1. BUDDY IS HUMAN
Buddy Boeheim had one of the most impressive shooting stretches in recent memory over the last eight to ten games. Against Houston, he finally showed that he is in fact human. Buddy finished with 12 points on just 3-13 shooting and 1-9 from beyond the arc. DeJon Jarreau was all over him throughout this game, and it clearly frustrated Buddy. Buddy was off all night, even missing two free throws in a game for the first time all season. Credit Jarreau and the job Houston did with Buddy, but he has faced physical defenses before and performed well. This was an off night. Even when he had open looks, he did not hit them. Given the stretch he was on, an off night was almost inevitable at some point.
2. NOBODY STEPPED UP OFFENSIVELY
With Buddy struggling, no one else was able to step up on the offensive end. Against West Virginia, when Buddy was off in the first half, Joe Girard hit some big shots to pace the Orange offense. That never happened against Houston. Once again, Houston's defense deserves a lot of that credit. However, Syracuse had opportunities but could not capitalize. Marek Dolejaz and Quincy Guerrier had opportunities at the basket. Girard had some open looks. Robert Braswell had a couple open shots from the outside. Syracuse had its worst shooting night of the season, making just 28% of its shots.
3. THE DEFENSE WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN
Houston scored only 62 points, far below its average, and shot just 38% overall. The Cougars made just seven of 26 three pointers (26.9%). The zone did its thing. It gave Syracuse an opportunity to win this game. The offense was unable to take advantage of that opportunity. Kadary Richmond and Jesse Edwards were big difference makers on the defensive end. When they came in, Houston really struggled with the added length. That allowed Syracuse to crawl out of an early hole and tie the game at 20. Both have tremendous potential and will be key players for the Orange next season if they stay with the program.
4. HOUSTON WAS SIMPLY BETTER
Houston's defensive and rebounding metrics were among the best in the nation entering Saturday night's game. However, there was a lot of dismissal of those numbers due to the competition in the AAC. Houston proved the metrics were not inflated due to its opponents, but rather were elite because it is an elite team. Houston spent most of the season in the top 10, and proved why against Syracuse. Houston's defense was too much for Syracuse, and was the better squad Saturday night. That can happen in the tournament. A really good team plays really well, you do not, and your season ends. That's what happened to Syracuse.
5. NEXT YEAR'S ROSTER WILL LOOK DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT
This is going to be one of the most interesting offseasons for Syracuse basketball. There are likely to be several transfers out and therefore new additions in. We already know that Benny Williams, an elite high school recruit, is coming in. He will make a significant impact on the roster. Players will spend an offseason developing and improving. But which ones will leave? Will Alan Griffin, who transferred in last offseason, elect to leave after not playing as many minutes over the last four games? Will players such as John Bol Ajak, Jesse Edwards, Kadary Richmond, etc. look for a spot with more minutes? Or will Edwards and Richmond come back anticipating a larger role next season? There are a lot of questions to be answered over the next few weeks.