With the ACC Tournament looming tomorrow, Syracuse men’s basketball is in the midst of tough times. That may even be an understatement, considering a Jim Boeheim-coached team has never been this bad at the end of a regular season than this year’s current 15-16 rendition. Even SU’s last NIT team (the 2016-17 group) wasn’t in this bad of shape come tournament time. That year, Syracuse won two of three to finish the regular season 18-13 heading into the ACC tourney and ended up winning an NIT game. This time around, the Orange are on a four-game skid and now face untimely injury challenges.
However, SU looks bound to stay home in mid-March no matter how they slice it. Only an unlikely deep ACC Tournament run would likely save them, but that means getting through Duke in the second round and beyond without Jesse Edwards and Benny Williams. The only thing left for Syracuse looks to be an unlikely College Basketball Invitational Tournament (or “CBI”) invite, but it would mean little to accept apart from avoiding making 2021-22 the trivia answer for which season Boeheim’s postseason streak finally ended. Unless he’d like to go rub elbows with squads like last year’s paste-eaters in 12-16 Longwood University and 11-14 Stetson, Boeheim would be well-advised to decline.
A lot of the current negative sentiment comes not just from Syracuse’s record, but from how the team has lost. The team has been a blundered inbound pass here, a turnover there, and a 10-point blown lead against a 6-24 Georgetown team from being in better shape. Unfortunately, we’re now here after Syracuse blew an 18-point lead against Miami last Saturday to lose 75-72. It’s somehow the second time they’ve pulled that off this year.
Blowing an 18-point lead in both games against a single opponent in one season is Halley’s Comet stuff. It doesn’t happen. Finding any other instance in college basketball history is far beyond sports-reference.com’s search parameters. Google is similarly unhelpful: it spat out a 2020 Bleacher Report list of the “Top 10 Best Teams in College Basketball History” after processing my long-winded, ineffective search request. If you watched how this similarly ineffective Syracuse squad made Miami look in the second half of Saturday’s game, you’d have thought the 2021-22 Hurricanes belonged on that Top 10 list.
Saturday’s defeat and the tangible dread felt by every sensible SU fan ahead of tomorrow’s game is the lasting legacy of a team that looks as tired as its head coach. With thin depth and serious deficiencies, this year’s SU squad has the distinct feeling of a team that’s about to run out of gas and bomb out early in March. The Boeheim brothers and Cole Swider are all but certain to depart during the offseason. Whenever that offseason arrives – sooner or later – it will mark the end of the Buddy Boeheim era and precede a new, much-needed fresh start for an exhausted, unsuccessful team.