Syracuse Basketball: The sky is not falling


February 2, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Lamar Patterson (21) goes to the basket against the Syracuse Orange defense during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. PITT won 65-55. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This is a stretch that happens to every team in the nation every single year. With the exception of maybe two or three teams each season, every team in division one basketball has a stretch in the season where the going gets tough and the team struggles. Syracuse finds itself in the midst of a tough stretch following their second consecutive conference loss, this time falling to Pittsburgh 65-55 Saturday afternoon inside the Peterson Events Center.

The Syracuse offense has been struggling mightily in the previous two losses. The Orange have forfeited their Big East Conference lead, and is now 1/2 game back of the Marquette Golden Eagles for first place in the conference. Syracuse is now 18-3, with a 6-2 record in the conference. The next couple of games don’t get any easier, with Notre Dame and St. Johns heading in to the Carrier Dome in the coming week.

Make no mistake about it, The Orange have a very tough game Monday night against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is a skilled team with a lot of veterans who handed Syracuse their only conference loss of the regular season last year. Should the Orange drop a third consecutive game, they have the potential to fall back in the middle of a big pack of Big East teams, with less than half the conference games remaining on the schedule.

As gloomy as things look in the eyes of Syracuse fans, I assure you: the sky is not falling.

Syracuse has one more game to go with the cloud of uncertainty in regards to James Southerland. Whether he is cleared to play or not, the distraction of his suspension will finally be over for a team that really doesn’t seem to know what to expect. When the situation with Southerland is finally decided, the team can make a concrete plan going forward. Having James back would be absolutely huge, but knowing that he isn’t coming back would be just as important going forward so Jim Boeheim can make his adjustments in practice. As much as Boeheim has said they were preparing like he wasn’t going to come back, in the back of he and his players’ minds the idea of getting their senior back has to be a thought.

While the play of the team has been frustrating in the previous two games, a bit of perspective should definitely make you feel better. Syracuse is playing it’s worst basketball of the season. The Orange are struggling mightily offensively, and have played shoddy defense at times, which was very prevalent in today’s loss to Pittsburgh with the Panthers making layups all afternoon. As poor as this team has looked at times in these two losses, Syracuse is a late game three away from holding a half game lead over Marquette for first place in the conference.

Even with the tough luck loss to Villanova, the Orange still more than control their own destiny in the conference, and can still play themselves in to a one seed come NCAA tournament time. Will it happen? Your guess is as good as mine. But to say that isn’t a possibility is simply inaccurate. Marquette has a difficult game with Louisville Sunday, and should the Golden Eagles lose the Orange will be atop the conference again, with a date a Marquette still on the schedule.

Yes Syracuse lost to Pittsburgh today. The Orange lost in the Peterson Events Center for what seems like the zillienth time in a row. The Panthers are a highly talented team, who have proven before today’s win that they can compete and play with any team in all of college basketball. While people may look at the screen and not see a little number next to the Panthers on the scoreboard, Syracuse lost to one of the top 25 teams in college basketball. There is no shame losing on the road at Pittsburgh, as the Orange have succumbed to a defeat that 9 of 10 teams in their situation has done in the history of the PEC.

If you told me that Syracuse was going to be midway through their conference schedule in either a tie for the conference lead or a game back of a team the Orange still have to face on the schedule, I would take that in a heartbeat. Last season’s team was one of the best teams Syracuse fans have ever seen in school history, and the fact that Syracuse is competing for a conference crown this season after losing all of those pieces is remarkable. Losing isn’t fun for a team and a fan base that rarely lose, but given Syracuse’s current situation I believe being right in the thick of the conference race isn’t all that bad at all.