I get what Jim Boeheim is doing with his Syracuse basketball team. They are in a funk, losing 3 in a row and have lost confidence. The coach, who in the best of times can find the dark cloud when everyone else sees silver linings is throwing his team a life raft. He is saying that he knows they can play well and still be a good team in the tournament. But the on the court evidence over the past few weeks shows just the opposite. They certainly can't blame their recent play on a lack of support from the faithful. The record crowd against Georgetown and the enthusiastic bunch to watch Louisville should have been the little edge SU needed. Instead, when it counted most, the visitors found a way to deflate the Dome. What will this team do on a neutral court?
You don't have to be a Hall of Fame coach to see what the problem is with this year's version of the Orange. They can't shoot. In the last three games they have been brutal from behind the 3 point line, hitting just 17 of their last 57 shots from distance. For a team that has almost no inside offensive presence, that is a killer to their chances of winning.
To Coach Boeheim's credit he points out that all three of the most recent losses, to nationally ranked teams, have been close with SU having a chance to win. While that is certainly true it also points out the other glaring reason why I think this SU team is so flawed. They do not have a player or leader who can carry them at the toughest moments of the toughest games. James Southerland referenced the Kemba Walker run through the Big East and NCAA tournament as an example of getting hot at the right time and winning. But has anyone seen anyone on this Syracuse team play anywhere near the level that Walker did when leading UConn to a national championship?
Can SU still do damage in the NCAA Tournament? Absolutely. But its going to take so many things to go right that I don't see it happening. If Southerland gets hot from an extended period of time. If the Orange get the right matchups that accentuate the advantage they can have when playing their 2-3 zone. If Brandon Triche breaks out of his slump (with the exception of Seton Hall) and he starts making shots. If the Orange make their free throws at key times. If one of the big men decides it would be time to show they can post someone up and make a shot. Way too many ifs. Plus the recent slump has dropped the Orange to a likely 4 or 5 seed which elminates the game one gimme and the game two mismatch.
As defensive as Boeheim has been this year he might actually believe what he is saying about his team. He might actually think they can turn it on and make a run against what has to be one of the weakest fields in NCAA tournament history. The Orange may be flawed but so is everyone else. But the body of work from this entire year tells me this team is primed for a quick exit from the tournament. Now that is a reason to make every Syracuse fan as cranky as their coach.