Syracuse Basketball: Even with close losses piling up, future can be bright

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

With about one-quarter of the 2022-23 regular-season schedule remaining for Syracuse basketball, the Orange is nowhere close to the conversation for an invite to this spring’s NCAA Tournament.

Following a five-point home setback to No. 6 Virginia, the ‘Cuse (13-10 overall, 6-6 in the ACC) has lost three straight and four of its past five Atlantic Coast Conference collisions as Syracuse basketball prepares to travel to Boston College this Saturday.

The Orange hasn’t attained a single quadrant-one victory to date in 2022-23, and the ‘Cuse has a sub-par NCAA NET ranking at this juncture. Unless Syracuse basketball can pile up victories in droves in the near future, the only way that the Orange is going to make the Big Dance is by winning the upcoming ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

Given that the ‘Cuse was 16-17 a stanza ago, the first losing mark in the long, long tenure of head coach Jim Boeheim at the helm of the Orange, many Syracuse basketball fans are angry and frustrated.

They want Boeheim to retire. They think the program is in its worst state ever. They’re trashing current ‘Cuse players. I completely understand all of those sentiments. For me, though, I’m trying to remain optimistic.

Syracuse basketball can have a promising future, as the team’s roster is quite young.

Okay, so here’s some of the “bad” news. So far in 2022-23, the Orange doesn’t have any high-quality triumphs. The ‘Cuse can be a bit turnover prone, gets beat on the glass at times, and by and large, has put forth inconsistent performances.

The team’s zone defense isn’t as poor as in 2021-22, but it’s not great, either. Senior center Jesse Edwards has produced some excellent games, but foul trouble can plague him here and there. Syracuse basketball is a fairly good shooting squad from the field, beyond the arc and at the charity stripe, but again, the ‘Cuse struggles with consistency.

My main point here is that while a 13-10 record leaves a lot to be desired, the Orange’s 2022-23 roster is relatively young. Sure, there are seniors in Edwards, shooting guard Joe Girard III and guard Symir Torrence, but the ‘Cuse line-up includes six freshmen and eight underclassmen.

Young rosters often can experience growing pains in Division I men’s hoops. I am not saying the Orange is anywhere close to as talented as Duke, but the Blue Devils in 2022-23 do have a lot of freshmen, albeit five-star ones, and Duke to date in the present term has racked up more losses than it usually does.

What provides me with hope is that some of the freshmen on the Syracuse basketball roster are playing well, although to reiterate, everyone within the ‘Cuse line-up is inconsistent these days. But to me, freshman point guard Judah Mintz is one of the best newbies nationwide.

Freshmen Justin Taylor, a wing, Maliq Brown, a forward, and Chris Bell, a forward, have all done some positive things on the court in recent games. They need to get more consistent, and the same goes for sophomore forward Benny Williams. From my perspective, though, Syracuse basketball could be a much-improved squad in 2023-24.

Of course, whether Boeheim will be the head coach then isn’t clear, and who knows how many current players could end up hitting the transfer portal in the off-season.

Now we come to the topic of the Orange and its ability to emerge victorious in close games. I’ve seen a lot of comments from my fellow ‘Cuse fans on social media suggesting that Syracuse basketball never wins close contests.

That’s not entirely true. In ACC play, the Orange has narrowly beaten Notre Dame twice and Louisville on the road. However, the sticking point here is that the Fighting Irish and the Cardinals aren’t good squads in 2022-23.

Meanwhile, in the non-conference slate, Syracuse basketball fell in overtime to St. John’s in New York City and to Bryant by one point on the Hill. In conference affairs, the Orange lost to Pittsburgh in Central New York by two points, to top-10 Virginia twice by a combined 12 points, to top-25 Miami on the road by four points, and to defending national runner-up North Carolina at the JMA Wireless Dome, also by four points.

So the dilemma here, and the frustration among ‘Cuse fans, is that while Syracuse basketball has prevailed in a few close encounters, when the Orange has had chances for strong wins of late, the team hasn’t been able to get the job done.

Undeniably, Syracuse basketball has endured some average seasons since moving to the ACC from the Big East Conference in 2013-14. The ‘Cuse has managed a couple of deep March Madness runs, absolutely, but the team isn’t performing as it did from, say, 2009 to 2013.

To acerbate everything, the Orange was under .500 a campaign ago, and it’s entirely possible that the ‘Cuse could end up with a losing mark in 2022-23. I hope that isn’t the case. Because I’m still holding out hope that this young Syracuse basketball roster can shine in the near future – even if it’s not in the present term.

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