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Syracuse men’s basketball: Escaping mediocrity is the goal for 2023

The work starts now

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange head into tonight’s game against the Louisville Cardinals with a record of 9-5.

They will need to finish with a 13-4 record over the rest of the ACC schedule to avoid heading into the post-season with at least 10 losses for the eight time in the last nine seasons. When they look across the court at tonight’s opponent, they should be wary because it’s a path Syracuse does not want to veer down.

Now the optimists (and Jim Boeheim) will counter that in the last nine seasons, Syracuse has made a Final Four and two Sweet Sixteens, They will say that what happens in March and April matters most and they aren’t wrong in that regard. However, what happens leading up to March also matters and that’s where Syracuse has languished since they were ranked #1 in 2014.

We can start with those very rankings. Syracuse hasn’t been ranked in the AP Top 25 since the December 10, 2018 poll. You have to back to 1967-1972 to find the last time the Orange have gone as long without being ranked and it’s going to take a quick turnaround over the next three months to end this streak.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

While an at-large bid is going to require an incredible finish to the season (and yes there’s always the auto-bid opportunity), the Orange can still change the course of the program over the final three months. Syracuse is a young team and while you can’t predict next season’s roster, it appears likely that the Orange will return at least five of the rotation players. If the majority of the 2022 class stays together beyond two years, it’s the type of veteran roster that contending teams are built around.

To do so, Jim Boeheim and his staff need to do more of what we heard in this weekend’s post-game press conference.

This freshmen class isn’t the best ever at Syracuse. They might not even be top-five, but it’s a class that offers optimism in the future. Developing confidence and providing a supportive environment can let these players flourish in time. Showing the country that there is talent in Syracuse could go a long way towards convincing players to transfer for 2023.

It’s pretty clear to me that the coaching staff wanted a center and wing in the 2023 class. That makes me assume that Jesse Edwards and Joe Girard won’t take their extra year, but if the staff can keep the young core intact they can offer some pretty big roles to transfers.

In order to turn things around back towards the top 25, Syracuse needs to show progress the rest of the way. It starts tonight with the worst ACC team, and it continues forward this month. It’s not about winning a home game over Duke or UNC in a sub .500 season, it’s about playing into the top portion of the ACC where the Orange should be.....we’ll see if this team can do that.