Back on February 14th, which is a decade ago in terms of this Syracuse basketball season, Dan Quirk posted an article over at Searching For Billy Edelin called Syracuse Has Just Three Quality Wins.
I was a little peeved at the time, reading what was a complete hatchet job on our beloved Orange. At the same time, the Orange were in the midst of their Big East gauntlet run that saw them lose six of eight. It was open season on Syracuse and, like you I'm sure, I was getting tired of having to defend the program.
Well, after Saturday's win over Georgetown, SU's fourth in a row, I feel a new-found sense of determination to make sure that those who were just so pleased as punch to chart our demise take a moment to notice just how good this season, and this program, has turned out. And since this piece stuck in my craw so much, I decided to revisit it...
We start at the beginning:
Year in and year out, the Syracuse Orange are one of the most talked about teams in the nation. Whether it's a stud freshman, a trio of overhyped freshman, a delinquent shooting guard, a magnetic point guard, a mouthy, ornery coaching legend, an NCAA tournament snubbing, or a Final Four contender, the Orange are a trending topic at least three, but often times four times a season.
Well, at least we know you're going to be unbiased...
At the start of the college basketball season, we were treated to a whiny post-game diatribe courtesy of Coach Jim Boeheim talking about how "over-rated" his team was and how the players they were supposed to be leaning on couldn't make a shot. While all those things were true at the time in November, the Orange record remained unblemished, and stayed that way until January 15th.
It's physically impossible for any non-Syracuse fan (and many Syracuse fans) to describe all Jim Boeheim press conference as "whiny" so I don't know a problem there. Carry on...
What appeared at the time to be an impressive 18-0 start to the season and the rise of yet another Syracuse team to elite heights can now be accurately described as a facade, and it's not all their own fault.
A Thanksgiving weekend sweep of Michigan FROM THE MIGHTY BIG TEN, and Georgia Tech A HISTORICALLY SOLID PROGRAM was followed up by a shellacking of Cornell, last year's IVY LEAGUE CHAMPIONS, and NC State which BORDERS DUKE AND CAROLINA. The trickery came to a crescendo on December 7 in Madison Square Garden when the Orange toppled the EIGHTH RANKED TEAM IN THE NATION, Michigan State. What a great win, right? err...
These are fair points. Our non-conference schedule looked a lot better in October than it does now. Not quite sure how that's our fault. Boeheim's good but I'm pretty sure he couldn't have predicted Michigan State was going to implode.
Shockingly, the Orange managed to beat then #15 Notre Dame on New Year's Day, and followed it up with a win at St. John's. Two impressive wins, considering how well Notre Dame is playing now, and how tough it is to come by wins over the Johnnies at the Garden. It was not long after, though, that the true colors of the Orange began shining through,
much like the sun does on a warm winter day in Syracuse, NY.
I appreciate how hard it was for you to say those were "two impressive wins," Dan. I can see that it pained you to no end. As I'm sure it pains you to know both of those wins look even better now that Notre Dame is a top ten team and St. John's is arguably the hottest team in the Big East.
From January 17 to February 12, Syracuse lost six of eight games. They can thank an ice cold Kemba Walker for facilitating their third and final quality win to date as they upended Connecticut in Storrs on February 2.
Syracuse didn't beat UConn, Kemba Walker lost the game for them. Got it. We certainly don't deserve credit for our wins, I think you've made that clear. As for those six of eight games lost, don't bother to mention they include games against some of the nation's top teams like Pitt, Nova, Louisville and Georgetown. Weird cause you seemed to be full of details when describing everything else.
Syracuse showed us several things during that stretch of futility.
Here we go...
They can't defend a perimeter shooter.
Well...at the time...fair point, Dan. I'm sorry to inform you, however, that the Orange have started to figure that part out. Those Villanova and Georgetown shooters that shot the lights out the first time? Yeah, not so much on round II (in their own buildings, no less).
They don't play with pride at the Carrier Dome.
Really? Is that a Thing? Do teams lose games because they have no pride in front of their home crowd or do they lose games because of what happens on the court on a given night? So what does that mean that the Orange won games in the Dome? Did they find their missing pride hiding under some locker room towels?
I assume you were thinking of the Seton Hall game and you know what, that was one of the worst games I've ever seen from a Syracuse team. You know what else? That seem team picked themselves up off the floor, wiped the crust out of their eyes and started winning again. There's your pride for you.
Kris Joseph is still as inconsistent as ever.
I agree with the first part. Kris Joseph has been inconsistent. The second part is where I get hazy. "As ever?" What are our parameters? Are we counting last season? Cause he wasn't inconsistent at all last season.
The statement also implies that the Orange can't win with an inconsistent Kris Joseph. As the Orange's current 24-6 record dictates, that's simply not the case.
Get Rick Jackson in foul trouble, and they are crippled.
Yes and no, it seems. The Orange do find themselves in a bit of a depth crunch at the big man spot. And the two guys behind Rick in the pecking order, Fab and Baye, aren't exactly lighting the scoreboard on fire. But Boeheim's too smart not to have that figured out beforehand. When the situation calls for it, the Orange go small and speedy with C.J. Fair/James Southerland off the bench. Baye provides the blocks and rebounds, C.J. brings the energy and Triche/Scoop/Waiters make the offense happen. As long as Kris "Inconsistent As Ever" Joseph steps up, the Orange can keep pace.
At 20-6 and with a DePaul game left, Syracuse will almost certainly make the NCAA tournament field of 68.
Bit of an understatement, but go on...
That record may even resonate as being one of the best in the country, because it is.
That is factual. Go on...
But look closer and you'll see that really only 3 of those 20 wins are quality. Don't be fooled, this team is no better than the 9th place they hold in the Big East standings.
I really hate raining on parades, Dan, cause I love good parades, But I'm about to challenge that notion...
The Orange have a RPI ranking of 17 (in the nation, not the Big East) and a SOS of 22 (again, in the nation and not Big East). That includes wins over five teams in the RPI Top 20 (Georgetown, UConn, St. John's, Notre Dame and West Virginia). Feel free to tack on Villanova (29), Cincy (35) and Michigan State (37) as well.
Four of their six losses came to teams in the the RPI Top 30 and none came against teams outside the Top 100.
Oh and Syracuse has defeated six ranked opponent this season, tying them with Texas for the most in the nation. Pretty hard to do that when you're "no better than...9th place...in the Big East standings."
Glaring weaknesses abound, and unless they have a Georgetown-like turn around to their season, they'll be a one-and-done come March. And that scenario may not be so bad, if it looks anything like this did.
Sorry to break it to you, chief, but that Georgetown-like turn around happened. All of a sudden Syracuse is one of the hottest teams in the nation and is seriously looking for a No. 3/4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, that's just about where we were when that Vermont loss you nicely closed out your "article" with happened. I'm sure you'll be hoping for much of the same. I just feel bad we're going to have to disappoint you.