We already had plenty of evidence to support our hypothesis, but Saturday’s win by the Syracuse Orange basketball team over rival Pittsburgh took us one step closer to reaching the conclusion that the 2014 season could be special, and it was a rather large step. We have seen a number of Syracuse teams over the past five years show signs of greatness throughout the season, and this year’s team appears to be on a similar path.
The win over Pittsburgh is significant for a number of reasons. First, the Panthers are one of a few teams that has a chance to stand in the way of the Orange cruising to an ACC championship in their first season in the conference. With Syracuse holding off Pitt for the win on Saturday, there is now a short list of games left on the schedule that the Orange could realistically lose, as long as they play anywhere close to their best for a significant portion of the game. The win over Pittsburgh is also meaningful because of the high level of success the Panthers have had against Syracuse in recent years, especially in the Carrier Dome. Not even the Syracuse team from 2010, the team that was one Arinze Onuaku injury away from playing Duke in the National Championship Game, was able to beat Pittsburgh at home, so the fact that this year’s team was able to beat one of the better teams the Panthers have had in recent years at home is a great sign for the Orange.
One aspect of this team’s success that is hard to ignore is their propensity for making clutch plays with the game on the line. Whether it’s been against St. Francis, Miami, Boston College, or this latest game against Pittsburgh, the Orange have been unflappable when facing a deficit late in games. They’ve risen to the occasion time after time, taking the lead and closing out games without flinching. In college basketball anything can happen, especially at the end of games, but somehow every Syracuse game this season has ended the same way: with the Orange finding a way to win. Not only have they won games, but they have often done so in a manner that makes it seem as if the end result was never in doubt, a trait that distinguishes the Orange from just about every other team in the country.
Obviously, there is still plenty of time left in the season, and the Orange still have a lot to prove. While they’re not without their flaws, Syracuse has continually provided us with reasons to believe that they may be on par with the great Syracuse teams of the past five years. The real question is whether this team will be able to accomplish what those teams felt short of accomplishing. For now it’s just a hypothesis, but with every passing game, we get closer to reaching the conclusion that this year’s Syracuse team is special.
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