For many Syracuse students, the Syracuse men’s basketball season is a time of excitement. Undoubtedly it is one of college basketball’s premier programs. However, if you claim to be a Syracuse basketball fan, you are probably some combination of frustrated, hopeful, and disappointed with the way the season has gone so far.
Flashback to late October 2016. Syracuse was fresh off one of the least expected final four appearances of all-time and was about to begin a new season. How could a program like this have an unexpected trip to the postseason and not be expected to replicate success when so much of their core was returning? At the preseason tip-off, the outlook was incredibly positive. Lydon, Roberson, Howard, and Coleman were the important veterans. Battle, Thompson, and Moyer were the new guys. White, Chukwu, and Gillon brought in new experience. This was a roster that was thought to be a lock for the big dance in March.
However, much has happened between then and now. Cross out Coleman, Moyer, Chukwu from the list above. Ineffectiveness, redshirting, and injury have taken them out of the lineup, respectively. A case could even be made for Roberson and Howard, who were largely ineffective during non-conference play and received the bench treatment from Jim Boeheim. Boeheim quickly realized that he could not win with a central 5 man “rotation,” so he put Roberson and Howard back in the lineup.
Let’s sum up the season for these seven players in 3 words. It will help illustrate how the season has been.
Andrew White: One man offense
John Gillon: Scores points sometimes
Tyus Battle: Freshman basketball savior
Taurean Thompson: Most improved player
Tyler Lydon: Going to NBA
Frank Howard: 2 more years
Tyler Roberson: Useless on offense
These players have combined to lose to UConn (11-12; lost to Wagner and Northeastern), Georgetown (13-12; lost to Arkansas State), St. John’s (11-14; lost to LIU Brooklyn and Delaware State. Still beat Syracuse by 33), Pitt (14-11; lost to Duquesne and Marshall), and of course, the loss to lowly Boston College (9-16; they have lost to so many bad teams that they will not be listed. Beat Syracuse by 15). Good to note that BC had lost 18 straight to ACC opponents before they beat Syracuse.
While this article has been overwhelming negative, Syracuse has found some magic recently in the midst of a 5 game win streak. They have taken down Florida State and Virginia, muscled out last minute wins against NC State and Clemson, and squeaked by Wake Forest. Sitting at 7th in the ACC standings and a date with Lousiville Monday night, a win is realistic but let us weigh the possibilities.
A win against Louisville keeps postseason hopes alive. It would be major momentum boost going into a crucial two week stretch that includes Louisville again and Duke. Syracuse is a streaky team, and a momentum swinger could get them back on the right track.
A loss against Lousiville could be lethal for the Orange. Yes, they could beat Louisville the second time and beat Duke, but there comes a point where a team can only lose to so many bad teams. Crazy that a game could have such extreme implications, but Syracuse is a bubble team.
Major sports publications put Syracuse in their brackets as of recently in what seems to be typos. Is everyone so quick to overlook those putrid losses in favor of recent success? Losing to ranked teams like Wisconsin, South Carolina and North Carolina are not bad losses. All are perfectly excusable this year. The losses mentioned earlier in this article should be a sign of a team that does not belong.
But for now, fans must wait one game at a time. One slip up may be the death of a team that appeared to have its season over in early January.
By Charles Goldberg Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports