For 30 minutes of Saturday afternoon’s 74-69 loss to No. 16 Louisville, No. 12 Syracuse was the best team on the floor.
The Orange took a 26-19 lead with five minutes left in the first half, and for the final 15 minutes of the game, Syracuse outscored Louisville 32-16.
Those middle ten minutes. Over the last five minutes of the first half, the Cardinals outscored Syracuse 21-4. Over the first five minutes of the second half, Louisville went on a 17-7 run. All told, the Cardinals outscored Syracuse 38-11 during that ten minute stretch.
And that is precisely why Louisville is such a dangerous team.
I said this on twitter during the game, but there is not a more “spurtable” team in the country than Louisville. They thrive on momentum, but there is more to it than that. Louisville is a pressing team, and a press is much more effective off of a made basket than off of a miss. When they score, they are a much better defensive team. Force a turnover, get an easy bucket, and all of a sudden the Cardinals are energized and their opponent is flustered.
Louisville is also a streaky team from beyond the arc. Their threes come in bunches. It seems like when one players can hit one or two, the entire team gets more confidence. It didn’t help matters that the Syracuse zone has proven to be utterly inept at defending the arc the past month.
The tendency of a team that is getting pressed is to rush, even when the press is broken and the ball gets over half court. Its takes quality point guard play to settle into an offensive possession, and the knock of Syracuse this season is that Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche are not great point guards.
Louisville is the kind of team that is never going to be out of a game. Between the multitude of three point shooters on their roster and the way this team buys into what Rick Pitino wants to do defensively, Louisville can overcome their lack of individual talent by playing as a team.
Imagine what will happen in the next couple of seasons when Pitino brings in some top level talent.