Last night, Syracuse took down fellow New York squad Cornell for the 33rd straight time, winning 78-58. As they moved to 7-0, and 8th in the AP Poll, all would seem to be well in the world of Orange. However, it’s just that. After narrow shaves over Michigan and Georgia Tech, two teams who by no means will be visitors this year in Houston, and beating Cornell in a less than impressive fashion despite what the score may indicate, I’m starting to think this team is in for a long, up and down year.
Jim Boeheim, who over the course of his decades-long tenure as Orange coach, has never been one to mince words or hide his emotions, let his team have it yet again in his post-game press conference.
“I was very disappointed with the second half after a pretty solid first half. We just can’t seem to put good efforts together on the offensive and defensive ends — we’re good defensively in the first half, and in the second half we had very little effort defensively. When you don’t have good effort, people are going to score against you. We just made ridiculous turnovers that you just can’t have — we have a lot of work to do, we can’t seem to get it together for 40 minutes.”
Boeheim’s comments, as usual, were spot on in highlighting his team’s current problems. Rotation issues have led to inconsistent play, whether it is half to half, or five minute stretches of the game. The guard play, expected to be a strength with two returning players, has been the most erratic position on the floor. Brandon Triche has absolutely no rhythm, playing only half the game and ringing up almost as many turnovers (six), as points (nine.) Scoop Jardine, after a strong start, has gone ice cold from the field. Finally, with freshmen making up the majority of the Orange’s bench this year, it’s not like Boeheim has experienced guys to turn to when his starters struggle, as was the case last year.
The biggest problem I see is a lack of leadership on the court. Rick Jackson, who has been by far the team’s best player, isn’t the emotional veteran that Andy Rautins was last year. Kris Joseph, the presumptive scoring leader, is another quiet voice on the squad. And the aforementioned guard play is too concerned with their own play to worry about directing others.
The good news? Syracuse IS pulling out these victories. Granted, the opposing teams aren’t impressive, but at the very least, the team isn’t folding under pressure and letting the tight ones go. Cornell was able to battle back under the team’s poor second half play, but Syracuse still ended up winning by twenty thanks to their strong first half play. There’s a lot of improvement to be made among the team, but for now, at least they’re still pulling out W’s.
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Written by Curt Bell