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ACC Roundup

Syracuse wins again

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K.J. McDaniels #32 of the Clemson Tigers and C.J. Fair #5 of the Syracuse Orange battle for a loose ball during the second half on February 9, 2014 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Clemson 57-44.
K.J. McDaniels #32 of the Clemson Tigers and C.J. Fair #5 of the Syracuse Orange battle for a loose ball during the second half on February 9, 2014 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Clemson 57-44.
Brett Carlsen

Here's an interesting question about Syracuse's debut season in the ACC: how many teams has the Orange blown out?

One: Virginia Tech.

The Orange certainly controlled UNC, a game that wasn't as close as the score would suggest, but BC and Wake, both double digit wins, were not easy games.

Nothing has necessarily been easy. Here are the victory margins:

5, 20, 14,10,5,8,10,2,6,13.

That last one is Clemson of course, as the Orange and Orange took to the court Sunday night. And while the record will say Syracuse won by 13, the truth is, it was relatively close until the end. Clemson was within eight with 5:20 left and that's just two threes and a pair of foul shots away - and Clemson is as challenged on offense as Roy Williams is by an open mike.

Thing is, as often as Syracuse has had some trouble, it's been managed. And the primary reason why is Tyler Ennis.

Having that guy on your team is like having a Mini Magic or Junior Jordan. Just put the ball in his hands; he knows how to win. He'll deliver.

Don't get this wrong, Syracuse is talented. But it's not overwhelming talent like the Fab Five, or a team that could strangle you like UNLV in 1991.

All Syracuse has to do is to be in the game in winning time because no one yet has managed to outplay Ennis at that point in the game.

And the thing is, Trevor Cooney is a good enough shooter to make you pay if you double. Same goes for CJ Fair, Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas. Not the shooting part, but the make-you-pay part. They just give the ball to Ennis and he puts the ball in the right guys hand and kills it.

Take a play from the UNC game for a great example. The game was really over when this happened, but it still illustrates the point.

Ennis had the ball on the left side and was being guarded by Marcus Paige. Jackson Simmons left Christmas and came out to help.

Christmas provided just enough room so that UNC couldn't close the trap. Ennis saw it, took it, and passed to CJ Fair, who came running in from near the Syracuse bench like a dog called for a thigh bone.

Isaiah Hicks, in for a rare spin, had to go for the layup. He was off his feet when Fair caught the ball and started for a layup.

Beating Syracuse isn't going to be easy because Ennis is a bit of a freak. You can't double him because Cooney, Fair and Grant can all score. A box and one might work for somebody, who knows?

Your options are really limited. You can try and take out Fair and Grant, possibly Cooney, with fouls. You can run and wind Syracuse as this is not a deep team.

Or you could have a defender who is bigger and as quick as Ennis to work on him and wear him down.

Tokoto is the sort of athlete we're thinking of, or perhaps Malcolm Brogdon. A guy like Marcus Smart would be a really interesting matchup. If the Harrison twins felt like playing defense, Kentucky could get to him.

But a relatively regular player, man-to-man in a half-court game where Syracuse is either in it or has the lead?

Syracuse, as we said, hasn't been running teams out of the building. But having Ennis is special.

Remember how everyone said Gary Williams had mellowed the year Maryland won the NCAAs?

Not the case. What happened was that his backcourt was so good, so impossibly perfectly matched, that he could relax. Steve Blake and Juan Dixon were brilliant together.

After they left, it was the same Gary as before, only oddly less intense and prone to refer to his ring or trophy on a regular basis.

Winning meant he couldn't drive himself with a sense of being denied or kept out anymore. He belonged, and it was the beginning of the end of his career.

It's somewhat like that with Boeheim now. Is he a great coach? He's very, very good. Is he in a class with Dean Smith, Bob Knight or Coach K? In our opinion, no. He's a tier down.

But with Ennis running the show, it's a relaxed tier.

Two games Monday night, both grudge matches: Miami visits Florida State for a stealable game,while Maryland makes the final ACC visit to Virginia.

Given Virginia's dominance to date, we can't see Maryland pulling an upset. Odds are with five minutes or so to go the Virginny fans will start the now-familiar taunt: ACC! ACC! ACC! will ring in the ears of the losers as Maryland gets set to get back on the bus and head over to College Park to get ready for a trip to Durham, where, we expect, Mike Krzyzewski would like to offer a special parting gift.