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Syracuse Basketball Roundtable: Can Cal Get Right Back In This (in Maui)?

TNIAAM's esteemed basketball panel looks back at the first four games, while looking ahead to Maui.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Syracuse basketball roundtable! After four games, the Orange are still undefeated, though everyone appears a bit rattled about this team's prospects. If they want to change that narrative, however, there's an easy solution: win the Maui Invitational.

As is and will be the norm all season, we're chatting about Syracuse basketball, the ACC and anything else that might come up in the never-ending soap opera that is Jim Boeheim's Orange team. Join us below...

Was St. Francis "that game" this year -- the one where we just don't show up vs. an inferior opponent?

Chris Daughtrey: I really don't think so. I mean, I hope it was, so that it's done and out of the way. But, really, the Orange won every aspect of the game except shooting. They just had a really off night and, honestly, I find the result kind of encouraging. Winning with defense when can't buy a bucket is a good thing. We know this from last season.

Lisa Nelson: Nope. This was the early-non-con-wake-up-call game. Besides, I'm including inferior conference opponents in this, and from the way the rest of the ACC is playing right now, there appear to be quite a few "inferior opponents" left on the schedule.

Matt McClusky: In a word: no. In more words: I think Syracuse is going to have several games where a figurative punch to the gut will be the only thing to wake everyone up. It's a combination of inexperienced players in key roles and key players in new roles. Everything should smooth over, but expect more growing pains.

Jeremy Ryan: Probably not. St. Francis is a good team, especially for a mid-major. I think they'll do some damage in the Northeast Conference, and would be a terror if they got into the NCAA Tournament as a dreaded 12 or 13 seed in the round of 64. Jalen Cannon is the real deal, and he and Wayne Martin ate up SU on the interior. This young SU team will probably drop a road conference game to a team they should beat. I could see them going down at Maryland or Pitt or a couple of other locations. ACC road games in true on-campus gyms will be tougher atmospheres than the antiseptic NBA arenas we're used to seeing, and I think these young players are in for a jolt in front of some hostile crowd.

Dan Lyons:I hope so. They seemed to present some match-up issues, especially with the Cannon kid who we knew was their key guy going in. He was really great at getting underneath our bigs, and their guards did really well getting him the ball in advantageous positions. Our bigs and guards both need to work on positioning to prevent the entry passes that St. Francis was getting. We're only a few games into the season so it's incredibly hard for me to get worked up about these games, near losses or mediocre performances, or whatever happens.

Sean Keeley: Well, some seasons have multiple versions of that game and that might be what's going on this year. This team is probably going to need a while yet to sort out its offensive identity. And while that's happening, underdogs with itchy three-point shooting lurk.

John Cassillo: I sure hope so, or else this is going to be a difficult few months. St. Francis is actually a better team than given credit during our brief foray into "UPSET ALERT" territory this week. But it fits a narrative, so that'll due for most. The Terriers may not be "that team" and it may not have been "that game" because they're not that mediocre. We'll see...

Who's been the biggest disappointment for this Syracuse team so far?

CD: I think it's too early to really tell. CJ, aside from TOs, has been as good as expected. Ennis has been very good, even with the expected freshman ups and downs. Cooney has played well, as has Gbinije. If I had to pick, I'd have to go with DaJuan Coleman. There was a lot of hype about him being fully recovered from his knee issues and being slimmed down, but he's still showing the same problems as last year. Primarily trying to do too much instead of catch, dunk, repeat.

LN: This question makes me sad. I don't like it. You're getting a cop-out response: the biggest disappointment has been Maryland. They just couldn't get it done against UConn. It was only a one-point loss, but it fuels the AAC/ACC fire. And it's UConn. Come on, Terps, do it for us.

MM: I hate to say disappointment just a few games into the season. So, instead I'll say I'm disappointed by the fact Christmas and Coleman aren't exerting themselves more. That's not to say both haven't shown improvement at times, but clearly if SU is going to go far, those anchors in the lane will have to be more consistently "there" on both ends of the court.

JR: I suppose you could say Tyler Ennis, simply because of the amount of praise laid at his feet after the Canada trip. He's averaging a shade under 8 points and 4 assists in 28 minutes a game, which isn't bad when you consider that he's played all of four official games. But he's shooting a woeful 29% from the field, and has seen more bench time than expected in favor of a Cooney-Gbinije backcourt. I think he'll be fine, eventually, but at the moment he's probably the player who hasn't quite yet lived up to expectations.

DL: We've seen some flashes from our centers, especially with DaJuan's offensive game against St. Francis, but it's still a bit disconcerting that we don't get nearly as much out of them as you would hope. Baye is what he is, I think any reasonable Syracuse fan is very happy with what he gives us, but it doesn't seem like Rak has developed considerably, and DaJuan is just learning how to keep the ball high, but his defense is still a mess. Hopefully one of these guys can break out during the year.

SK: Can I say C.J. Fair? Not that C.J. isn't great and I'm sure he's going to sort himself out but I was kinda hoping he'd be a dominant, undeniable force that no one could deny. I want him to be name checked in POY conversations. I want him to play so well he's a lock to be drafted in the first round. And yet…so far he's been the typical Best Guy On SU Who Comes & Goes Game By Game.

