Orange Watch: Impending NCAA action piles on tough season for Syracuse

Tyler Roberson had an impressive 17 rebounds in Sunday’s win over La. Tech.
Tyler Roberson had an impressive 17 rebounds in Sunday’s win over La. Tech.

Item: Jim Boeheim, in his biography “Bleeding Orange” released last month, spoke as freely as he could about the two years-plus NCAA investigation into the basketball program as part of an overall organization look at Syracuse athletics. “You can’t defend yourself, and the investigation drags on and on. It’s wearing,” Boeheim reflected in print. With word back from the NCAA finally expected in the immediate future, the SU head coach is also enduring an unusual season of “on the job” training, molding a mostly inexperienced team for year two in the ACC.

It seems until the early October pre-release marketing of the SU Hall of Famer’s long-awaited thoughts finally recorded and written in hardcover form with author Jack McCallum (there was quick talk of a Boeheim book following the 2003 national championship season which never came to fruition), most of Orange Nation had put the NCAA probe into “sleep mode” since so much time had elapsed between the spotlighted 2011-12 season, the acknowledgment of such an inquiry about a year later, and finally with confirmation from the coach himself within the book’s pages, lamenting that the investigation was taking so long he couldn’t say what he wanted to say about its conclusion in time for the publishing date.

While the guessing game has transpired, and comparisons made to other programs that have been found guilty of similar levels of rules impropriety, everyone’s in the dark until the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions releases its findings from late October’s two days of face-to-face meetings with university athletic department personnel, and the pleasant distraction provided by the regular season at hand, has proven to be, well, a more unsettling diversion than might have been predicted two months ago.

» Related: Syracuse hangs on for win over La. Tech

“We’re learning, I hope,” Boeheim declared in his usual transparent fashion after Sunday’s 71-69 escape against athletic, quick, and pressuring Louisiana Tech, his post-game press conference at times resembling his emotional pitch during a typical timeout huddle with his players along the sideline.

“I don’t see it, but I hope we will learn, there’s not that much time left (ACC opener is Jan. 3), nothing’s going to happen magically, but I know I cannot coach (the basics) at this stage, or (if I am) we can’t possibly win.”

Boeheim’s pessimism aside, the current record stands at 6-3 and not the more disastrous 5-4 which would have meant watching La. Tech complete its comeback from 10 points down with 4:00 to play, because the veterans counted upon the most did their part as evidenced by Trevor Cooney finding Rakeem Christmas for what turned out to be the winning basket in the final seconds, in addition to that duo’s overall court savvy, and the uplifting play by one of the players that needs to gain experience and confidence in a hurry before conference play gets underway.

“I feel as though I can bring a lot of energy (to hitting the glass), and I didn’t get tired which is also good,” a low key Tyler Roberson said Sunday following his best game in a ‘Cuse uniform, including an eye opening 17 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end and 14 points in 33 minutes of court time. “Good things happen when I play hard like that.”

In a pre-conference portion of the schedule in which already a neutral court win over Iowa and a loss at Michigan may end up looking better and worse, respectively, come March, Saturday’s stern test at 10-0 and No. 7 ranked Villanova following almost a week off (1:00 p.m. ET/FOX) will be the next benchmark in helping to determine this mostly unproven team’s eventual season end direction.

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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.