Orange Watch: Could Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim be in for first losing season?

Dunk for xmas

Rakeem Christmas’s improved play has been the highlight of an up and down season

Item: Currently at 14-7 with 11 games (assuming a minimum of one ACC Tournament game, depending what the NCAA Committee on Infractions eventually decides) left to be played, there’s seemingly no way Syracuse is going to finish 3-8 or worse despite the murderous final stretch that includes five games against teams in this week’s Top 10 that’s somewhat balanced by playing Virginia Tech and Boston College again, and Pitt twice, right?

First, some good news for Orange Nation; if all the expected signatures come into the football office a week from today on recruiting’s Letter of Intent Day, then Scott Shafer will continue his laborious building project of getting the program competitive in the ACC as he embarks on his first spring practices taking advantage of the wondrous new indoor football facility.

Don’t look now but lax is back, as the earliest a Syracuse lacrosse team has ever started a season in the 96 year history of the program occurs in just 10 days with SU hosting Siena on Feb. 7.

And, by this Saturday afternoon, Syracuse could have its eighth member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, tying the school with Michigan and Pittsburgh for producing the fourth most Hall inductees (behind only Southern California, Notre Dame and Ohio State), with former Orange (1992-95) and Indianapolis Colts (1996-2008) record breaking wide receiver Marvin Harrison one of 15 finalists on the ballot for a second straight year.

Other than that, it’s become apparent after Monday night’s valiant effort in losing a 93-83 decision to 13th ranked North Carolina on its home court in front of a sellout crowd of nearly 20,000, that if the aforementioned NCAA committee doesn’t place a 2015 postseason ban on the basketball program, that barring an unfathomable ACC Tournament performance that would have to mirror that of the Gerry McNamara-led run of the 2006 team in Madison Square Garden, this will be the first year since 2007-08 in which both the football team didn’t go bowling and the basketball team missed March Madness.

A big Orange Ouch.

» Related: Syracuse is squarely on the NCAA Tourney bubble

Only the program’s previous NCAA ban on post season play for the 1992-93 team has kept the SU coach from being a perfect 38-for-38 qualifying to compete for either the national championship or NIT title over his career, and the 16-13 squad that went 7-7 in Big East play in 1981-82 is the closest Boeheim has come to a .500 or worse season, although that 07-08 team lost more games finishing 21-14. SU has never lost more than four games in a row under Boeheim, the last time the Orange avoided a five game losing streak was beating 2011 eventual NCAA champion Connecticut in Hartford.

The last season in which a Syracuse team ended the year with a losing record was a long 46 years ago in 1968-69, when Boeheim’s predecessor Roy Danforth finished 9-16 in his first year at Manley Field House.

With an unusually long eight day, mid-season layoff until Virginia Tech comes into the Dome Feb. 3, it will be back to the business at hand which for this gritty and determined, if not undermanned, team that has been in every game save California and Clemson, comes down to what the season’s MVP Rakeem Christmas said following the Monday loss to UNC is a simple formula.

“We’ve just to keep our heads up, listen to Coach (Boeheim), put things (that happened in the defeat to the Tar Heels) behind us, and be ready for the next game.”

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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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