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TNIAAM Syracuse Basketball Roundtable: Previewing Villanova/Reviewing Louisiana Tech

/Glances awkwardly at the schedule and hopes it doesn't jump up and bite us

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Syracuse basketball roundtable! I... I don't know what to think anymore. And there's a shot you don't either. While we may have been concerned going into the Orange's game against Louisiana Tech, we're in full-blown disaster mode after. Or at least we, as a fan base, are (and can you blame us anymore?).

As is and will be the norm all season, we've opened the floor to the basketball TNIAAM  wing to discuss this week's burning questions about Syracuse on- and off-the-court, the ACC and more. Join us below:

Okay, NOW can we panic?

Lisa Nelson: Nah. It's barely a month into the season. But can we be annoyed? Yea, be annoyed. I am. Again, it's a month into the season, and I'm already hearing, "Wow, so when was the last time your football *and* basketball teams were both this bad?" That's annoying.

Brian Tahmosh: This game didn't change anything for me - remember I picked SU to lose. The panic is just starting to turn into resignation and nothing will flip that until they show they can play with a top team. So the Villanova game could be a start.

Michael Burke: I think so. Louisiana Tech’s 7-2 record was a misleading one, and it’s concerning that Syracuse needed a basket on its final possession to win. There were positives to take away, including the play of both Trevor Cooney and Tyler Robertson, but, with all things considered, Sunday left me feeling worse than any of the three losses did.

Matt McClusky: Well, I don't think the Panic Button should be smashed any harder than it was in the loss to St. John's. Sure, Syracuse struggled to close out Louisiana Tech, but close wins are still wins. And, actually, I'll argue Sunday's win provided some important moments. Such as Trevor Cooney's "taking over" and eschewing the deep shots, and how about Rakeem Christmas being the focal point of a final possession? And executing the play perfectly?!

Dan Lyons: I don't really see why people who weren't already panicking would be now. Obviously the Louisiana Tech game was ugly, but that's a solid team, and at this point I'm happy to get every win that we can. The continued inability of the team to put opponents away is disconcerting, but not any more so than it was after St. John's.

Jared Smith: Well, if you weren't panicking before there's no need to panic now because I assume you knew La Tech was going to be a tough out and the Orange did just enough to earn a victory at home. I am not going to panic until we get until conference play and it looks like we have no chance of earning a NCAA berth. I'll panic then.

John Cassillo: I was thinking of channeling this, but that's FAR too positive (especially for me). We've seen what happens when two players have good games for Syracuse. So it's confirmed that unless there are THREE players putting in considerable work for the Orange, we're going to struggle against major opponents. And that is frightening based on what we've seen thus far.

This (driving the lane, getting to the line) is the new Trevor Cooney, right?

LN: I think it's his new identity, at least. He had it in him all along, but he was so focused on being a three-point shooter that he put aside this other aspect of his game. Now that it's clear SU needs him to do more than spot up and miss shots, he's just executing elsewhere within his skill set. We should embrace it just like he seems to.

BT: Hey I'm all for that. Cooney could end up being the best scorer on the team even without the threes. He can drive, he can finish, he can pull up in the mid range. He should do a lot more of this.

MB: I sure hope so. Cooney has proven he can score in a number of ways, so, moving forward, it’d be silly for him to be overly reliant on the three. I’d love to see him continue to attack the basket as much as possible.

MM: It simply has to be Cooney's "thing." Cooney actually took over point in the second half in part because Kaleb Joseph played so poorly and in part because Cooney was having success making plays happen. If Cooney can provide 15 to 20 points regularly, the three ball should fade in his arsenal

DL: I think he's always had the ability, but it is nice to see him diversifying things a bit. We know who he is as a shooter—he is streaky—but he still brings a lot to the table if he's getting to the line and scoring around the rim, even if he's not hitting six threes in a given game.

JS: Sure is and I hope it continues. Though La. Tech isn't a great defensive team, Cooney was able to do what Boeheim has wanted him to do for awhile–use the dribble to get the rim which should help get himself in a good offensive flow and give him confidence to make some 3s. Keep trending upward Mr. Cooney.

JC: A lot of us have been calling for this for weeks, so to see it in action was a sight to see for sure. However, it was also combined with a solid three-point stroke, which allowed him to find the lane too. Chances are -- I'd bet -- if he keeps driving the lane and hitting shots, that confidence from the arc "could" come back for good. Just keep driving, Trevor!

Agree or disagree with Jim Boeheim taking the team to task on Sunday?

LN: Agree. We'd say he's in denial, if he didn't. The kids aren't playing well -- they're not even practicing well, apparently, and that's kind of shocking. To my knowledge, he's never said that before, so his verbal kick-in-the-butt was understandable

BT: All for it. If Boeheim weren't pissed at this team it would mean he doesn't think they can develop into anything. If he cares this much it's because he thinks there's still potential.

