Syracuse fell 84-77 at Georgia Tech. What does this mean for the Orange?
1. BYE BYE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Syracuse absolutely needed this game to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Its resume is sorely lacking in one major area: quadrant one wins. The game against Georgia Tech was an opportunity to add one, and it would have also pushed up their NET ranking as well. The loss keeps the resume missing that piece, and it might be the Orange's last such opportunity depending on how the ACC Tournament plays out. That means, barring some unforeseen strangeness, Syracuse's only hopes to make the big dance is to make a run in the ACC Tournament. Syracuse probably needs to at least make the ACC title game to have a realistic shot.
2. KADARY HAD AN OFF GAME, BUT STILL PLENTY OF POSITIVES FROM HIM
Richmond finished 0-5 from the floor. All of his shots were in the lane. Each was a good look and was a shot he has made all season. He did not finish in this one, but it should only be viewed as a down performance from that standpoint. Not any overarching conclusion on his game. Richmond still got by defenders, had shots at the rim that are normally high percentage looks for him, and dished out six assists. He will be just fine.
3. SYRACUSE STILL HAS NO ANSWER IN THE MIDDLE
Moses Wright torched Syracuse all game long. He finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Syracuse had no answer as he bullied the Orange's bigs. Jesse Edwards provided resistance for a bit, but the longer Edwards was out there the more Georgia Tech was able to expose his lack of strength and lateral quickness. The center position remains the biggest weakness on the team. Not having Bourama Sidibe all season has really hurt this team. The centers behind him have shown flashes, Frank Anselem did some good things early in the season, John Bol Ajak is active and moves well, and Edwards finished with seven points and eight boards against Georgia Tech. But none are ready to play 30+ minutes per game in the middle of the zone. Marek Dolezaj is not the answer either as his lack of strength also is exposed by opponents. If I'm Syracuse, my number one goal this offseason is to find a transfer center that can bang with ACC bodies inside. He does not need to be an elite player or even someone who is great offensively. An average to above average player who can handle the physicality of power conference play. That would make such a difference.
4. THIS IS ALL ABOUT DEFENSE
Syracuse scored 77 points against Georgia Tech. The offense was good enough to win. The defense was not. Georgia Tech scored 15 points in the first four minutes and hung 50 in the second half while shooting over 63% after halftime. The Yellow Jackets scored 54 points in the paint. Tech routinely attacked the middle and the baseline, and Syracuse had no answer. The perimeter defense was solid. Syracuse forced 13 turnovers and held Georgia Tech to just 5-19 from beyond the arc. They did not have a lot of open looks from the outside. Inside, however, was a completely different story. Assuming Guerrier and Griffin are both back next season, they should spend the bulk of the offseason working on their defensive prowess, zone rotations, etc. Defense is why Syracuse is struggling right now and why they have not been able to get that big win this season.
5. SYRACUSE NEEDS MORE CONSISTENCY
To steal a phrase from football head coach Dino Babers, the Syracuse basketball team needs to be consistently good not occasionally great. Syracuse closed the first half on a 23-5 run. During that stretch, the defense was superb. Edwards, Guerrier and Bol Ajak provided resistance inside. They were getting deflections which were leading to steals and transition opportunities. In the second half, there was little resistance inside and fewer turnover opportunities. That has to be better next season. And even for the rest of this season, frankly, if Syracuse wants to get another win. Look at Alan Griffin as well. He scored 20 points in the first half and just six in the second. Guerrier had solid stretches and then disappeared for others. Too many flashes, not enough complete games.