Syracuse basketball not the program it once was, but season far from over

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /
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In the minutes and hours after Colgate stunned Syracuse basketball on Tuesday night for the Raiders’ second-straight win over their Central New York neighbor, a lot of Orange fans were up in arms on social media. That’s understandable.

Naturally, though, some fans took it a little too far in my humble opinion, declaring the 2022-23 season already over, and calling for head coach Jim Boeheim to be fired.

If you want a new head coach roaming the sidelines on the Hill, that’s fair. But the current team is only two games deep, and let’s give this young ‘Cuse roster just a bit more time to come together as a cohesive unit.

That being said, if I’m taking off my Orange-colored glasses here (and I’m a proud SU alumnus and a huge advocate for ‘Cuse sports teams), I think it’s safe to say that Syracuse basketball isn’t the same top-tier program that it was, say, from 2009 to 2014.

It’s a bummer. I’ve accepted it. I’ll keep cheering my boys on. Once Boeheim does retire (in a year or two or three or …?), will the new head coach lead the Orange back to consistently great regular seasons and deep March Madness runs? Who the heck knows.

Syracuse basketball, sadly, is a middle-of-the-pack squad these days in collegiate hoops.

From 2009 to 2014, and this is merely one recent example, the ‘Cuse would win at least 27 games every year and earn top-four seeds in March Madness.

From 2015 until the present, with the Orange having became a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013-14, the ‘Cuse has slogged its way through the majority of regular stanzas, while going to the Final Four in 2016 as well as the Sweet 16 in 2018 and 2021.

Yes, Syracuse basketball has a promising six-member 2022 class, but by and large, recruiting is down for the Orange. Moving to the ACC changes things. Uncertainty over when Boeheim would retire is a factor.

Long-time assistant coach Mike Hopkins leaving for Washington, too, was a factor. The NCAA sanctions are gone, but they stung for a few years.

The transfer-portal explosion, NIL, guys getting injured or leaving early for the pros – a whole host of stuff comes into play as potential reasons as to why Syracuse basketball (1-1) isn’t the same program on the court or in the recruiting arena these days.

I’m not making excuses for the ‘Cuse. I’m as disappointed and frustrated as every other Orange fan out there, although I’ll continue to support this squad through good times and bad times.

With the portal, NIL and other happenings in college basketball, the talent disparity between high-major programs and mid-major programs isn’t as large as it used to be.

Does that mean Syracuse basketball should fall on its own turf two seasons in a row to Colgate? Absolutely not. But some of my fellow Orange fans said over and over again after Tuesday evening’s 80-68 setback that the ‘Cuse should never, ever lose to the Raiders, because Syracuse basketball is a big-name brand in the ACC and Colgate plays in the Patriot League.

I don’t buy into that sort of reasoning. Colgate is a good team. The roster is a veteran one, and experience is vital these days. Just look at some of the recent national champions (Kansas, Baylor, Virginia, Villanova, North Carolina).

Yes, those groups had top-flight high-school players on their rosters, but their line-ups were also filled with veteran, experienced guys. The Raiders, for a second-consecutive stanza, picked apart the Orange zone this past Tuesday night.

Colgate players were selfless and precise with their passing, and that led to so many wide-open looks. In Division I men’s basketball, if a team has such open looks, it is going to make an opponent pay.

And the Raiders did that, netting 19 3-pointers one year after torching Syracuse basketball for 18 made shots from long range.

Is the ‘Cuse zone defense the problem? Certainly, a case could be made for Boeheim utilizing more man-to-man defense, but then again, that likely wouldn’t have solved the Orange’s woes versus Colgate (3-1).

Syracuse basketball isn’t alone in being a high-major to lose to a mid-major so far in 2022-23. Louisville went to 0-3 after falling to Appalachian State on Tuesday.

Plenty of ACC and other power conference teams have lost to mid-majors at this juncture in 2022-23, with the season having just begun last week.

That doesn’t make what occurred to the ‘Cuse on Tuesday against the Raiders hurt any less. Syracuse basketball had beaten its Central New York neighbor 54 times in a row.

Then, in 2021-22, the Orange blew a 15-point lead in the first half and lost to Colgate, 100-85, at the Dome. I didn’t think the ‘Cuse would allow more 3-pointers to the Raiders this go-round, but Syracuse basketball did.

So here we are. The Orange will look to regroup and get back into the victory column when it hosts Colonial Athletic Association team Northeastern this Saturday, Nov. 19, beginning at 4 pm.

In 2022-23, the Syracuse basketball roster has 12 scholarship players, and eight of those guys are underclassmen. The Orange’s youth showed in falling to a veteran Colgate squad.

After this loss, freshman point guard Judah Mintz said the ‘Cuse isn’t as good as perhaps the Orange thought it was prior to the present campaign getting underway, and Boeheim echoed that sentiment.

But Syracuse basketball is only two games in. The 2022-23 term is far from over. I remain hopeful that the ‘Cuse can have a solid season, even if it won’t be on par with how the Orange was faring from 2009 to 2014.

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