There are plenty of reasons to watch Syracuse despite them being in the NIT.
Needless to say, Selection Sunday did not go the way that Syracuse fans had hoped for, even if it was somewhat expected. Now, the Orange are set to square-off with UNC-Greensboro (oh, the irony) in the first round of the NIT Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome (assuming the players and officials can fight through the storm and get to the arena). While it may not be the Big Dance, Syracuse fans should still care about what goes down in the “consolation tournament”. Here are the biggest storylines to follow as Syracuse kicks-off their bid for an NIT championship.
The End of the Boeheim Era?
Jim Boeheim and the school made it quite clear that the Hall-of-Famer is stepping aside for Mike Hopkins following the 2017-18 season. Nothing that Boeheim has said or done in the recent months has suggested that he plans on staying for longer than that. Of course, rumors will always swill about Boeheim itching to retire before his pre-determined date. Boeheim himself did not help that when he ranted in his press conference about Greensboro hosting the ACC Tournament and eloquently explained that he can say whatever he wants because he “doesn’t give a (expletive)”. It is unlikely that we have reached the end of the Boeheim era earlier than expected, but it is hard to rule anything out. If he does step aside after this season and you didn’t watch him coach in the NIT, you’ll probably regret it.
Tyler Lydon and Tyus Battle and the NBA
Let’s start with Battle because his situation is simpler and clearer. He has already said that he plans on returning next season. However, Syracuse fans probably have trust issues when it comes to freshman unexpectedly declaring for the draft. Orange fans hardly need reminding that a great post-season can vault a freshman up the NBA Draft boards and cause him to leave school. Lydon is a much trickier player to figure out. He, in many regards, looks incredibly NBA-ready as he is versatile and intelligent. However, as Boeheim was quick to point out after Syracuse’s loss in Brooklyn, the sophomore has a lot to work on to become the superstar that every Syracuse fan knows that he can be. Right now, most experts seem to have Lydon as a mid-20s pick, which is late first round. There is no way to know how far he could climb in the 2018 draft if he decides to return to school but he can still climb this year’s board with a great post-season performance. Yes, it may be the NIT and not the NCAA Tournament but NBA scouts will be watching.
This is the Best You Will Get
Lastly, this is Syracuse basketball. The opponents might not be glamorous, the attention from the nation may be limited but this is the only Syracuse basketball that we will get until November.