I don't think that Syracuse Orange basketball players thrive under the threat of negativity. I'm not ready to assign some kind of Skip Bayless-like connection between the overwhelmingly negative things going on off the court and the overwhelmingly good things going on on the court during the past two seasons.
And yet, in 1.5 seasons, Syracuse basketball has seen multiple sex-related investigations, multiple academic suspensions, an NCAA investigation, shoplifting charges, drug policy reports and everything else in what has to be the most intense off-court timeline in the history of the program.
And in that same 1.5 seasons, Syracuse is 51-4.
Last season, we knew that was a special team. We knew early on that Scoop, Kris, Fab, Dion, C.J., James, Rak and the rest were destined for great things and they achieved them with a No. 1 ranking, a Big East regular-season title, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and an Elite 8 appearance.
This season, I think I speak for most of us in saying we were much more dubious. Yes, we knew this was a talented team but the chance for a drop-off was likely. The Temple loss confirmed some growing fears that seeped into the early season. And even as the wins piled up, many Orange fans looked at a game in the YUM! against the No. 1 team in the land as a loss.
And that was before James Southerland was suspended indefinitely, rumors that other players were headed down the same road and Michael Carter-Williams seemed to be going in the wrong direction.
And then Syracuse beat the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals 70-68 on the road in an instant classic. And it makes you rethink everything.
Think back to, say, 2005 - 2010. Relatively-speaking, things were golden off the court. There were your usual antics and issues, but very few things worthy of a spot on the front page of ESPN.com. And in every one of those years, we would have fully expected Syracuse to lose that Louisville game (and they basically did).
In the last two seasons, these players have had to represent their school in the midst of some of the most soul-crushing and pressure-packing rumors, insinuations and allegations. These players are also 3-0 against Louisville, including two wins in Kentucky.
Like I said, I'm not going to say that because of what's happening off the court, these guys are playing harder or better. And there are plenty of legitimate reasons why Syracuse wins these games now when they used to lose them. But it's getting to the point where you can't separate the two.
Syracuse Basketball is in perpetual turmoil. Syracuse Basketball Players are just perpetually winning basketball games.
Sometimes it feels like we have accept the first part. It's nice to know that we can start to accept the second part, too.