For the first time in what feels like a month, No. 7 Syracuse looked like a team capable of putting together a run to the Final Four.
The Orange got 22 points, seven boards and four steals from C.J. Fair as they went into Tallahassee and knocked off Florida State, 74-58.
The big news for Syracuse is that they finally looked better than a high school JV team during the first week of practice on the offensive end of the floor. They shot 48.3% from the floor, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and scored 1.194 PPP in the win, and it’s hard to look at those numbers and ignore the fact that Jerami Grant was back and healthy for Jim Boeheim’s club.
Even at my most complimentary, Grant is the third-best offensive option for Syracuse. He’s not exactly a go-to guy. But he’s as active as anyone on the offensive glass, which is big for two reasons:
1) The Orange are not great in the half court, meaning that sometimes their best offense is going and getting a rebound after a missed shot. And while that doesn’t necessarily make them prettier on that end of the floor, it does make them more efficient. Grant is one of the best tip-dunkers in the country. He’s important.
2) The attention that he is going to get from defenses looking to box him out will help open up rebounding lanes for other players along the Syracuse front line.
All of that is before you factor in that Grant is, frankly, just a much better fit in the Syracuse zone than either Michael Gbinije or Baye Moussa Keita.
The Orange had some issues before Grant was banged up, but it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a better team with him healthy. And now, after this win, Syracuse is in a position where winning the ACC tournament could be the key to getting a No. 1 seed in the east.
A No. 1 seed in the east means that they wouldn’t have to play a game outside the state of New York until the Final Four.
I’d say that’s pretty important.