Hey guys. It’s been awhile. Like, several months. Not gonna lie, it’s been a hard several months as a Syracuse fan, which has certainly factored into the lack of website updates. Slogging through a 5-7 football season that had so much hype, followed by… well, this basketball season… it’s been rough. But honestly, enough is enough. It’s time to talk frankly about Syracuse men’s basketball.
Tonight was a rough one, man. It was always going to be tough winning on the road at Louisville. They’re one of the better teams in the country (even with their recent two-game skid), and it’s never an easy place to play. But right from the start, Syracuse looked outclassed and overwhelmed. Sure, we kept it interesting late in the first half, but that feels like a little bit misleading, given how poorly the rest of the game went. And a game like tonight really exposes the flaws on this year’s squad, and absolutely has to make us stop and assess the current state of the program, and its direction.
Things aren’t great, you guys. The Orange currently sit with a record of 14-12 overall and 7-8 in conference play, and that includes a recent win streak that – let’s be honest – gave people a false sense of who this team actually is. This year’s Syracuse men’s basketball team is deeply flawed, and not built for a lot of success. And frankly, next year isn’t looking much better, especially if – as is expected – Elijah Hughes leaves for the NBA.
And really? This shouldn’t be surprising. This program has been trending downward for the last six seasons. Obviously, over the top NCAA sanctions play a factor. Losing scholarships and not being able to have all of our assistants on the road recruiting is a killer. And yes, we made a couple surprise tournament runs. But frankly, those runs gloss over what has to be obvious to anyone not wearing orange-colored glasses: we’re in a substantial downturn.
Over the last six seasons, including tonight, the Orange are 117-82. That’s a win percentage of .588, for those keeping score at home.
Read that again.
A win percentage…
…over the last six seasons.
This is a storied program. It’s a program that, since Jim Boeheim took over as head coach, has never had a losing season. We likely won’t have a losing season this year, at this point, because we’ll probably squeeze out three or four more wins to get to 17 or 18 on the year.
But the trend is undeniable. Each year since 2014-15, the Orange have lost at least 12 games (again, including this season – we’ll wind up with more than 12 losses this year, meaning that number will be bumped up to at least 13 losses in each of the last six seasons). The standard for Syracuse used to be 20+ wins and a top 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, we’ve got people getting excited about winning two thirds of our games (at best) and stacking together two or three wins in a row. Are we a spoiled fanbase? Absolutely. Again – in more than 40 years, we’ve never seen a losing season. That’s absurdly spoiled.
But it’s also expected at this point. It’s the standard. And anything less can and should be questioned.
Sanctions hurt the program when it comes to recruiting, of that there’s no doubt. By some accounts, we missed out on Kevin Huerter, for example, because we didn’t have room for both him and Tyus Battle, and we asked Huerter to prep for a year. He didn’t want to, so we didn’t get him. Thomas Bryant’s decision was supposedly influenced by our sanctions, as well. Mike Hopkins moved on unexpectedly, causing the Orange to miss out on Isaiah Stewart (and, to a lesser degree, Hameir Wright, who we – like with Huerter – wanted to stay another year in high school but who chose to get to college earlier than we wanted, so he went west).
I’m typically a pretty optimistic person when it comes to Syracuse football and basketball. I follow our recruiting and look for the positives. I’m a Brycen Goodine fan. I like what I’ve seen from Quincy Guerrier. I think Jesse Edwards has a ton of potential. I like what I’ve seen from Kadary Richmond and Woody Newton.
But it’s indisputable that recruiting has taken a big hit the last few seasons. Our roster won’t be bolstered by immediate impact players unless we add players through the grad transfer portal, which didn’t exactly lead to giant batches of success with Andrew White and John Gillon, as much as we all appreciated their contributions. Sure, Dior Johnson is on the way… maybe… in a few years. But maybe he’s not. If the NBA changes its one-and-done rules, probably he’s not.
We’re at a crucial time in the program’s history. Jim can’t have more than a couple years left. We’re far less athletic overall than we’ve been in years. There doesn’t appear to be much immediate help on the horizon. And if Elijah Hughes decides to go pro, things are looking pretty dismal next season.
I’m hoping for the best moving forward, as I always do. But we need to be realistic. We need to talk about how little potential for upward movement in the ACC standings over the next couple of seasons there appears to be.
We need to take a good, long look at the current state of the Syracuse basketball program, and quite frankly, we need to realize that we are at a dangerous tipping point. Given the steady descent into mediocrity and the uncertainty of the program with a 75-year-old coach and no clear succession plan, this is quite possibly the most crucial point in Syracuse men’s basketball history. How does it turn around? What’s next? How do we pull out of this apparent free fall?
I don’t have the answers. Not even close. What worries me is that I’m not sure anyone else does, either.