Every Syracuse Orange basketball game since just about late December has felt like it’s do-or-die. An old sports cliché that comes in multiple forms is more than applicable for this team. A must-win every time. All or nothing! And given what’s happened so far this season they all really could probably go double for SU. One false move and there will be no Big Dance, only that less-attended and less-watched dance, which programs like Syracuse tend to forget about before it’s even started.
That theme, though, in its varied forms — IT’S NOW OR NEVER! — is kind of alternative fact rather than reality right now for SU.
The truth is, Syracuse, the team that has gone 0-for-the-last-two-games, the squad that was once beaten by 33-freaking-points at home by St. John’s, the group that lost by double digits at Boston College..
Holy hell, this season really has been one kick in the testicular region after another, no? I mean, damn it! Where was I going here anyway?
Oh yeah, with all of those damn warts that could make a toad jealous, SU really only needs to get two more victories to get that invite to the dance. Secure two more Ws and Syracuse would have 10 wins in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the most difficult to navigate of any of the conferences outside of the NBA’s Western version.
Even Clemson — CLEMSON — is still considered to be a little bubblicious despite having five more league losses than it has league wins. Which shows an overarching theme that there are more average teams than great ones this season. That even teams like Kentucky, UCLA, etc., are loaded with talent but have several potentially fatal flaws. This year could be a little like 2014, when a seven seed beat an eight seed to win it all.
There’s room in that all-too-popular dance hall but with four games to go, the question becomes: Can SU actually defeat two more opponents (with the ACC tourney being an assumed résumé builder)?
Not an easy one to answer when you sidetrack yourself with the multiple bad losses Syracuse has suffered so far this season. But given that five-game win streak, which now feels like it was years ago, and the down state of college basketball, just about anything is still somewhat possible at this point.
For the Orange, the most ideal of the craziest developments in this wacky season would be to run the table over the next two weeks. That would be then sweeping Georgia Tech, earning a big-ole home win against Duke and somehow finding a way to steal one in Louisville, against Rick “Have You Heard I Used to Coach with Boeheim” Pitino. Weird shit has happened this season, but that’s a little too out there.
Still, getting two wins out of those four? Yeah, I can buy that happening. I’d guess the potentially “easiest” way to accomplish that could be in sweeping Georgia Tech; very doable. Not to mention, beating the Yellow Jackets twice would put a check next to important accomplishments: 1) Help cement Syracuse’s status for the committee, and 2) possibly eliminate the Rambling Wreck from contention. That last point is very important because the Jackets look a little like the Orange.
It’s a team with a rather unsightly overall record (15-11), but one with some marquee home wins (North Carolina, Florida State (by 22!) and Notre Dame). It’s done nothing on the road but not many bubble teams have?
Georgia Tech is like about every other just-barely-mediocre team out there. It has done almost enough to remain in the conversation for the tourney. And that means it has done almost enough to possibly be in Syracuse’s way.
As we get closer and closer to conference tournament time, the Orange and orange-wearing SU fans are in the uncomfortable position of rooting for the Goliaths of the world. Hoping Duke (Duke?!) gets a win, unless of course the Devils are in the Dome. Same goes for KU, UK, and the rest of the Big Boys. This time of year is typically and especially for the first few weeks of March, all about watching basketball to see David topple the giant, to see the next George Mason beat the next Connecticut. It wasn’t the case in 2016 for Jim Boeheim’s boys and it’s not this time around either.
While SU has all but crawled out of that canyon-sized hole it dug itself, it’s not time to start renting the tux and learning how to Dougie (that’s still a thing, correct?). This weekend, the teams with numbers in front of them need to win more than they lose. In conference tournaments, the expected-to-wins really need to win.
Have fellow bubble residents and bubble wannabes lose. That has to be the M.O. for Syracuse right now. It’s kind of Opposite World for most general college basketball fans. Half the reason we’re all so addicted to this college hoops is because on the perfect night, anything can happen — meaning, the heavy favorite can go down like World Champ “Mike Tyson” to “Who Is This Guy?” Buster Douglas.
Yet, it’s cheer for the chalk and then, just as importantly, and just as clichéd, SU needs to take care of business at least twice. That will be good enough. More than good enough in 2016-17. Two more checks in the win column won’t mean a top four or five seed for Syracuse, but it will put it very easily in the bracket, not just the “First Four” portion.
But SU has to find those victories first. Maybe it’ll start with the first one on Sunday? Better now than never, amirite?! Because, as that old saying goes, it takes two to dance.