Saturday, January 19, 2008

Destination NIT?

The truth be told when the selection committee decides the fate of this year's Syracuse basketball team the home loss that the Orange suffered to Villanova on this Saturday afternoon won't be the reason that the committee opts to keep the Orange out for the second straight season.

Still if you've searched the internet since the time that the final horn blew on this 81-71 Carrier Dome loss, you've found folks calling it an NIT ticket puncher, a must-win type loss for the Orange, and those who peruse the message boards have pretty much written off the season.

Fact is that of all the Syracuse losses this season, this one really doesn't rank up there as a bubble burster. Sure it comes at a time when the Orange is struggling. This is the third loss in four games. But its January 19th and if the Orange is going to be an NCAA tournament team there is still plenty of time to decide its fate.

This loss doesn't help, but home losses to Rhode Island, UMASS and the road loss at Cincinnati will do more to keep the Orange out of the Big Dance then this disappointing Saturday aftenoon defeat.

However, what this loss does signify is that the Orange isn't playing well at the moment. The mirage that was the Rutgers game is over. The reality of how good this Syracuse team is the loss at Cincinnati, the beat down in Morgantown and now this defeat at home to the Cats.

Certainly, this is a team with immense talent. But also a team that struggles consistently with decisions. Syracuse committed 19 turnovers and despite limiting 'Nova to 29 percent shooting the first half, the Cats trailed by just five at halftime. In addition, the Orange allowed 17 Villanova offensive rebounds. The other key factor was freshman Donte' Greene was limited to 23 minutes and the Orange made just 3-of-16 three pointers.

As the season wears on, it is becoming more and more obvious that the Orange just isn't a real good basketball team. In fact, they are something like that AAAA baseball player. The guy who always performs well in the minors (or against lesser competition) but can't make the adjustment to the major leagues. And that is sort of what we are seeing here. Syracuse performs well and looks good against lesser competition, but it has not been able to keep that level of play when it plays better competition.

So the loss to Villanova will certainly be a factor when the committee convenes in about two months time. But it likely won't be the deciding factor. Instead, that may have already happened. Or its bound to happen in the upcoming weeks.

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