SALT LAKE CITY — At Syracuse’s Media Day in mid-October, SU head coach Jim Boeheim thought the Orange were ahead of where they’d been at the same point a season ago. All five starters returned from a Sweet 16 team. Elijah Hughes was eligible, and the freshman class showed promise.Thursday, though, SU’s season ended in the NCAA Tournament’s opening round. Syracuse had gone from ahead of the curve to falling short of the heights it had reached last year.“I think you are always disappointed when you lose in a tournament, if you think you had a chance to win,” Boeheim said. “We obviously had a chance to win the game tonight.”In the NCAA Tournament, seasons can end at the hand of one hot shooting night, much as SU’s did on Thursday. But the final loss alone isn’t what makes Syracuse’s season such a disappointment. The Orange had more talent than last year, but they ended two games and three wins short. They proved they could play with anyone in the country, but they never harnessed that enough. Syracuse didn’t reach its full potential.“We didn’t have the consistency from the beginning,” Boeheim said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMore coverage:Tyus Battle ‘isn’t worrying about’ his future right nowSyracuse’s season ends in 78-69 NCAA Tournament defeat to BaylorHot shooting, Elijah Hughes and more takeaways from Syracuse’s season-ending loss Comments Published on March 22, 2019 at 2:19 am Facebook Twitter Google+ All the pieces were in place: A senior point guard in Frank Howard. Potential pros Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett. A 7-foot-2 center in the middle of the 2-3 zone. Sharp-shooters Hughes and Buddy Boeheim. A do-everything 6-foot-10 Marek Dolezaj.But when SU went to Madison Square Garden in November with a chance at two early-season statement wins, it left with none. Howard was still out with injury, and Connecticut and a then-ranked Oregon handled the Orange. A win two weeks later at then-No. 16 Ohio State with Howard back in the fold seemed to show everything was OK.It wasn’t. Old Dominion and Buffalo beat Syracuse twice in four days, both in the Carrier Dome. That put the Orange at a four nonconference loss mark that had never led to an NCAA Tournament-berth before. A loss to Georgia Tech in the Dome on Jan. 12 made the outlook even drearier.“A lot of times people counted us out certain games,” Hughes said on Thursday. “We knew we had a chance, and we went out and competed.”Then, Syracuse provided again a glimpse at the upside: 95 points at then-No. 1 Duke. Overcoming an early 14-2 deficit to beat the Blue Devils even as Zion Williamson dominated not only changed SU’s postseason resume but appeared to show that the Orange could beat anyone. But though Syracuse could knock off the best, it never did again with consistency.Buddy came into his own in ACC play, and Howard finally found his legs. Wins pretty much only came against expectedly worse foes, though, aside from a win over Louisville on a historically bad shooting night for the Cardinals.“We played pretty consistently in the league,” Boeheim said. “We beat the teams we were supposed to.”Alexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerSU led Duke, North Carolina and Virginia at halftime all in the span of two weeks. Bad teams don’t lead three soon-to-be No. 1-seeds at the half often. But a team with Syracuse’s potential shouldn’t have blown all three. Buddy said the Orange had “great moments” in those games, but they were too infrequent.Brissett emphasized that the NCAA Tournament, a “new season” with everyone starting with the same record, gave the Orange a stage to show what they could really do. But all Syracuse revealed was that its most consistent identity was inconsistency. Inconsistent by no means equals bad. The highest of highs were glorious. No one else beat a healthy Williamson in Cameron this season, and an eventual NCAA Tournament team in UofL had its worst loss of its season against SU.There was never just one answer, though, for why that didn’t show up more often. Sometimes it was the centers or an inability to rebound. Other times, the Orange couldn’t overcome a slow night from Battle, or they failed to defend the 3-point shot. SU searched for an identity all season. Hughes speculated that it was “heart” in February. That wasn’t enough, though, and Syracuse’s warts too frequently showed larger than its skills.Giving his final postgame press conference of his 43rd season at the helm of SU, Boeheim called the year “solid.” Sure, the Orange overcame a nonconference loss total to get into March Madness that they never had before. But no one suits up to lose in the round of 64.“It just wasn’t the year I think we would have liked to have had,” Boeheim said.It wasn’t the year Syracuse had the potential to have, either.Billy Heyen is a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Wheyen3.
