Syracuse gave fans a glimmer of hope last weekend with an 81-47 win over St. Bonaventure. That win though, doesn’t overshadow an overall disappointing non-conference performance by the Orange. Not only did they lose four games, but they didn’t look all that great in most of their wins either. The unexpected poor play gives us plenty to talk about in 2019.
1. Will the Orange rise to the level of their competition?
Over the years, Jim Boeheim’s teams have faired well in the big games. Whenever a marquee opponent invades the Carrier Dome, you can almost guarantee the Orange will come in ready to play. Will that happen again this year? Syracuse’s biggest tests this season have come on the road: Oregon (Madison Square Garden) and Ohio State. The matchup with the Ducks didn’t go so well, granted that was during the Orange’s brutal shooting slump. The Ohio State game is the one that sticks out. The Orange showed up to play in Columbus and left with their best non-conference win of the season. The opponents get tougher in the ACC. Will Syracuse rise to the occasion?
2. Does the three-point shooting finally get going?
Undoubtedly the biggest disappointment of the season so far. Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim were supposed to come in and save the day from downtown. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Boeheim is connecting from deep just over 20 percent of the time. Hughes has been more consistent, but there’s still plenty left to be desired from Syracuse shooting the three. For me, this is the singular most important key to the next several months. The defense is going to be there, there’s no question about that. But can SU find any sort of consistency from beyond the arc?
3. Will a poor non-conference record hold them back in March?
Bad news: a disappointing first two months cost the Orange a NCAA tournament bid two seasons ago. A string of losses including a 93-60 result against St. Johns in the Carrier Dome. cost them. This season hasn’t been as bad but it’s close. The problem is what a great run that 2016-17 team had in the ACC. You’ll remember the John Gillon prayer against Duke and Tyus Battle buzzer beater against Clemson, just to name a couple. Can Syracuse repeat that magic again this year? And if it does, will that even be enough? That’s perhaps the toughest question that faces this team heading into the new year.