Syracuse Waves the White Flag on 2015

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 5th, 2015

Syracuse may no longer reside in the Big East, but that didn’t stop bloggers from an old rival from putting their spin on yesterday’s news that the Orange had imposed a postseason ban on itself this season. Casual Hoya, the occasionally irreverent but always on-point voice of Georgetown fans, had this to say about the news from upstate New York.

The jab is certainly worth a chuckle, but it should also be good for a firm nod or two. Even as Jim Boeheim’s team currently sits at 15-7 (6-3 in the ACC), the NIT appeared to be a likely destination for the Orange if they had remained postseason-eligible. Their respectable record partially obscures that unpleasant reality, but it shouldn’t be enough to shield Boeheim’s brain trust from a bit of second-guessing on the timing of the announcement. Declining an NIT bid is hardly a sacrifice – heck, ask the Hoyas about that themselves – but Syracuse must be hoping that it will appear as if it is giving up a potential spot in the NCAA Tournament. To be fair, there definitely was enough time and opportunity for Syracuse to play its way into the field of 68; more likely, however, is that February 3 goes down as the high point of an otherwise uninspiring season, rendering the ban meaningless.

After trailing by 13 with under six minutes to play, Syracuse snuck by Virginia Tech (now 1-8 in the ACC) by two points at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night. Its final performance as an NCAA Tournament-eligible group surely didn’t leave much hope for cashing in on that capacity, but the Orange’s upcoming schedule looked to be an equally strong deterrent to a potential bid (and don’t think that Boeheim didn’t notice this!). After beginning their ACC campaign with seven of nine games against the bottom half of the league (and five of those at home), things will toughen up in a hurry for the Orange. A two-game road trip at Pitt and BC is followed by a six-game stretch that includes Duke (twice), Louisville, Notre Dame and Virginia. It doesn’t get much tougher than that anywhere in the country. If Wednesday’s announcement hadn’t killed Syracuse’s shaky NCAA Tournament dreams, that stretch more than likely would have. Again, an educated guess that Jim Boeheim may himself hold.

There Will Be No Postseason, ACC Tournament Included, For Jim Boeheim's Orange This Season

After An Oddly-Timed Self-Imposed Postseason Ban, There Will Be No Postseason — ACC Tournament Included — For Jim Boeheim’s Orange This Season.

Any conversation about the seriousness of the violations in the underlying case leading to these sanctions is purely speculative. We know very little in the way of details, but the case has been reported to involve no current players and supposedly relates to past academic issues and failed drug tests. It’s possible that the university performed its due diligence and is simply doling out a punishment commensurate with the seriousness of the infractions, but even so, the timing is odd. This saga began when Syracuse self-reported some violations all the way back in 2007. Why wait eight years to take action? Why wait for an NIT-bound team to exist before finally taking action? Even if the response is completely appropriate, the timing of its release just does not look good.

Syracuse’s postseason may have ended before it began, but don’t expect the Orange to suddenly roll over and die. They may be undermanned and are likely to be underdogs in every game but one (a home date vs. Pittsburgh), but there are plenty of reasons to keep playing hard. For starters, Boeheim will be looking to begin matching his pieces together for a fresh run next season. Furthermore, senior Rakeem Christmas will seek to assert his push toward the first round of a 2015 NBA Draft that once seemed unlikely to include him. And perhaps most importantly, the Orange may decide that they want the ban to matter. Winning 11 or 12 ACC games would have positioned Syracuse well for the NCAA Tournament. Even though postseason implications are now gone, finishing strongly would deepen the perceived impact of the punishment. Whether that would help the Orange avoid further retribution from the NCAA (if there is any looming) is another question altogether, but it definitely couldn’t hurt.

At this point, with NCAA Tournament, the ACC Tournament, and even the NIT all out of reach (as Casual Hoya will be sure to remind you), it’s about the only motivator the Orange have left.

BHayes (244 Posts)

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