The Syracuse Orange are the number one team in the country for the tenth week of the program's history and it could not have come under crazier circumstances.
Teams that have huge off-the-court scandals are not supposed to be the best team in the country. Teams that do not have a lead scorer are not supposed to be the best team in the country. The Orange are simply defying normal logic and playing the season game by game, win by win.
That does not mean some media members are happy with the number one ranking for the Orange. No, the Orange have not left New York State. No, the Orange did not have their only ranked win on the road. No, the Orange do not have the best schedule in the country.
What people seem to be forgetting that what the Orange have are not the pieces to a great team but a National Championship caliber team.
They have the solid big man in Fab Melo, who can now dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. They have the electrifying, scoring play maker off the bench in Dion Waiters. Kris Joseph is a consistent scorer averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds.
In big games, Syracuse's veterans have stepped up to win games for the Orange. Joseph came up big in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. Scoop Jardine won the Florida game for Syracuse. James Southerland shows up to pull the Orange away with his scoring.
They have the potential to add more weapons to their arsenal as Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams mature and improve through Big East play. The Syracuse defense is one of the best in the country, leading the nation in steals. I have yet to even mention the solid play of C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita, who strengthen the back court of Syracuse and, in the case of Fair, open up the offense.
If all of those statistics and actual on the court actions are not enough to justify the National Title contention, look off the court for the biggest reason the Orange will win the title. This team has been motivated to play better thanks to the Bernie Fine scandal. Scoop after the George Washington said
"All everyone is talking about is the scandal and I've used that to the guys as far as people disrespecting us as a team. We didn't have anything to do with the scandal, don't know anything about it. This is our season...They talk about that and maybe show one or two highlights. No disrespect to everything that's going on, because obviously it's serious, but this is our season."
This team was either going to be broken by the mess or galvanized by it. They are standing behind their coach, who just happens to be one of the best minds in the game, and truly believe that it is "us against the world."
This team is now a band of brothers looking to remind the world that Syracuse is more than Fine or scandal.
This is a school where titles are won and great players take the court. If the Orange keeping playing as they are so far, another banner will be on the way.