Orange Watch: Time slipping for Syracuse to avoid a historically losing season

Dec 7, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Jimmy Boeheim (0) holds the ball as Villanova Wildcats forward Jermaine Samuels (23) defends during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Item: At a minimum there are 16 games left on the Syracuse basketball schedule this year, for an Orange team sporting a current unfathomable 7-8 record heading into Tuesday night’s game against Pittsburgh in the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU). Depending if the Georgia Tech game postponed on December 29 is made up, and if SU can win more than one game in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, there’s little room for error (a 9-7 record at a minimum) to keep a half century winning streak intact.

One of the most impressive achievements for the Syracuse basketball program is not just that it’s the fifth all-time winningest program behind Blue Bloods Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, and Duke, but as it evolved from being known simply as a regional program in New York State, to taking the national stage with six Final Four appearances between 1975 and 2016.

It’s all part of an even larger significant wining culture with the program’s current active NCAA leading streak of non-losing seasons that dates back to 1970-71, or 51 consecutive seasons (the mark is not an official NCAA statistic).

The all-time record holder is UCLA with 54 consecutive winning seasons between 1949-2002, but of course always separating the Bruins into a class of their own, is the school also won 10 championships during that streak between 1964-1975, and another in 1995.

While winning seasons are contagious with Syracuse basketball, there are hurdles blocking the path in 2022 to make it 52 straight seasons. The roster’s eight-man rotation has not been able to stop opponents from scoring (319th of 350 schools in scoring defense giving up 76.5 ppg), it has been hot and cold offensively shooting treys and foul shots, and is committing too many turnovers (12.1 per game) to put themselves in the best position to win more games than not against mostly good competition (three opponents in this week’s Top 25 poll).

When the Orangemen finished 19-7 in 1970-71, Roy Danforth’s third season, and made a one and done appearance in the NIT, it set off the dramatic rise of the program that morphed into the Jim Boeheim program-building era that began in the 1976-77 season.

» Related: Syracuse loses in overtime to Wake Forest

The 1971-72 team went one game farther in the NIT, then in 1972-73 the ‘Cuse made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the great 1965-66 team with Dave Bing and Boeheim, among others, that finished one win short of making the Final Four.

From the 1972-73 season to present, a total of 49 seasons, Syracuse has missed playing in the NCAA Tournament only ten times. Just ten times in 49 seasons either due to twice being banned from postseason play (1993 and 2015), or not having a strong enough record for the NCAA Tournament (the 2020 event was postponed), playing in seven NIT tourneys instead.

It’s not March in central New York without some “Madness,” and anything less than the Syracuse school name being on the NCAA Tournament bracket is a disappointing result to the end of any given season.

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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.