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Defensive lapses hurt Syracuse against Boston College

How did this all go wrong?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that wasn’t what we were expecting.

Coming into yesterday with two games remaining, the Syracuse Orange were staring at a possible NCAA Tournament bid if they were able to come out of those two games with two wins—I repeat, a possible bid, not guaranteed.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Boston College
Tyus Battle’s big night wasn't enough for the Orange.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The first one against the Boston College Eagles was supposed to be a confident win, even though there are no easy victories in the ACC this year. The following game, against the number 18 ranked Clemson Tigers, was supposed to be the marquee win the Orange needed for their resume.

However, this masterplan for a bid to the Big Dance went awry, as the Orange fell to the lower-tiered Eagles, taking a massive punch to their chances at an at large bid to the big dance. After beating the Eagles by 18 back in January, this was supposed to be a game where Syracuse could set the stage for an epic matchup against Clemson, but something surprisingly went wrong: the defense went missing.

The Orange have relied upon their defense this year to carry them to victories, as their offense has been stagnant and inconsistent with the lack of depth and perimeter shooting. Well, the Syracuse perimeter shooting finally showed up against the Eagles, as they hit 10 of their 24 three point attempts; however, the Orange allowed the Eagles to shoot 52% from three as they hit 14 of their 27 three point attempts.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, you read that right—the Eagles made 14 three point shots against this supposedly stifling Syracuse zone.

How did this happen? What went wrong in the great city of Boston that possibly ended any hope at a bid for the Orange?

Well, coach Jim Boeheim has been stressing the need to get out on shooters this year for his limited roster, but that message didn’t get across Wednesday night. Allowing one player to make three threes is enough already as it is, but allowing three players to make at least three threes in the same game is something that will likely give your team no chance at winning—and it did Wednesday night for the Orange.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Boston College
Is there a realistic path into the big dance for the Orange?
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Three Boston College players finished with at least three long range shots, while two of those three players made five three pointers. The Eagles’ ability to get the ball to the middle of the zone caused this defensive breakdown, as the Syracuse zone now needed to pack the paint to avoid an easy shot inside.

However, the player with the ball in the middle of the zone was able to find the open man on the perimeter time-and-time again, as Boston College tormented the Orange with an inside-out attack.

Sure it seemed like it was one of those nights where a team just would not miss, but the Syracuse defense did not come to play, as it was lazy on closeouts and hesitant to prevent that first interior pass.

This team just doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to have nights like this one where their defense doesn’t show up. The length and size of this limited rotation makes their defense a legit force, but they become a regular collegiate defense when they forget to protect the perimeter.

A loss like this one really makes it hard to find a realistic path into the NCAA Tournament, but if they want to have any shot of getting themselves off the bubble, the Orange will need to regroup on defense before it really is too late.