Bumping up Jim Boeheim’s suspension may not be all that bad for Syracuse

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Boeheim will be suspended beginning Saturday

Just when you thought the NCAA could not have butchered something else, they have compounded an error in classic style. While there is no point in rehashing the entire case of NCAA v. Syracuse and Jim Boeheim, today’s announcement that Boeheim’s nine-game suspension will stand, only it can go into effect now instead of waiting for ACC play, shows that the board running intercollegiate athletics is much more running like a chicken with its head cut off.

Boeheim’s response that they were going to use the upcoming stretch of games to prepare the staff and team for his upcoming suspension, but now cannot, shows the NCAA’s same lack of proper planning Boeheim himself was trying to implement for his program.

Jay Bilas rips the NCAA for a punishment requiring Boeheim to stay away from his team for a month for “failing to maintain institutional control” because the proper punishment for you not adequately supervising your team is to not let you supervise them at all. Sounds like control to me.

Simply put, the long-and-drawn out process that took years to originally make a decision, then months to decide on parts of an appeal and weeks more to decide another portion of the appeal shows that the NCAA is so obviously wrong, it’s a miracle they can actually schedule NCAA Tournament sites a week in advance, much less several years.

Oh, wait, the NCAA makes money off that. Never mind.

Let’s shift gears and move to something even more pressing to the Orange fan base.

How does this terrible timing affect the team on the court?

» Related: NCAA upholds Jim Boeheim’s 9 game suspension, but it now begins Saturday at Georgetown

It’s hard to imagine the entire season of practice not being laid out prior to the start of the season. Yes, there are undoubtedly tweaks like “work on this more because it just got exposed in our last game” and general things like the ability to adjust practice time if there is some sort of travel delay.

The lack of notice still hurts, though. Boeheim is now staring down a running stopwatch that cuts off his contact with his team and staff. While four of the games he will now sit out are guarantee games at the Carrier Dome, it still hurts to get the hammer dropped with no notice.

Advance plans to prep for ACC foes without Boeheim are now partially wasted efforts. Boeheim will have no input on how to run the team during the opportunity to go deeper into his bench against some lesser foes after mentioning that he has to find playing time for some guys deeper on the bench after Wednesday’s loss to Wisconsin.

Mike Hopkins will hopefully have the chance to give some minutes to Frank Howard and Chinonso Obokoh (especially after the Badgers battered the Orange on the boards), as well as give Kaleb Joseph some extra rope to continue rebuilding his confidence after a nice
outing against Wisconsin. But, his usage will still likely be different from what Boeheim would do.

In the grand scheme of greater goals, however, bumping up the suspension may not be all that bad.

In spite of debuting against Georgetown, Hopkins should certainly be able to shepherd SU to victories in the five non-conference games after the grudge match with the Hoyas. Colgate, Cornell, Montana State, and Texas Southern all come to the Dome.

The lone road game is a trip to Madison Square Garden to face St. John’s, which is more like neutral-court game at worst. Add on that an inexperienced Red Storm squad is struggling at 4-3 in the first season under program legend-turned-coach Chris Mullin. As the Orange were beat by Wisconsin, St. John’s suffered a 16-point loss at Fordham in a game where the Rams never trailed. It’s not hard to imagine that game going in the win column.

If Hopkins reaches ACC play with five wins in six efforts, that probably matches what the team would accomplish with Boeheim steering the ship.

The ACC games at Miami, at Pittsburgh, and against Clemson are the only conference contests Boeheim still sits out. He gets back home games against North Carolina at Boston College, trips to Wake Forest, Duke, and Virginia, and a home game with Notre Dame. Certainly, getting the Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines for those games is more of a plus than for games against bottom-feeders.

Let’s also remember that Boeheim has had Hopkins at his side for longer than anyone than his wife, Juli. So, it is quite possible that one of the biggest differences between the two ruling the bench will be the tone of post-game press conferences. After all, Hopkins hasn’t been sitting next to Boeheim just to serve in a “break glass in case of suit jacket ripped off” role.

As has been often stated since the original punishment was levied, this is Hopkins’ dry run for when he eventually takes over the program. That is certainly a long-term plus for the Orange.

And you know Boeheim will be watching, taking notes, planning and scheming for his eventual return for January 9 when the Tar Heels come to the Dome.

Hey, maybe this change isn’t so bad after all.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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