by Bill NealFor New Pittsburgh Courier:10 There’s a first time for everything so here we go. I’ve never started the countdown with a Locker Room inductee, but this lady deserves it. Ms. Racele Watson is living up in the Hill District and raising her sons, one of whom is “Denier.” Denier is holding it down at Central Catholic High School. (You know the school Penn Hills kicks around like a rented mule?) Anyway, Racele, you, Denier and whatever the other kid’s name is (oops my bad), you’re all “In the Locker Room!”:09 I don’t know why you’re all having such a hard time understanding what’s going on with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and this way off the hook story about a girlfriend that really doesn’t exist. The—boy’s —a—freak! Ya know it and I know it and don’t act like you don’t recognize it. Every one of you has a cousin just like him that talks to people that ain’t there every day. Yes you do… yes you do… yes—you—do!!!:08 I’m telling you right now “Kobe” and the Lakers will beat Lebron and the Heat Thursday night, so by the time you read this, you will have missed your chance to take it to the bank.:07 New year, same problems. Please “instruct” your young African-American men to pull their pants up. I mean, come on, this is getting to be just stupid and while you’re at it, can you start getting our “young ladies” to clean up their language. Some of these girls’ attitudes and the words coming out of their mouths make some of these boys look like angels!:06 Yeah, hockey is back. No, really, I am excited and happy. No, I really am. Doesn’t mean I know any more about it. No shut-up about it. Go Pens!:05 Want to be reminded of some good old school music? Pull out your Stephanie Mills classics. Man, that woman had pipes on her… I mean, she really did and while up in the flash-back machine, if anybody out there has any of the “Sinbad Summer Jamz” tapes or CD’s, please call me so I can get a copy. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll pay for it mmmaaannn!!:04 For my money, the NFL Rookie of the Year is not Andrew Luck or RGIII, but it’s Russell Wilson of the Seahawks. Oh, by the way, have you heard… he’s a brother.:03 All I can tell ya is this… If you’re Serena Williams’ boyfriend and she says it’s time to go… you best be about the business of going… and right now! Did you see the arms on that woman? That said, she’s bad, and I mean in a good way!:02 Why was the ESPN sports commentator making such a big deal about Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. “Johnny Football” McCarron? Because—she—is—fine, that’s why! Brent’s old, but he ain’t dead.:01 At the Buzzer, 2013 Style. Here we Go!•Coach Harvey Smith and Coach Quinten Johns will bring financial security to ya, for ya! January 27 is the official coming out showcase for Organo Gold Coffee Gourmet. If you want to change your financial life, as well as your children and your grandchildren, you don’t want to miss this event; 3-6 p.m. at 3 Lakes Golf Course, 6700 Saltsburg Rd. Call “Q” at 412-628-7947 for information. •There’s only one Super Bowl party to be at! The Champions Super Bowl party Feb. 3 at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills. (Where else?!?!) Doors open at 5:30, kickoff at 6:30. Fun, prizes and surprises, 50/50, and special guest, former Pittsburgh Steeler West Lyons. Wear your black and gold anyway. We ain’t done yet!•“Ultimate Force” karate and boxing showing coming at you real soon, saluting Master Jacquet Basemore, Rayco “War” Saunders and others. It’s going to be a-mazing!! More information soon.•Champions High School All-Star Basketball Classic, featuring Western Pa’s top seniors, back on track, Saturday the 6th. Seniors… it’s your time… get ready!•Get out and support your local high school basketball teams. Do it, do it now! High school basketball. It’s FAN-TAS-TIC!~ GAME OVER ~ BILL NEAL