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Without trying, Syracuse basketball showing how toothless the NCAA is

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The NCAA meant to send a message with Syracuse last year. The Orange have been sending their own since.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

"After the beheading, William Wallace's body was torn to pieces. His head was set on London Bridge. His arms and legs sent to the four corners of Britain as a warning. It did not have the effect that Longshanks planned." Robert the Bruce, Braveheart

When the NCAA brought the hammer down on the Syracuse Orange basketball program in March 2015, the effect was expected to be damning. Coupled with Syracuse's self-imposed postseason ban in 2015, the loss of scholarships and reduction in off-campus recruiters was expected to kneecap Jim Boeheim's mighty program and show everyone once and for all that "cheaters" such as SU will never prosper.

The reality is that Syracuse Basketball, somehow, has gotten even better since then.

Following 2015's postseason ban, Syracuse was still to wrangle commitments from Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon, one of whom is already in the NBA and the other likely join him by this time next year. In spite of a season that included a nine-game suspension for head coach Jim Boeheim, the Orange made the NCAA Tournament (barely) and proceeded to advance all the way to the Final Four. It was a stunning achievement given the slight above-average season the Orange had just gone through but also quelled whatever concerns others might have about the future of the program.

Now, headed into the 2016-2017 season, you could make a case that the Orange have a stronger and deeper lineup than they've had in years. This squad will feature Lydon, two grad transfers with double-digit scoring potential, a double-double candidate in Tyler Roberson, and the 7-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu in the middle of it all dominating the 2-3 zone. The Orange should rightfully be shooting up everyone's preseason polls and ACC predictions.

We haven't even mentioned that the Orange are also bringing a stellar recruiting class into the season with three guys who could see action and even make an impact. They did all of this in spite of scholarship reductions and the unstable state of college basketball in general. SU needed to think differently about recruiting and so they did.

All of which is to say that the NCAA's sanctions don't appear to have had any effect whatsoever on the Syracuse basketball program. To be fair, Boeheim did lose 101 wins officially, but that's a symbolic punishment at best. It rankled Boeheim that his reputation got dinged but it certainly hasn't rankled the recruits who commit to play for him.

None of this is to excuse what happened at SU to cause the sanctions in the first place. I'll still say that it would have been nice for an adult to take responsibility for what happened. But regardless, the NCAA's punishment of Syracuse was supposed to be a mighty blow, and indeed it did feel harsh when it first came down. The reality, however, is that it did not have the effect the NCAA planned. It merely motivated Boeheim and his staff to make more out of what they had been given.

And boy have they.