The Syracuse Orange started their 2010-11 campaign on a tear, racing out to an 18-0 record and a No. 3 ranking in the country.
After hitting a cold patch and losing four straight and six of eight, the Orange righted the ship and finished with five straight wins. Two of their final five wins came against ranked teams in Villanova and Georgetown.
Currently sitting at No. 11 in the polls, the Orange need to make a statement in the Big East Conference Tournament if they want to secure a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Winning the Big East Tournament could mean a No. 2 seed for the Orange, as a No. 1 seed seems out of reach.
The Big East is projected to have 11 teams compete in the 68-team NCAA Tournament. This makes the Big East, far and away, the best conference in college basketball this year.
Here's 10 reasons the Orange are geared and ready to make a run for the Big East Championship.
How many teams in the country can drop 107 points in a conference game?
Now how many can do that with a high scorer of only 14 points?
That's exactly what the Orange did on Saturday against inferior competition in the DePaul Blue Demons. Six orange members scored double digits in the blowout victory. Even freshman Fab Melo scored 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting. The Orange held the Blue Demons to 59 points and 39 percent shooting.
The Orange also avenged earlier losses to the Georgetown Hoyas and the Villanova WIldcats during the five-game stretch. Team defense was great down the stretch.
The Orange only allowed an average of 58 points to opponents in their final three contests.
This year, the Syracuse Orange have rattled off win streaks of 18 and five games. Last year, the team went on runs of 13 and 11 straight wins.
This group of guys, led by Coach Jim Boeheim, knows how to win.
The ability to string together wins is a huge factor during tournament time. If a team struggles with consistency on a night in, night out basis, they won't win a conference tournament.
With the strength of the Big East, the Orange can play their best basketball and still fall shy of victory. However, the Orange at their best is a scary thought.
Just ask DePaul.
Directly following their 18-game win streak, the Orange fell into a four-game skid.
There were questions about whether or not the team was deserving of the recognition they were getting when they rose to the No. 3 spot in the country. Once at 7-6 in the conference, the Orange gritted out five straight conference wins to finish fourth in the Big East.
When losses began to add up, doubters came from everywhere to call the team soft and hate on the 2-3 zone.
Now that the Orange have returned to their winning ways, the doubters are reduced to whispers.
Other than the St. John's Red Storm, whose home games are held at Madison Square Garden, no one gets the crowd support that the Orange does.
Unless the Orange face the Red Storm—which they likely will in their first game—they will have the crowd on their side. The team must love the location of the games, as they are commonly referred to as New York's college basketball team.
When the Orange made their sensational run to the Big East title in 2005-06, the Garden exploded with each upset. That year, the Orange beat top-ranked Connecticut and rival Georgetown in back-to-back games.
When it comes to the Big East Tournament, the Orange bring their 'A' game.
The Orange's five-game win streak to close the season gave them the valuable No. 4 seed in the Big East Tourney.
Now, the Orange get to sit back and watch two rounds of games before they have to play. If they lost any of those games, they'd have to win four in a row to win the tournament. Now, they are just two wins away from the final.
The problem is they'll likely face a hot team in the first round that has a few confidence-building wins under their belt. If they hold their own and collect the victory, they could face the top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers in the semifinals.
No matter how you spin it, the Big East Tournament is a hard one to get through. The Orange, however, put themselves in good position to triumph.
Brandon Triche started the season off noticeably shaky.
The sophomore guard is a local product from Jamesville-Dewitt High school. People have high expectations of his potential. He's finally starting to live up to those standards.
Triche is visibly more confident in his shooting stroke and his movement in the zone. He's developing as a player and becoming a third or fourth scoring option for the Orange.
If Triche keeps getting better and more consistent, the Orange will be able to expand their offensive playbook.
The Syracuse Orange are one of the few college basketball teams that employ the 2-3 zone.
Jim Boeheim is a huge proprietor of the defensive strategy. The Orange are required to move quickly and be ready to play help defense. Although they are vulnerable against good three-point shooting teams, the Orange have made a living in this defense.
Most of the time they are able to force players into bad or rushed shots and grab the rebound. If a team goes lights out from deep, they lose, but that's a chance the Orange takes.
Teams rarely challenge the zone on the inside because of the height and strength of the Orange bigs. If the Orange contest shots and box out, they can regularly hold opponents to under 60 points a night.
Syracuse has one of the finest freshmen classes in the nation.
Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair, Baye Moussa Keita and Fab Melo each have their own distinct role on the team.
Waiters provides relief for either Triche or Scoop Jardine without a significant drop in ability. Waiters has the best potential of the group of new faces and would be a solid starter in a lot of college backcourts.
Fair is an athletic, 6'8" forward that's displayed great touch around the rim. Rebounding comes easy to him because of ability to rise off the floor.
Keita is a defensive specialist and rebounder for the Orange. The 6'10" center has a lot to learn about offense, but can pester any forward or center in the Big East with his shot-blocking skill.
Melo hasn't lived up to the hype he was given, but has progressed quite a bit. His 7'0" frame makes him a natural, but he needs to work on foot speed and court vision. If he polishes up his skills a bit, he can be a force in the middle of the zone in the future.
Rick Jackson was not voted by Big East coaches as a first team All-Conference selection.
In a season where Jackson led the conference in rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage, this is a ridiculous injustice. The team consists of six guards, which makes zero sense.
Jackson also averages over 13 points and 10 rebounds in the country's toughest conference. He rarely struggles, but when he does, so do the Orange.
Jackson will have a bone to pick when he faces the coaches that didn't consider him worthy of first-team honors. If he gets the ball, he'll look to score.
The Syracuse Orange are a threat to win every game because of their immense depth.
The Orange have a 10-man rotation that all see significant minutes in each game. Eight of these players see over 14 minutes per contest and make mentionable statistical contributions.
If Scoop is struggling to find his rhythm, Boeheim sends Waiters in. If Keita isn't causing problems on defense, Fair is tossed in to stretch out the floor.
Boeheim has vast possibilities with the types of lineup he can dream up. He's experimented with different combinations all season, seemingly finding groups that work well together.
With such a deep bench, players are forced to play better if they want to stay in the game. Triche has seen this work for and against him time and time again.
Any team can shut down a two-man show, but there are very few that can properly prepare for a 10-man performance.