There appears to be a regular pattern now. Every time Syracuse basketball loses a significant portion of its team, it somehow manages to get better the next season. Lose a couple NBA draft picks? No worries, the Orange will just have other players step up.
This has been happening for five or so years now, and while success is no surprise, the level of success is certainly eye-opening.
I went back the last four seasons before the current one and did some research. In the first Associated Press poll released for the 2009-10 season, SU was unranked. Since that poll, it’s never fallen out of the top 20 in the regular season. So basically, SU was a top 20 team every single week that I was in school for four years. Every week. Unreal.
And in terms of consistently making it far in the NCAA Tournament, ‘Cuse is in elite company with schools like Kansas and Ohio State. Only once in the past five years has SU failed to make it to at least the Sweet 16.
As Jim Boeheim gets older, he doesn’t just coach better. He coaches teams with far more success, and with Boeheim, that’s saying a lot, because he’s coached great teams and is a Hall of Fame coach.
If (and a big if) Syracuse continues to play to its current No. 2 ranking this season, then there will again be no drop off. It’s really unbelievable.
Power schools like UNC, Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA, Indiana, Maryland, Villanova, Michigan, Illinois, UConn and St. John’s have all had down moments in the last four years. Syracuse honestly hasn’t. The Orange narrowly missed the Sweet 16 one time. Not much of a down moment there.
Sure, schools like Duke, Michigan State, Georgetown, Wisconsin, and some in the previous paragraph have had success recently. But none have made it as far in the tourney with the same consistency as SU, Kansas and Ohio State. Sure, none of those three teams won titles, but sustaining high levels of success is an accomplishment.
When I got to Syracuse in the fall of 2009, the team had lost Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris from its Sweet 16 run. No worries. Wes Johnson stepped in and teamed up with Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku to lead SU to a No. 1 ranking and the Sweet 16. The next year, Johnson, Rautins and Onuaku were gone. So Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine stepped in, and the team barely missed the Sweet 16.
The next year, my junior year, only Jackson left, so in all fairness, the team was loaded. And it dominated, making it to the Elite Eight. But last year, my senior year, guys like Joseph, Jardine, Fab Melo, and Dion Waiters were gone. Up stepped Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche, and James Southerland. Final Four.
And this year, those three guys are gone. Not hard to predict what’s happened this year.
Trevor Cooney has improved, Tyler Ennis is a masterful freshman point guard, and Jerami Grant is a stud. Oh, and some guy named C.J. Fair came back too.
This is not a story of an alum blabbering about how Syracuse basketball is great every year. SU has flaws like every other team. But guess what: they are great every year. The rankings and NCAA Tournament provide the facts.
It’s all the opposite of a vicious cycle. It’s a cycle of success, and if Boeheim (and eventually Mike Hopkins) continue to recruit players who fit this cycle, then SU’s future is in good hands.