Syracuse the Clear ACC Favorite After Big Win over Villanova

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystDecember 28, 2013

USA Today

Syracuse won Saturday's battle of the undefeateds, outscoring Villanova by 34 points over the final 31 minutes of a 78-62 victory.

Many will say that the final margin wasn't indicative of how competitive the game actually was.

They're right.

The Orange could have won by 40 points.

How is anyone in the ACC going to beat this team?

Villanova was nothing short of unstoppable for the first nine minutes of the game. Syracuse's patented 2-3 zone was fully extended to the three-point line, so Villanova simply started draining buckets from five feet behind the line. James Bell hit his first three shots of the game from what can only be described as "Jimmer Fredette Range."

In what felt like 10 seconds, Villanova had built a 25-7 lead.

In the blink of an eye, it was gone.

Before the season began, Syracuse's backcourt wasn't given a whole lot of love. Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports, not only excluded Syracuse from his list of the 10 best backcourts, but he didn't even include it in the list of seven other teams to watch. Similarly, Dick Vitale made no mention of Syracuse in his ranking of the top 13 backcourts in the country.

Do you think they might want to revise those rankings now?

Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney simply took this game over, as they have been known to do all season. When all was said and done, they finished the game with 41 points, five assists, four steals and one turnover.

The scary thing about this team is that the two guards and C.J. Fairwho certainly didn't hurt his Wooden Award stock with 17 points and six reboundswere essentially the entire team on Saturday. Imagine how much more impressive they can be when everyone is firing on all cylinders.

Jerami Grant entered the game as the team's third-leading scorer and a strong candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, but he went nearly 30 minutes in between made field goals.

Rakeem Christmas committed two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and missed the rest of the first half. DaJuan Coleman didn't attempt a single shot. Baye Moussa Keita was pretty incredible on the defensive end, but Syracuse's three-man show on offense was unquestionably better than anything Villanova tried to do.

If not for some of the acrobatic shots that James Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston made, Villanova would have become the fifth team already this season that Syracuse held to less than 55 points.

Dec 28, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim speaks with his team during a time out against the Villanova Wildcats in the second half at the Carrier Dome.  Syracuse defeated Villanova 78-62.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TO
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

If you think Villanova's fast start could suffice as a blueprint to beating the Orange, good luck convincing a head coach to buy into your strategy of taking and making a lot of 25-foot jump shots.

Even if the opposition could plan on jumping out to a quick lead against Syracuse, how can any team plan on keeping it?

On December 3 against Indiana, Syracuse opened the game on a 10-0 run, and later went on a 23-3 run to put the game out of reach. Four days later against Binghamton, the Orange went on a 28-4 run in the first half, turning an eight-point deficit into a 16-point lead in less than eight minutes.

They trailed High Point by one point early in the second half on December 20 before going on a 28-3 run to win the game by 21 points. And then we have the 26-2 run in a span of eight minutes in the first half against Villanova.

You can practically take it to the bank that Syracuse is going to outscore its opponent by at least 20 points during some stretch of the game, forcing a ton of turnovers and/or bad shots on defense and capitalizing in transition on the other end.

Do Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh or Virginia even have the ability to do that, let alone the inevitability that it's going to happen?

Things can change in a hurry in this college basketball world, but Syracuse is currently, without a doubt, the team to beat in its new conference.

One could even make a very compelling case that the Orange are the best team in the entire country.