“L” word a foreign one in recent hoops history

bradIt’s something that hasn’t happened since the winter of 1969, Roy Danforth’s first season as the Orangemen’s head coach.

En route to the last losing season in SU basketball’s glorious almost-50-year run since Dave Bing set foot on campus, the 1968-69 squad had not one, but two five-game losing streaks. In fact, the team lost six straight en route to a 9-16 finish.

If this year’s squad can’t figure out a way to beat Connecticut on the road for the first time since 1999 when they meet at the XL Center in Hartford on Wednesday night, then as incredible as it sounds, it will mark the first time in Jim Boeheim’s Hall of Fame career that one of his teams will have dropped five straight games. Wasn’t it only earlier this month that we were talking about only five losses in the last 45 games?

That’s 42 straight seasons in which an SU team has never faced such adversity, although the last two times the team lost four in a row, 1991-92 and 2005-06, a couple of pretty good developments occurred; the team made the NCAA Tournament and won the Big East Tournament each season.

After Saturday’s “improved” performance in a six-point loss at Marquette, SU’s first defeat in Big East play to the Golden Eagles, Boeheim insisted he does not focus on losing streaks.

“I don’t even think about it,” Boeheim said. “I don’t think about it at all. We don’t. We just get ready for the next game. That’s all we do. It’s stuff you guys [the media] can all write about and people can talk about. That’s OK. Gives you something to do.”

That’s the beauty of sports as a pastime in the modern era, to play “Monday Morning Quarterback,” to call into the ubiquitous radio talk shows and online message board communities and vent.

And that’s exactly what ‘Cuse hoop fans have been doing a lot of the past two weeks.

They’re upset how an 18-0 start, 5-0 in the Big East, could metamorphose into 18-4 and 5-4. What was looking like another top-four finish in conference play to earn a two-day tournament bye and high NCAA seed has transformed into worrying about the outcome of each league game.

With nine conference games left to play, five of those on the road and six against ranked (or about to be ranked) teams, what’s the best scenario to finish out? 5-4? 6-3? 4-5?

It’s unlikely after the roller coaster of January — the soap opera story lines of players playing and not playing, the offensive and defensive lapses, the learning curve of the freshmen big men — that even the most diehard fans will be able to figure out the team’s fortunes in February and March.

Brad Bierman is a Special Contributor for The Juice Online.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth 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.