It’s an understatement to say that the Syracuse Orange haven’t had a good year. The football team collapsed after their bye week and lost three straight to end the year 5-7. Men’s basketball fell apart time and time again and couldn’t hold on in the regular season finale, ending the nation’s longest active winning-seasons streak. And with their loss to North Carolina on Saturday, men’s lacrosse is guaranteed to also finish below .500.
It’s the first time ever that all three programs will have a losing record in the same academic year.
While there shouldn’t be too much blame on the lax squad, given that it is Gary Gait’s first year at the helm and the program is just starting a hard reset, it does cement how much it sucked to be a Syracuse fan this season. But how concerned should the Orange faithful be moving forward? Let’s take this sport by sport.
Optimistic: Dino Babers’s squad showed a lot of promise and just came up short. I mean, they lost 3 straight weeks on the final possession! The late bye week killed whatever momentum they had, and injuries and a one-dimensional offense caught up to them. But with most of last year’s starters returning and a great offensive mind in Robert Anae now guiding the attack, it should be another competitive season at minimum.
Pessimistic: The Defensive Line and Receiving Corps are major areas of concern for fall 2022, and the Orange won’t get any breaks against a brutal lineup of opponents. SU is facing FIVE Top-25 teams, including Clemson and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks. You figure this team almost has to start 5-0 to have a serious chance at a 13th game.
Realistic: I honestly think football is a fringe 6-6 team more likely to repeat as 5-7. The return of key defensive pieces will help a lot, but with how top heavy the second half of SU’s schedule is, late season struggles could once again prevent a bowl appearance.
Optimistic: Basketball is bringing in a Top 20 recruiting class after its first losing season in 51 years. This time around, there will be plenty of depth on the roster. Joe Girard won’t be playing out of position either. Benny Williams could even take that next step and become what he was advertised to be as a recruit. Expect things to be back to the norm - meaningful basketball in February and March.
Pessimistic: The zone got picked apart all season, even by very average teams, and throwing at least two rookies into starting roles isn’t guaranteed to fix that problem, regardless of their potential. The Orange haven’t been able to keep up with the top dogs in the ACC for quite some time. The game may have finally passed Jim Boeheim by.
Realistic: I’m very excited to see what the incoming MBB freshman class has to offer. Considering how many of last season’s losses happened because the starters seemed to run out of gas late, I’m fairly confident the Orange can at least get back to .500 with a more complete team. They’re not a sure-fire Tournament team or anything, but I have the least worries here.
Optimistic: Lacrosse was going to take some time to recover from the end of John Desko’s tenure, and they played a loaded schedule this year. They also have a really good incoming class which includes one of the best defensive prospects in the country in Donny Scott.
Pessimistic: Regardless of expectations, this season didn’t do the Syracuse MLAX program any favors. It’s no longer the holy grail of the sport in college, and Coach Gait needs to turn things around quickly. If high school prospects see that even the greatest to ever play the game can’t get the program back on track, they’ll continue to look elsewhere.
Realistic: Lacrosse can have the quickest turnaround because it really only takes one bunch of recruits to rejuvenate a team. The return of Owen Hiltz. who missed all of this spring with an injury, and fellow attack Tucker Dordevic should let the team move the ball around better and threaten with more scoring options.