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Syracuse Basketball: There are no more cakewalk games

There are no easy wins for the Orange, at least, not anymore.

Tire Pros Classic - Connecticut v Syracuse Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

At first glance, the Boston University Terriers’ men’s basketball team is not one that likely instills fear in Syracuse Orange fans.

BU is currently 4-5, including a four-game losing streak, and 0-4 on the road. The Orange may be having some problems on offense, but don’t worry, the Terriers give up 74 points a game. And rather than playing in the ACC, BU is a member of the “ferocious” Patriot League, a conference that currently has just two teams – Bucknell (7-3) and Army (5-4) – above .500.

On paper, the Terriers look like an opponent Syracuse should dominate from start-to-finish en route to an easy cakewalk win. Except, there are no cakewalk wins for the Orange. At least, not anymore.

Syracuse entered the season ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll. However, eight games later, with a disappointing 5-3 record, the Orange have fallen far short of reaching those preseason expectations.

Prior to the start of the season, it would have seemed ridiculous to suggest Saturday’s matchup against Boston University would be anything less than a “gimme” game. Even after Syracuse’s frustrating start, many Orange fans still feel as though this game is a guaranteed blowout.

That is utter foolishness.

Is Syracuse the much more talented team? Of course. But the Orange were also the more talented team against UConn, North Florida and South Carolina (and arguably against Wisconsin as well). And if these last few games have taught us anything, it’s that Syracuse has repeatedly failed to live up to its talent.

After starting the season 5-0, the Orange suffered consecutive double-digit losses to South Carolina and Wisconsin, respectively. While one could make the argument Syracuse simply got beat by two talented teams currently ranked in the top 25 in the latest AP Poll – South Carolina is No. 19 and Wisconsin No. 17 – the Orange continued its poor play versus the likes of 3-7 North Florida and 4-4 UConn.

Against North Florida, Syracuse managed to nearly choke away a 24-point second half lead before finally coming together in the final minutes to eke out a six-point win. The Orange were out-rebounded 41-33 and shot less than 60 percent from the free-throw line.

Syracuse then followed up that poor performance with an even worse one against the Huskies. Playing at Madison Square Garden against their old Big East rival, the Orange turned in its worst offensive performance of the season, shooting 25.9 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from behind the arc. Only a single Syracuse player, DaJuan Coleman (of all people), finished the game with a field goal percentage above 50 percent, while fellow starters Tyler Lydon, Tyus Battle and Frank Howard shot a combined 3-for-21.

Of course, Syracuse’s offensive struggles are nothing new. In each of SU’s three losses, the Orange have failed to score more than 60 points. Even more worrisome, Andrew White III is the only Syracuse player who currently averages more than 10 points per game. Tyler Lydon is second on the team in points, averaging 9.9, but he’s also shooting below 40 percent from the field and has failed to resemble the potential first round pick he looked like at the end of last season.

Furthermore, while, at first glance, the 77 points Syracuse scored against North Florida may look nice, it isn’t exactly the most impressive accomplishment, as the Ospreys have given up an average of 78.9 points a game this season.

So what does this mean? Am I saying Syracuse is doomed to never win another game this season? No, of course not. In fact, the Orange are still in solid position to make the NCAA Tournament and potentially make another deep run.

However, until proven otherwise, it would be foolish to overlook any opponent – even Boston University – and assume Syracuse is guaranteed to walk away with an easy win. Because as the Orange have shown multiple times, that just hasn’t been the case recently and nothing should be considered guaranteed.