Despite a nice effort for stretches of Tuesday night’s defeat, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball did wind up falling to the North Carolina Tar Heels. The loss means SU’s 7-3, going 1-2 over the last three games. It also means the Orange are starting the season at 7-3 for the sixth time under Jim Boeheim.
You know how these random stat pulls from me go by now. Here’s a quick look at the preceding five seasons where this occurred:
2018-19: 20-14, first round NCAA Tournament loss to Baylor
Syracuse never really got on track during Tyus Battle’s (and Oshae Brissett’s and Frank Howard’s) final season. They started sluggish, then the pieces just kind of stagnated without any real development form the year before (when they went to the Sweet 16). A win over Louisville is really what got them in, and without Howard in the first round, they wound up getting roasted late vs. Baylor.
2015-16: 23-14, Final Four loss to North Carolina
You’re aware of how this season turned out. Boeheim’s nine-game absence wound up potentially helping our case, as did a win at Duke. The zone really clicked in the NCAA Tournament once we arrived, though (fairly or not) en route to a surprise Final Four.
2007-08: 21-14, NIT quarterfinal loss to UMass
Injuries really piled up for this group from the start. Andy Rautins lost the year before it began, and Eric Devendorf only played in 10 games. A young group led by Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene wanted everyone to buy into the “dynasty,” but couldn’t play defense well enough to get past most foes. One of two NIT teams on this list.
1998-99: 21-12, first round NCAA Tournament loss to Oklahoma State
This “good enough” team got into the NCAAs by way of a couple big wins — at No. 1 UConn an a neutral-site victory over Indiana — and getting it done against most of the other Big East teams they should’ve. Despite the middling record, they were actually ranked through the end of February. SU made it to March Madness, but lasted just one game.
1981-82: 16-13, NIT Sweet 16 loss to Bradley
A 7-7 record in the fledgling Big East just wasn’t getting it done back then, even with an upset win over Georgetown on the resume. The Orangemen could’ve played their way in through the Big East Tournament, but a 94-92 loss to Boston College ended that dream. After a win over St. Peter’s, NIT hopes were crushed in the second game vs. Bradley.
Now obviously there are no real lessons to take here since each season is its own unique animal. But at least more often than not (three out of five opportunities), Syracuse has been able to turn a slow start like this into an NCAA Tournament trip, and even get to the Final Four — though let’s slow down on those sorts of dreams just yet.
Given how this year’s expectations started, with moderate hopes we could make it in on the right side of the bubble, not much has changed there so far. The Orange are going to need to start adding some quality victories in ACC play, however. With fewer games than normal following the 7-3 start, there’s also less time to make up for the early defeats.