Syracuse has had a season of ups and downs. Upset losses to Colgate, Bryant, and Pittsburgh at home. The rock-bottom loss at Illinois. But, there have also been the ups of going to overtime on back-to-back nights at the Barclays Center, sweeping Notre Dame, and crushing Georgetown. Outside of that Illinois game, one thing remains true. The Orange never give up.
With a young team, you expect growing pains, and that’s what happened in November and early December. This team needed time to learn and gel to get a sense of playing style and how things were going to shake out in the rotation. Nearing the end of January, nine guys are still getting minutes, and it’s basically seven because Symir Torrence and Mounir Hima are only inserted for limited minutes per game to give starters a rest.
But, in their minutes, they play extremely hard. The entire team could have given up after those disappointing nonconference losses, but instead, the Orange started 5-2 in ACC play and gave themselves an opportunity to win at a ranked Miami team. Unfortunately, immature mistakes from the freshman point guard doomed them, but that’s what happens with a young team. Moments like those are a learning experience.
All this credit for playing hard goes back to Jim Boeheim. There has never been a game or season where his team has been uncompetitive or not interested in playing. He instills a will to win, no matter who is on the court wearing Orange or another color. He is the ultimate motivator and understands that with a young team this year winning would take time, and the rest of the schedule presents ample opportunities for a season-changing victory for SU.
January looks like road games at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (a team you already beat), and home dates with North Carolina and Virginia (who beat you handily). 2-2 at worst still gives Syracuse a shot at its ultimate goal, the postseason. With a lighter February schedule containing games against Boston College, Florida State, and Georgia Tech again, These home opportunities are few and far between, you have to take advantage of the Dome crowd.
Opportunities for big wins remain against the aforementioned UNC and UVA, NC State, Duke, Clemson, Pittsburgh (who is surprisingly decent), and Wake Forest to close the season. The Orange have a chance to finish in the top half of the conference, but the young team is going to have to continue to mature on the go and learn from game to game.
But, when you have a 47th-year head coach on the sidelines in Boeheim, you can never count out the Orange, because no matter what, his teams will always play hard, and never give in, even if talent-deficient and clearly undermanned. Never doubt Jim Boeheim.