Orange Watch: Can the Syracuse basketball team salvage its season?

Gbinije push Cornell
Syracuse hasn’t lost to Cornell since Dec. 1968, the program’s last losing season. That streak isn’t in jeopardy Tuesday in the Dome, is it?
Gbinije push Cornell
Syracuse hasn’t lost to Cornell since Dec. 1968, the program’s last losing season. That streak isn’t in jeopardy Tuesday in the Dome, is it?

Item: Did that St. John’s final result really happen last Wednesday? Or, did we witness someone’s idea of a prank video when we sat down to watch the game recording (without knowing the final result), after attending the viewing of a longtime acquaintance who had passed away, the event held during the same hours the game was played. Our night was emotionally sad enough until the shock of what transpired on the court in the Red Storm’s 93-60 blowout of the Orange (7-5) from the opening tip off, was saved only by the ability to fast forward through commercials and non-game action, to thankfully minimize the amount of the time needed to watch one of the top three most embarrassing performances in the Jim Boeheim era. So, other than renewing the longtime meeting against upstate neighbor Cornell (3-8) this evening in the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / ACC RSNs), are there reasons to be optimistic heading into ACC play this weekend?

This pre-conference portion of the schedule has been unlike any other in Boeheim’s 41 seasons (there was no formal conference play in the coach’s initial three seasons) in which it essentially turned out that no game could be taken for granted for the pre-season ranked No. 19 ‘Cuse, especially and understandably against Power Five conference teams South Carolina (neutral site) and Wisconsin (true road game), but not as logical to think that this team would drop all three games against former Big East rivals, Connecticut, Georgetown and St. John’s now a combined 17-17.

While the woes have been well documented; offensive shooting, opponents passing their way around the zone defense combined with a failure to play the “D” at a frantic, hectic pace forcing turnovers and transition baskets, and overall lack of chemistry among the eight scholarship players, half of whom have played only a dozen games in the program, seeing all the playing time.

» Related: Cornell Big Red — 2016-17 Syracuse scouting report with Ivy Hoops Online

“That’s the only option,” said Andrew White when asked if regrouping after the holiday break was next on his agenda. “Show up, practice, get better, and try to start it (momentum) over again and get ready for conference play (Sunday afternoon at 7-6 Boston College). It’s not the end of the year (the Cornell game tonight), but we’ve got to get our urgency up.”

The lack of urgency, whether it’s a common theme during different parts of one of the 12 games played so far, or used to describe the season as a whole, frustration is mounting in Orange Nation.

After the glory run between 2008-13 that resulted in a record winning streak, No. 1 poll rankings and NCAA Tournament seedings, and two Elite Eights and an out-of-nowhere Final Four, other than an equally unexpected Final Four trip last season aided by a “15-2” upset, it’s been back-to-back .500 conference finishes, still a winless mark in the ACC Tournament, and with an ominous warning from Boeheim last week following an inexplicable 33 point loss to a team that was struggling at best, there’s also the potential uphill battle to avoid the program’s first losing season since 1968-69 – an ongoing NCAA record of 48 consecutive winning seasons (and, ironically, the last season SU lost to Cornell).

“I have to coach better and we have to play a lot better,” said Boeheim. “We have a lot of games left, a lot of difficult games left. The way we are playing right now, we cannot win a lot of those games right now. That’s what I see.”

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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.