Late December brings the three S’s to central New York: snow (lots of it), Santa and Syracuse basketball. But this year has brought another S: sadness. You can thank SU hoops for that.
The ball simply has not rolled the Orange’s way in the early going. SU lost all three of its games against old Big East rivals. The trainwreck was topped off with an embarrassing 33 point point loss to St. Johns. It will take a lot to salvage this season, so here are three things on every Orange fan’s wishlist this holiday season.
Consistent Play From Tyler Roberson
Roberson needs to be a starter for this team. But don’t confuse that with meaning that Jim Boeheim must hand Roberson his starting job back. Roberson needs to earn his way into the rotation by playing consistently on both ends. The Orange held a 7-0 record last season in games where he posted a double-double. Right now, Roberson is averaging about half as many rebounds per game and also has seen his points per game dip by about three. We know Roberson can excel on the glass; he led the ACC in offensive rebounds last season. It will take performances like that to salvage what seems like a lost season for SU.
The Orange posted an 0-5 record against Power Five opponents during non-conference play. That certainly is not appealing to the tournament committee. But that is where playing in the ACC helps Syracuse tremendously. The latest AP Poll featured six ACC teams, with three others receiving votes. No other conference holds more than four spots in the Top 25. That gives the Orange 10 more chances at quality wins to boost its resume. In last year’s final poll of the regular season, SU had only beat four teams in the Top 25 and those that received votes and still went dancing, much to the dismay of Doug Gottlieb.
NCAA Tournament Bid
This is the item on your list that seems farfetched, but you put it on there just for the hell of it. There is still a chance for Syracuse to wow the committee before Selection Sunday, but it will take a complete 180-degree change from SU’s non-conference showing. The UConn loss hurt, the Georgetown game stung and the St. Johns one was insufferable. But if the zone can come together and the offense can avoid stagnancy, quality wins in the ACC trump bad non-conference losses.