NCAA Tournament Results: 5 Reasons the Syracuse Orange Were Sent Home Early
The Syracuse Orange were yet another Big East team that saw their dreams for the NCAA tournament championship end before the first weekend was over.
The Orange lost to the Marquette Golden Eagles, 62-66, on Sunday night. With the win, Marquette became one of only two Big East teams to advance to the Sweet 16—with the other being Connecticut. Both the Huskies and Golden Eagles defeated fellow Big East teams to advance to the second week of play.
I'm not trying to take anything away from Marquette's win, but this game was Syracuse's to lose. The Orange are the more talented unit and were favored to win.
For the second year in a row, the Orange fell short of expectations. Syracuse finished the season without losing a game to a non-conference opponent.
Syracuse will return almost all of its players, but will lose Rick Jackson. Jackson anchored the Orange in the paint and was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East this season. The Orange recruited Rakeem Christmas—another big man from Philadelphia—to take Jackson's spot.
Here are the top five reasons the Orange will be watching the rest of the tournament from home.
5. Foulin' Fab Melo
Highly touted freshman Fab Melo never lived up to his billing this season. The Brazilian big man was projected to be the Freshman of the Year in the Big East, but lost his spot in the starting lineup during the season.
Melo had been playing better of late and looking more comfortable on the court. Unfortunately for the Orange, Melo looked slow and confused on the floor on Sunday. He only played five minutes, but he was an eyesore when he was on the court.
He committed three fouls and turned the ball over in his limited action. Players went right at Melo, who constantly left his feet and draped his arms over Marquette players. He showed no discipline on defense and provided nothing on the offensive end.
The Orange couldn't have asked for a worse performance from Melo, as fellow freshman Dion Waiters had the best game of his young career.
4. Brandon Triche Injury
Brandon Triche stepped onto the floor and his impact was immediately felt. The starting sophomore guard scored eight quick points to help the Orange to an early 19-9 lead.
A couple of charging calls sucked the confidence from Triche in the rest of the first half, but Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim still had faith in his guard.
Early in the second half, Triche went down hard and bruised his hip bone. He left the game and wouldn't return. This opened the door for Waiters' great performance, but also cut from the depth of the Syracuse guards.
Triche may have returned, but Boeheim likely assumed he wouldn't be as effective as either Waiters or Scoop Jardine.
Instead, Triche watched from the bench as the Orange were dropped from the tournament.
3. First-Half Tendencies
The Syracuse Orange have a tendency to storm out of the gates and play great basketball early. Other than an embarrassing start against Pittsburgh this season, the Orange were a good team in the game's opening minutes.
The problem is they tended to follow up a great start with a lazy, lackluster stretch. At about the 10-minute mark of both NCAA tournament games, the Orange would start to let their opponents creep back into the game.
Against the Indiana State Sycamores, they saw an early 17-point lead vanish, and on Sunday, the Golden Eagles chipped away at a 10-point lead. The Orange let their lead slip away and went into halftime with a three-point deficit.
What causes this slump?
Syracuse tends to take bad shots early in the shot clock on offense. Instead of moving the ball around, the Orange rely on one-on-one situations and their output suffers. On defense, they look flat-footed and have the tendency to commit unnecessary fouls.
On one play, Kris Joseph pushed forward to cut off a pass, leaving his part of the zone open. The poor defense led to an easy find and layup for Marquette.
If the Orange could play 40 minutes of up-tempo basketball, they wouldn't lose to Marquette too many times.
2. Rick Jackson's Desire
Rick Jackson is one of the most talented offensive big men in college basketball.
This season, he showed his ability to score on offense with a pretty hook shot and strength backing down the defender. Against Marquette, Jackson would call for the ball, but didn't make an honest effort to get open.
Jackson was bullied around by Marquette's Chris Otule. Otule kept Jackson from getting his usual good positioning. He blanketed Jackson and the Syracuse player didn't do much to gain separation from the Marquette center.
Jackson was used as more of a decoy late in the game, regularly setting screens and only catching the ball around the three-point line. He only corralled four boards in 40 minutes of action.
With the game tied at 59, Jackson called for the ball yet again. He failed to seal his defender and Marquette's Jimmy Butler swept around him for the steal. The Golden Eagles would hit the go-ahead three a few possessions later en route to the victory.
Jackson was relied upon in big situations for the Orange all season, but failed to come up big in the tournament.
1. Scoop Jardine
Scoop Jardine was the biggest disappointment on the floor for the Syracuse Orange in their last game of the season.
Jardine forced shots throughout the game and wasn't willing to pass the ball at important points in the game. He went two-for-eight in the game, only scoring six points. His two made baskets were a nice runner in the lane and a three-pointer off a loose-ball situation late in the first half.
Scoop committed three turnovers, but had six assists. He could have had many more assists if he chose to distribute the ball.
He was most detrimental to the team late in both halves.
With 20 seconds left in the first half, Triche gathered an offensive rebound and passed it out to Jardine so the Orange could hold for the last shot. Jardine decided to shoot a three-pointer that fell well short and gave the Golden Eagles another possession. Marquette scored, giving the Golden Eagles their biggest lead of the game going into halftime.
Near the end of the game, Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 27 seconds left.
Instead of trying to find an open shooter on the ensuing possession, Jardine forced a three-pointer after running around a screen. Jardine's confidence was high after hitting two clutch three-pointers in the Orange's loss to Connecticut in the Big East tournament.
What he forgot is that he got lucky on one, banking it off the glass.
At the time of Jardine's shot against Marquette, there were three more capable long-distance threats on the floor in Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters and James Sutherland.
Jardine's hero complex is the No. 1 reason the Orange won't be playing North Carolina in the Sweet 16.