It is never fun to be the Debby Downer of a group, however, with six games left in the Syracuse Orange men's basketball season the aura - at least on this side of the computer - feels more negative than positive.
Nearly a month ago, there was a lot to be positive about. Syracuse (21-4, 9-3 Big East Conference) was coming off a road victory against the former No. 1 team in the nation, Louisville, and did so without its second-leading scorer, James Southerland.
The Orange did not suffer a letdown in the next game, as they defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats, 57-55, at the Carrier Dome.
All was good in #OrangeNation, but it did not last. In three of its next four games, Syracuse has found ways to play its worst basketball of the year and a lot of things are popping up that are bothering this TNIAAM contributor.
Michael Carter-Williams is no longer tallying assists
The sophomore floor general could be the biggest key in Syracuse earning possibly its third Big East Conference regular-season crown in four seasons.
It is obvious, as MCW goes as does the Orange offense and lately there has been a disturbing trend from the soon-to-be NBA lottery pick: assists totals are way down.
In SU's last six games, the nation's top passer is averaging 4.3 assists per game and has only totaled over five assists twice.
Head coach Jim Boeheim said after Saturday's 76-65 victory over Seton Hall that teams are making him a scorer, so that is why his passing totals are down.
If that is the case, OK. But if we're talking about one of the best players in college basketball: how, all of a sudden, is he not able to figure out how to get easier buckets for his teammates?
Admittedly, no game tape has been broken down on my end so I could be wrong about this, but it concerns me a lot that in tough games, against quality guards the sophomore has issues creating scoring chances for teammates - and that is when the team is at its best.
Sunday's victory was the first time in Big East play that MCW recorded less than five assists in a game and Syracuse won. The Orange are 8-0 when he reaches or goes above that mark and are 1-3 when he does not.
Backend of the 2-3 zone is struggling
Southerland's return to the team after a six-game layoff could have a lot to do with this. Boeheim has noted a few times that Southerland's defense will suffer a lot more than his offense as he gets back into the groove.
Also, Jerami Grant being thrust into a more impactful role could be a factor in the regression of the backend of the zone.
Regardless of whatever is going on, too many times last Wednesday did we all see two easy passes lead to a wide-open 3-pointer in the corner.
At times on Saturday, Seton Hall shooters had a day-and-a-half to get off an open shot.
See, as most of you know, the 2-3 zone (a.k.a. Boeheim's philosophy) asks teams to take 3-pointers. However, it does not ask opponents to take wide-open ones.
No transition points
In many aspects, comparing last year's squad to this year's squad is unfair. However, one trend I've noticed is the lack of fast-break (transition) points for Syracuse.
Last season during Big East play, the Orange averaged, AVERAGED, 14.2 transition points per game.
This season, SU is averaging half that total - 7.0 per game - and it is hurting the offense.
Heading into Saturday's game versus Seton Hall, the Orange were averaging 66.2 points per game, while last season they nearly average 10 more ppg - 74.2.
Look, there's a lot of basketball still left to be played and a lot can be corrected during this time. I am still not losing hope on this team, but entering a critical stretch in the schedule these three things need to improve if the Orange want to make a run at a conference title.