If you didn’t notice, Syracuse Orange men’s basketball hasn’t been doing all that hot this year. Their most recent loss was somewhat of a crusher to the general spirit of the team, and we can surmise that any instance of Orange March basketball will likely be watching the women play in the NCAA’s and the men in NIT for the second straight year.
But how did we get here? There are a ton of valid reasons, but one of the most obvious is that this year’s team doesn’t have a ton of depth that Boeheim trusts. So little, that historically, this year’s starting 5 has played more minutes than any starting five in modern Syracuse basketball history.*
If you’d like the see the year by year breakdown, head over to OrangeHoops. I just didn’t want this article to be all table and scare away clicks or have John lock me in the NunesBasement of Shame (specially made for people that believe we should throw more bubble screens or schedule tougher football opponents).
Since we all know the answer if we ask Jim Boeheim, we’re left to ponder what it means that Syracuse is playing it’s starters this much.
The quickest surface-level analysis is comparing these four teams. And very quickly, this proves ineffective. The 2013-14 and 03-04 teams were relatively successful: both featured high conference finishes with a single game (and loss) in the conference tournament. Meanwhile, 2014-15 profiles very similarly to this year’s team with a .500 conference record and no postseason due to a self-ban. As we chronicled earlier in the week, the two more recent teams both fell 2-4 down the stretch, a mark this year’s team may match.
Statistically, the only thing to draw conclusively without a better look into non-counting metrics is that the 2003-04 team is the exception. The Tyler Ennis-led 13-14 squad was an elite defensive team, but most offensive numbers with the most recent team all fit into roughly the same average categories. While the Hakim Warrick-led 03-04 team wasn’t as good defensively, they were a far superior offensive side.
So what does this all mean? I’m not sure it means anything we didn’t know. Boeheim has repeatedly said that this year’s team has no other option but to play this way (correct) and that his players are more than physically capable. In almost every season, at least half of Boeheim’s starting five is playing 28 minutes a night, so this isn’t out of the ordinary.
It’s just that unlike most other years, this year’s team isn’t as talented, but are playing as much as more talented teams were. Bummer.
*I didn’t want to spend 5 hours going through the entire Jim Boeheim history, so we go to Carmelo and the dawn of Syracuse’s modern history.
**For this year, I counted Dolezaj instead of Moyer since we’re probably looking at that rotation for the foreseeable future. That ensures the high number.