The Orange started off the season well, winning all of their first three games. However, they had not really faced a challenge. In their first two weeks of play, Syracuse’s biggest challenge was St. Bonaventure, who they beat 79-66. Last week, the Orange traveled to the Bahamas to participate in the annual “Battle 4 Atlantis” tournament where they would certainly face stronger competition. Syracuse arrived in Paradise Island as underdogs, overshadowed by teams like UConn, Gonzaga, and Texas A&M.
Despite all the doubt, Syracuse shined in the Battle 4 Atlantis. In the first round of the tournament, they handily defeated Charlotte 83-70. Michael Gbinije had his best game of the season, scoring 26 point and dishing out 4 assists. The next round, however, brought them their toughest opponent yet in 18th ranked Connecticut. In a very close and entertaining game, Syracuse edged out UConn 79-76, sending them to the championship game.
Waiting for them in the championship game was 25th ranked Texas A&M. The Aggies came into the tournament playing well and continued to do so in the tournament, beating both Texas and Gonzaga. However, this would not be enough as the Orange would play the best they have all season and win the game 74-67.
Overall, the Orange played incredibly well in the Bahamas. The strong play was headlined by senior point guard Michael Gbinije and freshman forward Tyler Lydon. Gbinije was named the tournament MVP and is finally seeming to hit his stride. He exploded offensively, averaging 21 points and 5 assists. He was deadly from behind the arc, going a total of 12-20, including shooting 6-8 in the first game against Charlotte. Gbinije’s resurgence was key to Syracuse’s victory in the Bahamas and is vital to the team’s success going forward.
Freshman Tyler Lydon also impressed down on Paradise Island. Lydon continued his early success off of the bench, proving that he is a key part of this team. During the tournament he average 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and an impressive 2 blocks per game. As a team that struggles with size (their tallest player being DaJuan Coleman at 6’9”), Lydon’s ferocity on defense and aggressive rebounding were crucial. Throughout the season he outplayed all the expectations of him and has already developed as a legitimate threat off the bench.
Top freshman recruit Malachi Richardson struggled throughout the tournament. He admittedly did not shoot well at all, going only 12-26 from the field. Defensively Richardson was solid, but he was nowhere near the level of offense he displayed in the first three games of the season. Malachi needs to be able to produce against tougher competition if the Orange want to compete in the ACC.
The biggest letdown of the tournament, however, was DaJuan Coleman. Coleman has consistently played poorly all season and this tournament was no exception. He continued to look slow and was completely unaggressive on both ends of the floor. Coleman was outplayed by Tyler Lydon all tournament and continues to be a disappointment. With such an undersized team, the Orange really need him to step it up. At some point we have to stop blaming DaJuan’s struggles on his lack of play over the last few seasons and realize that he’s just not the same player anymore.
The Orange are now 6-0 and are playing better than anyone expected. They shocked everyone by winning the Battle 4 Atlantis, and hopefully this is only the beginning.
Chris Broderick ’18