By MIKE McCURRY Entering Monday, Syracuse’s resume was about as impressive as that of a high school dropout working the cashier at your local fast-food chain. While the Orange still have plenty of work to do to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, their 78-73 win at Louisville was a step in the right direction. Following the victory, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi elevated Syracuse from the seventh team out to the first team out of his projected field. Tyus Battle led the way with 25 points and backcourt mate Frank Howard added 22, helping Syracuse break out of its offensive funk and snap a two-game losing streak by improving to 16-8 overall (5-6 in ACC).It represented Syracuse’s first Quadrant-1 victory of the season (defined as wins in either home games against Top-30 RPI teams, neutral-court games against Top-50 RPI teams, or true road games against Top-75 RPI teams). They were previously 0-4 versus Quadrant-1 opponents.Syracuse also struggles to make shots (ranking 310th nationally in effective field goal percentage) and hold onto the ball (ranking 192nd nationally in turnover rate). Luckily for the Orange, playing a third game in a six-day span did not seem to have any negative residual effects. More importantly, though they’re still behind the eight ball with just one Quadrant-1 victory, competing in the ACC provides plenty of more such opportunities. Syracuse still has to play at Miami and Duke and at home versus UNC and Clemson, plus the ACC Tournament.It’s highly recommended for Louisville to win their next two games (vs. Georgia Tech, at Pitt) before embarking on a brutal five-game stretch to conclude the regular season (vs. UNC, at Duke, at Virginia Tech, vs. Virginia, at NC State) during which they must at least tread water prior to the ACC Tournament. Should Quentin Snider and Deng Adel (13 points on 3-of-17 shooting, including 1-of-11 from three) continue to be collective no-shows as they were on Monday, the Cardinals could quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble under first-year head coach David Padgett. Photo: @Cuse_MBB Follow Mike on Twitter Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter And like ZAGS on Facebook
This isn’t a vintage Jim Boeheim-coached team. Syracuse’s rotation is razor-thin, as Battle and Howard again logged a full 40 minutes—entering Monday, the tandem ranked first and third respectively in minutes played in the ACC this season, with teammate Oshae Brissett sandwiched in between. Recent injuries to Howard Washington and Bourama Sidibe have put even more stress on the starting five to produce.
🎥 | Highlights from tonight's road win at Louisville pic.twitter.com/M6Y7gRRk61— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) February 6, 2018