Earlier today, the Syracuse Orange took their turn with assembled media in St. Louis in advance of tomorrow's NCAA Tournament game vs. the Dayton Flyers. Seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney spoke first for a short stint, followed by Orange coach Jim Boeheim. As one would guess, Jim had plenty of questions tossed his way, and plenty of answers too.
He starts by saying the team is happy to be there (in the NCAA Tournament). Has Jim Boeheim ever been truly "happy" to be anywhere but Syracuse? Jim also reiterates that this was the happiest he's been on Selection Sunday, in part because it was the first time the Orange actually got in when they were sitting on the bubble.
When asked about the team's 0-4 start to ACC play, he points directly at the opponents:
Boeheim on 0-4 ACC start. "You had to go to Pitt and Miami and play North Carolina to start.''— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
Of course there had to be some suspension questions too.
Boeheim on suspenion. "I learned it's not fun to sit at home for 32 days w/out a plan. Lesson for retirement. Have a plan.''— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
Boeheim on suspension: "You sit and watch the games. No one really wanted to watch them with him.''— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
While we all tout the fact that teams don't face zone enough and it can take them by surprise in an NCAA Tournament setting, Boeheim sees things a bit differently, pointing out that everyone sees it in some form now -- which is easy to observe just based on the way ACC play has evolved in recent years. Where it does pay dividends, Coach explains, is in early-season tournaments, before opponents have any experience against it. So if you're wondering why the Orange seemingly can't be beat on islands, battleships, etc., that's possibly why.
Last year's postseason ban was also a topic of conversation, and brings about a perspective that hasn't been brought up -- though it's debatable if fans will actually agree with it or not (regarding Rakeem Christmas's previous opportunities to play in the tournament):
Boeheim on last year's post-season ban: "It was right call (but not for reason of getting into NCAAs this year). We had great wins last year— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
Boeheim said one reason to take the ban last year was "there were only two months left. Only one senior who had been to 3 NCAAs already.''— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
He added that the team's play at the end of the year prevented them from going in any case -- something that will surely irk his and the program's critics at least a little.
The final elephant in the room, of the several Boeheim addressed, was the team's 4-5 stretch under interim coach/coach-in-waiting Mike Hopkins. Jim came to his long-time assistant's defense in a constructive way that focused on pointing out why things went a bit south:
Boeheim on suspension's impact on Mike Hopkins: "A tremendous benefit.''— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
Boeheim said Hopkins didn't do anything wrong, but team just couldn't adjust.— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
Boeheim on Hop: "He's going to be a better coach than me someday, but not in that situuatin.''— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) March 17, 2016
That last bit is a nice compliment, and one Jim wouldn't just pass out without a basis for it, either. So if you're still getting worried about the Coach Hop era, perhaps that calms your nerves -- at least temporarily?
Jim still coaches the Orange for the time being, however, and he'll be on the sidelines tomorrow for Syracuse's matchup with Dayton -- the same Flyers that knocked SU out of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Things tip off at 12:15 p.m. ET tomorrow in Scottrade Arena in St. Louis.