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SU Basketball: An Inevitable Low In Between All The Usual Highs

The numbers on how bad it is right now are magnified by all those good numbers from just about every other season.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Remember all those wins in a row for Syracuse last season? Twenty-five victories to start the freakin' year. So many gaudy numbers and statistics, even records broken.

It ended poorly, but that run. Wow. Seems like a lifetime ago, doesn't it?

A season later, and the Orange is still breaking records. Kind of. Either way, some stats and numbers probably not worth remembering now.

  • Out of the AP Top-25 for the first time since 2009
  • Didn't even receive a vote in the latest poll -- first time in seven years
  • 55 wins in a row at the Dome against nonconference opponents comes to an end
  • A run dating back to 2008 -- when Kaleb Joseph was 12-years-old.
  • It was the second-longest streak in the country, behind Duke's 110 in a row.
  • The stoppers of the streak, St. John's, wins at the Dome for the first time since 1999.
  • Syracuse now with three losses before January for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
That last bullet point, though! I can't get past it. The last time a Jim Boeheim coached team had three or more losses before the turn of the calendar year in a season was 2007-08 (Brian's comparison of that team to this season's Syracuse squad is an interesting read). That's pretty damn incredible to me. And if you want to broaden the case study a little, the last time the Orange suffered more than three defeats before January 1 of a season was 1996-97 -- a team starting a frosh point guard and replacing major components, including star John Wallace.

Sure, I hear you, Doug Gottlieb, Syracuse typically does its non-conference schedule shopping at Little Debbie. But every season brings at least one or two, or more, interesting December games. Plus, it's rare when the Orange isn't in some pre-conference tournament, and those draws typically include one or two other fairly big-time opponents. The fact that SU seems to reload or rebuild quickly just about every season and never really falls too far off is mind blowing.

Just a few seasons ago, Kentucky, for example, had its season come to an end in the first round of the NIT! BOBBY. MORRIS. And while Duke has somehow avoided a major pratfall, there is a reason the Blue Devils have had several early exits in March over the years: programs, even top-tier ones, eventually have to take something of a dip. They just do.

And, through eight games this season, it's looking as though this is Syracuse's turn to do Da Dip, again.

We can see what we're watching: Syracuse is a splash of talented but very raw players mixed with a pinch of some players who typically wouldn't play a lot, if ever -- a usual NIT recipe. We all saw the way the Orange handled the pressure of the Michigan game. And last weekend, against those Johnnies, was about as bad an ending to a game for Syracuse as its had in a long time. Really, things have been fairly ugly this season.

So, even though it's eventually expected, how did we get HERE for Syracuse?

Well, the obvious answer is attrition always takes its toll. Like the Wildcats or the Blue Devils or previous Orange teams, losing players to graduation or the NBA certainly changes the development of programs. And unlike UK or Duke, Syracuse has lost some players it just simply didn't expect to see go. Michael Carter-Williams was probably viewed as a future mentor to Tyler Ennis. Tyler Ennis was supposed to stick around and show Kaleb Joseph the ropes. Dion Waiters or Fab Melo weren't going to be four-year players, but gone after two, both of them?

Recruiting is such as a gamble as it is, but to try and recruit for what you will need, what you may need and what you don't think you'll need? That's a tall task for anyone, even for John Calipari. Basically, no matter how obvious an answer is, it doesn't make it any less true. Syracuse's losing so many first and second year players was bound to stunt the on-court product eventually.

The other, maybe even more interesting, aspect to the Orange's struggles this early season has to do with Trevor Cooney. Well, not just Cooney, who is shooting a tick better than twenty-eight percent from three, but with the lack of "other shooters" on the roster. I'm not so sure the fourth-year junior was recruited as a dead-eye from distance, but he was supposed to at least provide relief, and instead he's clearly struggled, while garnering some strong opinions from fans. As a whole, SU is hitting about twenty percent of its threes. Yikes.

(However, things actually could be worse when it comes to the shooting percentage --- and they very well may.)

So the question becomes: even if Cooney was money from start from three, why hasn't the coaching staff recruited other obvious shooters?

The answer there is probably because there were other needs, or Boeheim is focusing more on lengthy and athletic wings, or maybe because recruiting just isn't easy and you can't always get what you want. I don't know. I do know a reliable shooter(s) would have done wonders for SU against Michigan and St. John's. Oh, God, that St. John's game!

So many ugly and startling numbers made especially so when compared to previous seasons.

You know this; you're watching.

And history, of course, tells us it'll get better. And you know this, too.

Maybe the shooting won't improve too much this season, but the team itself will get better -- Boeheim's teams always improve. And next year's recruiting class is loaded -- which will likely change things quickly, all for the better. For now, though, the Orange may end up in that three-letter tourney in March instead of the four-letter one. I'm leaning more probably than possibly for that to happen right now. Which, by the way, would be just the seventh NCAA snub in Boeheim's tenure. Only twice...wait a second....this one probably deserves another bullet point.

  • Only twice since that 1976-77 season, in which Boeheim took the program over, has SU finished with less than twenty victories. Amazing.

Yup, totally deserved a bullet point.

Anyway, this year's club, though, will likely struggle to get to that typical win total for Syracuse.

Yet, instead of dwelling on the negatives or pining for the future, I would think fans should use this time, these games, as an opportunity to reflect on how good they really have it. Seriously. From 2008 through 2013, Syracuse suffered exactly two non-conference regular season defeats. Last season was crazy for how long the winning streak sustained, but it wasn't really that much of an anomaly. 2013-14 really was about par for the course, give or take a few strokes. 2014-15 seems like the exact opposite of last season, of just about every season around here really.

This one may end up being somewhat forgettable, yes, but it should make those other seasons all the more memorable.