Syracuse Basketball: ‘This is a resilient group,’ SU head coach Adrian Autry says

Head coach Adrian Autry credited his players for their composure and resiliency after a huge ACC victory at N.C. State.
Head coach Adrian Autry credited his players for their composure and resiliency after a huge ACC victory at N.C. State. / Lance King/GettyImages

Syracuse basketball has put forth an up-and-down season to date, but I credit the Orange players for their fight, grit, heart and toughness.

Let’s not forget that the ‘Cuse, in the current 2023-24 season, has a first-year and first-time head coach in Adrian Autry, who succeeded a Hall of Famer in Jim Boeheim.

That’s no easy task. This season’s Syracuse basketball roster has no seniors on it. One of its juniors, forward Benny Williams, was dismissed from the program, freshman William Patterson is expected to redshirt, and multiple guys have been injured.

I’m not making excuses. The ‘Cuse, to date in 2023-24, has proven inconsistent. Inconsistent from game to game and half to half. Inconsistent with its shooting, its half-court offensive sets and its defense.

At this point in the current term, as Syracuse basketball comes down the stretch in the regular season and eyes next month’s ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., Autry basically has a line-up that was once filled with depth but is now down to eight guys, until and if sophomore center Peter Carey returns at some point.

Of those eight players, six are sophomores, one is a redshirt sophomore, and one is a junior who doesn’t play all that much. Again, not excuses. Just reality.

Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry praises his team’s composure.

On Tuesday night, the Orange traveled to N.C. State in what is hovering around a quadrant-one game for the ‘Cuse. Syracuse basketball had the recent highs of beating then-No. 7 North Carolina at home about a week ago, and the recent lows of playing awful in a bad loss at Georgia Tech this past Saturday.

Inconsistency to a tee. Against those Wolfpack, an Atlantic Coast Conference foe that the Orange has owned in recent years, sophomore forward Chris Bell was lights out in the first half, scoring 26 points.

The ‘Cuse built up a 15-point lead. But Bell was shut out in the second half, and N.C. State clawed back to even take the lead for a brief period of time. With the home crowd getting loud, it would have been relatively easy for this young Syracuse basketball roster to let this league affair slip away, especially with Wolfpack defenders swarming Bell after the intermission.

However, sophomore point guard Judah Mintz and sophomore wing Quadir Copeland stepped up in a big way in the second half. After going scoreless in the first half, Mintz had 15 points in the second half, while Copeland tallied a career-high 25 points and made some massive defensive plays, including in this contest’s waning seconds.

The Orange (17-10, 8-8 in the ACC) would will its way to an 87-83 defeat of N.C. State. Autry, in a post-game interview with the ESPN2 broadcast crew, credited his players for keeping their composure when the Wolfpack rallied to take the lead.

Autry says his players got key stops on the defensive end down the stretch, while Copeland and Mintz, in particular, made some big baskets and free throws.

For the ‘Cuse to bounce back from a rough setback at the Yellow Jackets and secure a road win versus a good N.C. State team signifies the fight of this Syracuse basketball roster.

They keep battling back every game, Autry says. “This is a resilient group.”

The Orange head coach was asked by the ESPN2 broadcasters if he thinks the ‘Cuse deserves consideration for this spring’s NCAA Tournament, and Autry said yes.

Syracuse basketball has some good triumphs, both on the road and at home, he noted, and the team is taking things one game at a time.

At this juncture in 2023-24, the Orange has four regular-season encounters left. The ‘Cuse will host Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, and then it will play at Louisville and at Clemson.

Syracuse basketball doesn’t have a lot of bad losses. Its worst two setbacks, to me, are at Boston College and at Georgia Tech. The Orange’s 16-point loss to Florida State and SU’s nine-point loss to Clemson, both at home, were disappointing but not awful.

The Orange has three true road wins – at Georgetown, at Pittsburgh and at N.C. State. The ‘Cuse neutral-site victory over Oregon last December is solid.

SU’s quadrant-one successes are against UNC at home and at Pittsburgh. If N.C. State can move into the top 75 of the NCAA Net rankings, that could move into quad-one territory. Same goes for Oregon; if the Ducks get into the top 50 of the NET, that could also turn into a quad-one win.

Four quad-one victories look a lot better than two (duh). In my humble opinion, for Syracuse basketball to realistically enter the conversation for an invite to the 2024 Big Dance, it has to defeat Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Louisville.

That would get the Orange to 20-10 overall and 11-8 in the ACC. Then the regular-season finale at Clemson (and former ‘Cuse guard Joe Girard III) would be a huge wild card.

Knock off the Tigers on the road, and the ‘Cuse is in business to me. That’s 21 regular-season victories, and one more triumph in the ACC Tournament, I would hope, could prove enough for Syracuse basketball to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

Given that this is Autry’s first season as the head coach, the Orange has missed two straight NCAA Tournaments, the roster has been depleted due to injuries and other factors, and this is a young squad, reaching the upcoming March Madness – while still a bit far away for now – would be a remarkable achievement for the Syracuse basketball program.

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