I am not kidding, the look that Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim is giving Tuesday night's official Gene Steratore's (in the AP photo above-right) is what I saw all last night after the Orange (No. 9 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) lost to the Seton Hall Pirates, 90-68, at the Carrier Dome. Tossing and turning. I was fearing for my life. I couldn't get that Jimmy B look out of my head.
It was like a scene from Scrooge: There was Boeheim's head and that eerie look, "I told you not to buy into my team," whispered Boeheim in my ear wearing that silly orange Mardi Gras hat from the 2003 national championship season. "You didn't want to buy in but you did. Now, look what I have to deal with. Senior guard Scoop Jardine is turning into DeShaun Williams! Fab Melo wants to take the first flight from Hancock Airport back to Brazil! I even played Mookie Jones last night!!!"
I woke up in a cold sweat. With only one thing to say to the long-gone Boeheim ghost. Sorry, as always you know better than I or the rest of the college basketball media -- this wont be the last time I write this statement. After a 7-0 start, I wrote that SU wasn't as good as its No. 8 ranking. However, the "overrated" Orange sucked me in after an impressive victory over the Drexel Dragons, Dec. 22, then a dominating win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Jan. 1. But then reality set in last night as SHU's senior guard Jeremy Hazell scored a game-best 28 points and the Pirates made every shot inside 40 feet. This SU squad (18-3, 5-3), which now has lost three straight games, has a lot of flaws, which, of course, Boeheim knew about.
"So much of what we do depends on Scoop (Jardine), Rick (Jackson), Kris (Joseph) and Brandon (Triche) and they have not played the way they did earlier in the year," said Boeheim in his post-game presser. "We have to get them playing better. Our young guys are obviously struggling. We thought starting the game with James (Southerland) would get him a couple of open looks early. He got them but he just wasn’t able to knock them down and from there on in we were fighting to come back"
Credit the Pirates (9-12, 3-6) for starting the game with a lot of confidence and making about every single shot. SHU began the game 10 for 11 from the field to take a 26-16 lead with 12:14 to go in the first half. The Pirates finished the game shooting 10 for 17 from 3-point land. Earlier in the season, in a 61-56 loss to SU, Jan. 8, SHU shot 0 for 17 from behind the 3-point arc and scored just 19 points in the first half! Tuesday, the Pirates scored 19 in the game's first five minutes!
It's not time for SU fans to hit the panic button. Barring a complete collapse, this team will make the NCAA Tournament and earn a decent seed (anywhere between five and three is fair). However, it's back to treating each win as a well-earned promotion, not a yearly holiday bonus that's expected. Nothing is expected anymore. This team isn't as good as it was ranked. Finally, I'll listen to my gut instinct and coach Boeheim because I don't want to see that look ever again.
The upcoming Syracuse basketball schedule features three straight road games: First, the Orange are at the Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday (3 p.m.). Next week, SU will play at No. 5 Connecticut Huskies, Wednesday (7 p.m.), and at the South Florida Bulls, Saturday (2 p.m.).
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