JC: The Christmas/Coleman combo, who have yet to take the legendary "leap" we seem to talk about each year. Christmas is a ghost on the floor more often than not, while Coleman's still getting his sea legs in many cases. Keita plays well from the five, but we'll need more on both ends from Coleman and Christmas

Syracuse isn't the center of attention in the ACC -- this is a good thing, right?

CD: Syracuse might not be the center of attention, but that doesn't mean they're flying under the radar either. The Orange aren't sneaking up on anybody, so the fact that the media is enamored with Duke and Jabari Parker doesn't really mean much.

LN: Yes. I doubt we're out of the spotlight completely, but at least we're sharing our place under the microscope now.

MM: I'm not a big believer in "hype" really having an impact on a team. I know a lot of fans point out '03 and the run from unranked to championship. But really, as long as there is nothing scandalous, I like to see more Orange coverage.

JR: Get used to it. SU used to be a big fish in the Big East pond. Now they're at best the third banana behind Duke and UNC for traditional ACC supremacy. It's going to take a while for the old guard to fully accept 'outsider' schools like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, or Louisville. Ask Boston College fans how well they've been accepted. But C.J. Fair's selection as preseason player of the year does signify that the ACC media at least somewhat recognize SU's relevance, when they could have just voted for Joe Harris or Rodney Hood and then gone about their business.

DL: It's fine with me. Even in the Big East during the years where we hit #1, I feel like there was always a Kentucky or Kansas team that people hyped way more nationally, despite our being a top two or three team in the nation. That's fine though, I'm all for surprising people come March. We're never going to get more attention than Duke or good UNC teams, and that's okay.

SK: It's always better to be underestimated than overestimated. Jim Boeheim knows that well. So let everyone focus on Duke as the best team. Let people worry about what's wrong with North Carolina and Notre Dame. It all just helps us lurk in the shadows, inasmuch as a top ten team can do so.

JC: It's fantastic, actually. In the Big East, all the heat was on Syracuse -- win or lose, things seemed to rest on our every move. Now? UNC loses a game and all hell breaks lose. Duke's got to be a favorite for the Final Four, and everyone's fixed on them. Operating undercover is great, and I think the Orange could really thrive in this environment.

How do you like the Orange's chances in Maui?

CD: In the aftermath of the St. Francis game, I saw some ridiculousness to the effect that Minnesota should be a slight favorite over the Orange. Are you kidding? Look, I respect just about any D1 team that's not named DePaul. But, no. The Golden Gophers, or any other team in Maui, are not all of a sudden a team that Syracuse should tremble in fear of. I think Syracuse was the favorite going in and one tough win (still a W, by the way) doesn't change that.

LN: I'm a tad worried about the Minnesota game, not gonna lie. Andre Hollins is playing pretty well. He's also 96% on free throws, so there's that. If Syracuse gets their...stuff...together and wins that game, I think they'll be playing for the Championship.

MM: Suddenly Minnesota isn't looking so easy, right? Then there are teams like Baylor and Gonzaga out there. <insert Cal still being this joke here> This trip to Maui went from, "Meh, this field isn't exactly must-see T.V." to, "maybe a loss or two will help fortify the team." And really, the fact that the Gophers are undefeated (only quality win being at Richmond) and the Bears and Zags are out there is a good thing. Trial by fire before the trial-by-fire rest of season really gets going.

JR: I think they're in good shape. Minnesota is a decent 'name brand' school with a Big Ten pedigree, but they aren't as good as they were last year. The same goes for California or Arkansas. Gonzaga or Baylor would be a great test, but if they play well I think SU can beat either of those teams.

DL: I think that Syracuse should be the favorite. Baylor is talented and Gonzaga is always good, but SU has done incredibly well in these early season tournaments as of late, and none of the teams really scare me, though there is solid competition. I think we'll see some good, fun basketball next week.

SK: I'm a bit nervous about it. I know both previous SU squads have come away from Maui with tournament crowns but I can't help but feel like this is a team that needs to get beat a couple times before it really knows who it is. And this tournament is as good a chance as any for a decent team to beat us.

JC: They don't just invite a bunch of scrubs to Maui, so it's not as if this was ever a cakewalk. But this is the sort of environment where we could very well take an "unexpected" loss because this team is still very much a work in progress. And that's not to say anything about Syracuse's long-term prospects. Just right now, there's still things to figure out.

Can Cal get right back in this?

CD: I dunno. If Crabbe heats up, anything can happen.

LN: They'd better not. We'd have to lose the meme. For the record, though, it's not entirely out of the question, and that kind of scares the bejesus out of me.

MM: Hey, there's that Cal thing! I know he played in 2,632 straight games, but I really don't think Cal Ripkin Jr. is giong to get back into baseball. No matter how many times Dan Bonner talks about it.

JR: Absolutely. I read that if SU beats Minnesota and faces Cal on Tuesday, the winner retroactively will go on to play Indiana last year.

DL: If Crabbe gets hot...

SK: According to my Twitter feed during every SU game, yes.

JC: That depends. Are Crabbe and Cobb getting hot? (and are we facing them in round two?)

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