“I’m not about hyperbole, I’m not trying to ‘Skip-Bayless’ this, okay? But I’ve never been more upset with a Syracuse team than I am right now with this particular group.”
The dude on the radio last week had something of a point. Talking head or not, tiny-market radio or not, I found myself agreeing, even if just a little, that this SU squad, the one that was sitting just a few games above .500 in late January, was more maddening than any other that I could remember.
There was that ’96-97 team that was too young and inexperienced, led by freshman and the “leftovers” from the previous season’s run to the NCAA Tournament Final. So many blowout losses. And who could forget about the “Dynasty” team of a green Donte Greene and Johnny Flynn? Hell, the last couple of seasons have been fairly hair-graying, save for that wild ride last March.
But if Nicholas Cage has “Gone in 60 Seconds,” Syracuse this year is producing the sequel, “Gone in 120 Seconds.” You pretty much know a loss is coming within about two minutes of game action, right? The opponent hits a couple of early shots, stick a fork in the Orange. Syracuse comes out flat or cold, it’s game over. Outside of the Connecticut game in the Garden, it seems like every game is either an instant win or an automatic loss. And that goes double for the defeats on the road.
I’ve stifled so many cusses, my six-year-old son probably thinks I have some type of affliction. Which probably isn’t too far off what being a Syracuse fan is like: Something that needs a diagnosis and then a medicine to help or manage.
So, while I wasn’t so sure I believed the guy on the radio at that point, I was certainly nodding my head. I mean, the games at Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, I actually turned off the TV. I didn’t even watch the final three minutes or so. And I’m the guy who sits to the last play in every sport. The final snap. The last dribble. I’m a glutton.
Not this season, though. It’s not the losing that is tough to watch… Okay, that’s not true at all. The losing sucks to have to take in. But it’s the idea that the classic nail-biter is virtually non-existent for SU. It’s all or nothing and that’s usually determined very quickly. Too quickly.
And the other frustrating part here is that I wouldn’t say it’s for a lack of heart. Tyler Lydon has worked his ass off to get Ws this year. Andrew White III—for better and for worse—puts the team on his back offensively. John Gillon, who has faced more ridicule for a first-year player you’d think his name was Paul Harris or Matt Roe, is killing himself trying to will Syracuse over the finish line during games. You can’t measure heart. There’s no quantifying it. Just because a team losses more than you expected, doesn’t mean there isn’t a little of effort.
So, if there is there so much damn talent, and if everyone seemingly is busting their butts, why is Syracuse is still losing? I don’t get it.
Jim Boeheim is still out there. Syracuse still has the Carrier Dome and one of the best palaces for basketball. There’s that tradition. There’s that coaching. That supposed talent.
Damn it, this guy on the radio, he now had me violently agreeing with him. There’s no way Syracuse is going to beat Florida State this weekend! Hell, that win against Wake Forest felt like a fluke! This team might not win again, damn it!
And then that freaking game last Saturday comes along and all of a sudden I’m thinking: Win at NC State and Syracuse is 6-4 in the ACC, the best damn conference for hoops this season. That guy on the radio is a dope; SU could even trip up Virginia next weekend at the Dome! ANNNYYYYYTTTTHHHIIIINNNNGGG IS POSSIBLE!
Who knows, maybe this team took a long time to figure things out? I mean, White and Gillon aren’t just first-year players, they’re guys who came pre-wired, who played and learned other systems over a series of seasons. It’s not easy to break from habit, especially when it means trying to learn the Boeheim Way. It’s not too far of a stretch to believe that this team had to fall flat a few times to finally start to figuratively, and literally, rebound.
Plus, DaJuan Coleman has missed time; Paschal Chukwu is out; Frank Howard is… well, not quite ready for primetime. Shit, even Lydon went from likely being The Man to having to figure out how White and Gillon were going to figure into his game.
That doesn’t excuse that ugly woodshedding at the hands of St. John’s. And no one is ever going to forget losing to Georgetown on Pearl Washington Day. Not to mention, SU hasn’t won a damn game away from home. But at least there is hope now, that’s what beating those Seminoles did for me. And, on the real, FSU may have the most talent top-to-bottom than any other team out there. They’re a bunch of young players, maybe a little raw, but, when they figure it out (if they haven’t already), look out
Seriously, though, a week ago, I was thinking this Orange team, this season, was a waste of time, a practice in futility. Now? We’ve seen about 30 minutes of game action over the last two contests where the 2-3 zone is trapping in the corners, either forcing turnovers or at least redirecting passes. Movement! And offensively, players are flowing and adjusting like they actually know what’s happening out there.
On that end of the court, Gillon has a great first-step off the bounce, but that’s only a weapon when a teammate meets him at the rim, which happened against the Decs and ‘Noles. Lydon has gone from dipping his toes into the water early in the year, to Mortal Kombat “Finish Him” Mode.
When those two are on their games, when White’s contributing, when either Tyler Roberson or Taurean Thompson, or both, are getting buckets, Syracuse can beat the No. 6 team in the country. I’ll go further: If there’s a Good Gillon, active Lydon, scoring White, and some version of Roberson and/or Thompson, Syracuse can beat any team in the country.
Pretty high expectations for a team that’s sitting with nine losses on February 1, no? So what? Screw it. That man on the radio doesn’t even know what he’s talking about anymore. Sure, that man was me and I was expressing some real feelings on my small-time talk show about a week ago. I’ll admit to it. I went a little Bayless-ish. But what the hell do I know? I’m just some weirdo on the radio in upstate New York.
The usual hopes can’t be crushed for a Syracuse team that SHOULD have so much going for it. And, after two wins in a row, could very well actually have a lot going for it. We’ve never really seen this type of movie from Jim Boeheim before, so it’s all new. But I’ll bet the flick still has a similar ending of winning more games than losing them.
Verbally, maybe I jumped the gun a little bit. Because the written-word me thinks that this season isn’t over just yet.