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RandBall: The free fall of Syracuse basketball

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • March 5, 2014 - 9:33 AM

 

We wouldn't normally devote an entire post to a college basketball team that has absolutely no local connections (unless, you know, they started wearing jumpsuits as uniforms or had a pug for a mascot).

 

But we are compelled to do so with Syracuse because, frankly, we can't recall a season going off the rails quite so spectacularly in a long time.

In mid-February, after one of its classic living on the edge victories -- 56-55 over North Carolina State -- this team was ranked No. 1 in the nation and was 25-0. There was talk of an undefeated season. Best team ever? Well, if they would have run the table that kind of talk would not have been crazy.

Yeah, there were warning signs that some smoke and mirrors were involved. We weren't blown away watching Syracuse play the Gophers early in the season -- a game in which Minnesota trailed just 67-65 with two minutes left before falling by eight points. And the Orange had plenty of other close calls in building that huge streak to start the year.

But that's what great teams do, right? They win the close ones. They were battle-tested. They had star power. They were legit.

What has happened since is not just a blip on the radar. It is a crazy free-fall. Starting with a shocking first loss to a terrible Boston College team and leading through last night's loss to sub-.500 Georgia Tech -- both losses at home, mind you -- the Orange have gone 1-4 since that great start. Also included in that mix was the famous Jim Boeheim Meltdown Game against Duke.

We've seen teams struggle with perfection. We've seen bumps in the road.  But we haven't seen invincibility turned into abject failure quite like this. Sure, there is still time to find the mojo before the NCAA tournament, but at this point we wouldn't bet with confidence on Syracuse in any game. That's a crazy sentiment for a team that looked like a good bet to win it all just two weeks ago.

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