Syracuse’s March in the Bubble
By Jenna Fink
CitrusTV’s Men’s Basketball Beat Reporter
It’s officially March. That means plenty of NCAA Tournament talk. Syracuse (14-8, 8-7 Atlantic Coast) entered last week in desperate need of a Quad 1 win to boost the resume. It left with two tough road losses. Many said that was the end of SU’s tournament hopes.
Syracuse inched closer to the bubble after a 72-70 win over North Carolina (15-9, 9-6 Atlantic Coast). That was the Orange’s first top-40 KenPom opponent in two seasons (UNC came in at No. 33 in efficiency). While only a Quad 2 win, the victory was definitely a step in the right direction.
“It was a real battle,” Head Coach Jim Boeheim said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team to hang in there and battle through this.”
The Orange were outrebounded by 19 against the Tar Heels. That was expected, considering UNC boasts the 7th tallest team in the country. Yet rebounds have directed impacted outcomes of Syracuse’s games. So how did the Orange pull off a win?
The first reason: Buddy Boeheim. Remember back to the start of the season when the junior only made 29% from three? Well, he’s totally turned things around. In his last four games, the guard has made 49% from deep. He drained six threes against North Carolina to finish with 26 points. Boeheim also became the 64th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.
In addition, SU played well defensively. The Orange stole the ball 15 times and turned them into 28 points off turnovers. Freshman Kadary Richmond and Sophomore Jesse Edwards led the way with four each.
“Kadary is so active, long and has great instincts,” Buddy Boeheim said. “He had a few turnovers and pushed the tempo.”
Edwards held his own against one of the best frontcourts in the ACC, logging a career high 24 minutes. The Center fouled out with 6:11 left to play in the 2nd half, but his effort didn’t go unnoticed.
“One thing [Jesse] does is get his hands in there and make steals,” Coach Boeheim said. “He grabbed the ball better. He’s still not ready, but he gave us a lot tonight. He’s got tremendous potential to be able to really help us inside.”
Syracuse wraps up the regular season against Clemson on Wednesday. The Orange lost by 17 to the Tigers earlier this season, thanks to a poor offensive showing. Syracuse needs to build on its strong performance from Monday night. One concerning factor is how healthy the team is. Both Kadary Richmond and Quincy Guerrier came out of the UNC game in pain. There hasn’t been an update on either’s status.
Back to the all-important question: Can Syracuse actually make the tournament? Right now, there’s only a 19% chance. Wednesday’s game may not be a Quad 1 opportunity, but it could be another top-40 KenPom win for the ‘Cuse. And remember, every win counts.
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