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Déjà Vu: Syracuse’s Recent Woes Reminiscent of Last Year’s Regular-Season Meltdown

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via NBC College Basketball

As we transition from the month of February to March, expectations for the nation’s best squads rise to an all-time high. Tournament talk is headline news. An ugly loss to no. 12 Virginia Saturday locks up the ACC for the Cavs and leaves SU scratching its head. How has Syracuse hoops handled this time of the year in the past two seasons? The trend looks awfully similar.

2012 – 2013 Season Start: 22 – 4 February 23rd – March 9th: Lost 4 of 5 games played

2013 – 2014 Season Start: 25 – 0 February 19th – March 1st: Lost 3 of 4 games played

With Selection Sunday just two weeks away, SU puts itself in a frustrating situation, just like last year. No one saw this coming when you consider the program is in a new conference with different competition. The Big East challenged the Orange year in and year out and it was pretty much a guaranteed grind to get through each season. The hot start in the ACC teased SU. Even though the losses got the undefeated monkey off its back, Syracuse is now in jeopardy to land a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

A big reason for each of the two squads’ mid-winter slides was, and is, the lack of offensive production. Take a look:

Offensive Averages in these Stretches

12 – 13 (Feb. 23rd – Mar 9th)               13 – 14 (Feb. 19th – Mar 1st)

Total Points Scored       57.4                               58

Field Goal Percentage   30.8%                          36.7%

Syracuse has shot the ball better percentage-wise in comparison to last year, but the numbers still sit in the 30s. As for total points, fewer than 60 on a consistent basis is no winning formula. The fact of the matter is the Orange has rode along with four locked-in scoring options. Now the wear and tear of the regular season is getting to it. In just two games all year, CJ Fair played less than 35 minutes. Tyler Ennis has logged multiple 35+ minutes games as well. Throw in an injured Jerami Grant and a slumping Trevor Cooney and Syracuse is desperate for ways to put the ball in the basket.

How does Syracuse pull itself out of this hole? Obviously more scoring should help but that’s not all. More efficiency on the glass is a major concern going forward. If Grant sits out tomorrow’s affair against Georgia Tech and the season finale next Sunday at Florida State, Syracuse has to expect guys like Bae Keita and Michael Gbinije to take advantage of more opportunities. Bae’s injury against Clemson turned out to not be very serious. It’s a good thing he’s a healed body that can come off the bench for impact minutes. Jim Boeheim’s choice to play his starting five tiring minutes indicates A) it’s SU’s best chance to win and B) come this time of the year he trusts his bench plays appropriately when called upon.

The encouraging tidbit in regards to last season’s group is, of course, SU went all the way to Atlanta for the Final Four as a four seed. By no means is the 2014 team done, but we can go as far as saying trouble could be on the way in the ACC Tournament. Confidence is lacking right now, but as we saw with Michael Carter-Williams and company, that can all change fast.

Expect Keita and Fair to receive warm applauses Tuesday as it’s the senior duo’s final game in the Carrier Dome. But the Orange also looks to assure its home crowd that everything’s just fine. A look back to 2013’s devastating winter-play was necessary. A slide was bound to happen and it has. Whether it continues remains the question. Not a bad team to face to clean up the act, as Georgia Tech sits third to last in the ACC standings.

Posted by: Brendan Glasheen

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