With last night’s win over Pittsburgh, Syracuse is now out to a 20-0 start, the best in the program’s storied history. It’s one of Jim Boeheim’s deepest teams, with an extraordinary focus on defensive intensity. The Per’fesser downplayed the significance of that accomplishment after the game.
“There is no significance, none whatsoever. The only thing I care about is this year and what we are doing this year.”
Even though the path of the unbeaten may even lead the Orange into February, players like senior leader Kris Joseph echoed the sentiment.
“We’re not worried about our record. We’ve been playing good basketball so far. We’ve come this far doing the things that we’ve been doing and we’re focusing on.”
They are right. The record start will not ultimately define this team. The ’99-’00 SU squad began 19-0, but Orange Nation only remembers blowing a double-digit lead to Michigan State in the Sweet 16. It’s all about how you finish.
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But the historical mark does offer perspective on just how good this team has been. How many great teams has Boeheim had? The best start in school history is not the ultimate goal, but it’s the first step in recognizing this team could be one of the all time greats at SU. Now it has to build on that for the rest of the season. But only a Final Four and/or National Championship will cement this team as one of the greatest Boeheim has ever had.
The Orange don’t seem to be caught up in their own hype, which will surely build as the undefeated streak grows and the tournament nears. It’s the perfect attitude for this team as it navigates a competitive Big East schedule, and into March. It’s also the reason SU is still undefeated. Led by Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine’s focus and bigger picture goals, regular season wins and individual accomplishments seem to be secondary for this squad. In a sport with such incredible roster turnover, and national hype surrounding elite players when they’re just adolescents, pulling together for the common good is rare.
But this edition of the Orange has seemingly found that beautiful mix. The record also underscores just how difficult it is to go 20-0. The only other team still unbeaten is Murray State, which is playing several steps down in competition. So while the players and coaches will downplay the significance, it’s quite an accomplishment. Syracuse must finish the job in March to really go down in school lore, but 20-0 is a good time for Orange Nation to take a moment to recognize just how great this team has already been.
Posted: Steve Neikam