Commentary

For Syracuse, the defense now rests

Brandon Triche & Co. are shooting well, but the vaunted zone is falling apart

Originally Published: February 1, 2011
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesBrandon Triche and the Orange have struggled in the past month.

If you doubt that 15 days comprise a lifetime in college basketball, consider this: It was just 15 days ago when Syracuse was 18-0. In both major polls that week, the Orange were ranked No. 3 in the nation behind only Ohio State and Kansas. Some observers at the time thought Jim Boeheim had the best team in the country, and Cuse was almost universally projected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Then came the collapse -- surprising, unmistakable and total. In the past 15 days the Orange are 0-4, and two of those games were played in the friendly (albeit vast) confines of the Carrier Dome. If this team were losing nail-biters, this streak could be chalked up to life as we know it in the Big East. But losing games by six points (at Marquette), eight (at Pitt), 11 (versus Villanova) and 22 (versus Seton Hall) suggests that the problem lies with Syracuse and not with its conference affiliation.

If people saw this coming, they were keeping it to themselves, although Boeheim now maintains he knew all along that a top-five national ranking was too good to last. Referring to the offseason departures of Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku, the coach said this after the Seton Hall game: "We lost three great players. … We lost those three guys, and we replaced them with three freshmen. Freshmen do not do well in this league."

Forgoing the temptation to ask Boeheim about a certain freshman on his 2003 national championship team, let's look instead at Syracuse in February 2011. What exactly is the problem? Can this team pick itself up off the floor and make some noise come March?