When looking at Syracuse's schedule before the season, I thought to myself, "First three games should be wins, but they may run into some trouble in the Bahamas." Truthfully, I picked the Orange to be 5-1 at this point, going 2-1 at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Beating Lehigh, St. Bonaventure and Elon was expected. In recent years, SU would just show up and beat teams early on. But this team has a different feel to it, a feeling that if they're struggling from 3-point range, they could lose to anyone. And just because they've won a few games, that feeling won't disappear. They could lose to anyone on any given night. If you think the Orange will shoot 45% from deep every night, you're crazy.
After starting the season 3-0, SU traveled down to Paradise Island for the Battle 4 Atlantis. The overall perception was, "We're going to see how good this team really is."
Sitting at 6-0 and likely entering the AP Top 25 this week, Syracuse is ahead of schedule. No one saw this coming.
As for a few players on the team, well, they're ahead of schedule, too.
Freshman Tyler Lydon is averaging 11.5 points and 8.7 rebounds in 31 minutes per game. He scored a career-high 18 points against Charlotte on Wednesday, and followed it up with 16 points and 12 rebounds against No. 18 UConn.
Malachi Richardson is right where Syracuse fans envisioned. He's a scorer, and he's averaging 13.8 points per game. He's been playing just over 32 minutes per game, which is where he'll be all season. His defense needs to improve, as it's looked dreadful at times, but that will come with experience. He's been a scorer his entire life. He's played in Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone for roughly five months, but only eight games against competition (including exhibition games).
Before the season, Syracuse was projected to win anywhere from 19-22 games, which would, most likely, put them on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. The non-conference schedule looked like they would be anywhere from 9-4 to, at best, 12-1. That would mean the Orange would've had to either win the Battle 4 Atlantis and lose to either Wisconsin or Georgetown, or vice versa; lose one game in the Bahamas, and beat both Wisconsin and Georgetown.
This upcoming week for the Orange will be a good test. The Badgers, who are currently 4-2, came out of the gate slow this year, losing their season-opener to Western Illinois. Since then, their only other loss came to Georgetown at the 2K Classic at MSG.
If, in fact, Syracuse can finish the non-conference schedule at 12-1, they'll be in ideal position heading into ACC play. For arguments sake, say the Orange go 9-9 again in the ACC, 21-10 should be good enough to receive an NCAA Touranment birth.
But, who's to say they won't be better than 9-9? With their ability to hit from deep, the Orange can hang with anyone in the country.