Dropping two consecutive conference road games to start the season is not unheard of, so the struggles Syracuse had on the road, falling to Pittsburgh and Miami to start the ACC season, while concerning, were nothing to go into panic mode about. But after this week, the panic button should be pressed, all hands should be on deck, and Jim Boeheim, back at practice, has got to be scratching his head, wondering what went wrong. After falling to Clemson 74-73 in overtime and losing a surprisingly winnable game against No. 6 North Carolina in coach Boeheim's first game back on the bench 84-73, the Orange are 10-7, 0-4 in the ACC. Both of those losses came at home.
There were positives to take away from both of these losses. Against Clemson, the Orange trailed by eight at halftime and were able to claw back into the game and push it to overtime, where they had a good chance to win. Even against a markedly bigger team, the Orange only lost the rebounding battle by a single board, an are Syracuse has struggld mightily this season. The closeness of the loss to the Tar Heels could be pinned on an emotional return for coach Boeheim, a nationally televised game, or the Orange just playing up to the level of the opponent. Syracuse actually won the battle on the boards against the Tar Heels who have one of the biggest and most talented front lines in the game.
But either way you look at it, the Orange lost both games this week and things aren't looking a whole lot better. Syracuse is, at this point one of four teams in the ACC without a conference win, joining NC State, Florida State and Boston College, who the Orange face off against on Wednesday night. Then is a surprisingly difficult Wake Forest team on Saturday, followed by a trip to Tobacco Road to and Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Duke. This week, the Orange could pick up their first conference win, but could easily end it 1-6 and almost out of a conference title conversation.
With both difficult losses came bright spots in terms of individual performance. Here's a look at who needs to stay hot and who needs to get it together in the coming games.
Highlights of the Week
Trevor Cooney: 39 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 8 three-pointers, 82 minutes
As are most long-range shooters, Cooney has been known to be very streaky at times. But this week, he started to find his shot again, knocking down eight shots from distance, including a season-high five against North Carolina in route to a season-high 27 points. When he wasn't knocking down shots from distance, he did a great job as a passer, tying a season-high with five assists against Clemson. The Orange are going to need their leader to have more weeks like this if they want to be competitive in a tough ACC.
Malachi Richardson: 37 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 9 three-pointers, 78 minutes
The freshman is heating up at exactly the right time for the Orange. After pouring in a career-high 20 points against Miami, Richardson topped that against the Tigers, scoring 21 and tying a career-high with five threes. His rebounding has gotten better, grabbing a career-high nine against Clemson. Against North Carolina, he showed what he can do as a passer, setting a career-high with five assists. Even though Richardson blamed himself for the loss to Clemson, he still has come up huge and kept the Orange in games. He could be in the conversation for ACC freshman of the year, though that could be a long shot.
Lowlights of the Week
Tyler Lydon: 6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks, 61 minutess
Was it too much too soon for the freshman who wowed everyone in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament? Lydon has yet to score in double figures in an ACC game, putting up just four points against Clemson and having arguably his worst game against North Carolina where he had just two points, one rebound, went 1-4 from the floor, but did have four blocks. Having to bang around in the post because of a lack of a real post presence on this team is doing Lydon no favors at all. The freshman is going to have to be allowed to move back to the wing where he is clearly more comfortable and force either DaJuan Coleman or Tyler Roberson to step up in the post, or the rest of this season he will have to learn strong post moves and use his quickness to beat defenders inside. Either way, Lydon has been put in a tough spot.
DaJuan Coleman: 5 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, 40 minutes
Over the course of the week, Coleman played a pretty solid game. If only he hadn't seen action in both games this week, these numbers wouldn't look so bad. Because of his knee problems, he can't play as much, but in an overtime game, he should be able to go more than 13 minutes to provide some relief to the other post players. The high school phenom will never match the lofty goals set out for him when he arrived at Syracuse, but this season, even when everyone expected him to not play great has still been a disappointment for the hometown boy. He only took four shots this week, but did prove he is a servicable passer out of the post. Coleman really needs to step it up for the Orange to be competitve in conference play.