Syracuse Limps Into Postseason

Of all the games, all the opponents, and all the special occasions, the Syracuse Orange had to save its absolute worst for this one. On Saturday, the Orange gave what will be remembered as one of the worst performances in the history of the program, as they lost their final Big East game against arch rival Georgetown, and watched the Hoyas walked off the floor with a share of the final Big East regular season championship. It’s a game that won’t soon be forgotten, and from the Syracuse perspective, for all the wrong reasons.

Historical significance aside, this loss is as disconcerting for the current Syracuse team as any loss they’ve suffered all season. Most of the credit does belong to Georgetown, who played a phenomenal game and was nothing short of suffocating on defense. But as well as the Hoyas played, the Orange can’t escape without receiving plenty of blame. They were impatient on offense, making poor decisions and taking rushed shots; they got rattled when things didn’t go their way; and ultimately they let the game get away from them in what turned out to be an embarrassing second half. The Syracuse offense continued to be out of sync, recording only three assists failing to make jump shots yet again. Also, the usual reliable defense lacked intensity and failed to get around screens on a number of occasions, allowing the Hoyas to knock down nine three-pointers, in addition to several wide-open mid-range jump shots.

Following the game Saturday, the Orange have now lost four of their last five games heading into The Big East Tournament next week in New York. To put this stretch in the proper perspective: the opponents in those four losses are teams that have won a share of The Big East regular season championship, and while the two games against Georgetown turned into ugly affairs, the losses the Orange suffered against Marquette and Louisville were close and highly contested games that could have easily had a different result. Of course, the fact that Syracuse was not able to pull out a win in one of those games should not be lost either, as it points out several of the problems the Orange have.

Syracuse has now officially run out of time in the regular season to fix its problems. In fact, many of their problems seem to be only getting worse: specifically, their problems shooting the basketball. The shooting woes of seniors Brandon Triche and James Southerland appear to have gone from bad to worse. Even in the team’s win over DePaul, the two combined to make just one of 12 three-point attempts, only to follow it up by combining for three points on 1-17 shooting against Georgetown. Without its two seniors making shots and scoring consistently, it’s hard to envision Syracuse being able to break out of its slump and beat the caliber of teams it’s going to face in the postseason.

The struggles of Triche have been equally disappointing, puzzling, and sad to watch unfold. To watch a four-year starter and one of the winningest players in program history fall into such a profound slump at the end of his career is almost unfathomable. Triche’s shooting slump has occurred simultaneously with the team’s losing streak, which is no coincidence. His poor play over the past several games has had an adverse effect on the entire team, and has been perhaps the most prominent factor in the team’s inability to win games down the stretch.

If Syracuse is going to get things turned around and put their recent string of losses behind them, it’s going to have to start with Triche. As a senior, it’s his time to shine, and he needs to step up for his team in their time of need. His play has been poor and his confidence appears shot, which is a big reason why the Orange look as pitiful as they do heading into the postseason. But if Syracuse expects to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and make some noise in either The Big East or NCAA Tournament, then Triche is going to have to do it first. If not, then we can expect the Orange’s postseason to end a lot like the way their regular season ended; and we can expect it to end real soon.

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