Orange Watch: Sudden halt to Syracuse season is nature of NCAA tourney

Item: Highlighted during televised excerpts of Jim Boeheim’s postgame comments following the Orange’s disappointing NCAA Round of 32 defeat to Dayton at Buffalo Saturday night, was the fact that Boeheim is the first coach of a team to lose to six double digits seeds in tournament play. Well, when you’ve coached 83 times in the Madness over five decades, surprises are simply going to occur.

Remember Western Kentucky, Penn, and Navy? How about Rhode Island, Richmond and Vermont? Now, Dayton can be added to the SU’s NCAA upset loss list.

dayton2

Syracuse was upset by Dayton in the NCAA tourney

It’s no secret the season-ending loss to the South Region 11th seeded Flyers was spotlighted by yet another late season Orange offensive malfunction, and despite the plodding nature of the game as Dayton took its time on virtually every possession resulting in a season-low 18 points at halftime, and the lack of any sort of reliable outside shooting threat, the ‘Cuse still had a final shot to win on the game’s last possession.

“It’s kind of ironic with all the comebacks we’ve had (to lose this one),” admitted Tyler Ennis in a somber Orange locker room Saturday night, and after hoisting the winning attempt against Dayton in an effort to match his buzzer-beating heroics at Pittsburgh Feb. 12 to no avail.

» Related: Syracuse eliminated from NCAA Tournament by Dayton

“You can’t really ask for more (than a shot at the Sweet 16). Every game except for probably Virginia and Duke we had a chance to win and you really can’t ask for more through our slumps, and the heart we showed throughout every game. Looking back, those are all games we could have won.”

After setting a school record for best start and a winning streak that figures to last for some time with the 25-0 mark, and beating some good competition in the Dome and as far as Hawaii along the way, the injury to Jerami Grant and the inconsistency of any outside shooting threat from the big four of Ennis, Grant, C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney over the last month plus took its toll.

“You make shots you win, you don’t make shots you lose close games,” Boeheim said in summing up the tough way to finish a season which included sitting at number one in the country for three weeks in February.

“Early in the year we made shots. We won seven straight close games early, and different people made shots. In (the Dayton game) we had shots. We made the stops and the defensive plays we had to, but we didn’t make a shot when we had to.”

After finishing 28-6 and falling short of the team goal to return to the Final Four, and seeing the quickest tournament exit since losing to then-conference mate Marquette in 2011, a little longer off-season is underway to begin speculation how the final roster will shake out for next season’s squad, a team Orange Nation will be hopeful can make a deeper NCAA run a year from now.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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