It’s the best time of the year in college basketball.
March Madness will captivate millions of fans this weekend in what is expected to be the most wide-open tournament in NCAA history.
Any team can win it all this year—any team except Syracuse.
A lot of people are high on the Orange right now, especially after ESPN analyst Jay Bilas filled out his bracket.
He has Syracuse beating No. 1 overall seed Ohio State and heading back to the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
The Orange won it all that season, riding on the backs of freshman stars Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara and on the outstretched arm of Hakim Warrick.
Syracuse is a No. 3 seed again, just like in 2003, but this squad pales in comparison to that championship team.
The Orange don’t have a player like Anthony or McNamara that they can ride for six games. Kris Joseph was supposed to be that guy but never lived up to the hype after a sensational sophomore season.
Joseph leads the team in scoring (over 14 ppg) but has not been a factor late in games. He is settling for way too many jumpers and has jacked up 119 three-pointers this year—that’s 52 more than he had in his first two seasons combined.
How far will Syracuse go in the tournament?
Joseph is more effective when he is cutting to the basket. He played exceptionally well against UConn in the Big East tournament, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine boards, but has not played consistently enough to lead the charge.
Speaking of leading the charge, the Orange will never win with Scoop Jardine at point guard. His numbers look good on paper (13 points and six assists per game), but they are incredibly deceiving. Scoop leads the team in shot attempts (358) and has displayed extremely poor decision-making leading the Syracuse offense.
The Orange don’t have a half-court offense because they don’t have a point guard that can run an offense. Jardine takes way too many ill-advised shots, most of the time with 30 seconds left on the shot clock, which often leads to transition points for the other team.
Jardine is what he is—a spark, not a fire.
In case you are missing the theme here, let me spell it out for you: Syracuse is just not consistent enough to win it this year. There is no way these guys can play well for six straight games. They take bad shots (led by Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine), have young but talented freshmen (who also make poor decisions at times) and have a dominant big man (Rick Jackson) that they never give the ball to consistently enough.
Syracuse has the ability to beat anybody in the country, but it could easily be bounced in the second round by either Xavier or Marquette (it lost to the Golden Eagles 76-70 earlier this year.) The Orange's 2-3 zone will be effective in the tournament, but it will ultimately come down to their consistency on offense.
Realistically, I see a Sweet 16 in their future, Elite Eight at the most. Any Orange fan would have taken that before the season. If Fab Melo continues to play like he did in the Big East tournament, then the Orange will have a chance, but it will ultimately come down to consistency, something these guys have not shown all year long.