Orange Watch: Snapshot of Syracuse football, basketball, lacrosse as summer approaches

Desko and Syracuse breathed a sigh of relief
John Desko and the No. 2 seed Orange begin the quest for a 12th NCAA title starting Sun. evening in the Dome

Item: In the present is this Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game against either Bryant or Marist for the No. 2 seed SU lacrosse squad (7:30 p.m. ET / ESPNU), eyeing an end to a six year championship drought. In the near future will be the start of preseason camp before the critical third year for Scott Shafer’s time orchestrating the football program’s attempted rise in the ACC Atlantic Division, benefitting greatly from a new weather-defying, and thus time-saving, practice facility, now four months away from the Sept. 4 opener against Rhode Island at the Dome. In late Fall, it’s the start of basketball practice in what is certainly shaping up as a year of transition both with the starting five, and in running the program.

Lacrosse – Okay, we certainly understand the Div. I lacrosse committee’s rationale for head-to-head meetings taking precedent over the automatic qualifiers that come with winning a conference tournament, so it makes sense from that standpoint that the 13-12 (2OT) Notre Dame victory over the Orange back on March 28 breaks the difference between the No. 1 and 2 seeds as the tournament gets underway this week. In this case, however, not having the prestige of being the top seed for a 10th time may work out to SU’s advantage.

Provided Syracuse wins the first round game Sunday, it avoids the tricky upstate New York Cornell/Albany winner as opposed to getting the Johns Hopkins/Virginia winner, although as all four teams provide a rematch from a regular season ‘Cuse win, there’s not going to be an easy path to the Final Four.

With the goal to be No. 1 on Memorial Day installed for two months and counting and with plenty of veteran players at both ends of the field well aware of the six long seasons it’s been since the Syracuse program took home the “gold trophy,” it’s playing for the title or bust for this year’s team beginning Sunday evening.

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse named No. 2 seed for NCAA Tournament, will face Bryant or Marist

Football – There’s a new sheriff in town, or actually a new decision maker or two, one of which has actually been in town long enough to remember working at the Dome when legendary rockers The Who and the mighty Phi Slama Jama Houston Cougars made consecutive appearances under the Teflon Roof on Dec. 10-11, 1982.

Interim athletic director Pete Sala isn’t a man to sit still. Charged by the chancellor with overseeing the department until the primary five person committee, which Sala presides, in conjunction with adjunct members, presents a candidate for final consideration to the chancellor and board of trustees, the longtime Dome honcho has overseen personnel changes among some senior department staff members while keeping his eye on a typical busy schedule, including this weekend’s Dome changeover from commencement festivities to NCAA playoff lacrosse.

Whether it’s Sala or a new athletic director presiding over analyzing Shafer’s progress with the program remains to be seen, but no doubt with a veteran quarterback directing a new offensive system and a defense looking for its youth to take over, against the backdrop of a typically tough schedule, all eyes at the top will be focused on Shafer’s goal to grab a bowl game invitation.

Basketball – For the first time since the final 10.4 seconds of the 2014 loss at Duke, a game permanently enshrined in Orange hoop history by Jim Boeheim’s frantic rushing of the court and drawing an ejection to the delight of the in-overdrive Cameron Crazies, Mike Hopkins will guide next year’s team for what now stands (subject to appeal) is the first half of the ACC schedule (nine games), and it will certainly be interesting to see which nine games the folks in Greensboro place into those spots when the complete schedule is released at the end of August.

As is the case with Shafer, will these games, however many it ends up that Boeheim must sit out, serve as a dress rehearsal for the new athletic director to use in analyzing and making his/her final decision to honor the agreement in principal for Hopkins to replace Boeheim whenever the Hall of Famer does decide to retire?

With four freshman joining essentially three returning starters and a potential fourth who’s been around the program for three years, the combinations that Hopkins will be directing come ACC play make for fun speculation over the summer.

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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.