The invincibility has worn off. The “0” in the “L” column is gone. After a 10-0 start, Syracuse has finally lost. But it’s not the end of the world.
For the past few years, the Orange has started off strong, especially for the past three seasons. But this year, after 10 wins, a loss came early. Holiday surprise. But the saying always goes, it’s better to lose early than lose later on. And it’s true.
Now, SU has no undefeated pressure on it. You could see the pressure building up during the Detroit game, when the Orange almost blew away a huge lead toward the end of the win. And then came the 83-79 loss to Temple on Saturday.
The loss wasn’t a major wake-up call, but it was enough of a jolt to make the team want to get back on track, especially with a couple of games to play before the Big East schedule starts. There’s no shame in losing to Temple. Use it as a learning experience, and move on.
This team is good. Do I think they are as good as last year’s squad or the 2009-2010 team? Not yet, and maybe not ever. But they’re certainly on par with the 2010-2011 squad and a have to chance to get even better.
Right now, the rankings don’t matter. Sure, being the No. 3 team in the nation was an ego boost, but it’s better to be No. 1 in April. It’s only December.
Last year, Kentucky lost on a buzzer beater to Indiana in December. The loss bumped them from the No. 1 spot. But no matter. The Wildcats regrouped and won the national title in April. Now I’m not saying this Syracuse team will follow in that path. Not at all. But Syracuse teams tend to fare well when no one expects much from them.
Let the talking heads blabber about Duke, Louisville, and Indiana. They would even if SU was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Syracuse will quietly continue to grow and build up its March resume. It just needs its young players like Michael Carter-Williams and DaJuan Coleman to mature. And making free throws would be nice every now and then too.
I’m not completely sold on this team yet, but a lot of people are. Hopefully the Orange recognizes what it can accomplish and ramps up the focus.
SU should win the next six games in front of it before a matchup at Louisville on Jan. 19. Should win. Doesn’t mean it will. But with a loss behind it, the team can move on and let the remaining undefeated teams shoulder their burden of winning every game.
If you look at last year’s SU squad and the 2009-2010 team, whenever Syracuse lost a game (which was a rarity in both seasons), the team bounced back. SU went into high gear. Sometimes you need a loss to get your eyes back on the prize. And a loss this early in the season is a “good” time to lose.
If this team is for real, it’ll blow out Alcorn State and Central Connecticut in its next two games, a la Monmouth.
This team has good pieces. Maybe championship-worthy pieces. But it also could turn into a second-round NCAA tournament team. There’s still plenty of the season left to play. And that’s also why one loss is no reason to worry. Lose a couple more, then we have a conversation. But this team is better than that.
One loss and all.Rachel Marcus (Follow on Twitter @racmar)