This team has a long ways to go to equal the best start in school history. The 1999-2000 squad started out 19-0. Perfection has occurred only once on the Hill, with the 1913-1914 squad going 12-0.
This year’s team is terribly flawed with an inconsistent, if not weak, perimeter game and generally poor free throw shooting. It relies on four freshman in key roles. These factors can spell a loss when the Orange face a hot shooting opponent.
The one thing this team has is an outstanding defense, carrying over from last season. I have seen some fans mention they think this year’s team defense is the best ever for Syracuse. I think that is a very short term memory; last year’s defense was outstanding, and was ‘Shut it Down’. But, having a defense this year that you may be tempted to compare to last year’s defense is quite a lot of praise in itself. Great defense stops the opposition from scoring, and provides high percentage shots on offense, something this year’s team greatly needs.
Until the past two games, this year’s team had a very difficult time separating itself from any of its opponents, regardless of the level of competition. But they have won them all, and that is what matters. The last two games have been spectacular defensive efforts. They pulled away from a highly rated Michigan State team early in the game, and pretty much kept the Spartans down the whole game. And then they had an outstanding defensive effort against a weak Colgate team for the most lopsided win in the Boeheim era. Now the MSU game is slightly tarnished by the fact that the Spartans almost lost to Oakland a few nights later, but make no mistake that MSU is very good.
Syracuse has three more non-conference games before the Big East season begins. They could lose any of those three, but they will be favored to win each. So they have a very good chance to be 13-0. They start Big East action on December 28th versus Providence; at that point, each game will be a dog fight. To go 19-0, the Orange would have to beat Providence, #23 Notre Dame, Seton Hall, St. Johns, Cincinnati, and #8 Pitt at the Pederson Center. 20-0 would require a win against #11 Villanova.
I’m fairly certain 19-0 will not occur. But where will that first loss come?