Tuesday’s game against Louisville marks SU’s last opportunity for a statement win. If the Orange falter – like they did against Duke and Florida State – then the season is over.
The Cardinals were ranked as the No. 5 team in the country before dropping the last two games to Georgia Tech and Clemson. That’s the same Yellow Jackets and Tigers teams that Syracuse blew out and lost to in a nail biter.
A task that seemed impossible just a week ago, increasingly seems doable. But, on the other side of the coin, this is a Louisville team that will come into Wednesday’s match angry. That’s not exactly a winning formula for the Orange.
There’s a sense of urgency on The Hill for SU to turn its season around. But that same panic is prevalent down in Kentucky. Louisville coach Chris Mack benched star Jordan Nwora against Clemson, starting freshman Samuell Williamson instead.
Nwora is averaging over 18 points and seven rebounds, but scored just five points against Clemson. If he has another awful outing, Syracuse could pull out the upset. And there seems to be some unrest amongst the Cardinals.
“I’m not going to be able to answer a lot of questions about our team,” Mack said after Louisville’s loss to Clemson. “We’re not playing very well and I own it.”
Benching the star player, and at one time the run-away ACC Player Of The Year seems like a questionable decision to right the ship. Maybe Mack starts Nwora on Wednesday, but it seems like he crossed a line against Clemson. There’s something to be said about trying to send a message to your team. But benching Nwora seems like a decision that could turn the team and fan-base against Mack.
As for Syracuse, Buddy Boeheim absolutely must show up. Joe Girard is coming into his own, and showing maybe he’s the go-to guy when Elijah Hughes is banged up. But it’s absolutely inexcusable for Boeheim to have 0 points against Florida State, in a game that SU – in a twist of bitter irony – lost by three points. One Boeheim triple could have been the difference between his team playing in a month.
Now is not the time for Boeheim to go ice cold. The remedy? Plenty of shots. Open, contested, smothered, it doesn’t matter. Look at Joe Girard. He hit less than 32 percent of his looks against Florida State, ending with 22 points. He’s still learning what shots to take. But at least he’s shooting. The only way to break out of a slump is to hoist up more attempts.
Syracuse is playing the Cardinals at the perfect time. Now, it just needs to capitalize upon the opportunity. Girard and Hughes seem ready to play based on their play against FSU. But will Buddy break out of his slump?