For the second season in a row, Syracuse has lost four out of five games at the end of the season. In many ways this current losing streak has been eerily similar to last year’s, however there are a few differences that could have implications on their performance in the postseason.
The similarities obviously start with the timing. Last year, Syracuse started 21-4 and was among the top teams in the Big East. This year, Syracuse started 25-0, and was #1 in the country and atop the ACC. It was at that point in the season that both Syracuse teams proceeded to go on two-game losing streaks, followed by a win against a low-caliber team in the conference, and then two more losses. During both of these losing streaks there was a common statistical theme: field goal percentage. Last year during that five-game stretch, Syracuse shot 37.5% from the floor. This year, 37.2%. A lack of ball movement, inconsistent three-point shooting, and poor bench scoring all played into these low field goal percentages.
Don’t worry Syracuse fans, there is a light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. Last year after this losing streak the Orange went on to the final of the Big East tournament, and then the Final Four. Jim Boeheim turned it around by riding his star point guard Michael Carter-Williams and his senior leader Brandon Triche, and by picking up the intensity with his signature zone defense. This year’s Syracuse team is lead by a star point guard, Tyler Ennis, has a senior leader in C.J. Fair, and at the beginning of the season was holding teams to an extremely low field goal percentage with their zone defense.
With the same framework in place, it would seem that Syracuse is poised to turn it around and make a similar run to last year, maybe going even further. There are, however, a few reasons why this season may not turn out as fortunately as last year. Last year, all four of the losses were to ranked teams. This stretch of difficult games set Syracuse up for the challenges ahead of them in the postseason. This year, though, two of the games were to high-caliber ranked teams, Duke and Virginia, but the other two losses are what merit cause for concern. Syracuse lost its last two home games against Boston College and Georgia Tech. It was the first time Syracuse lost back-to-back home games to sub-.500 teams since 1968. These two losses were also two of the worst three losses in the NCAA this season in terms of rank differential.
One could argue that these bad losses could act as a wake-up call, just as the losses last year woke the team up for the postseason, but there is certainly a bit more cause for concern after these huge collapses. Syracuse finishes the regular season at Florida State on Sunday, so look to their field goal percentage to gauge the potential repeat performance of last year’s turnaround.