Boeheim confirms all hope is lost for Syracuse basketball

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Rakeem Christmas has been the bright spot on a tough start to the season

Did you see what Coach said? Did you read the transcript of Jim Boeheim’s post-game press conference, after a victory no less, Sunday night? If not, go find it and come back to me.

I’m waiting.

Okay so we are on the same page, right? This season is 9 games old and it’s already over.

“This team is not anywhere near a good basketball team,” Boeheim said of the Orange after a 71-69 victory over Louisiana State. “Anywhere near. I’ve never said that since I’ve been here. Not that they couldn’t be. But they’re not.”

Never? Wow. Why is this team so bad, Coach?

“I don’t know,” Boeheim said. “I don’t know. I may have thought. … Whatever I thought, they’re not.”

Boeheim is known for downplaying the hoopla. For telling us his better teams have improvements to make, obstacles to overcome, etc, etc. It’s not unusual for Boeheim to be uninspired publicly about his team through the first ten games or so.

But to come right out and say his guys are nowhere near a good basketball team, that’s unprecedented.

He took jabs at everyone from probable lottery pick, Chris McCullough, to junior leader Trevor Cooney. No one was safe.

It’s common, especially for a team as continually successful as Syracuse to panic at the first sign of adversity. 6-3 with the worst 3-point shooting percentage in the entire country is not adversity- it’s the beginning of the end.

Watching this team for two months has shown us several deficiencies ranging from 3-point shooting, to ball handling, to even (GASP!!!) zone defense.

There isn’t one thing they do particularly well. Well, aside from turning the ball over, missing shots, and giving away leads against inferior programs.

» Related: NCAA action piling on tough season for SU

I realize I sound harsh, but the crazy thing is that I was hopeful until Sunday night. Even with the three losses, the horrible shooting, and the turnovers, there was still a chance. A chance Joseph would find his way leading this team. A chance the defense would come together as time went on. A chance Cooney would find his shot, and Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson would become steady contributors.

We hung on for a win against Louisiana State, in an ugly game that should have been won by a much larger margin, and still I left thinking, “Hey, a win is a win. They hung in and they didn’t fold at the end. Rakeem Christmas came up big and we can build on this.”

That’s the mindset you have when you are used to twenty win seasons and NCAA tournament trips. Like most ‘Cuse fans, I always believed that no matter what, we had a chance. We could beat any team on any given night, and most nights, other teams are going to struggle to beat us.

The reason for that belief? Coach Boeheim. He never wavered on his talent and his system. Even when the team looked subpar, he always knew he could guide them and his system would prevail. Maybe not to the Final Four, but to the status quo in Central New York; 20 wins, a Big East Tournament Run, and of course March Madness.

And he was always right. I criticized his system at times and questioned his playbook, but the results cannot be disputed. He has earned my trust and my confidence.

So now, as much as it pains me, I have to believe him and trust him when he says our team is “not a good basketball team.”

“This isn’t like the last six years. We’re going to struggle to win a game. We’re going to struggle to win a game, any game that we play…That means all 18 games in the ACC. I don’t care if somebody thinks, oh, they’re not that good. They’re good enough. Trust me. We have to play a lot better, we have to get better and we have to figure that out and we’ll see. Again, I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to be overly confident about that right now because we’re not talking about the difficult things we’d like to try to do. We’re trying to get the basic essentials down and that’s not good at this stage.”

Thanks for the pep talk Coach.

This is the first time, in a very, very long time that it’s over before it started. The NCAA is a pipe dream, and the NIT isn’t even a guarantee. Of course anything is possible and this column might look ridiculous in a few months, but if Jim Boeheim doesn’t believe in his team, how can we?

The Orange faithful would follow him anywhere, it’s only natural we join him in the naysaying. Maybe that’s the plan? To beat them down so they can rally together?

More likely, it’s the reality facing a wise, 70-year old coach, who is understandably upset that he’s wasting one of his waning years on this team. Here’s hoping things get better soon. Although, according to the Coach, they are probably going to get worse.

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Matt Goodman

About Matt Goodman

Matt worked for the Westchester Journal News, covering a variety of sports. He has also covered Syracuse University basketball from 2003-05 in both online and print. Matt graduated from Syracuse University in 2004 and currently resides in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @mattgoodman44.
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