Thing's aren't exactly bright orange in Syracuse right now. The team is 0-3 in conference play for the first time since the mid-nineties, some are calling Coach Hopkins' run a failure, and the Orange's next game only shows why the ACC is so damn respected: #6 North Carolina Tar Heels are coming to the Dome for an ESPN prime time game.
So with the team staring 0-4 in the eye, we decided to ask our TNIAAM panel a question some think is a foregone conclusion: Will the Syracuse Orange make the 2016 NCAA Tournament?
Yes or No gut feeling: Syracuse Basketball makes the 2016 NCAA Tournament?
Andrew Pregler: No
Kevin Wall: Yes
Andrew Carey: No
Sean Keeley: No
Matt Constas: No
Michael Burke: No
Ok, so why are they in/out?
Andrew Pregler: There's no real "strength" of this team right now. We say that if they make the three, they'll win games. It's starting to look like Atlantis was a mirage and not something the team can do all of the time. We know that the team's offensive ability is... limited... at best. The 2-3 zone hasn't looked anything like it has in years past when it's covered poor offenses. Oh, and they run 1, maybe 2 deep off the bench.
Kevin Wall: While we are rightfully focusing on the final 5 minutes of the last two games, it is also encouraging that Syracuse played very well against two good teams on the road. There are plenty of opportunities for good wins in the ACC, and the UConn/Texas A&M wins are both looking pretty good right now, which will be a big help in March when resume are compared. I also think the return of Boeheim will give this group a spark and help them fix some of the issues they have had finishing games.
Andrew Carey: The reliance on the 3-point shot is what really can make all the difference in the world. Right now theyre not making enough 3's, but if they start to fall like they did in Atlantis than maybe they can pick up a few nice wins and make the tournament. The lack of inside presence is really going to hurt this team's chances of making the tournament too. The 2-3 zone has looked better recently, but up until now it had not looked as good as in years past. Lastly, I still think that rebounding is a major issue with this team, it will likely get exposed against UNC.
Sean Keeley: Remember last year? That team wouldn't have gotten in if they had been eligible and this year's team isn't much better. If it's better at all. While there is room for improvement, the window for this team to get better is ultra-small and before they know it they're going to have 6-7 conference losses. While those Atlantis wins look great for the resume, nothing they've done since looks evem remotely good (oh God the St. John's loss...). Jim Boeheim can only do much when he returns.
Matt Constas: There is a small chance, but playing the rest of a tough ACC schedule will not make it easy. The brightside of a tough schedule is that there are plenty of opportunities for resume boosters, but taking advantage of them is easier said than done, that is while avoiding any more "bad" losses.
Michael Burke: Put me down as a weak no. I'm still not completely convinced they won't make the tournament. I don't think it's out of the question that they can win eight ACC games. If they do that and win a couple games in the conference tournament, that should be a decent resume. And if the committee is actually going to take Jim Boeheim's suspension into consideration, it might be good enough for them to earn one of the final spots. But I don't see it; this team has inherent flaws, and they're already in an extremely deep hole.
What's the biggest change SU needs to make to make the tournament?
Andrew Pregler: The defense needs to really tighten up. I think it's too much to ask an average offensive team to be more than that. We know Cooney can be a good guy at the top of the zone to make up for his offensive shortcomings. If Malachi and Lydon can improve on the wings while Coleman and Roberson at least pull a Kieta and hold down for stretches, the team may be able to grind out some quality wins in the ACC Tournament.
Kevin Wall: Offensive efficiency. It's clear that teams want to chase the Orange off the 3-pt line, so Syracuse needs to make them pay by limiting turnovers, and getting to the foul line. There isn't a fix for the rebounding issue and the zone hasn't been bad, but the offense needs to step up in a big way.
Andrew Carey: Offensive production, specifically the 3 needs to start falling more if they are going to continue at this clip. Also the foul shooting on this years team has been awful, which I know is classic Syracuse, but it seems to be worse this year. If they can start making 3's and capitalizing on some of their trips to the line they can maybe start scoring more and putting more pressure on other teams.
Sean Keeley: Score more and score more often. The offensive efficiency is in the toilet and it starts with Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney. From there, we just simply need more out of guys like Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson, ready or not. Even then I don't know if it'll be enough to make up for the rebounding and defensive deficiencies, but it'll give us a chance.
Matt Constas: Free throws and rebounding. It is the extra possessions that the Orange are giving their opponents by letting them get offensive boards and the points they are leaving at the free throw line that are making it hard for them to win these close games. Just one more made free throw at any point in the game yesterday would have had a huge impact on how the last minute of regulation would have played out.
Michael Burke: Make your free throws and make your 3s at decent rates. Those are two things Syracuse should be capable of, considering the shooters it has. The other big issue -- rebounding -- is one the Orange simply can't solve.