Well, it was bound to happen.
I converse regularly with a number of other Orange bloggers and, to a one, we all agreed that Syracuse wasn’t going undefeated this season. I think in the back of our minds we all really wanted that to happen (I know I did) but most of us didn’t expect it and aren’t upset that it didn’t come to be.
I just didn’t think Boston College would be the ones to end Syracuse’s best ever winning streak. Prior to Wednesday night’s victory in the Carrier Dome, the Eagles ha only two ACC victories to their credit this season, both over co-conference cellar dweller Virginia Tech. So, to call the Eagles’ 62-59 OT win an upset would be an understatement.
The Curse of the Blue Shorts
First off, I loved the throwback jerseys. They rocked the cursive font joints once when I was at SU and I was extremely jealous. And I don’t have Coach Boeheim’s aversion to blue unis. In fact, I’ve long maintained than a cool alternate uniform would be the dark blue with orange pinstripes, like a lot of NBA teams used to do in the mid-late ’90s (UCF rocked pinstripe unis this season).
But, you have to admit, the whole ensemble was pretty ugly. I realize that there was some sort of symbolism in wearing the blue shorts. But, no. Jersey and shorts should always, always be the same color. Whomever is in charge of those decisions at SU should have straight up told Nike to go f*ck themselves with the blue shorts. Would I rock them in a pick up game? Absolutely. But they had no place on a real, live game on national TV. Worse than platinum. And the fact that they lost in them doesn’t help.
So, back to actual basketball. The first question that likely leaps into the people’s’ minds when considering the loss is, “Were the Orange looking past the lowly Eagles, toward this weekends rematch with Duke?”
Personally, I think the answer is a resounding “No”, at least not where C.J. Fair was concerned. True, the Orange started 0-5 from the field, but their first four points were Fair free throws. The fifth and sixth were on a layup by C.J. In fact, he scored eight of Syracuse’s first 10. He was in attack mode, looking to impose his will on the Eagles and it worked, for the most part, as he finished the game with 20 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Whatever shortcomings the Orange had in this one can’t be laid at the feet of Fair.
As for looking ahead to Duke, I think this was sort of a dress rehearsal for that game. The Blue Devils and Eagles are similar in that they’re going to look to beat Syracuse the same way; penetrate the zone to make is contract, then kick out for three. I’d like to think that the Orange had this in mind when the game started. I’d also like to think that they learned a ton about how to guard that mode of attack. They say you improve more through losing than winning. Let’s hope that’s the case.
The fact that this wasn’t that different from many other Syracuse games this season is both encouraging and frightening. On the one hand, out of many, many close games the Orange have played this season, this is the only loss. Sure, it was to Boston College, but so what. As bad as the Eagles have been, they’re still a major conference basketball program. In a conference like the ACC, a team like BC is a K.J. McDaniels away from being Clemson; not quite top-tier, but not total crap either. So, while most people will talk about the fact that Syracuse lost to a team at the bottom of the league, I’m not that concerned about it.
On the other hand, actually suffering a loss this way serves as a stark reminder of how close Syracuse has been to losing 4, 5, 6 games this season. And I don’t just mean the long buzzer-beater at Pitt or the last second steal-layup against N.C. State. Let’s not forget, the Orange were down eight in the second half to these very same Eagles when they met in Chestnut Hill on January 13th. Syracuse’s style of play has very little margin for error. They can’t afford turnovers, they can’t afford to miss easy shots. And therein lies an unexpected L.
Watching the game, right up until Ryan Anderson threw the ball skyward with two seconds left, sealing the Eagle win, I was just waiting. Waiting for #TylerTime. Everything set for another close Syracuse win. C.J. Fair kept the game close throughout. Jerami Grant (11 points, 6 rebounds) was a force inside and on the glass. Everything was set for Tyler Ennis to work his late game magic and lift Syracuse to victory.
But, it didn’t quite happen. That’s not to say that Ennis played poorly down the stretch. He just wasn’t as fantastic as we’re used to him being. He had an uncharacteristic late turnover as he tried to force a long pass inside. He left jumpers and runners short. He missed a late free throw. In the last ten minutes of the game, he had seven of his fourteen points a rebound and a block, but he also missed four shots and had two turnovers. So, again, good, but not the #TylerTime SU fans are used to.
I’m picking on Ennis, but just because his late game performance was indicative of the entire team’s performance. Sloppy play, turnovers late, missing bunnies. The plays they’ve made in all of their close wins were missed in this close loss. And, really, it’s a microcosm of the season. Just about every game is played on a knife’s edge. Syracuse has the talent to be on the winning side of that edge far more often than not. I don’t see this as a cause for concern. I see this more as a wake up call for the ‘Cuse. Now’s the time to really lock in, focus and get the job done. That job being the business of winning a national title.
What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Leave your comments below.
Chris Daughtrey is the creator and author of Bleeding Orange. He is a contributor at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and at Atlantic Coast Confidential. You can connect with him on Twitter @OrangeBlood 44 or search #OrangeBlood.