Orange Watch: Syracuse basketball seeking better grades in the spring semester

The near miss OT defeat against Top Ten ranked Villanova last Sat. provides plenty of optimism for the Orange moving forward

Item: The chance for a resume-building upset victory over an unbeaten, Top Ten team is already in the rear view mirror only some 48 hours ago, because it’s quickly back to the hardwood exam room Monday evening for the SU players,  continuing the quest to play up to their own high level of expectations.

When having to endure one of the least liked aspects of his job, sitting down to postgame questions from the media ranging from student reporters to decades-long veterans, win or lose, Jim Boeheim pleasantly rarely minces words, and often provides corrections to the inquisitors as to what’s exactly going through his mind as he faces the annual ups and downs of any particular season.

Following Saturday’s near-miss against unbeaten Villanova, after recapping the one that got away and staying consistent with his refusal to talk about the referee’s influence in a game’s outcome, Boeheim, when asked about how he feels his 6-4 team is developing to qualify for post season play in March, quickly brought the season back to the present.

“I’m not worried about that (making post season play), I’m not even thinking about that,” Boeheim said in an agitated voice.  “I’m worried about playing Colgate.  March is a long ways away.”

» Related: Syracuse goes up early, loses in overtime to Villanova

While that’s basically true from a calendar and schedule standpoint with 21 of the 31 regular season games left to contest, time is still of the essence with only three non-league opportunities remaining to straighten out the bugs beginning with Monday evening’s annual meeting against the upstate neighbor Raiders (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU), coming in at 3-8 and off an eight day layoff, before the ACC commences leaving little room for error with five teams in this week’s (Dec. 22) Top 25 poll, including three in the Top 5.

“I’m very proud of (how) everyone played (against Villanova), they’re unbelievable defensively,” Trevor Cooney said after the upset bid fell awry in overtime.  “We scored a lot of points against them, we were able to run our stuff and get into the lanes and make plays.  We have to realize that we can do that, and we have to do that against other teams and every single night that we play.  And if we play like that, we’re not going to lose a lot of games.”

As is so often the case in college hoops, it all begins with the guard play and taking care of the ball, one of the downfalls in the Villanova loss with a season high 20 turnovers.  While Cooney continues to improve his shooting beyond the arc, backcourt mate Kaleb Joseph continues to improve his assist to turnover ratio while he still learns the intricacies of playing the zone out top.

In perhaps his best game so far running the Orange offense against Villanova with 10 points, 10 assists, three steals, and only four turnovers playing all 45 minutes, Joseph feels the improvement each week.

“I feel good, I just got to keep getting better every day,” Joseph said with a smile.  “I’ll feel a lot better when we keep winning.”

That’s exactly the attitude needed to face the game-by-game challenging tests awaiting in the ACC.

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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.