I swear I want to be nice. I want to write something positive about the team I love to cheer for and love to pick apart. I want to change direction from my last column and throw in some optimism and joy. I want to talk about my excitement for the upcoming tournaments. The only problem is this: I actually watched the Syracuse Orange’s last nine games.
Posting a record of 4-5 in the meat of the schedule isn’t exactly inspirational. With only three games left, two of which have a strong possibility of being losses against Louisville and at Georgetown, the Orange face the sobering reality of finishing the season 1-4 in the final five games and 5-7 in the last 12.
Without a strong Big East tournament, the late-season meltdown won’t favor Syracuse when it’s time for the committee to seed this up-and-down squad.
The biggest problem that Coach Jim Boeheim has with this squad is that there isn’t just one big problem that can be addressed and worked on in practice. Every game seems to bring about a different Achilles heel that has led to defeat.
In the 66-58 loss to Connecticut, it was putrid outside shooting (4-for-23 from 3-point range) and an inability to stop great guard play. Against Georgetown it was offense, period. Against Marquette it was rebounding and interior defense as the Golden Eagles grabbed 55.6 percent of their missed shots Monday.
Clearly road games are a problem for this team. How will they perform on the neutral courts of the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament? Normally, the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden favor the Orange, but Temple shot down that advantage earlier this year with 83-79 victory.
So what’s left? What can we hang our hopes on as the one thing that will propel the Orange to success?
I have no clue. There is simply nothing to love about this team right now. There is absolutely no inside presence on offense. Opposing teams are breaking open the zone both inside and out, and our shooters go cold more often than they catch fire. At this point it will take a perfect storm for the Orange to go far. They’ll need to play great while the opponent simultaneously plays poorly.
It’s a far fall from the 18-1 team that climbed to number #3 in the rankings and had a win at #1 Louisville under its cap.
Can this team make a run in both tournaments? Of course it can. If the zone is active and the team rebounding is solid while the offense is at least somewhat efficient, anything is possible.
The concern is that in its six losses this season, the Orange has shown a number of flaws that can pop up at anytime. If more than one shows up, Syracuse is done. If only one shows up, then it has a chance. It’s not exactly high praise, but it’s the best I can muster right now. If they lose to DePaul though, I won’t be so nice.