Syracuse Basketball: Adrian Autry says he's proud of how ‘Cuse has battled all season

Head coach Adrian Autry says that he's proud of how his Syracuse basketball players have battled all season long.
Head coach Adrian Autry says that he's proud of how his Syracuse basketball players have battled all season long. / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

The chatter, following its 15-point loss at Clemson this past Tuesday night, is that Syracuse basketball likely needs to win next week’s ACC Tournament to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

Maybe that’s the case. Maybe not.

I’m not a bracketologist, but based on the Orange’s resume in the 2023-24 regular season, including its sub-par NCAA NET ranking, I would say that the ‘Cuse has to claim multiple victories in the upcoming ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., to get close to the proverbial bubble for this spring’s Big Dance following a two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament.

So the Orange will give it a go soon in our nation’s capital. Is the ‘Cuse likely to win the ACC Tournament? I’d say no. Is it then likely that Syracuse basketball is going to miss March Madness for the third consecutive stanza? Perhaps.

To me, though, the 2023-24 term for the Orange, led by first-year head coach Adrian Autry and a relatively young roster, has been a successful one.

And Autry said in his post-game press conference following the squad’s 90-75 setback to the Tigers that he’s proud of his roster for battling all season long. “We’ve been through wars,” he said.

Syracuse basketball coaches and players look forward to the ACC Tournament.

Here’s a little context. The ‘Cuse finished the 2023-24 regular season at 20-11 overall and 11-9 in conference competition. Other ACC groups have regular-season games left this weekend, but regardless, the worst that the Orange can finish in the league standings is No. 7.

Depending on how Pittsburgh and Wake Forest fare this weekend, the ‘Cuse could end up as high as No. 5 in the league’s pecking order. Just a friendly reminder that in the ACC’s preseason media poll, Syracuse basketball was forecast to finish at No. 10 in the conference.

What’s more, 2023-24 is the first time that the Orange has tallied at least 20 regular-season triumphs in a decade. By extension, 2023-24 is also the first instance that the ‘Cuse has gotten to 20 victories in a campaign dating back to 2018-19.

I’ve been over this ad nauseam. Autry’s roster this term has mainly sophomores. Two key guys have dealt with extensive injuries, while reserves have also had some injuries and/or illnesses. One of the veterans on the 2023-24 roster was dismissed from the program.

I’m not making excuses here. But for Autry to replace a legendary Hall of Famer in Jim Boeheim, contend with a tough non-conference schedule and the usual slate of challenging ACC affairs, and notch 20 regular-season victories with a line-up depleted by various issues, to me, shows a ‘Cuse team trending in a positive direction.

Now, the Orange has its flaws. Its offense has been better in recent games, while its defense has struggled a bit. Rebounding is always a hot-button topic.

Sophomore Maliq Brown is a terrific player, but as a center rather than a power forward, he’s under-sized. By and large, Syracuse basketball still isn’t a great shooting team.

The ‘Cuse has some solid successes, like beating top-10 North Carolina, Colgate and Oregon at a neutral site, along with sweeping N.C. State and Pittsburgh.

A home loss to Florida State, along with bad road setbacks to Boston College and Georgia Tech, stung the Orange’s post-season resume.

Additionally, while the ‘Cuse hasn’t lost to a lot of sub-par foes, many of its setbacks to ranked opponents were by wide margins.

In that post-game presser following the loss to Clemson, Autry said that it will be good for his players to have a little time off to rest up their legs before getting into the gym to tighten things up on both ends of the floor.

He acknowledged that throughout 2023-24, Syracuse basketball has put forth some good moments and some not-so-good moments. The team has learned from it all, and the ACC Tournament is a new season, Autry says.

It’s completely understandable for ‘Cuse fans to feel frustrated that the Orange may miss the annual NCAA Tournament for a third campaign in a row. I get that.

From my perspective, though, with all that Autry has had to deal with, he’s done a remarkable job. I said so in another recent column.

Prior to its loss at Clemson, Syracuse basketball had won four straight and six of eight. So the ‘Cuse has been playing pretty well.

It may not be enough for an invite to the Big Dance, as expecting the Orange to win the ACC Tournament crown is a tall ask. However, 2023-24 has proven a success, and the future looks bright on the Hill.

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