It strikes me that Jim Boeheim doesn’t become overly excited when he wins, but gets a little too morose when he loses.
However, he was right when he said after Monday’s 72-69 loss to Cleveland State that his Syracuse University basketball team won’t win a game in the Big East playing the way they did against the Vikings.
As talented as the Orange are, they can’t play half a game and win against good teams time after time. They’ve gotten away with it several times this season, but not against the very quick, very gritty Vikings Monday.
Cedric Jackson’s miracle last-second, 72-foot shot aside, Cleveland State outworked the Orange most of the way. That will happen, but there are some statistical, season-long hints at some weaknesses Boeheim has to address before the Big East schedule begins when Seton Hall visits the Carrier Dome Dec. 30.
SU’s rebounding is ordinary (40.0 per game vs. 34.5), the team assist-to-turnover ratio is only marginally good (186-160), the 3-point shooting is poor (31 percent), and foul-shooting is just okay (67 percent). SU ranks ninth in the Big East in rebounding margin, seventh in turnover margin, 10th in 3-point shooting and eighth in foul shooting.
Luckily for the Orange, opponents are shooting horribly (40 percent), especially on 3-pointers (29 percent), which could be attributed in part to the SU defense, although I’m not sure how much defense is being played on free throws. Opponents are making just 59 percent. That’s pure luck.
Much of SU’s season statistical advantage was accumulated in one-sided wins over LeMoyne, Oakland, Colgate and Long Beach State. The victories over Florida, Kansas, Virginia and even Cornell were hard-earned. Credit the players with toughness and resiliency in coming back to win those games, but none of those teams rank with the top eight in the Big East.
This is a very talented team, but Boeheim is right. It has to get quite a bit better to get where it wants to go. And if Eric Devendorf is indeed suspended for his late-night encounter with a female student in November – he must file an appeal to an already-handed down suspension by 5 p.m. Wednesday and that will be ruled on by Jan. 12 at the latest – the Orange backcourt will be some combination of Jonny Flynn, Andy Rautins and Paul Harris. Harris can play guard if he has to, but I’ll guarantee you Boeheim doesn’t want him there for 20 or 30 minutes a game.
The battle has just begun.