Does Jim Boeheim have their attention now?
After coasting through the likes of Colgate, Holy Cross, Monmouth and South Carolina State while averaging 86 points per game, the Syracuse basketball team got throttled by a tough, defensive-minded South Carolina squad in what should serve as a wake-up call.
Before Saturday, it was easy. Too easy. And for a team with a lot of new parts looking for a new identity, it’s games like Saturday (not the first four) where teams find that identity. After scoring just 50 points, it seems they are still searching.
Now, let’s preface this by saying that Syracuse may or may not have the kind of talent to make a deep run in this season’s NCAA Tournament. But, previous Syracuse teams that have made long runs in March have had these kind of “wait, what just happened?” games.
As recently as last season, the Orange had a stretch of games that caused people to look around and wonder just what kind of team they had. Boeheim served his 9-game suspension for NCAA violations, leaving Mike Hopkins to take the helm. In what many (myself included) thought would be a seamless transition resulted in a 4-5 stretch that left the team scratching and clawing just to make the tournament. After sharpening their nails, they dug in and became the first 10-seed to reach the Final Four.
Flash back to 2002: the Orange(men) lost the first game of Carmelo Anthony’s brief Syracuse career, causing many heads in Central New York to be scratched. Despite 27 points from Melo, Syracuse lost to John Calipari’s Memphis squad in Madison Square Garden. Fans had been led to believe Melo, Gerry McNamara and company would be steamrolling through the season. And yet, they got off to an 0-1 start. But, we all know how that season ended…
It happens. These losses happen. Boeheim probably wishes it was an underwhelming win as opposed to a disappointing loss. But, it happens.
Before Saturday, the Orange were shooting 57 percent in 2-point field goal percentage. On Saturday, they shot 31 percent. They got outscored in the paint 30-8. Everywhere you look, the Orange got outplayed in their first real test of the season.
With the next one right around the corner Tuesday in Madison, Wisconsin, Boeheim should have no problem getting his message through the in the couple practice sessions before Tuesday. He will certainly have their attention.