Syracuse Orange fans are excited about the 6-0 start to the basketball season and that’s great. A good season of Orange basketball has a way of helping us through the long doldrums of winter. Hope isn’t a bad four-letter word and we should always fight to look at things in a positive manner. The problem is that the excitement has clouded some of the fans’ judgement and I’m noticing a dangerous trend which cropped up in the football season.
As we revisited the preseason football predictions I was reminded of some of the comments on our series of “Why Syracuse Will Finish...”. People screamed that there was no way the Orange would be 4-8 because we had Babers’s second-year promise and a healthy Dungey. After a 4-3 start the cries for an eight-win season rose because FSU was “bad” and Wake Forest and Miami were “overrated.” Boston College was just “terrible,” supposedly. Fans were also on the “eight win or bust” bandwagon because of close losses to LSU and NC State, and a win over Clemson.
This made the end of the year even more frustrating for folks and while that’s okay, I think it was made worse by the rising expectations.
This is why I’m suggesting that as fans, we consider practicing Rational Optimism -- a concept where we hope for the best while understanding that this team is still a work in progress.
I say this because after Monday’s win over the Maryland Terrapins, I saw people comparing freshmen players to guys who played in the Final Four and comments about ridiculous ceilings for Oshae Brissett and others (pretty sure I saw a Carmelo comparison in there?). It’s great to be excited about a young team who is playing defense, getting on the glass and competing for loose balls. However you can’t ignore the warning signs that are right in front of us.
As Donna Ditota pointed out at syracuse.com, Syracuse is struggling to defend the 3 and shoot the 3. With a national ranking of 299 based on their 29% 3-pt shooting, the Orange are relying on creating turnovers and getting offensive rebounds to score their points. This formula is working so far but as the competition increases it’s not likely to lead to long-term success, especially in the ACC. Jim Boeheim knows it and we all know by now that he’s pretty honest when it comes to his opinion of his team.
"If we play them and they shoot 11-for-23 from three and we shoot 3-for-18, I don't think you're going to win that game too many times.....We've got to start making some shots."
Yes making shots has to happen for this group to flourish. Teams will continue to focus a lot of attention on stopping Tyus Battle, does this Syracuse team have enough guys ready to step in and pick up the scoring when this happens? Can the team continue to rely on offensive rebounding to generate offense? Obviously the season is young and this team can absolutely improve, but I would caution everyone from penciling in 20-plus wins and making Final Four reservations as we begin December.
This isn’t meant to be a negative post at all. We should all cheer/hope/pray for wins in every game. Just don’t get too down if the Orange can’t knock off the Kansas Jayhawks this Saturday. Don’t look at future opponents and try to assume what will happen based upon games they’ve played (like UConn needing overtime to beat Columbia).
Let’s try and enjoy the ride while embracing the notion of rational optimism. Who knows — maybe we’ll be a lot happier in March.