At times, we can be a sensitive bunch. I mean, we are the fan base that once complained for weeks while being the No. 1 team in the nation. We also take our cues from the top. Syracuse Orange basketball coach Jim Boeheim is never one to let a slight go by. So why should we be any different?
So it’s with that in mind that we bring up the recent round of #NARRATIVE-ball that’s been batted around college basketball and specifically, the ACC.
Oh yeah there was this too. I’d simply point out they’re not in the Big East anymore and their results in the ACC Tournament reflect that fact. https://t.co/gJhUN3hru2— Joe Ovies (@joeovies) March 8, 2018
There are plenty more, similar sentiments like this one that permeate the larger conversation around the program and the conference. Syracuse, apparently, wasn’t ready for the supposedly huge step-up in competition from the Big East to the ACC. And Jim Boeheim doesn’t have it anymore.
Part of this is/was fueled by the Orange striking out in the ACC Tournament three times in four years (they had a self-imposed postseason ban the other year), before winning this week. So in that regard, SU set themselves up for some ridicule. Still, the critique also ignores reality.
Since joining the ACC, Syracuse has gone 108-61 (50-40 in league play) with a trip to the Final Four, a 25-0 start to the 2013-14 campaign, and wins over every single program in the conference over the past five seasons.
That’s not too bad. It’s also not on the same level as what teams like North Carolina and Duke (and sure, Virginia too) have accomplished. So in that regard, I suppose we fell short.
But I don’t really think we were ever supposed to be Duke or UNC. At least not these past five years.
Because the major issue every critic keeps forgetting when discussing the last five years of Orange basketball is the NCAA’s harsh sanctions that led to depth issues and this year’s extremely thin roster. That’s not an excuse, or spin. It’s fact. Having fewer scholarships to give out impacted SU’s ability to attract the same level of top talent. Unexpected departures via transfer and the NBA Draft also didn’t help.
Were we necessarily surprised by all of this? Maybe, to some extent. Boeheim, the coach everyone’s been claiming is “past his prime” just led a five-man roster to a 20-win season. That same coach was instrumental in getting the Orange to an unexpected Final Four just two years ago. He’s far from perfect. And you can certainly lob some criticism his way for how poorly this offense has played in 2017-18, But are there many coaches that could’ve gotten more out of this club? We sort of just expected him to pull Syracuse through this stretch. And largely, he’s done so.
Given all of the critiques lobbed at this program from the outside, you’d think they also expected this sort of result for Syracuse. Yet, the standard set is far higher than that? It’s hypocrisy, to some extent. It’s also colored by both our obnoxiousness when we’re on top (or slighted — see: this post), and the run we came off of right before joining the ACC. This same Orange program went 139-35 in a five-year stretch that makes for the best in program history. So compared to that, sure, this has been a bit of a disappointment.
So maybe in that regard it’s based on “some” fact. Syracuse has fallen short, but not because of the ACC. That part’s just exacerbated it. And because it makes for a convenient #narrative, the idea carries. While it’s now a conference that stretches from Boston to Miami (with many points in between), the ACC’s media scene can be a Tobacco Road-centric hivemind at times. That can yield some entertaining side effects (#goacc), but it can also yield generalizations like the one above without anyone batting an eye.
To a similar extent, you saw that play out during Wednesday’s broadcast of Syracuse’s game against the Tar Heels. As UNC began to pull away, bubble talk arrived. We quickly arrived at everyone’s favorite, tired narrative about the Orange: the perceptively weak non-conference schedule.
LaPhonso Ellis was quick to jump on it without even looking. ESPN had the prompt proving otherwise shortly thereafter. Ends up he was especially incorrect this year, when the Orange have a non-conference RPI of 47, and a non-conference strength of schedule of 20. Ellis can’t even necessarily be faulted for just buying in. Whether in the ACC or beyond, it’s a narrative that’s well over a decade old. Mike Waters recently spent time dunking on similarly bad opinions about Syracuse’s SOS too.
The #NARRATIVE always lingers for Syracuse, even when you prove it wrong. But many times, it has been based in some fact that we just never get to shake. The comparison between our late Big East years vs. the recent ACC ones? Technically accurate, even if most ignore the 28-6 opening season. The non-conference thing? Once true, but hasn’t been for at least 10 years, even if numbers don’t always reflect it.
SU’s list goes on as well. From Boeheim -- actually a whiner -- to the cries of “cheaters!” after NCAA sanctions (we did have violations, even if they were far less serious than the punishment)... these things all happen at one point or another, and that’s how they’ve become reality for observers.
That goes for us as fans, as well. Mark Titus painted a very real story about Boeheim and Syracuse supporters last November, and it struck a nerve for many. But that’s because it was, in many ways, 100-percent correct. As Orange fans, we can always handle the truth -- just think of the misery otherwise. But like Boeheim, we just always want to hear it from ourselves first, before anyone else points it out.
(seriously, though, I’m very ready to put this “ACC struggles” narrative to bed, so let’s win the league or something next year)