MB: I agreed with almost everything he said. This team that we’ve been watching isn’t a good team, and that was basically the gist of his comments. And it was almost nice to see him get so angry, even after a win. Hopefully it can provide a spark.

DL: I rarely question Boeheim, and I'm not going to start now. I think some of this is motivational, and a lot of it is Jim not giving a damn about offending people. We know who he is, his players know who he is, I'm sure people understand the deal.

JS: I do think its concerning that SU had a whole week of practice to prepare for a team and they failed to execute. I think that's what Boeheim is most worried about is this team just not being able to learn. He doesn't want to coach catching the ball, or executing a good game plan, so its up to the player to step up.

JC: I'm not questioning Boeheim at all. I laughed through the press conference because it's Boeheim, and what makes him so enjoyable is that through the tirades and anger, he's always right. This question was troll bait. Let's see who the bravest, most #disloyalidiot is in the comments...

Where would you gauge Syracuse basketball compared to the rest of the ACC right now?

LN: Syracuse is in the painfully irrelevant range of 4th to 8th. There are a lot of games left to play, which makes me hopeful for the season as a whole. However, you're asking about right now. And, right now, Duke, Louisville, Virginia, and maybe even UNC are making us look bad.

BT: You know probably right where we thought they'd be just with a bigger gap between them and the top 4. With the exception of maybe Miami, no one else has really impressed me from the middle of the pack. This is a 5 or 6 seed in the ACC tourney.

MB: Considering that the ACC is as top-heavy as it is, I’d put Syracuse somewhere in the middle. The Orange, at least right now, clearly aren’t in the same class as a handful of the teams (Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Miami, Notre Dame, etc.), but they’re still a tier above a number of other teams -- the N.C. States, Florida States, and Wake Forests of the league.

MM: Having watched teams like Miami and Notre Dame surprise and in knowing how good Duke and Louisville are? I'll put Syracuse in the middle of the pack. I mean, N.C. State just at home to Wofford! Things aren't that bad around here.

DL: Overall, we're not Duke or UNC historically, but we're definitely in the upper crust of teams in the conference along with Louisville, and more recently, Virginia. I give the ACC credit in that they seem to respect SU's program probably more than I thought they would, and I don't think one disappointing season will sully that much.

JS: In the middle of the pack, but no where near the top of it. There's some really good team a top of the conference and Syracuse has a long way to go if it wants to compete with them. Let's not act like Syracuse won't be in most ACC games not including Duke and Louisville.

JC: We're middle of the pack, and that should be concerning. Last year's team was one of the conference's best, and they flamed out in the ACC quarterfinals. This one could be playing a tough second-round matchup as a no. 7- or 8-seed against a team like NC State or Pitt. That's not a great place to be in a league this deep (though admittedly, we're not that far removed from being in this exact spot in the 16-team Big East).

Any hope at all against Villanova on Saturday?

LN: If you're looking for a prediction, I'm sadly predicting a loss. However, when you ask if there's hope, I can only say this: there's always hope. A wise man once said, "Hope is a good thing; maybe even the bet of things. And no good thing ever dies." #CuseMode

BT: Not feeling like it right now. If these teams played in two months, maybe. But I just can't shake this feeling that we haven't seen the bottom yet.

MB: Any hope? Yeah, I guess. The only case I can really make is that it won’t be a real road environment. Villanova’s students are on their winter break and the game is at Wells Fargo Center, so Syracuse shouldn't have much of a crowd to battle. Still, chances are the Wildcats run away with this one.

MM: Nova is a very good team that has had Syracuse's number for decades it seems. But I'll never count out Syracuse for as long as Jim Boeheim is coaching. I don't anticipate the Orange winning this game on Saturday, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is a one or two possession game late. That's entirely contingent upon the zone playing the way Syracuse zones can play.

DL: Eh, not too much. Nova's guards are fantastic, and somehow they still have JayVaughn Pinkston, who is on the Pitt point guard plan, as well Daniel Ochefu who is a solid player. Nova's a legit top ten team with as well rounded a starting five as we'll see, and aside from maybe Duke, it may be the best team SU faces this year.

JS: Oh yeah. This is college basketball anything can happen, especially on your home court with 30,000 fans trying to spur you on. I give the Orange a 40% of pulling off the upset. I am sure that's better than most are giving at this point.

JC: Nooope. Villanova has looked pretty solid on both ends, with an ability to shoot the basketball from various spots on the floor. The Wildcats are the most talented group Syracuse has faced thus far, and considering we've already lost three times to other teams... that's not a great sign of things to come.