Now that the Syracuse Orange have completed an impressive 27-4 regular season campaign, this seems as good a time as any to compare this year’s Orange with the Syracuse teams of the recent past who put together fantastic seasons of their own. Syracuse fans have been treated to one outstanding team after another these past five years, so let’s take a look at how these teams stack up against one another, just to reminisce about the great teams of the recent past, and maybe to stir up a little debate.
5. 2012-2013 Team (30-10, Final Four) – That’s right, last year’s Final Four team is actually the worst Syracuse team of the last five years. Granted, they got their act together in the postseason, reaching the Big East Tournament finals and the Final Four, but this team was furiously frustrating to watch for long stretches of last season. They dropped both regular season games to Georgetown, including the embarrassing season finale in which they scored a measly 39 points. They did beat eventual champion Louisville on the road, and were ultra impressive in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds, but from start to finish they don’t compare well to the four teams that came before them.
4. 2010-2011 Team (27-8, Round of 32) – This team was quite talented, with a freshmen class that included C.J. Fair, Dion Waiters, and Feb Melo, but they were a year away from being ready to make a deep run. At one point in the season, they lost six of eight games, including a 22-point loss to Seton Hall at home, one of the most embarrassing Syracuse moments of the last decade. They did start to put it together down the stretch, showing glimpses of how good they would be the following year, and ended up as a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In the end, the Orange caught some bad luck being matched up against a conference opponent in the second round, and didn’t quite have enough to overcome some adversity in The Big Dance.
3. 2013-2014 Team (27-4, ???) – This year’s team ranks as the third best in the last five years. A meaningful postseason accomplishment could move them up, but considering the number of heart attacks they’ve given Orange fans at the end of games this season, it’s hard to put them above either of the top two teams on this list. The ability to win close games has been uncanny, and something that sets them apart from all the Syracuse teams of the past. However, depth is a huge issue; this team leaves something to be desired offensively, and they don’t get out in transition the way the great Orange teams of the past have. Even at 25-0, this team would have come in third, so don’t think that the recent slump has impacted this team’s ranking.
2. 2011-2012 Team (34-3, Elite 8) – If remembering this team hurts, you’re not alone. This team was one academic suspension away from possibly entering the Big East Tournament still undefeated and potentially playing in the National Championship game. Let’s be honest, this Syracuse team at full strength against the Anthony Davis-led Kentucky was the matchup the entire country wanted to see in the title game. There’s no guarantee the Orange would have ended up champions, but if Fab Melo stays eligible we probably end up with that dream Syracuse-Kentucky matchup. After all, this team lost one game all season with Melo in the lineup, which came against a good Cincinnati team (which ended up in the Sweet 16) that needed 10 3-pointers to do it. Even without Melo, the Orange were one game away from the Final Four, but Jared Sullinger was a little too much for them without their 7’ Brazilian in the middle. This was one of Jim Boeheim’s deepest teams ever, and there’s a strong argument for this being one of the top-5 teams Boeheim has ever had.
1. 2009-2010 Team (30-5, Sweet 16) – If Arinze Onuaku doesn’t get hurt in the Big East Tournament, there’s not a doubt in my mind that this team is playing Duke in the National Championship, and they probably win it too. This team had a picture-perfect seven-man rotation that essentially gave them seven starters, a trait few teams in college basketball have ever had in this era. The only flaw with this team was that missing one player caused the entire house of cards to collapse. Yes, they lost to Louisville twice, but even the championship team in 2003 had its kryptonite (two losses to UConn). Obviously, they fell short of what they were capable of doing, but at the end of the regular season, they were the best team in the country and there’s no doubt they’re one of the top-5 teams in Syracuse history, and I would have no problem betting on them against any other team in Syracuse history; they’re one of the all-time best teams to ever wear Orange.
Bryan Zarpentine covers Syracuse Orange football and basketball for ChatSports.com. You can follow him on twitter @BZarp and @ChatSyracuse. Also, add him to your network on Google, and keep up with Syracuse at ChatSports.com/Syracuse-Orange.Back to the Syracuse Orange Newsfeed