After the worst season in the Jim Boeheim era last year, expectations among fans and media members weren’t nearly as high as they typically are for Syracuse. In a conference like the ACC, it’s a fairly large ask to go from a sub-.500 season to the NCAA Tournament. And lo and behold, in the middle of February the NCAA Tournament is a pipe dream for the Orange. That being said, the NIT is looking slim but not out of the realm of possibility. Here’s why a berth there would be anything but a successful season for SU.
First of all, if Syracuse’s worst enemy wasn’t itself we wouldn’t be having this conversation. How many times have self-inflicted wounds dug the Orange’s grave this season? A home loss to Colgate again. Squandering the Empire Classic championship against St. John’s. The slap (literally and figuratively) Bryant handed SU. Then, most recently, three blown opportunities at a season-defining win against Miami, North Carolina, and Virginia. Let’s be optimistic and say Syracuse wins all of those games (which isn’t that far-fetched). The Orange are 21-4 and in a prime position to make the NCAA Tournament (and potentially ranked). It’s hard to be satisfied with the NIT when it was literally right there for the taking.
Additionally, when Boeheim spoke to Jon Rothstein before the season, he set the benchmark at the NCAA Tournament. “This is the best team we’ve had in a while.” There was plenty of reason for optimism coming into the season given the hype the recruiting class had (which Boeheim also set expectations for), but for the most part it has been a disappointment. To set the bar so high and fail to meet it in a not-so-pretty fashion is inexcusable and won’t satisfy many fans.
If this team does end up making the NIT and you consider it a successful season, you’re either the biggest optimist in the world or have switched teams after years of rooting for Rice (which hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in over half a century). Regardless, going to a second-fiddle postseason tournament will most certainly not please the program, it won’t please us, and it shouldn’t please you either.