Syracuse hoops seemed to be destined for an early exit from March; a quick departure from Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament, and an even swifter good-bye from the Big Dance. Re-calibrate those expectations Orange Nation. Again.
After the ‘Cuse’s bullying victory at Georgetown yesterday, we once again have to adjust our beliefs in what this team can accomplish. A mere two weeks ago, Jim Boeheim’s media assault seemed to be the final brush stroke in an ugly season. The blowup with Dion Waiters, the bust of Fab Melo, the point-shaving nonsense, the losing streak to Louisville. A #3 ranking had dissolved into an uneven team with key pieces pulling in every direction.
At the time, The Per’fesser’s media offensive seemed petty and ill-timed. Today, it looks like a stroke of genius. After Jimmy threw verbal grenades at the coverage afforded his team, a college basketball insider told The Fizz, “The one thing Boeheim has always done is used the ‘us against the world’ mentality perfectly with his players. Just like the McNamara thing, he’s probably gonna use this to jolt the team.”
Amazingly, that’s exactly what’s happened. Syracuse hasn’t lost since Boeheim blasted Mike Waters, Donna Ditota and every other press member within earshot. It’s distinctly possible the Hall of Famer seized upon an opportunity to shift the attention and create a bunker mentality.
Melo had been benched. Waiters was AWOL. The Orange had lost six of eight. By stirring the “nobody believes in us” pot, Boeheim has gotten a better focused squad the last two weeks. Fab played solid minutes in the post. Waiters is contributing and not cussing his coach. R-Jax continues to be a beast down low, while spare pieces like James Southerland have stepped up.
Scoop is still terrifying to watch in big situations. The offense is frustratingly a derivation of the And-1 tour. Kris Joseph has entered the witness protection program. But the Orange has passed major tests on the road at Villanova and now the Hoyas this week. The talent we knew this team had all along is finally meshing and unafraid to come up big in the biggest of spots.
ESPN’s bracketology had SU slotted as a four-seed before yesterday’s win. The Orange is now an easy victory over DePaul away from potentially grabbing the double-bye in the Big East Tourney. Then again, if we’ve learned anything, is that easy is a terrible word to use this Syracuse basketball season. Just when you thought you had them figured out, the Orange makes you realize you have no idea what they’re capable of.