Orange Watch: After COVID pause, Syracuse basketball returns

Dec 16, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim (35) drives to the basket between Northeastern Huskies guard Tyson Walker (left) and guard Jahmyl Telfort (right) during the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Item: When Syracuse and Pittsburgh face off in another unusual weekday matinee Wednesday in the Dome (4:30 p.m. ET / ACC Network), due to pandemic-related issues it will have been 18 days since we last saw the basketball Orangemen in action.

Doesn’t it seem like the Dec. 19 Syracuse come-from-behind win against Buffalo was played in a previous season?

After individuals with the Buffalo program tested positive for COVID-19 following the game and forced the Orange to pause full basketball operations due to state-mandated contact tracing guidelines, there’s only been a defined number of individual activities available to the SU players and coaching staff.

The ACC Monday held its first in-season coaches video conference call, in which there was one obvious theme for Jim Boeheim and all 14 of his colleagues; how a particular program was getting through its season of interruptions during the midst of an onslaught of positive COVID-19 cases around the country.

“Based on contact tracing you can work out individually only on the court, for whatever length of time you want to, and in the weight room,” Boeheim clarified during the call. “All of our guys who were negative but in tracing were able to work out individually with a coach. And that’s helpful.”

One could easily hear the natural frustration of the head coaches, usually traversing in a world where they set the rules and expect them to be explicitly followed. Everyone has had to make huge adjustments based on state and local disease guidelines that differ by location, and it’s no different for Boeheim who’s been around longer than anyone.

“We’ve missed 25 to 30 practices, which is an incredible number, Boeheim lamented Monday. “I’m sure it’s right up there probably with the most missed practices in the country. It’s just what it is, you have to do the best that you can.”

As 2021 unfolds, the news is certainly looking up for the Orange personal-wise with the expected return of big man Bourama Sidibe for the Pitt game, and Boeheim confirming the team will be back at full roster strength for Wednesday’s game.

After hurting his right knee early in the Nov. 27 Bryant opener and undergoing surgery, Sidibe joined his teammates for practice Sunday.

» Related: Where does Syracuse sit in the first ACC power rankings of 2021?

“(Bourama’s) worked hard individually, Boeheim said. “Obviously, his conditioning is a long way away, but he has participated in full practices.”

On the same day the NCAA announced that the NCAA Tournament will be played in its entirety in the state of Indiana from March 16-April 5, the thought of the postseason seems as far away as the last game SU played.

“My hope is we get in as many games as we possibly can. Get to the end of the year and have played enough games that everybody’s showing what they can do,” Boeheim said. “That’s the hope.”

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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.