With Selection Sunday nearing for Syracuse men’s lacrosse, the program finds itself in a drought of sorts. The Orange exited prematurely in each of the past five NCAA tournaments.
An entire recruiting class of SU players never made it to championship weekend. For the last few seasons, Syracuse has seemed to be stuck in neutral.
Make no mistake, these are the issues that plague only the elite programs in a sport. Five years without a Final Four run is longest in program history since Syracuse made its first NCAA tournament appearance back in 1979.
The Orange won its first national title in 1983, just two years after its first semifinal run. Syracuse won 11, or 10, depending on who you ask (cough, NCAA, cough), national titles over a 43 year-span, reaching the Final Four 27 times. 27 times in 43 years.
That’s just shy of 50 percent of the time.
From 2014 on though, SU hasn’t been able to get over the quarterfinal hump. After losing to Duke in the 2013 national championship, Syracuse lost in the first round to Byrant, the quarterfinals to Johns Hopkins, the quarterfinals to Maryland, the quarterfinals to Towson and the first round to Cornell. The rest of the country caught up to the Orange.
The fact this is something I can complain is truly remarkable, but it is the standard Syracuse established for itself. It’s Alabama football fans complaining about not winning a national championship. It’s obnoxious, but it is what we have come to expect from our team.
What is more frustrating is that Syracuse does not seem poised to break this cold streak in tournament play.
SU fought through another brutal schedule and sits 10th in the latest coaches poll. Yet, this season has seen more than its fair share of inconsistency.
The shocking loss Colgate to open the season serves as a not-so-friendly reminder this team is streaky. There is no doubt coach John Desko has built a more complete club over the course of the season, but finishing the season with a loss to North Carolina team it had beaten by three just two weeks earlier introduces more uncertainty.
Perhaps that loss to the Tar Heels was just a blip on the radar. The Orange entered the game on a four-game win streak and winners of seven of their last eight games. It seemed like SU was peaking at the right time, heading into the ACC tournament after battering Navy 18-9.
Maybe picking apart a single game is overkill. After all, losing by one to UNC on the road during the regular season is not a bad result. In the tournament though, that ends your year. Does this mean Syracuse’s fate is sealed? Far from it, but those are the margins that exist come the postseason.
There are some great reasons to be optimistic about the Orange’s chances in the tournament though. Syracuse has shown an ability to grind out close, low-scoring games.
The best example of that came in the form of a 9-8 overtime win over at Duke. At the same time, it has flashed the potential to dominate games with tons of offense. SU scored 17+ goals on three separate occasions this season.
What this underlines is an ability to adapt to the pace and style of the game. Desko has the talent and versatility as his disposal to compete with a variety of opponents.
Syracuse possesses the potential to win a national championship with its current core. Every team outside of possibly Penn State has shown signs of struggling or obvious weaknesses down the stretch.
The Orange do not seem to have any clear deficiencies. It will be all about whether Syracuse can find a way show up in the clutch. If it does, it might just end the drought.