A wise man one said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. I’m pretty sure that was Alex Trebek, but don’t quote me on that. In any event, it’s a fitting idea for us as Syracuse University basketball fans, and just kind of hammers home the point that right now, this year’s version of the Orange is exactly what we see every time they take the court. I’ll let another great 20th century thinker chime in with his thoughts, as well:
That’s right, coach. They are who we thought they were, though I’m not sure anyone is letting them off the hook. This Syracuse team has faced the same problems, dealt with the same shortcomings, and had many of the same results throughout the 2014-2015 campaign, and for most of the season a lot of us have been saying to ourselves, “We can still turn it around, we just have to fix a few things!” Which reminds me of yet another profound line of thinking that sums up how we’ve been viewing this season’s team:
And just like Homer, no matter how many times we insist, “it’s still good, it’s still good” we have to realize that no, sadly, it isn’t. This team had flaws, just like that pig, that they just couldn’t overcome now matter how much we hoped they would.
That’s not to say the team isn’t giving it everything each time they take to the court, because they sure as hell are. But effort only goes so far, and at some point if you don’t have the talent or depth to overcome your limitations, the season, like the pig, is going to be gone.
That became clear at Pittsburgh on Saturday, as the Orange took on a decidedly middle of the pack ACC team in the Panthers (how middle of the road? They’re 5-5. That’s the definition of middle of the road) and, despite one of the sharpest offensive games that Syracuse has played in some time, it still wasn’t enough to top Pitt. Granted, Jamie Dixon owns a terrific career record against Jim Boeheim and the Orange, and the Pete is a venue in which Syracuse has always struggled, but the team’s deficiencies – most notably when it comes to depth and defensive lapses, as well as two or three players shouldering far too much of the load – got in the way of what in the early goings looked like a victory.
The good news is that this team showed that the postseason ban wouldn’t turn them into quitters. Quite the opposite, actually, as the Orange came out firing on all cylinders, looking like a team possessed in the first 10-15 minutes of the game. Rakeem Christmas continued his stellar play in the post, scoring 23 points, grabbing 12 boards, and swatting six shots, and Michael Gbinije was scorching hot early on, and finished with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Gbinije was knocking down perimeter jumpers and finally putting his length and athleticism to good use in getting to the hole, slicing through the Pittsburgh defense for several terrific driving baskets.
But once again, there was almost a complete failure by the rest of their teammates to step up. Trevor Cooney finished with 12 points, but hit just 1-of-7 three pointers. That one make was his first attempt off the game, too. It’s never a good sign when your designated shooter misses each of his last six attempts from beyond the arc. Tyler Roberson was basically a non-factor as well, scoring seven points and grabbing just five rebounds against the smaller Panther team. Kaleb Joseph was aggressive offensively early, but somehow the team’s starting point guard finished with zero assists in 28 minutes. As far as the bench goes, well, what bench? BJ Johnson and Buss Patterson combined for just three points, two rebounds, and three fouls between them.
You really can’t fault the effort this team has shown. I will never doubt the collective heart. But this team is who we should have realized it was in the early going this season, particularly in the bad loss against Cal. With a month left in the season, it’s time to realize that frankly, they just were never that good to begin with. Sitting at 15-8, including 6-4 in conference play with a murderer’s row of opponents coming up, this team looks like it’ll limp through this last stretch, ultimately finishing with one of the worst records in Jim Boeheim’s long career.
The Orange have lost three of the last four, and four of the last six, and things aren’t looking up. It’s a shame, really, because there are good kids on this team who deserve to finish the season strong. There is still enough fight in this team to give the Duke’s and Virginia’s of the world a good game, but unfortunately the team just doesn’t look like it’s got enough firepower to take it to the Blue Devils or Cavs the full 40, much like the Orange ran out of steam against North Carolina.
And frankly, we’d be insane to expect any different result at this point.