If there ever were a more positively promoted Syracuse Orange basketball team coming into a season, I can’t remember it. It’s a hard thing to measure but the hype surrounding the 2016-2017 was palpable before one game had been played. Myself and fellow writers at TNIAAM are guilty of the irrational exuberance too. Heck, even Jim Boeheim was quoted as saying this is the best team he’s had a while.
But when such lofty expectations aren’t manifested (yet) and reality sets in, we’re left feeling disappointed. So much so that we start looking to the past for answers. In the wake of Syracuse’s loss to Connecticut last week, the Orange sat at 5-3 on the year. At that time there was a shift in narrative and the perspective turned revisionist.
“Well Syracuse had three losses last year in the non-conference and made it to the Final Four.”
As if having three losses in the non-conference schedule is some prerequisite or guarantee to making a Final Four run.
Let us be reminded that last year’s Final Four run was a perfect storm. That’s not to say the run was pure luck. Syracuse certainly played exceptional basketball and deserved to be in the Final Four. But I think we all know if Michigan State took care of business against Middle Tennessee, it’s more than likely that Syracuse doesn’t make it out of the first weekend.
Syracuse certainly played hard and deserved to win against Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs were one play away from facing off against Virginia in the Elite 8. And don’t get me started on the press against Virginia and Malachi Richardson’s how the hell did that just happen performance. The odds were against Syracuse every step of the way. And again, all the credit in the world to Syracuse for defying those odds. But just as those odds were so heavily against Syracuse last year, it remains equally unlikely to ever be duplicated.
Point being, last year should never be the blueprint for earning an at-large bid or making the Final Four. Jim Boeheim was suspended for nine games and that’s not going to happen this season.
You could argue for the better, sure. Syracuse also had two neutral court wins over ranked opponents UConn and Texas A&M in last year’s non-conference schedule. It has none this year. On top of all else, there’s a reason Syracuse was the first No. 10 seed to ever make the Final Four. More often than not, the better seed — which is often the better team — usually wins.
While there may be important lessons learned from seasons ago, this Syracuse basketball season is unique. The focus for this year should be about this year only. How can these guys get better defensively? How can Tyler Lydon get more shots? How can Syracuse be more efficient on offense? And big picture, What can Syracuse do now to earn a top seed come March? It sounds cliché, but there’s a reason coaches and players take a one game at a time approach to the season. Let’s stop looking at yesterday and shift the focus to the present.
Besides, if history teaches us anything, it’s that history teaches us nothing at all.