Mixed Juice: Was the 2011-12 Syracuse basketball season a success?

In the latest edition of a multi-part series, editorial staff of The Juice Online discuss various topics in Syracuse basketball. Today’s topic: Was the 2011-12 Syracuse basketball season a success?

Wesley Cheng: Saugat, Syracuse didn’t meet its goal when it started the season of winning the National Championship or making the Final Four. With that in mind, do you consider this season a success?

Saugat Sen: Absolutely a success. Only one loss in the regular season, Big East Regular Season Champs. #1 Seed in the tournament. I think that is considered a huge success.

WC: I think it depends on what lens you’re using. On the one hand, the goal at the beginning of the season was Final Four or bust. This was a championship caliber team and I think an Elite 8 would’ve been (and still is) disappointing. On the other hand, Syracuse did all of the things you mentioned despite losing Fab Melo twice, enduring the Bernie Fine scandal and also the report about the failed drug tests. In that vein, the season was a smashing success all things considered. It seems like you’re looking through the second lens, right?

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SS: Yes I am. And you bring a good point (that was actually discussed on twitter last week) about whether Syracuse is an Elite program. Because Elite programs EXPECT to content or be in the final four every year. Duke, Kentucky, UNC, Kansas. I think Syracuse fans are happy if we win the Big East and make it to the second weekend of the tournament. Of course, everyone wants the team to win it all, but to be considered a success, I think winning the regular season Big East, or even the post season Big East is enough.

WC: I think it’s relative to the year. Some years, it is enough for the team to make it to the second weekend (like last year’s team), but this year, I think SU fans feel disappointment that the Orange isn’t playing in New Orleans. But I think I’m making your point that Syracuse is not an “elite” team by saying that, because elite teams expect to play in the Final Four every year. That being said, I’m going to look through the first lens. SU was supposed to be a Final Four or bust team and they didn’t make it. So I don’t deem this year a success.

SS: That is true. But before the season started, if you told anyone that Syracuse would lose just 1 game in the regular season and make it to the Elite 8. I think 10 out of 10 people would consider that a successful season. I think as they kept winning, our expectations rose as well. But when you look back at past seasons. This has to be one of those Top 2 or 3 most successful seasons in the last 10 years.

WC: That’s definitely true it was one of the most successful seasons in the past decade, but weighed against the expectations going into the season, it falls short. Besides, I’ll let Dion Waiters do my talking for me. The following is a quote following Syracuse’s loss to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament. “We’re trying to win the NCAA Tournament. That’s the main focus,” guard Dion Waiters said. “That’s the main goal and that’s what we all talked about at the end of the day.” Judged on that standard, Syracuse missed its goal.

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SS: If that is the case then every single Syracuse Basketball season was not successful except for one. And every single NCAA team this year was not successful, except for one.

WC: Normally I’d agree, but relative to the objective expectations of this team, this year was not a success. In other words, if the expectations of this team was just to make the NCAA tournament, then this season would be a smashing success. But this was a championship caliber team, and while every player on every team talks about winning it all as the ultimate goal, I think Dion Waiters’ quote was actually the expectation.

SS: This is true. But I think losing Fab also meant our expectations changed. With Fab, that Ohio State game is totally different. We would be heading to New Orleans to face Kansas. So I think the expectations changed right before the tournament. So if you look at the success of the team before that. I would call it a success.

WC: I guess expectations change all of the time. What will “success” mean for Syracuse next season?

SS: I think that will depend on Noel’s decision on where he will attend college. He should be deciding that on April 11.

WC: Let’s hope he puts on the Orange hat.

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