Orange Watch: No bowl, struggle for NCAA tourney spot struggle for Syracuse fans

Josephstjohns

Frosh Kaleb Joseph and his ‘Cuse teammates have struggled with their outside shooting in a 5-3 start

Item: While there’s still 23 regular season basketball games left to be played following a 5-3 start, the most non-conference defeats since the 2007-08 season, we’re still wondering how after SU beat Central Michigan in football 40-3, that same CMU team will hunker down at The Atlantis for a week and play a bowl game in the Bahamas on Dec. 24. 

Life hasn’t been fun being a ‘Cuse football and basketball follower of late.

We’ve gone from watching one of the least productive scoring offenses in the FBS ranks and missing out on the post-season for the seventh time since Daryl Gross took over fulltime in 2005 to rectify the program’s shortcomings, to watching a basketball offense that has turned into “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” (the title of a 1969 novel and 1971 movie based on the trials and tribulations of two warring New York City Mafia crime syndicates).

When the ACC announced its bowl game lineup in a live webcast Sunday afternoon we cringed in disappointment as the official announcements simply validated what we’ve known since Nov. 8, that SU would be one of only three conference schools sitting on the sidelines and one of the 52 FBS programs staying home for the holidays while 76 of its contemporaries enjoy the extra practice time followed by a trip somewhere to play one more game (and two more games for two of the College Football Playoff foursome).

At least the indoor practice facility is open for business just in time for winter conditioning drills, and the building figures to be nothing but a positive addition in future recruiting pitches, somewhat like the Melo Center has benefited Jim Boeheim and staff since it opened just over five years ago.

Somewhere in the mix of 2015 opponents Rhode Island, the aforementioned Central Michigan, South Florida, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Virginia and longtime rivals Boston College and Pittsburgh, Syracuse needs to go a minimum of 6-2 to right the ship and go bowling; and while there’s four other opportunities, it’s hard to project a season out that the Orange will defeat upcoming bowl participants LSU, Florida State, Clemson or Louisville.

» St. John’s highlights Syracuse basketball’s weakness from 3-point range

“(I’ll be busy) learning the system we’re going to put in so that next year we can win games,” quarterback AJ Long said optimistically following a season in which he was forced to play six games as a true freshman due to injuries to Terrel Hunt and Austin Wilson, and who looks to battle those two along with expected Jan. recruit Alin Edouard and holdover Mitch Kimble for the starting job in spring ball under likely offensive coordinator Tim Lester.

While the football steam can only stew on the sidelines this postseason, for the basketball team the time is now.  Only one Boeheim-coached team has lost more than three non-conference games in a season (four losses in a disappointing 1981-82 campaign which yielded a 16-13 mark and a second round home NIT loss to Bradley), but at least publicly there’s no show of concern.

“It’s still early, we have a long way to go,” freshman forward Chris McCullough also said optimistically following the disappointing 12 point loss to St. John’s last weekend.  “It’s a bad start so far (for the team based on annual expectations) but we are only going to get better from here.”

Ah, just the words any Orange fan wants to hear, now comes the hard part of backing it up against an upcoming schedule that features eight teams in this week’s Top 25 poll or also receiving votes.

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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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