If the 2016-17 Syracuse men’s basketball season isn’t already in the sewage system, it’s rapidly approaching the bottom of the toilet. The Orange’s nightmare campaign continued to hurtle down the proverbial cliff on Saturday, with an uncompetitive loss at Notre Dame dropping Jim Boeheim’s team to 11-9 (3-4 ACC) — a record that features exactly zero wins away from the Carrier Dome.
SU’s woes can be blamed on a multitude of factors, but the play of Tyler Lydon is not one of them. After a somewhat cold start to his sophomore season, the forward has made a habit of smashing even the loftiest of expectations, cracking double-figure scoring in 11 of his team’s last 12 games (he scored at least 10 in just three of Syracuse’s first seven contests). Lydon poured in 26 points (11-14 FG) and grabbed seven rebounds against North Carolina, then followed it up with 24 and 10 in South Bend. A unique ability to both shoot from beyond the arc on offense and protect the rim on defense — though it’s fair to be dubious of his potential as a defensive anchor at the next level — has propelled Lydon into the first round of most NBA mock drafts.
While it’s easy to view Lydon’s scorching stretch as the silver lining for a floundering basketball team, you can also view it as a glaring negative. If he keeps stringing together standout performances, the Elizaville, N.Y., native will wind up with an All-American-type season — and no choice but to make the leap to the Association.
Follow along with this (admittedly aggressive) analogy: Lydon’s stellar play in the center of an atrocious season is like a dessert from a restaurant. You bite the bullet and order it, knowing that you may later regret the decision — but you expect the taste to be good enough to make the calories worth it. In the case of Orange hoops, we expected Lydon’s play to be good enough to make the prospect of him leaving after the season worth it, because it should be carrying the squad to a terrific season.
Well, the dessert simply doesn’t taste very good. Lydon is lighting it up, but SU still stinks. It’s not a silver lining at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The cupboard is bare for next year’s Orange. Boeheim’s staff has attracted a somewhat inauspicious incoming recruiting class that 247sports ranks as the 66th-best in the nation for 2017. Andrew White III, John Gillon, Tyler Roberson, and DaJuan Coleman are graduating. Franklin Howard should return, but he has demonstrated very few signs of improvement during his 1.5 seasons in Central New York. Taurean Thompson projects to stick around, as well, but looks like a deer in the headlights in the 2-3 zone. Tyus Battle looks more like a potential one-and-done with each passing game.
If Lydon leaves, Syracuse could be screwed for next season and beyond. That type of bleak future would be palatable if the team were in the midst of a strong season — but that couldn’t be further from the case. SU is horrendous, and may lose its best player in the offseason. That’s not exactly a recipe for prosperity.