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Syracuse Basketball: Sorry Coach B, this isn’t an NCAA tourney team (yet)

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports) /

Prior to the 2022-23 campaign getting underway, Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim said of his current roster in an interview with Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, “We’re going to be in the NCAA Tournament. … This is the best team we’ve had in a while.”

To be fair, the 2022-23 stanza is only seven games deep, with the Orange heading to Notre Dame this Saturday afternoon to commence its Atlantic Coast Conference play.

However, at this juncture in the current term, the ‘Cuse is a disappointing 3-4. The team has lost three in a row – to St. John’s in overtime at the 2022 Empire Classic in New York City, to Bryant on the Hill by one point on a last-second shot, and this past Tuesday night to No. 16 Illinois, 73-44, in the final ACC-Big Ten Challenge contest for Syracuse basketball.

The ‘Cuse, by the way, finished at 4-6 overall in this annual event. Meanwhile, Notre Dame (6-1) pounded No. 20 Michigan State on Wednesday evening in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and the Fighting Irish will prove tough to knock off on its own turf. As such, the Orange is staring at the possibility of being 3-5 through eight games in 2022-23.

There’s time for Syracuse basketball to turn things around, but the ‘Cuse has much work to do.

Boeheim saying in the preseason that he believes the Orange will make the 2023 Big Dance is understandable. First of all, he suffered his first losing campaign as the team’s head coach in 2021-22, and the ‘Cuse had seen its roster vastly revamped prior to 2022-23 commencing.

The present line-up features a lot of depth, a lot of promise, a lot of young guys, and a whole host of question marks. It is not, at this point in 2022-23, even close to an NCAA Tournament-caliber group.

But with so many underclassmen, many Syracuse basketball fans, myself included, figured that the Orange would experience some growing pains in the early portion of the squad’s schedule.

Losing to St. John’s at a neutral site was understandable. The Red Storm is pretty good. Getting smoked by Colgate at home, for the second year in a row, was awful. Losing to Bryant in Central New York, too, was bad, although the Orange had to play the second half of that non-conference affair without freshman point guard Judah Mintz.

I figured that earlier this week, the ‘Cuse would have an extremely difficult time beating Illinois on the road. But to get trashed by nearly 30 points, respectfully, is inexcusable.

To only score 44 points is, respectfully, atrocious. In October, Boeheim threw shade at the Big Ten Conference, which is ironic, since his squad just got destroyed by a Big Ten member.

Against Illinois, I believe that Boeheim played all 12 of his scholarship guys. I like that he’s utilizing his bench more, although it seems fairly clear to me that he’s still sorting out which rotations work best.

Senior shooting guard Joe Girard III, who is getting absolutely pummeled on social media by a contingent of fans, has scored a total of nine points over his past three games.

Mintz really struggled versus Illinois. The team, as a whole, connected on fewer than 30 percent of its field-goal attempts in this loss, while committing a whopping 17 turnovers.

Senior center Jesse Edwards has been a beast on the glass lately, but his issues avoiding foul trouble are really concerning.

Additionally, to me, Syracuse basketball is showing its youth and immaturity at this point in 2022-23. Case in point, Mintz was ejected in the Bryant contest for being involved in a scuffle.

Then, in the Illinois setback, sophomore forward Benny Williams picked up two technical fouls and was ejected for being unhappy with the officials.

Per statistics from ESPN and cuse.com, to date, the Orange is averaging 70.4 points per affair and giving up the exact same amount on defense. It is connecting on 42.9 percent from the field, 32.5 percent from 3-point land, and 70.9 percent from the charity stripe.

The ‘Cuse is being outrebounded by 1.9 boards per contest. Opponents are dishing out 5.5 more assists per encounter than the Orange.

Syracuse basketball does have slight per-game advantages over its foes in turnovers committed, points scored off of turnovers, and steals. The team is also netting 4.0 more blocks per meeting than its opponents.

All in all, these stats aren’t all that rosy, which is to be expected, given that the Orange is under the .500 mark. The ‘Cuse has time to right the ship, though.

The 2022-22 season isn’t over. Far from it, in fact. Let’s see how Syracuse basketball responds this Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame, when the Orange will face Central New York native and former 2022 recruiting target J.J. Starling, who is a freshman guard for the Fighting Irish.

But as much as I love Jim Boeheim, his preseason prognostication isn’t holding water, at least for now. Syracuse basketball is not a Big Dance team. It’s not an NIT team.

However, this could change if this young ‘Cuse roster starts to come together as a cohesive unit, figures out its most effective rotations, and grows up.

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