Jim Boeheim, always a straight shooter in press conferences when giving his opinion on things, wasn’t very pleased following the Orange’s 57-55 win over Cincinnati last night. Syracuse had won their second game against a ranked opponent in three days, coming off of the big road win at Louisville Saturday. Boeheim was adamant that this was by no means a team with the same strength as last season’s team, and that the Orange need to improve if they want to escape an early exit from the NCAA tournament in March.
“This team has got to get better, that’s the bottom line – like a lot of teams. The problem with being one of eighteen teams, which I think we probably are, I’m not sure which, but we’re in that group, is that you can lose in the second round of the NCAA Tournament easily. It’s easy because you are going to play another one of those teams and we don’t want to be there and if we don’t get better, that’s what’s going to happen. We have to get better.
This isn’t like last year. We were better. This team can get better and will get better I think because freshmen are playing, they are making mistakes and will start learning. Our big guys are going to get better and Michael (Carter-Williams) will get better. He’s a good player – he’s going to get better. So, I think we can get better. That’s what my absolute belief is and last year you never heard me say that. I don’t think I said that the whole year. If I did, it was a mistake.” -Jim Boeheim following Syracuse’s win over Cincinnati.
Boeheim also went on to (accurately) say that Syracuse easily could have been 0-2 in these last two games, and everyone would think that the Orange were in deep trouble.
“Without those two things happening (plays down the stretch) we’re 0-2 and everybody is going Syracuse is in trouble.That’s what I’m saying, because we should’ve lost both these games. That’s why Rick (Pitino) was so upset the other day. There was no way on earth that Louisville should’ve lost that game Saturday. And there was less of a chance, for Cincinnati to lose this game than on Saturday. They had this – this game was over. The game was completely over. Brandon (Triche) has to make those two, Michael (Carter-Williams)has to make the one on the baseline, the one in the lane and then he has to make the three, which he shooting at not a good percentage. But he believes he can make them and that’s why we let him make those shots. He believes in himself – that’s a great thing. I can’t cook, but if I believed in my cooking, like Michael Carter-Williams does, I would win the show Iron Chef. I would win and I can’t boil water.”
While I understand what Boeheim is trying to say, I have to half disagree with him. While the Orange definitely could be playing better and have things to work on, it still takes a a pretty good team to win the games. Could Syracuse have gone 0-2 in these last two? Absolutely. But the fact that they didn’t shows me the grittiness of this team, so to say they “should have lost” both the games I think is a little bit of a stretch. Louisville and Cincinnati did make mistakes down the stretch that helped cause them to lose these games, but at the end of the day Syracuse has to capitalize on them in order to win. It seems to me like Boeheim is trying to keep his players grounded, and will more than likely turn up the intensity in practice this week leading up to their second game against Villanova in three weeks this weekend.