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Fizz Five: Is Jim Boeheim Lying When He Says He Likes This SU Team?

The brutal loss to Louisville has Syracuse dangerously slipping during the final stretch of the regular season. The Orange falls into a three-way third place tie in the conference standings and now should shift its focus to tournament play. With two regular season games left (including a chance to return the favor against Georgetown on the road), the Orange could desperately use a pair of wins to gain some momentum. SU’s offense has been pitiful especially late in games. This team is still searching for its identity and go-to player or players in crucial moments.

Jim Boeheim’s squad is still in a position to land a three seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s not the end of the world, but the recent slide brings frustration. Rick Pitino and his Cardinals avenged the loss to the Orange from earlier this season. Here’s The Fizz Five takeaways from Syracuse’s ugly loss to Slick Rick:

  • Boeheim: “I still like our team.” 

After hammering how unproductive the bigs have been and acknowledging Brandon Triche’s struggles (see below), Jim Boeheim still went on to say he likes this squad. Remember way back when Georgetown scored just 37 points in a game and fell out of the rankings. Also Louisville lost three straight earlier this year, and its right back in the mix. Syracuse is hitting a rough patch but has been in every game over the last three. Maybe Boeheim understands that, sees the bigger picture and is trying to calm down the hysteria surrounding this team.

Georgetown at home in front of 35,012 was ugly, but Marquette on the road and a streaking Louisville team looking to avenge an early season loss to SU are no easy tasks. So it’s possible The Per’fesser has more perspective than the rest of us thinking SU will have a short stay in the tourney. It’s also possible he’s whistling past the graveyard. He might know this team just “doesn’t have it,” and is merely trying to put lipstick on a pig, building up what little confidence they might have so the Orange doesn’t totally lie down the final few games. It would be an even greater travesty if SU was blown out by 30 at Georgetown. Boeheim could be trying to prop up his team at a very difficult time.

  • The bigs remain ineffective around the rim

Heading into this season, most SU fans were probably content with the depth of SU’s frontline. Between DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas, and Baye Keita, the Orange had what it thought were three productive frontcourt players. Turns out this season has been the exact opposite.

Coleman has a pass in some regards because of the knee injury that kept him out four weeks. Let’s remember, too, Boeheim barely gives Coleman enough minutes at the start of the game to get into any type of rhythm. As for Rak Christmas, it’s crazy some are still projecting him as an NBA Draft prospect. That’s laughable at this point. Saturday he had just one defensive rebound in 23 minutes. He looks lost on the offensive end, posting up waving his hand without moving at all. Even his teammates can’t trust him so Christmas never gets many touches. He does make an impact on the defensive end, but Rak still depends on his leaping ability to rebound rather than positioning. At this point, SU is getting nothing productive from its big men, particularly on offense.

  • What the heck’s wrong with Brandon Triche?

The senior dropped 29 points on Seton Hall a few weeks back. It looked to be the turning point for Triche in his up-and-down season, but the offensive woes just keep coming. Triche was a dismal 2 of 11 from the field, and had an ugly seven turnovers in the game. He’s clearly in a funk, but who thought it would get this bad. Boeheim said postgame SU can’t afford Triche to be this bad.

“We can’t have him (Triche) play this way. He works his tail off. He’s a good teammate. He wants to win, but I don’t like the way he’s playing right now. I don’t like the way we’re playing. We need to get something offensively.”

If he’s not catching the ball, he’s mishandling the dribble. Luckily Senior Day is Wednesday so perhaps Triche can turn in a solid performance against DePaul before Georgetown.

  • What was MCW thinking on the pull-up three?

What’s Michael Carter-Williams’ deal at the end? SU trailing 51-48 in the final 40 seconds and five seconds into the shot clock MCW pulls up for three off a high screen. What’s the logic? MCW has been projected to be a lottery pick in June, but how ready is he for the next level? Ball movement and patience are not his strong suits. At the 5:37 marker in the second half, SU went on an 8-0 run thanks to alley-oops and sharing the rock. All of a sudden, everything changes in the final minute or two. Why? It continues to be a troubling question.

  • Plus side: SU battled in the 2nd half unlike G’Town and Marquette games

The fight and desire to win showed in the second half unlike games earlier in the week. SU shot 48% from the field and got shots to fall in the second half. We have to credit Louisville for coming into the Dome, and beating Syracuse. There were 12 lead changes in the game. James Southerland hit a huge three, but Luke Hancock came down and buried one of his onwn to answer. That seemed to happen often against the Cards. SU is still a front-running team, but the L’Ville game shows the Orange can respond to criticism and play well in the second half. Now the next step is to finish games and execute offensively late.

The Orange can still make a run in the Big East tournament and the NCAA tourney but have to get it together offensively, and fast.

Posted: Brendan Glasheen

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