1. Torn-meniscus Terrence Roberts. Somehow this knee injury has vaulted TerrenceRoberts.com from being a 3 1/2 year source of frustration to being my #1 reason to love this team. He’s always been all heart, but now with this injury it really shines. There’s no way he should be playing on this, but he knows it’s his last chance. The guy is like a wounded bear out there. Hobbling around, hungry, dangerous. If you crammed a Kodiak bear into a #33 Syracuse jersey and pushed him off in the direction of the court, you’d get a player who’d take up a lot of space in the middle, set some monster screens up top, have a rebound bounce into them occasionally, and maul anyone who made sudden movements in their direction. Sound familiar?
2. Boeheim realizing that he only has 5 1/2 decent players and just going with it. Seriously, Jimmy is like a guy on a cross country trip who gets a flat tire in Las Vegas and just says fuck it and floors it the rest of the way to L.A with the gas warning light on. He’s driving a car with three wheels with Matt Gorman and Josh Wright tied up in the trunk, and is going to run the remaining guys into the ground and live or die by the results. How can you not love watching Syracuse right now knowing that Devendorf, Rautins, and Nichols are going to play 40 minutes of EVERY GAME between now and the end of the season? Waiting for one of these guys to collapse is going to be the top dramatic sub-plot of the next few weeks.
3. D Nichols is going to win Big East player of the Year totally out of nowhere. Syracusan nailed it when he pointed out that this might be the most surprising thing that’s ever happened in Syracuse basketball. Who saw this coming at the beginning of the season? Who even saw this coming two weeks ago? He’s been putting up these numbers consistently all year, but he’s a pretty quiet player who just hits a ton of nasty jump shots. Everyone’s always thought he’d have a Shumpert-like European career, but I’m calling a solid 10 year career playing for 8 different NBA teams as the 9th man. Mark it down.
4. Andy Rautins playing out of his mind. Have we ever had two pure shooters this good? I say no. With the bonus of his 2-3 quality defensive turnovers forced each game, this kid is a Josh Pace - Kueth Duany type hustling glue guy who’s as essential to this team as anyone. Except that he still looks like a sophomore at J-D who could easily be mopping up sweat in the paint during timeouts. You’ve gotta love him!
5. Syracuse teams with their back to the wall are always awesome. This happens all the time. Syracuse comes into the season with high expectations, drops some bad games early, has a 3-4 game losing streak in late Jan - early Feb, drops out of the top 25, faces being only like the 4th Boeheim team in 31 years not to make the tournament, and can suddenly beat anyone in the country towards the end of the season. It’s the roller coaster of Syracuse fandom that ultimately makes rooting for them so satisfying.