Orange Watch: Start of Syracuse basketball dulls sting of football struggles

Juli Boeheim
Juli Boeheim cheers. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: This Saturday, Oct. 26, marks the first of three Saturdays over the next five weeks in which both the Syracuse football and basketball teams will play games on the same day. As the football team looks to somehow come up from the ACC mat and finally become the last team to win a conference game this season (and record just the sixth road win in ACC play dating back to the 2013 inaugural season) by defeating Florida State in Tallahassee (3:30 p.m. ET / ESPN2), the basketball team plays its first game with all of the roster available in an exhibition matchup with Div. II Daemen College at the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / ACCNX). A perfect Saturday would be; the highlight of the football season so far with a much-needed victory, while watching the complete roster basketball team continue to smartly use the preseason (Italy trip) to its advantage for the Virginia opener and beyond.

The thought is already giving us a headache.

If for some reason the 2019 Syracuse football team cannot come up with three victories in its final five games, and the “Syracuse” name does not appear among the matchups for the oversaturated 40 bowl games this postseason, meaning not being one of 78 teams (two teams play twice in the College Football Playoff) to head to the postseason, then it will lead to a big question.

Just how many more recruiting cycles is it going to take to build the kind of depth necessary, most importantly on each line, to compete in the ACC, knowing of the omnipresent injuries each season, to be “consistently good?”

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That was a phrase repeated often over the summer by Dino Babers and the veteran players. The need to strive not for occasional greatness (2018’s rare 10-win season), but consistent success (annual bowl game appearances).

There also has to be balance on the depth-chart of underclassmen developing off a redshirt year, or not, with veteran players that now go back to Babers and his staff’s first class in the winter of 2016.

The ACC has been wacky all season, save for Clemson not losing yet, creating an interesting scenario to see how Babers adjusts with the injury cards he’s been dealt and the season on the line essentially every week. There’s a slim margin of only two losses to play with over the final five games to maintain postseason momentum for two consecutive seasons for the first time since 2012-13.

By contrast is the freshness of watching how Jim Boeheim uses his full scholarship roster both starters and off the bench, especially the five freshmen, in the two exhibition games against pesky foes to prepare for opening up with a conference game instead of a smaller Div. I opponent.

This Saturday, there will be plenty of folks in Orange Nation going from watching the football game to the basketball game, albeit being one of five hoop games only available on ACCNX, meaning digital streaming only.

Come Nov. 16 and Nov. 23, the next Orange doubleheader Saturdays, the interest levels will be dependent on a football bowl game still being in play, and how the basketball team responds from the result, win or lose, of the Virginia basketball opener.

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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.