As a disclaimer, I’m a Syracuse alum. I was a freshman when Carmelo and G-Mac cut down the nets, and it was one of the best days of my life. I’m obsessed with the basketball program, almost to a fault. I follow all the blogs, message boards and Twitter accounts I can handle to get the most up-to-date news on the Orange. But sometimes, I start to wonder if things are becoming predictable in upstate New York.
You see, it seems that there are four main themes during a Syracuse basketball season. I’m not saying that all four occur every year (though that has happened). I’m saying that by and large, the same things keep happening:
1. Syracuse Climbs The Rankings In November and December.
I swear, if the NCAA Tournament was played at the end of December, Syracuse would win it every other year. Granted, the competition isn’t always as fierce as you’d hope, but the Cuse is 27-1 in the final month of the calendar year since 2009. Check out where the Orange started the season ranked (Coaches Poll) each year vs. where the team was ranked on January 1st of each year. The lone exception (in terms of difference) is this season.
2009-2010: Preseason, No. 25 – January 1st, No. 5
2010-2011: Preseason, No. 13 – January 1st, No. 5
2011-2012: Preseason, No. 5 – January 1st, No. 1
2012-2013: Preseason, No. 9 – January 1st, No. 7
2. Syracuse Loses To Pittsburgh.
Jamie Dixon and the Pitt Panthers just know how to beat Syracuse. This past Saturday was no different. They are 9-2 in their last 11 games against the Orange. The newer generations of Cuse fans can probably only remember beating Pitt once or twice – because that’s how often it’s actually happened. The recent exception of course is last season.
To be fair, there are plenty of teams that can’t beat Syracuse in the same way the Orange struggle against the Panthers. But year in and year out, it’s the same thing.
3. Something Awful Happens.
Even with losing to Pitt seemingly every season, the Orange are usually somewhere near the top of the Big East standings. And then boom, something crazy happens.
In the 2009-2010 season, Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku injured his right knee in the Orange’s first game of the Big East Tournament against Georgetown. Syracuse was a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In the 2011-2012 season, Syracuse center Fab Melo was ruled academically ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse was a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In the 2012-2013 (this) season, Syracuse forward James Southerland was ruled academically ineligible (until further notice). Syracuse is currently ranked No. 9 in the Coaches Poll.
When the Southerland news hit, I don’t think we Cuse fans even blinked.
4. Syracuse Bows Out Of The NCAA Tournament Before It Statistically Should.
This one hurts the most. College basketball teams are (fair or not) judged in March. And all too often, Syracuse does not advance to where its seed suggests it should.
2009-2010: 1-Seed, Lost In Sweet Sixteen to Butler
2010-2011: 3-Seed, Lost In Round of 32 to Marquette
2011-2012: 1-Seed, Lost In Elite Eight to Ohio State
Of course, losing Onauku and Melo before each respective tournament contributed to this problem. Syracuse had to adjust the way it played on the fly, which is the last thing you want to have to do during a run towards a title.
As an Orange die-hard, I hope and pray that we’re not headed down the same road. But if you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat in a close second/third round game and Syracuse can’t hit a 3-pointer (Southerland’s specialty) to save its life, don’t be surprised.